By Chief Constance Meju
The UN Nations recognizes the right to education as basic for setting humans on the road towards empowerment and this right has been accepted by governments as necessary hence the emphasis on at least basic education for all.
Wikipedia defines education as, ‘‘the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits”. This can come through teaching, training, storytelling, discussion, guidance, reading and directed research. Education is usual through an educator , a guide but sometimes, learners also educate themselves.
The state of education in Nigeria and indeed in Africa has been a source of open concern with many blaming falling standards in education for the poor level of development in the continent. Africa has for ages, been the source of wealth of the western world-from provision of raw materials and hands for their industries, to being a dumping ground for their finished products.
Maybe because of this the education that was passed on to the continent was devoid of the attributes that would help students acquire enough hands-on knowledge to be creative enough to be really productive, a condition that economic recession has forced to the fore as many graduates in this country today, are at home unemployed, unable to help themselves and unable to help society.
What has been most embraced is formal learning which takes one through pre-nursery to kindergarten, secondary to tertiary education while informal learning takes place in a variety of places including the home, workplace, and through daily interactions and shared relationships.
In informal learning, there is often a guide, an expert or group leading, showing the way and it is believed that if the learner has a personal interest in what is being informally taught, the tendency is that he/she will want to expand his/her existing knowledge and conceive new ideas about what is being taught.
Perhaps the missing link in our educational system. All concentration is on paper qualification so much valued that people are circumventing the norm to ensure they acquire certificates with less emphasis being placed on ability to deliver, on developing enough interest in what is being taught to be able to defend the certificates. The result is the massive fraud in the name of examination malpractice, buying of admissions into higher institutions, buying of grades (sorting) and the churning out of graduates that employers consider unemployable.
Education is described as a tool for personal and societal transformation but if education has not been able to impact our youth enough to provide a better future for them, then something is definitely wrong.
Nigeria is a highly populated country with a population of about 200 million people and more than half of that population are under 30 years of age and with a high youth unemployment rate of 23.3 per cent and 21.1 underemployment record. Dwindling economic fortune translates into poor provision of jobs, infrastructure healthcare, etc, indicating that people have to think of ways to emancipate themselves from poverty, as the country has been designated the world poverty headquarter.
This has resulted in a large number of young persons, pushing out to seek greener pastures outside with many dying in the Mediterranean Sea in futile attempts to cross into Europe, some ending up as slaves, forced prostitutes or human organs outside.
Our educational system is essentially more theoretical than practical and this determined the focus of our education policy. Today education is technology driven and programmed to solve problems, ask questions, think creative and develop solutions.
World leaders are re-examining and reforming their education policies to make it more useful to the learner and Nigeria has to follow suit.
Last month, the minister of state for education in Ghana while delivering a paper at an education event in Kenya, stressed the need for Africa countries to re-examine and reform their education curricula, infrastructure to fall in line with world trend. He said we should move away from finding why things happen to seeking solutions to what is wrong, what is needed and how to meet needs. According to him, that is why the US, from where he was drafted back to Ghana to help revamp the education system, is ahead.
The minister said we should start teaching children to be innovative right from childhood. That if you want to be an aeronautic engineer, it should start from early secondary school as mere years in the university will not truly give you the deep knowledge that would take you beyond the basic. According to him, Brazil is flying planes assembled by Brazilians and that should be our goal.
Also speaking on reforming education for better effect, Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu said the youth of the country who, constitute two-thirds of the population, must have access to high quality development and higher education facilities.
He charged graduating students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, “You must continuously strive to use your knowledge and wisdom to improve the quality of life of people around you”.
He said education transforms the learner and gives the power to harness knowledge for common good.
“Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role models. We need to draw inspiration from such leaders’’, he Indian VP added.
According to him, the ability to absorb, adapt and innovate can move the frontiers of knowledge and students must “continuously strive to use your knowledge and wisdom to improve the quality of life of people around you’.
The message is to embrace transformative education. Transformative learning is the process of deep, constructive, and meaningful learning that goes beyond simple knowledge acquisition and supports critical ways in which learners consciously make meaning of their lives. (https.//link.springer.com)
It is the kind of learning that results in a fundamental change in our worldview as a consequence of shifting from mindless or unquestioning acceptance of available information to reflective and conscious learning experiences that bring about true emancipation.
Four stages of transformative learning include, acquiring experience, making assumptions, challenging perspectives and experiencing transformative learning.
It makes you to become critically aware of tacit assumptions and expectations and how to assess their relevance for making an interpretation. It leads to profound change in our thoughts, feelings, perspectives, belies and behaviours because it is a radical shift of consciousness that permanently alters our way of viewing the world.
I have seen German 10 year holds brought to the US Rocket Center on excursion to horn their interest in that field. Here in Nigeria, we organize e-examinations whereas our schools have no computers, our labs are ill-equipped and practical sessions are minimal. We lack basic infrastructure for real educational advancement. And the absence or poor state of needed facilities hamper learning.
So what to do? We have to find for ourselves the missing links.
Government has to overhaul the educational system to fall in line with progressive nations and lecturers made to lecture not turn universities and other tertiary institutions into money machines to feed their greedy desires. The National Universities Commission, NUC must check beyond accreditation visitation to ensure students are getting quality education as value for their invested time and money.
Lecturers trading grades for cash and forcing students to buy their books rather than teaching, should be sanctioned.
Students on their part, should rise against short cuts as they lead not far in life. They should concentrate on their studies and avoid violence.
Ask yourselves what you want to focus on in life, look for where you can get practical experience and either register for practical training with experts out there in the market or volunteer to work with them so you create opportunity for deeper knowledge and even opportunity for employment as you gather experience.
This means you have to put aside that feeling that because you are in a higher institution or a product of one, you are superior. Shed that coat, roll your trousers and bend low to be introduced to the nitty gritty of work in your chosen area. Expertise comes from going the extra mile working from the bottom up in humility. If you are not humble, secrets lying in the minds of long service experts will not be revealed to you.
Seek to be an expert of whatever you choose to be by trying to improve on what you learn, what is in existence and you will soon become the one everyone wants to meet. Keep reading up as you practice, keep probing, asking questions, thinking up answers for therein lies the wealth. The world is ruled by ideas, knowledge backed with expertise. And serious young Nigerians are taking advantage of the globalization to register their names in gold. The opportunities for development are huge so no need for cyber-crime, unplanned immigration or human trafficking.