Education is the foundation upon which we build our future. Christine Gregoire
Google’s dictionary defines Education as 1) the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. 2) An enlightening experience
1a : the action or process of educating or of being educated Miriam Webster’s dictionary’s definition of education is;
b : the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process
2: the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools
There is an often referred to quote that states that until a person knows where they are coming from, it is hard for them to define where they are going to.
We need to revisit the history of education briefly and then ask ourselves how we got at the current morass that we have in the educational sector. Based on research and interviews of older Nigerians, I found out that the formal westernized education we have was introduced by British missionaries in the 1800s. The Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) started several schools in the mid-1800s. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the colonial government began building primary and secondary schools. Then in the 1950s, Nigeria adopted the British system called Form Six that stratified students into six elementary years, three junior secondary years, two senior secondary years, and a two-year university preparation program. Those who performed excellently were qualified to enter universities.
In 1976, Nigeria passed a law making education compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 12. By 1985, the country as a whole had 35,000 primary schools with fewer than 13 million students. Another 3.8 million primary school-aged children lived on the streets. Conditions became progressively worse. By 1994, the number of primary school had changed little, even with the country’s high birth rate.
Secondary education fared worse than the other levels of education. In the 1970s and 1980s, majority of primary students finishing sixth grade didn’t go onto junior secondary school. Also unfortunately most who managed to get some form of junior secondary education didn’t progress further.
To compound matters those who were capable of undertaking higher education had limited opportunities as few openings existed in the 1960s. At independence, there were only 6,000 certifiable students admitted to the higher institutions, there were only six higher educational institutions in Nigeria: the University Ibadan, the University of Ife, the University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, and the Institute of Technology at Benin.
There is an underlying theme here and it is neglect and lack of the right vision for our educational sector. We inherited a system from our colonial masters and apparently not much has changed from what we received from them. We still treat education the same way that we did when we were under their rule. The education system we inherited was mostly elitist, no-frills and conservative. The decay in the public sector led to the explosion of private schools across Nigeria. These schools have contributed significantly to the growth of the sector but still they are marred by lack of unified accreditation and high school fees.
I like the second definition by Google- an enlightening experience. Much of what has been happening in our schools since the 80s has been less than enlightening as we will agree.
How do we stop using education as a tool during elections and as a sector that politicians use to fund their cronies projects as a reward for support?
During the second quarter of 2017, I met highly placed representatives of a global nonprofit that is quite active worldwide in funding projects especially in education. I attended that event with the objective of networking with organizations such as theirs. They explicitly informed me that they were no longer funding educational projects in Nigeria. They liked our initiative and advocacy efforts with STEM education but they were pulling out. I went back and did research; they had funded a lot of projects but there wasn’t much to show for the efforts.
Next week, I will continue with how we can create a vision for education in Nigeria that works for the 21st century.
In the mean time; I would love to hear from you our readers; your thoughts on creating a vision for education that works for the 21st century; your responses to this article. I respond to our readers who correspond directly with me. We are all learners in the journey of life!
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.