Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has advised African Governments and the private sector to invest more in education as a means of bringing about the required economic advancement and repositioning the continent to become more competitive in the age of technological revolution.
The Ex-President also enjoined all stakeholders to show enough commitment and support to make education attractive and ensure that Africaâ€™s best brains are retained in the sector as teachers, in order to produce globally competitive students.
A statement by Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former Presidentâ€™s media adviser said that Jonathan spoke on Wednesday at the 2017 Roundtable of the African Presidential Leadership Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The programme with the theme â€˜Addressing Africaâ€™s Educational Challenges in the 21st Century brought together seven former African Presidents and many other businesses and political leaders in the continent. Besides Jonathan, other former leaders included former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, former Zambian President Rupiah Banda, former President of Mauritius Karl Offman, former Prime Minister of Zanzibar Amani Abeid Karume, as well as former Presidents of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete and Frederick Sumaye.
The Ex-President who expressed hope in African youths and their potential to take Africa to the next level also advised that special attention should be placed on Sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, stressing that â€œAfrica does not only need to produce world-class scientists and engineers, but also needs to retain them on the continent.â€
He further made a case for special Incentives to stimulate interest in the education sector, saying: â€œIf Africa must progress, a reasonable percentage of our best brains must go into education. If you look at the percentage of quality manpower that go into education in some countries you will realise that we still have a long way to go, because quality education drives development. For instance, research has shown that in countries with very good education profiles like Sweden, six out of the best ten brains will be retained to teach others while in a place like the United States about three out of their ten best brains will go into teaching. But in Africa, none out of its ten best graduates will remain in teaching. What this tells me is that Africa needs to realise that incentivising the education sector is key to its advancement.â€
Speaking on the need to segment education, he said further: â€œThe mainstream education is there and we must continue to encourage it. But besides that, we should be able to deal with the question of how to nurture the brains that will technologically revolutionise Africa. We must retool our education curricula in line with the technological requirements of the 21st Century. We must produce technically competent people. My thinking is that if we must change Africa, if we must seek to rival the rest of the world to get to the stage where we would be able to deploy artificial intelligence to solve our problems, we must specially educate some categories of people.
â€œThe truth is that God did not bless all of us equally with the same quality of brains. The distribution of the human brain is not uniform. In that case, for us to develop as nations and as a continent, we must devise ways of sorting out our best brains and encouraging them to fully develop themselves. The efforts and contributions of those few ones are enough to change society. Such brains can catapult Africa into the technological revolution age.â€
He noted further that in the last 25 years, the Information technology revolution has grown in geometrical progression while African education is being left behind because it has failed to keep the pace.
â€œFor us to compete with the rest of the world, Africa requires a strategic plan on how to fill existing gaps. We have to begin to dream that we will catch up with the rest of the progressive world on technological advancement. It is a good thing that some countries are consciously sending bright students abroad to institutions with the proven academic record to acquire the required skills. This is the way to go
while we continue to strive to develop and standardize our own educational institutions. We canâ€™t afford to just wait and do nothing in the face of obvious deficiency. We have to send our best brains to the best institutions to acquire the knowledge we lack.â€
Jonathan who moderated the main session that had the former Presidents as panelists, however, warned that the opportunity of foreign education should only be a stop-gap measure and not the solution to the problem. â€œSomething will then be wrong if we fail as African leaders to develop our own educational system but continue to rely on sending people abroad for our own advancement. However, the points remain to be made that for now, we need to learn from the best institutions and bring the expertise back to develop our homeland. That was what other nations like China and India did and are still doing.â€
The former President said further: â€œWhen I became President of my country Nigeria, I established the programme I called the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID). The idea was that every year we must select the best of the best of our first class graduates in technical disciples from Nigerian and foreign universities, and send them to top universities in the world to acquire the best technical training. For instance, we have nuclear and satellite programmes but we have not been able to reasonably advance them because I believe we are yet to develop the kind of quality manpower to realise such programmes. We cannot just think about going to the moon like other countries have done, if we do not develop the required scientific know how.â€