By: Peter Okoyomoh
University of Ibadan is the best university in Nigeria according to the latest rankings by Webometrics. It is the ninth best university in Africa,behind five South African universities.The university is also ranked the 1037th best university in the world. Interestingly, a degree from the University of Ibadan is not very highly regarded in the West.
If we are to be sincere with ourselves, these statistics should not surprise anybody. A friend of mine who is a Youth Corps Member recounted the depressing experience she had while trying to teach year three students of a Senior Secondary school literature. According to her, the students could not read simple English words, much less appreciate figures of speech. They certainly could not comprehend books like William Shakespeare’s classics, which any serious literature student should have a basic knowledge of.
The Nigerian educational system is decayed in its roots, it is like a crippled man trying to swim against the tide. Sadly, the world is leaving us behind at jet speed, making it more certain that we would still be dependent on others for basic technological and social needs in the future.
While a four year old Japanese kid is already being introduced to robotics and basic technology, a graduate of Engineering in Nigeria might not have proper knowledge of mechanics and where he does, he may not have any practical experience.
The first real problem is our budgetary practice. By United Nations standards, a country should allot at least 27% of its budget to education. However, as it stands, the 2018 budget could only allot a meager 7% to education.
We are a nation of about 160,000,000 people, Ghana whose population is roughly about 28,000,000 has about 17% of its budget allotted to its educational sector.
This situation is indeed sad. When other countries boast of student/teacher ratios of one teacher to about three students, we have a teacher/student ratio of 1:1000. With appalling figures such as these, how do we ever expect to compete with nations like Ghana in the nearest future. We can win the Jollof Wars, but we are definitely the losers when educational sectors are compared.
Over the years, government has adopted shocking and unhelpful policies which have further harmed the educational sector. Between 1999 and 2000 the government of Bauchi state terminated the services of non-indigenes from its public schools. Of course the effect is that today Bauchi is one of the states with shockingly high illiteracy levels.
Till date, the government still employs an archaic zoning system to determine which students get admitted into public institutions. The admission process is being made less and less competitive.While countries like China ensure that only the best and brightest students are considered for college places, we admit students on the basis of their ethnic origins. Things have gotten so bad, it is embarrassing that our JAMB cut off point is 120, well below average.
In developed countries, government and private institutions sponsor research work carried out by institutions. These countries engage the academia to develop unique solutions to their social and environmental problems. What we have here in Nigeria is a situation where research work carried out by students at most end up on the shelves of a store room, to be thrown away at any time convenient to the store keeper. The few intellectuals we have prefer to have their research work published in international journals where they are better appreciated.
When all these are put together, what we have are graduates who cannot hold their own against their foreign contemporaries. We have engineers who are very good at defining what a circuit is but cannot build or even recognize one when challenged to a practical test, lawyers who cannot construct coherent sentences or read and interpret the most basic documents. We need to sit up as a nation and it starts by electing the right kind of leaders.