Editor’s note: Naij.com contributor Kofoworola Ayodeji identifies the Nigerian education system as the key impediment to the nation’s enhancement. In his article, Mr Ayodeji talks about the most disturbing hindrances to the development of young Nigerians, and suggests a way forward.
This article expresses the author’s opinion only. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Naij.com or its editors.
— Education was never designed to intimidate
— Nigerian education system rewards certificates, not knowledge and creativity
— The system must be fixed so that our young minds can truly become who they want to be and not what they are forced to be
I met a brilliant young man a couple of days ago and we got talking. He graduated from a university a little over two years ago and narrated some of the ordeals he had to go through. "I wasted six years of my life to study a four-year course,” he said. "And I didn’t fail because I wasn’t serious or smart. Far from it, it’s the system that’s bad. I remember clearly when a foreign student who had come for research in our school engaged one of our first-class graduates; things totally fell apart. My Naija friend was completely lost. Honestly, it’s as if we’re still using the 20th century learning techniques in our schools here."
As pathetic as the story was, it’s still not as bad as many stories which I have heard from a number of graduates from many Nigerian universities and polytechnics.
Many Nigerian teachers and lecturers create the notion that education is hard and so it’s meant to stress, provoke and/or make students suffer. That’s an absolutely wrong mentality which unfortunately is already our culture; in fact, it’s more or less the bedrock of Nigeria’s educational system. Meanwhile, education was never designed to intimidate. The real purpose of education is to stimulate minds, provoke thoughts, birth creativity and innovation. Education in its entirety helps to prepare next generations of leaders — those who would take the nation to a higher level in the nearest future. And that’s why nations that understand and practice this secret go on to experience the natural emergence of charismatic, excellent and transformational leaders. To be candid, this kind of system which we currently operate is the key factor why Nigeria is failing and ailing. The sooner we realise, the better it is. And something needs to be done urgently!
Majority of the students in Nigeria are groomed to become “la cram-la pour-la forget” experts. Teachers and lecturers expect you to give them what’s written in their notes and handouts word-for-word during tests and exams. It’s so funny to believe that some students even fail all because they attempt to be creative and think outside the box. They are often seen as “too big to know" and pay dearly for it. This becomes even worse when they are dealing with “academic machos” that have turned themselves to gods all in the name of imparting knowledge.
Today, an average citizen of Nigeria is very eager to accumulate certificates at the expense of vast knowledge, and this is because the system encourages that. So long as you can cram and pour, you will get your grades. When you get your good grades (preferably first-class), it’s presumed that a ready-made job awaits you somewhere somehow. Whether you still retain the knowledge that gave you those grades, which in turn gave you the certificates, doesn’t matter anymore. After all, you are a first-class product. This is the main reason why some people forge certificates to get fixed up. This system of learning totally kills creativity: you are not taught to use your own minds to create new and more effective ways of doing things, of solving problems. Our system rewards certificates, not knowledge and creativity!
What about dissertations? They are products of research done by students. Therefore, it’s expected that they should be used to improve learning and the system in general. In our own institutions, they are packed in the stores or the so-called libraries and later become dusty if they are lucky enough. It’s painful to note that final year students run from pillar to post to produce these documents. They spend abundant time, lots of energy and resources to get it done. Please tell me how this type of system can easily produce world-class leaders?
Alas, this inefficient system is not limited to higher institutions of learning alone, primary and secondary schools are not left out. In the last few weeks, I have been privileged to speak to thousands of students on the platform of Hope Rising Foundation (HRF) during the organization’s secondary school tour. I personally observed that a lot of these students are gifted, talented and creative. But are they being discovered and taken care of? No. Nigeria’s educational system is not dynamic. It doesn’t give enough room to develop innate skills extensively. Students are used to the usual old method of "just read hard and get good grades". They are not groomed to face the existing challenges of the 21st century; they are not tutored to follow their passion and use that to create solutions to the present day problems. Though many students are willing to, the existing learning style and environment is holding them back.
According to CNN, the world’s youngest filmmaker is Nigeria-born and US-bred. She’s made four films, interviewed 14 heads of state — oh, and she’s only 12! Another UK-based Nigerian is an undergraduate at ten, plans to do PhD at 12 and go ahead to establish her own bank at 15. I strongly believe that there are many exceptional thinkers like them in Nigeria... but their stories are never heard. Why? Because the system has ‘arrested' them.
Nigerians, and by extension Africans, rank among the best brains in the world, but the educational system has been a great impediment. The system must be fixed so that our young minds can truly become who they want to be and not what they are forced to be. Leadership courses must be introduced into the curriculum both at secondary and tertiary education levels so that we can have our 'smartest specimen' well prepared. This way, we will begin to have leaders of excellence in every profession and sector in the country, and on the continent of Africa. No doubt, we shall rule the world someday.
Kofoworola Ayodeji is a physiotherapist by profession, and by nature a writer and transformational speaker who is passionately involved in nation-building.
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