THE current status of the Nigerian educational system needs to be addressed. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, anybody who walked into any school either primary, secondary or a university campus automatically felt like being immediately admitted into the school. The school compounds and campuses were well organised. The grasses were cut regularly, flowers and trees were well trimmed, new building were always cropping up, efforts were made conscientiously to upgrade laboratory equipment and there was regular painting of the buildings and facilities in general. The vice chancellors, registrars, deans, rectors, principals, headmasters, lecturers, teachers and educational administrators were highly motivated and committed to educating the citizens of the country. The quality of education was very high, enabling Nigerian students to compete very well throughout the world. During the decades mentioned, educators maintained high professional and ethical standards.
Educational institutions competed at every level to be the best regionally, nationally, and internationally in terms of academic performance, extra-curricular activities and infrastructural development. The university campuses at Ahmadu Bello University, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ibadan, University of Lagos and University of Nigeria, Nsukka were so beautiful and inspiring. During the decades mentioned above, Nigeria’s best and the brightest students attended higher educational institutions in Nigeria. Students went overseas for courses that were not readily available in Nigeria. During the same decades, the children of the elite as well as those of the middle class attended the same schools since academic performance had a great impact in determining admission, whether into secondary schools or universities. A student who scored very high in standardised examinations such as the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC), West African School Certificate (WASC), General Certificate of Education (GCE), Higher School Certificate (HSC) gained immediate admission into one of the best schools, regardless of socio-economic status.
By contrast, the 1990s, and 2000s are characterised by poor academic standards, unorganised extra-curricular activities and poor infrastructure. In short, Nigeria’s school compounds and campuses today are not organised to meet the academic trends of the 21st century. Many primary and secondary schools building are dilapidated. In some schools, the roofs leak whenever there is rain and classes are interrupted. Most university campuses today are not well equipped. It appears that educational administrators today are not as motivated and committed as their counterparts three decades ago. It seems that some school administrators and teachers really do not care about what happens to education in the country, apart from maintaining their jobs and enhancing their financial status. Due to the fallen standards, quite a substantial number of Nigerian elite now send their children overseas for higher education. It is mostly the children of the middle and lower classes who remain in Nigeria to attend universities.
Since the late 1980s until today, education has been treated as an unimportant variable in the development of the country, even though elected officials in the current dispensation always talk about education. School buildings are crumbling, teachers are rarely paid in many states and the value of teaching has been reduced, to the extent that teachers are forced to engage in other business activities in order to meet up with their financial responsibilities. Today, due to lack of concern for infrastructure development, modernisation and rehabilitation, the universities do not have sufficient spaces to accommodate students who want to live in dormitories. It is not surprising that university dormitories in Nigeria are always crowded with students, thereby making it exceedingly difficult for students to concentrate on their studies. It is not uncommon for five to six students to share the same room. The unwillingness to invest in infrastructure development, modernisation and rehabilitation thwarts the growth of the universities in the country. There are less scholarship programmes today than in the 1970s and 1980s. During those two decades, both federal and state governments provided all kinds of scholarships to enable Nigerian youths to pursue higher education either in Nigeria or overseas.
If a careful observation is made of the social and political behaviors of the current crops of politicians and public figures, it is possible to say that the current state of corruption and lack of moral consideration originated partially from the higher educational environment, starting in the late 1980s. In other words, Nigerian universities could be held partially responsible for breeding the kinds of public officials, politicians, professionals, public figures, lawyers, etc, available today. At the same time, it is proper to say that the educational sector is greatly influenced by the massive corruption in society at large. If society is corrupt, then the educational sector will also be corrupt. Similarly, if the educational sector is corrupt, the society will be corrupted since many graduates would end up becoming public policy makers, public administrators, military and police officers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women. Many lecturers have faced allegations of corruption, examination malpractices, sex scandal and other anti-social vices.
Many individuals who hold positions of power in the country today went through the higher education system in an environment in which corruption, exploitation, and immorality were rampant. They survived the educational system by doing whatever was deemed necessary, including bribing school administrators, lecturers and professors, paying for grades, prostituting, and using violence, including cultism, to intimidate the school authority. It is time the government revisited the institutions. The anti-corruption war should be extended to the educational sector.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other corruption fighting agencies should focus their investigative on educational institutions and compel those who have questions to answer to explain what happened under their administrative supervision of various educational institutions. The youths are the future leaders of the country. This means that the national security of the nation depends greatly upon the educational system to produce able leaders. If the educational sector fails to produce able leaders, then the country chances are in jeopardy. While Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian etc. educational systems are producing top educational management information specialists, scientists, engineers, doctors etc. it seems Nigerian educational system are not producing individuals who are ready to take the country to greater height, but those that are looking for ways to exploit the society for their personal advantage, instead of contributing positively to the advancement of the Nigeria as a nation.
- Olorunda is on the staff of Nigerian Tribune