ARE WE STILL SLEEPING?  

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Monday letter

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world  -Nelson Mandela 

Once upon a time in 2005,  Nigeria was regarded as an emerging  member of the Next Eleven countries, a term coined by Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment banking, securities  and management firm, representing  the 11 countries  touted as the next economic  hub of the world. Fast forward to the present age, Nigeria has become a shadow of herself being currently plagued with avalanche of anomalies- economic, political, religious, ethnic and social. How did our lofty dream of the N-11 evaporate suddenly? Did we forget that the advancement of modern economies is now knowledge-driven? Our present predicament is not unconnected with the collapse of our educational institutions which serve as a spring water for human development, a harbinger for economic development. The effect of moribund educational institutions is not usually quicker than a rabbit would jump over a short mimosa pudica but is gradual, pervasive and metastatic like a cancer cell. 

In an essay published  in UK Essays (Nov, 2018) on the relationship between education and economic growth, the author posited that education leads to increased productivity by increasing the skill, capacity to produce and capacity to innovate. Therefore, increased productivity leads to higher earning which increases economic output/growth. In other words, improving the educational needs of the people ultimately yields improved economic growth. 

Today, we are so polarised across ethno-politico-religious divides more than ever in the history of our country. Every government employment opportunity is x-rayed based on the ethnicity and religion without recourse to meritocracy. What do you expect when you put a round peg in a square hole? No wonder our brightest prospects are emigrating in droves for greener pastures, at least where their skills are better appreciated and duly rewarded. What are we doing to stem this ugly tide of brain drain? To worsen the scenario, the children of our leaders and political elites study abroad, later on, flaunt the graduation pictures online for the adulation of the unfortunate common masses. What message are they sending to us whereas our institutions are characterised by chronic neglect, moribund infrastructure, incessant strikes, corruption, nepotism, to mention but a few. What a pity!

 

One of the Nigerian finest and erudite politician, late Chuba Okadigbo once said, “if you are emotionally attached to your tribe, religion or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondary consideration, your education is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind.” Homing to our political ecosystem, gone are the days when visionary men and women with sound minds and proven track record of character and integrity saturate the space but now, we have delegated ourselves to the bandwagon of the highest bidders, political opportunists and political buccaneers.

We all admire how things work in advanced countries but we often forget that the shades they are enjoying under now were once planted and nurtured by their older generations who wanted a better life for their future younger generations. Admittedly, our present and past leaders have failed us by chronically and gleefully neglecting a pivotal sector of the economy which can transmogrify the nation. 

 

A quintessential illustration of how education changed the fortunes of state is the story of Silicon Valley, a region of San Francisco in Northern California, a home to many start-ups and global tech companies.  In an article titled “The Interdependence of Stanford University and Silicon Valley”, Ritika Trikha argued that Stanford’s engineering school has had a strong hand in building the tech boom seen in Silicon Valley today. In return, it’s entrepreneurial alumni offer among the most generous endowments to the university breaking the record as the first university to add more than $1 billion in a single year. He also added that that the proximity to Silicon Valley is not the most important thing that distinguishes Stanford University but it’s certainly the most unique.

 

Recently, I heaved a sigh of relief by the news of FG approving about 208 billion naira as 2019 intervention funds for public institutions across the country. While this is a step in the right direction, I am strongly advocating for close monitoring of implementation of the funds thereby ensuring its judicious utilization for maximum impact.

Our tertiary institutions should tap into the “Silicon valley-Stanford University model” for its sustainability as they cannot rely heavily on government interventions while the government should not shy away from their main responsibilities. Private sectors and religious bodies should also play their supporting roles, alongside all major stakeholders in the sector. Our dear country has retrogressed so badly in recent years that if nothing is done swiftly, we all be made to face the dire repercussions. Let’s remember that our dynamic world is moving faster than we think. We need to wake up from our slumber, and make hay while the sun shine. 

 

Dr Ugoh-Ezepue Kenechukwu,

Medical Practitioner, Enugu