Educationists call for Increased Government Commitment to Higher Education in Nigeria
Experts, scholars and investors have called for a comprehensive review and increased government commitment to higher education in the country in order to improve on the standards and quality of products churned out from the nation’s educational institutions, especially institutions of higher learning. This was one of the highlights of the March 22, 2018 edition of the Big Ideas Podium which held in Enugu on Thursday, with the theme – Higher Education in Nigeria: Developing Human Capital for Global Competitiveness
In his keynote speech, the Chancellor/Visitor of Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, Professor Gregory Ibe who was the guest speaker at the event affirmed that indeed the quality of higher education’ has a direct link to human capital development. He observed that the non-fusion of proper skills has made our educational results very pedestrian, and the youths in their innumerable numbers are better described as loiters.
He said though the deregulation of higher education in Nigeria which is aimed at producing technically–sufficient personnel, going by the number of Polytechnics in the private and states controls; he wondered what is the national budgetary and financial support into our general educational systems - to the states and private hands, in terms of subventions?
According to him, the issue of funding is one that the government has not lived up to expectation.
“The stakeholders, that are the researchers, teachers, lecturers, are left with no option than to manage the resources at their disposal for grooming the nation’s scholars or students. The acceptable norms for giving the best to our students, is at best questionable. The quality of our students rests on the aphorism; what we garbage in, is what we garbage out” he said.
Where are the research grants? Where are the educational endowment funds? Which universities are receiving them? These are questions Professor Ibe believes demand an urgent and honest answers in order to make higher education in Nigeria comparable to elsewhere. He opines that the bad face of Nigeria’s educational system, for human reformation should not be glossed over but thoroughly treated. Not treatment as regards the bombardment of students with theories and laws, but the use of essential elements of education to concentrate the quality of education. Then, education can truly manifest in the country.
Earlier in his welcome address, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, Executive Director of African heritage Institution, posits that in today’s world, no country can ignore education if it desires prosperity and peace. A country must either educate its people or purchase the services of educated people from elsewhere. He said the poor value system, ethics and standards in our society today cannot be divulged from the declining educational standards in which the country has found itself in.
“A vital commodity in every society, education is the process through which people access cultural, intellectual and economic values that are the bases for the creation and development of knowledge, skills, or career tracks. It is education that embeds attitudes, beliefs and ideas through which the value system of every human being is developed and shaped as cultures (whether ethnic, religious or pop cultures). In that way, education is a fundamental feature of the human experience and existence” he asserts.
Professor Okeke-Uzodike lamented a situation whereby rather than strive to implement the United Nation’s recommended 26% baseline budgetary allocation for education, successive governments in Nigeria has always relegated education to the background with as less as 7.04% presently contained in the 2018 appropriation. According to him, this definitely cannot get the education sector to anywhere.
In his contribution, former central bank governor, professor Charles Soludo declined a system whereby higher education in Nigeria is being seen as an indigenous affair in terms of appointment, promotion, establishment, etc instead of a citadels universal standard.
Speaking at the occasion, Professor Uche Eze, Commissioner for Education, Enugu State, pointed out that corruption and examination malpractice have destroyed the standard of education in the country. According to him, parents now encourage and aid their children to be involved in examination malpractice. “If Nigeria must succeed, Nigerians must show more commitment in seeing that education is practiced as it should be”, he said.
Communiqué of the March 2018 Big Ideas Podium themed: “Higher Education in Nigeria: Developing Human Capital for Global Competitiveness”
The Big Ideas Podium is a national platform for public policy debates on burning and salient issues that affect or shape development or governance in Nigeria, West Africa, and the African continent. It encourages the deployment of both intellectual and empirical insights as it scrutinizes societal and national problems with a view to developing shared understandings of, and proffer recommendations for policies or solutions to social, economic, governance and political challenges facing Nigeria and the African continent.
The March, 2018 edition of the Big Ideas Podium featured Professor Gregory Ibe, Chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu (GUU), whose presentation touched on various challenges facing higher education in Nigeria; and possible solutions to the challenges. The event pooled participants from various walks of life – the academia, the media, government functionaries, policy makers, tertiary school administrators, international development organizations, and students, etc.
- Education is a veritable tool for the development of the nation. It is very unrealistic to talk about developing a nation without educating its people. The transformative power of education has made it a powerful tool for human capital development; hence the need for renewed commitment to the improvement of the entire educational system in Nigeria.
- The concept of education has to do with training the head, hand and the heart. It is not just about training people so they can get job; it has its own intrinsic value. Indeed, education has the capacity to: drive the development of the economy; promote peaceful co-existence among the citizens; or enhance cultural development.
- There is a direct relationship between effective higher education, quality of human capital development and economic development in general. They are inextricably linked to each other. It is this understanding that has given rise to the adoption of various educational policies in Nigeria with the view to strengthen the educational system. Unfortunately, the objectives have not been realized in recent times.
- The failure of government policies on education, which resulted in poor quality graduates from public educational institutions, has given rise to the emergence of private higher institutions. Also, an outcry for a change in the current system of 6-3-3-4 (which is void of proper skill impartation), has led to suggestions of alternatives such as the 9-3-4 system of education.
- Before the 1980s, Nigeria produced high quality graduates that could compete with peers in the continent and around the world. In 2018, the average Nigerian graduate is among the weakest produced globally. The evidences abound in: the per capita productivity indicators; Nigeria’s low rankings on the human capital development indicators; and the display of poor leadership in government.
- The current academic curriculum in the Nigerian education system does not incorporate effectively the skill requirements of specific industries the products of the schools are meant to serve; hence, the complaint by employers of the un-employability of graduates produced with the curriculum.
- With the largest population in Africa, Nigeria is among the countries with the lowest per capita budgetary allocations for education as against the UN benchmark of 26%. The Nigerian government has not allocated up to 15% of its annual budget to the education sector within the past two decades; and, in 2018, only 7.04% of the total budget is proposed for this sector. Current statistics show that Ethiopia has 24.2%, South Africa 17% and Rwanda 11.5%.
- The funding structure of Nigerian educational institutions is such that government funds only target its establishments, especially in the areas of grants and special interventions for research and development. Thus, private sector educational institutions are left to fend for themselves – an arrangement that does not provide the needed synergy for the effective development of the educational sector in Nigeria.
- It must also be underscored that corruption is entrenched in various sectors in Nigeria, including the education system. This has resulted in the unfortunate situations such as: a professor bribing another professor for his/her child to get admission; students bribing lecturers to pass exams; non-academic staff collecting money from students to alter their grades or points.
- The drive for increased global competitiveness has led to the introduction of various international scholarship programs as well as other joint funding opportunities for young Nigerian intellectuals to be trained abroad. The unfortunate situation is that more than 70% of these intellectuals end up not returning home to contribute positively to the development of the country. Worst still, the 30% that come back would usually find it difficult to reproduce what they learnt due to poor infrastructural facilities.
- The current federal character principle and the admission policy in Nigeria have also exacerbated the poor quality of educational output in Nigeria as less qualified candidates are admitted into institutions to study competitive professional courses in an attempt to comply with the federal character principle.
- The recruitment process in most of the educational institutions in Nigeria is devoid of merit and intellectual competence. This is because people are employed and promoted based on considerations other than merit.
- Mentorship, which is the key to student assessments and understanding of their academic needs, is lacking in our school system. Consequently, this often results in career mismatch among the students.
- As a profession, the field of education is considered by many as non-lucrative; therefore, people who are admitted into the faculty of education are often those rejected by other disciplines or fields; This is responsible for the poor quality of teachers produced by our educational system.
- For a more effective educational system in Nigeria, all stakeholders (such as students, parents, administrators, and policy makers) must accept the responsibility of transforming the system profoundly for meaningful human capital development.
- Effective educational policy and a continuous commitment to training and retraining of teachers should be adopted if Nigeria is to take advantage of the transformative power of education.
- The recruitment policy on employment of teachers should be reviewed to ensure that only people with passion and calling to the teaching profession are employed to teach.
- The current 6-3-3-4 system of education should be reviewed and replaced with the 9-3-4 system. The latter supports skill acquisition and training which is deficient in the present system of education.
- The current academic curriculum in the Nigerian tertiary education system should be holistically reviewed and a new curriculum that will incorporate the skill requirements of various industries should be approved.
- There should be increased public-private partnership in funding higher education in Nigeria, especially in the area of special grants for research and development. In this case, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TetFund) should include state-owned as well as private universities in their provision of grants so that the synergistic effect will result in increased infrastructural facilities for effective teaching and learning.
- Attitudinal re-orientation should be implemented to eliminate or reduce the negative effect of corruption in the educational system in Nigeria.
- Government should provide appropriate infrastructural facilities and working conditions for public and private institutions in other to motivate young intellectuals to return to Nigeria and contribute to the nation’s development after studying abroad.
- The Federal Character Principle should be reviewed if not repealed so as to give every young Nigerian student equal opportunity to compete and study the course of his/her choice irrespective of religion, ethnicity, or place of birth.
- The value system of ‘employment by merit’ should be rekindled in our educational institutions so that sound and intelligent teachers have the opportunity of training the younger generation.
- The teaching profession should be hallowed and made lucrative in other to attract young vibrant intellectuals who, in turn, will be qualified to teach the next generation.
- Private universities should be treated equally with their public counterparts when it comes to special grants and interventions. This is because their products (graduates) are equally for public consumption.