An education that makes the dumb speak

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By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

Strangely this essay had its foundations in 1968 and was in its original form published in the old Daily Times. Writing under the topic ‘THE EDUCATION WE WANT MUST HAVE TECHNICAL BIAS’ Tai Solarin said “I have been asked to say briefly what I think of our education now and in the future.

Quite strange that we are already in that future and we still do not know what kind of education we want to run, is it Universal Basic, or Universal Primary, is it Unity Schools owned by government or the Unity schools owned by Businessmen that want to declare profit after each academic calendar year rather than improve the quality of students and teachers and the education dispensed.

In 1968 Solarin wrote “A good many of us spat on the education we had yesterday, and ofcourse what passes for education today. And there is, certainly, a stratum of our society that looks back, nostalgically, at the quality of yesterday’s education”. How many of us today can argue that this is not the truth, even the generation that had its education in 1990 now looks back with nostalgia.

In 1968, he opined that by and large, most of us believed that there was very much missing in the content of our yesterdays’ education. What we have today, in spite of innovations and the bold attempts to re-orientate it, remains, as it was yesterday, orthodox, slow foot, myopic. 

It is 2024, can we honestly call the situation any better, rather after the billions of Naira committed at a rate incomparable, the system, the sector is more slow foot, myopic and orthodox than then.

Our educational system today only sharpens the head to near pin end quality and this is even rare but it also makes the possessors limb atrophied by long disuse. Our education is money centered. It is an education which goads the possessor asking “what can my country do for me?” not as J.F.Kennedy requests immortally, “what can I do for my country?”

In 2024, we are left to define the quality of education we want for tomorrow when our peers have gone far in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, neighboring Ghana has even refused to wait for us.

Solarin had asked that we bring functionality into our education. He said that “There is, I think, only one significant thing we want in our education for tomorrow-FUNCTION. That we arm our children with functional education” In my words, today the education is not functional, we have unemployable graduates, and my apologies, totally useless school leavers.

While Tai anchored his stand on State owned schools as an atheist, I advocate government’s participation as a matter of social contract and responsibility to the people. That way we could boast an education that ‘LIVES’.

Do we have an education in which a possessor wants to elevate the less privileged that surge him round, the answer is no. Today what is the value of the education given to a young man who lives or is doing his mandatory service year in a guinea worm infested area and yet is incapable of causing a revolution in the lives of the villagers by transforming their drinking water into healthy supply? Today every graduate desires Shell, Chevron, MTN, GTBank and the rest jostle for pensionable Ministry jobs; excluding those not in politics as educated thugs.

What is the use of education given in physics to a young girl when the lights go out; she does not know what to do to get light again. In Nigerian education, how many graduates can carry aloft an oasis of light, very few because the education is short on quality and is therefore poor? 

We are of the opinion that our education should be one that gives the 3-Rs Reading, Writing and Rithmetic. During the formative years, our kids should be made to know that they are members of a society to which they owe so much not the present Tokunboh arrangement, they must be initiated into all the faculties of operations carried out by adults only that sadly and unfortunately the operations of this generation is corruption.

The bitter truth is that we are reeling out nonsense from our Primary stage to the highest level of education. We are cursed with a leadership that is at loss to what the cure is. We have developed a set of students whose parents bribe up the academic ladder because teachers will teach nonsense after all. Our schools today at best are filled with frustrated persons that are still holding the chalk for lack of what to do next. Every year no one is really taking stock of the number of University manpower leaving the shores of this nation never to return and we just sit and term it brain drain, when in truth it has become a complete DRAIN, brain and belly, soul and spirit.

Today, how many young people want to go home and at the beginning of the year cut the bush in readiness for the New Year’s planting; making of garri or pounding the yam or preparing the ‘ewedu’ soup? If these children do not participate how can they be integrated into the society, if all the values they see are big cars, big mansion, how they integrate should not be surprising.

We cannot guarantee any form of free education, most Governors have turned state bursary allocations into political tools, that is when it is not intelligently and crookedly sent to England to buy a mansion in cash.  Government at the center is confused, one minute it is a 6-3-3-4 system, now we hear it would be 9-3-4, only Allah knows if the next one won’t be 16-16-16. 

Till this moment no one has explained the rationale behind the change, the merits or otherwise why we had to abandon the last system which was barely practiced for a decade plus. A nation that jokes with the education of its youth and its citizens would have itself to blame not just in the future but in the immediate.

Today, agricultural science is a theoretical subject and schools do not even have farms any more, University of Agriculture takes more students for law than Agricultural Extension courses.

Why do we like to lie to ourselves.I never will know, I can authoritatively tell you that in the whole of Plateau State, Abia, Kano and Osun States by random sampling no public school has a functional up to date complete computer unit, internet with functional printers, and Governors will tell you how they have transverse from Galilee to Riyadh in improving education and the government at the center is preaching info-tech and AI.

Parents do not even know what their wards are doing in school; “let me see your homework” is now a strange phrase in families. Who really cares, the Ibos to Alaba in droves, and our Yoruba brothers to the mechanic workshop and how about us in the North, it is worse because our leaders are fighting for a place at the center. 

There are no apprentices by calling but because of a lack of choice. An uneducated populace is one of the recipes for catastrophic socio-eco-political, cultural and steady decline, a nation where anything will always go. 

The Boarding system in which was the best is gradually fading or negatively modernized, it was where we learnt to queue up, collect our food, sit down at prescribed tables and organize the cleaning of those tables; washing up by all who partook of the food. It was a system that inculcated in students honesty PROMAX!

So, very recently one of my adult sons, was at the park, having dropped his friend off to board a vehicle to Abuja, he was accosted by a deaf and dumb woman who asked for a token, I am sure many of us must have experienced them. He dipped his hands into his pocket and gave her a token, and as he walked into his car. He heard the woman say “Thank you”!

The words of Tai Solarin should conclude this essay…”the education being given to our children today, will give us a newer and nobler Nigeria.” If that today was 1968, suffice to say that there is a problem in the land educationally with the kind of education being given in 2024 where dumb people speak— May Nigeria win!


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