By Olusegun Oruame
A country’s claim to greatness could be accessed by how it funds its educational sector and how much of seriousness it accords its ministry of science and technology. We appeared to have lost the meaning of what education could do for our common aspiration to advance our development beyond the thatched roads and rusty tin cover upon which we have built our nationhood.
In 2009 Nigeria, Children learn the basic of the alphabets under leaking thatch-roof huts in the north, in the far north, they sit under the Baobab tree beaten mercilessly by the sun as they struggle to grasp the rudiments of learning; and in the deep south, surrounded by stinking stagnant waters they are taught by hungry teachers what basic learning is all about.
“WHEN YOU WATCH THE BEHAVIOUR OF GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE IN GOVERNMENT, YOU HAVE THAT AWFUL FEELING OF A PRETENTIOUSLY MODERN SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE RUNNING ON PRIMITIVE THINKING.”
Abuja makes long policy statements on education and long talks on how education remains the foundation of development and finally makes a lean budget for implementing the nebulous policy. The financial commitment becomes leaner as it trickles downstream, no thanks to corrupt officials who shamelessly eat fat on the investment in the future of Nigeria ’s children.
Everyday, we make claim to becoming the giant of Africa and everyday, we sink deeper into the mess we have made of our policy statements on education; science and technology. The deliberate policy of allocating 60% of tertiary admission to science students appears to have achieved nothing in the last two decades or so since the policy took effect.
Often, the very foundation of primary education which ought to lay the basis for solid appreciation of the sciences and technologies at later levels of education has been bastardized so much so that the materials that finally enter the university system are mere chaffs.
As one commentator notes in an online forum recently, Nigeria ’s problem is not so much the issue of a rowdy and selfish political class. The politicians in Indian are no saints. In fact, many of them are no better than the crowd of rascals that controls Nigerian politics. But where the Indian politicians are different is that they have an avowed commitment to education with strong emphasis on science and technology.
In the past four decades or so Indian has witnessed some of the most violent upheavals in any democratic culture; it has had its own curves of an inept and corrupt political class; But it has been lucky to have politicians whose sense of vision in spite of their shortcomings triumph on the ideal of a greater Indian built on generations of young people skilled in science and technology.
“FOR MILLION OF NIGERIAN YOUTHS WHO HAVE GRADUATED FROM EDUCATION UNDER THE HOT SUN, THE FUTURE REMAINS ONE BLEAK TUNNEL AS ‘AREAS BOYS AND ALMAJIRIS.”
It is no magic therefore that Silicon Valley no longer is the central gravity of Information Technology. It shares that status with Bangalore in India . Today, millions of young Indians have found meaning in the fast evolving new economic order. For million of Nigerian youths who have graduated from education under the hot sun, the future remains one bleak tunnel as ‘Areas Boys and Almajiris.’
When you watch the behaviour of government and people in government, you have that awful feeling of a pretentiously modern system of governance running on primitive thinking. You have the gory picture of modern democracy controlled by the atavus man with all the primitive instinct for self-preservation and crude desire for the extermination of any power that wants to challenge that sense of greed and an innate desire to accumulate for self what is meant for the whole community.
But we must cage the atavus man who eats up the budget for our children’s education and chain our common destiny in a world where technology defines life and living. When Nigcomsat-1 problem set in, you could read through the bandwagon effect of what happens to great ideas in a society where technology illiteracy reigns supreme. When ignorance pervades our reasoning, we tend to follow the mischievous guidance of a few who have chosen to appoint themselves the lamp of knowledge for the rest of us.
“ABUJA MAKES LONG POLICY STATEMENTS ON EDUCATION AND LONG TALKS ON HOW EDUCATION REMAINS THE FOUNDATION OF DEVELOPMENT AND FINALLY MAKES A LEAN BUDGET FOR IMPLEMENTING THE NEBULOUS POLICY.”
In his speech at his inauguration as US President this month in Washington DC, Barack Obama reminded Americans of the role technology has played in making America a super power and affirmed a new commitment to strengthen America’s might in science and technology. The message is clear; America cannot have a future outside of science and technology.
As we begin a new year, our education sector needs to be salvaged urgently. We need a better focus on science and technology. The ministry of science and technology needs to play more than a pedestrian role in creating the needed awareness on science and technology. Politicians and policy makers need to be reoriented. Abuja must be woken up to the reality of initiating the right critical steps at building an army of techies.
We are surrounded by pseudo-experts, vendors of imported finished technology goods; mere salesmen of other countries’ technologies, who are referred to as technology experts and who shamelessly move around the corridor of powers influencing politicians to initiate policies that encourage undue dependence on importation of finished technologies.
The ministry of science and technology must rise to the occasion of encouraging the growth of original thinking in science and technology. It must foster a new direction on building a generation with IT capacity and shun the merchants of imported IT who cannot find relevance outside of the wharf where they clear their imported goods. Now is the time to act.
This article was first published January 2009 in The Nation newspaper.