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Epidemic Corruption in our Educational Systems and the Future of Nigeria (IV)-Final

January 31, 2009
I have narrated in the last three articles some corrupt practices in our educational system. With these practices so rampant, it is noted that our educational system is now playing a negative role. Rather than training our children to become good citizen of this country, the training is now towards inculcating bad behaviors to them. The main message I am trying to pass on to all is that these bad behaviors that our students are learning in our schools will certainly have a very serious ramification to their behavior after school. Therefore, as a lot of attention is given to financial corruption, much more attention is needed to a more dangerous corruption that is taking place in our education system – the bedrock of any meaningful development. None of the Seven Points Agenda or Vision 2020 of Mr. President is achievable in the next one hundred year if our education system has not been sanitized. I would therefore, like to conclude with some brainstorming and proposing possible ways to tackle the menace. In doing that I am neither perturbed with the saying "In Nigeria, every government came with the intension of fighting corruption, but at the end, it is always the corruption that is winning", nor with the kind of reward Ribadu is currently receiving.

If you see anybody proposing simple way to address this problem rest assured that he did not understand the gravity of the problem. The deterioration was gradual and over a long period of time, therefore, rebuilding will definitely require more time. First, we must understand that the corruption in our educational system is currently doing an immeasurable damage to the most important resources (mind of our children) of the country, and at the most critical time of their life. Therefore, an urgent, concerted and systematic effort is required to stop the practices, and then start to undo the damage so far done. To do this, the whole society needs to be reoriented morally, spiritual and socially. This will certainly required a dedication, sincerity of purpose, and political will from all political leaders - rank and file. If this is achieved, I am optimistic that other non political leaders will just follow suits.

It has been argued that the problem with Nigeria is insecurity. It is this insecurity that is making people concentrate more on maximizing personal gains at any given opportunity, so that the entity call Nigeria will not collapse with them at the other side of the bridge. With this attitude, we are now money hunters' nation and we do not seem to have any good agenda for the money except for self aggrandizement. It is only the political leadership that will develop the confidence of the people, and make them believe that Nigeria is not going to collapse as people are thinking. As a matter of fact, the chances are more that Nigeria will grow greater, and become prosperous for our children and great grand children. But that is if we change our attitude and work towards national development in place of personal development. Unfortunately, our attention and mindset now is not towards making Nigeria great, rather towards making our self great in a simplest way possible. This trend of looking for a quick way of making it must be addressed - as nothing good come so easy. Similarly, people are now too self-centered and very much ready to compromise national interest for their personal benefit. This selfish and self-centered attitude must be changed.

The good news is that our problem is NEVER lack of talent or moral training. We have more than enough talented young people who can make Nigeria of our dream. I was in a conference in the USA. I met a well known mathematician, when I told him that I was a Nigerian; he started to ask me about Ibadan, and some big Nigerian names in mathematics. He told me that some time back there was a journal in Ibadan that was highly respected internationally. He was curious to know where all the big names are now. I told him that the economic situation in the country has forced many academicians that worth their names out of the country. Now, to bring these experts back will require a lot sacrifice from the government and the experts. Similarly, training young ones to that level will require a lot of sacrifice from the government. So, our problem is not talent, but how to manage our talent. Amazingly, it is the same University of Ibadan that recently President Yar'adua was reported to have said is no more a university! And sentiment aside, Prof. Wole Soyinka is in support of that. What a shame for a nation with abundant talent.

Similarly, we are very religious people – at least externally. All that we need is to internalize the teaching of our religions and we will be complete human beings. I invigilated an examination in which a boy with big cross in his neck was sitting next to a girl that is fully covered in black hijab. It is surprising to find these two religiously looking people collaborating fully in examination malpractices. It is a very interesting discovery for me, and confirmed what I have since been highlighting - the contradictions in our religious teaching. Now exam malpractice is a unifying factor like a football where students forget about their religious, tribal and regional differences and collaborate in the malpractices.

The parent must understand the danger of encouraging their children directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously to get grades or certificate that do not belongs to them. As a religious country, we have abundant evidence in our scriptures to show that by doing this we are doing more damage to our children than helping them. And most importantly, we will have case to answer in the day of reckoning.

Students, right from kindergarten must be brainwashed and made to believe that they cannot go anywhere, individually or collectively with cheating in the examination. These exams are the foundation on which their future is built. Therefore, students must understand the long term danger of building a shaky foundation for their life. A concerted effort is needed with the aim of changing students' attitude toward learning in place of malpractices. We must make them believe that they have more than enough talent to do much better in their exams. However, it is difficult to preach that, if election riggers are finding themselves in our government houses - action speaks louder than voice. The moment political leaders start to leave by example, I am optimistic that many things will fall in place.

As for the custodian of knowledge, the effort should be toward bringing their minds to education. The government should try and make the salary reasonable, but we must understand that the issue is much more than salary increase. For instance, at the university level, despite all the adjustment in the salaries not much has change in terms of the attitude of the lecturers toward teaching and research.

Coming back to the educational systems, our teacher training is completely outdated. Looking critically into the issue as a mathematics educator, I can categorically say with no fear of contradiction that no teacher training is taking place at all. However, quality education depends largely on quality of the teachers. Our teacher training institutions are now producing teachers that lack knowledge of both content and pedagogy. I was involved in B.ED program. These are "trained" teachers in our primary and secondary schools. Surprisingly, their attitude towards education is not different from that of the secondary school students. What they are looking for is certificate. According to some of them, what they are learning has nothing to do with what they are teaching. So they are in school just to get certificate, which is necessary for their promotion to certain rank. These are the teachers. What do we expect from their students? Therefore, government should invest heavily on education with a view of producing qualitative teachers who are well trained in content, pedagogy and morals with good level of commitment in teaching business.

Sequel to my previous discussion on our universities, I am suggesting that our universities should stop given any post-graduate program. We should stop deceiving ourselves. We do not have the expertise and manpower to provide sufficient training for even our undergraduate programs not to talk about post-graduate program. Let us concentrate on the undergraduate program. This may appears as an insult to some people, but they should know that I am not talking about individual here, rather the system as a collective whole. Both the state and federal government should invest heavily on education. Potential students for post graduate studies should be sent abroad for their masters and PhD. This investment will yield a lot of profit in the near future. If you want to understand clearly what I am saying, take Malaysia as an example; just calculate how much money Nigerians are currently sending to Malaysia annually for education of our children. But this is because Malaysia has initially invested a lot of money for their children education in UK, USA, Australia, etc. Had we done the same, things could have been different today. Rather than sending huge amount of money to other countries that were not better than us forty years back; education could have been competing now with petrol as an income earner for the country. We could by now have a ministry of exporting manpower – nurses, doctors, teachers, and lecturers to all part of the world. Our unemployment rate and insecurity could have been far less.

*Dr Yushau Balarabe  writes from the Remedial Studies department, University of Jos, Nigeria
   he can be reached [email protected]  

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