Education: A viable leverage for development

nigeria4IN the world over, certain yardsticks are used to measure the level of development in each country. These yardsticks range from infrastructure, rate of literacy, ICT development and growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a host of other indices.

There is no gainsaying that some nations are more developed than others. While some governments are battling with how to bring about the much needed growth to the development of their nations, some are thinking of how to attain much greater developmental feats.

This chasm of indices that exists between developed countries and developing ones – underdeveloped ones to frankly say –  has over time tied developing countries to the apron strings of developed ones. Lamentably, developing nations are purblind to the fact that they can be independent of developed ones provided they utilise to the fullest the resources at their disposal. Denizens of developing nations out of desperation cum ignorance think of developed nations as Elysian territories of sorts and they do all they can to jet out of their climes in quest for greener pastures. For example, in 2013, a boat in transit capsized near the Island of Lampedusa (an Island in the Mediterranean Sea).

This vessel which was dispatched to Italy conveyed over 500 Africans questing for greener pastures in Europe damming the consequences of the odds. This tragic event lends credence to the reality of the dividedness of the world along developmental divides but beyond this; developing countries should see it as a clarion call to decisively act on getting integrated among the comity of developed climes.

It becomes imperative at this juncture to ask what the building blocks of development for countries are to attain the status of the developed. As I did say in my opening salvo: there are quite many indices which are used to gauge the level of a nation’s development. Education, to me is the matrix of development. From infrastructure or agriculture, the influential factor of education cannot be controverted.

Why is it that the most developed of economies have the most developed of education? And why do the most underdeveloped of economies have underdeveloped education? These are not conundrums after all as their answers are not far-fetched. The answer lies in the fact that the place of education in the growth of the development of any nation on earth is paramount. Any nation failing in education is on the cusp of failure. Why?

Nations need educated citizens to formulate government policies. Without education, how can economic problems such as inflation, devaluation etc be addressed? Or how will nations of the world tackle unemployment? Developing nations, we know are plagued with these problems. This emphasises the dire need for human capital development in these countries.

There are countries with high rate of maternal and child mortalities. HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases are also pandemic in these countries simply because they lack sufficient health workers. Ailing denizens of these countries sometimes go for “medical tourism” to developed countries which offer better health care services though at pricey costs.

Needless to say that that a country is developing does not at all mean it isn’t endowed with natural resources. Africa as we know is still in the backwaters but paradoxically has numerous resources to boast of. Stats say that the continent provides approximately 98 per cent of diamond needs in the world. Also, Africa is one of largest habitats of tin, uranium, coal and so on. What is wrong? This is where education comes in for capacity building and human resource development because these are sine qua non to the development of an economy.
But what is the condition of our institutions like? How capable are our pedagogues? How relevant are our curricula? How much is voted to education? Questions, questions and questions perturb the thinking patriot.

A caveat though, education goes beyond what is acquired within the walls of a school going by the etymological root of the word education which is educare and it means “to bring up.” So, education in fact is any system that’s concerned with unearthing the latent skills of a child, and it is a truth that it isn’t only our – decrepit – schools that can do that. In fact, what our schools do more often than not is to kill those talents in our children by omission or commission. The idea of education became so affiliated to schooling during the epoch of industrialism in Europe and this insidiously made non-formal education a second fiddle to it. But the factual truth is that non-formal education caters for over 55 per cent of education while its formal counterpart caters only for 22-25 per cent. How mistaken our priorities are.

Charles Dickens and Abraham Lincoln are examples of people who demonstrated great erudition in their capacities but they didn’t have much of formal education due to poor backgrounds. It was even worse for Lincoln who is said to have attended school cumulatively for one year! Dickens and Lincoln were autodidacts whose accomplishments live on. American history is incomplete without a mention of Lincoln’s 13th amendment and so is a list of literary magnum opuses incomplete without Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

There are so much potential I see among Nigerians but the craze for certification is really hampering the unfolding of these potentials. Schooling is great but the government’s insouciant attitude towards it has hampered the fructification of its purpose in the life of many a graduate which has ultimately placed them in the paradox of they being schooled but not educated. I’m not advocating a recycling of our educational policy. We do that far too often since 1977 when the first one was drafted. Instead, we need to fashion out an educational policy aimed at Nigeria’s development. We tout our MDGs but do we ever pause to think if they are achievable going by the grim state of education?

True, the government needs to build more schools and vocational centres, spruce up existing ones, allocate more funds to education, train and retrain teachers and do lots of things. We need to realise though that the task to reform education – formal and non-formal – is a communal duty. We are all stakeholders.
• Olayemi is the director of Operations of Penact group and a student of English and Education at Obafemi Awolowo University. 07058916709

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