The question of education is an on-going national one that must interest every Nigerian in this age and time. The topic of this paper is ambitious, but absolutely rife, apt and germane to the great question of the day in Nigeria and the rest of the world. Education is, no doubt the handmaiden of development in any nation. This is so even in the societies that are said to have developed, not to mention those nations like Nigeria who are said to be developing or worse still, under-developed (a terrible consignment of fate dished out to us by our imperious definers in the West!). This is why it was still necessary for Barack Obama, President of the United States to centralize education, which he finds to be suffering from acute decline, in his campaign for a second term in twenty-first century United States of America.
If this were so for the world’s uni-polar super-power (US still claims that, position in spite of the great competition by China for that position), the rest of the world, especially the third world, including Nigeria, cannot afford to understate the critical import of education to its national development agenda—be it 7-point or, as it is today, Transformational Agenda. Raven (2002), reflecting on the outcome of 911 (the tragic events of September 2001) averred that even to attain security and peace in the world, education is the key;
the best defense against terrorism is an educated people. Education, which promises to each individual the opportunity to express their individual talents fully, is fundamental to building a peaceful world.
Raven went further to admonish the developed world, especially the United States, to rise up to the occasion of contributing substantially to the project of alleviating the pervasive poverty of the ‘poorest people of the world.’ And this can and should be done through education.
James J. Duderstalt (2002) paints the picture of the crisis of access to Higher Education in the world more graphically and the sorry state of the developing world in this regard when he states that;
There are 30 million people in the world today who are fully qualified to enter a university but for whom no university place is available. Within a decade there will be 100 million university-ready people…in most of the world, higher education is mired in a crisis of access…Unless we can address this crisis, billions of people in coming generations will be denied the education so necessary to compete in, in an age of knowledge (my emphasis)
He further nudges the wealthy nations to assist the ‘developing’ nations in building the educational systems to meet their exploding needs.’ Have we ourselves begun to appreciate the need to give optimal priority to education as a critical instrument in our drive, or dream, to belong among the twenty best economies of the world in the next six years? We are one of the fastest growing populations in the world and one of the ten most populous in the world and the black world’s most numerically strong. We know from studies that Asia and Latin America are fiercely addressing the education crisis. What about Africa? What about Nigeria?
Education and National Development
Education is inextricably connected to the question of development. The production of knowledge and the human capacity weigh heavily with how a nation’s development is pursued and attained. In Nigeria, historically speaking, education and development are inseparable. Our nationalists underscored this fact even in the drive for political independence in their awareness that
‘the country could not develop without a proper grounding in a national education system that can guarantee the production of the desired quality workforce without which national development is impossible (Olusegun Obasanjo, 2012).
The former Head of State and President of Nigeria found that ‘the current reform agenda and transformation programmes of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are part of the historical attempts to direct public attention’ that must transpire for us into addressing ‘our daunting challenges in the public and private spheres, especially in higher education’
A nation or a nation state is a modern ‘societal unit’ into which most population and peoples of the world are categorized for the purpose of geo-political reference (Mohammed, 2002). The term development refers to the act of advancement, growth, change or evolution from one stage to another, marked by progress. Within the context of this work, development applies to improvement in condition often found on the notion of National development loosely referring to the process of projected improvement of the well-being of the citizens of a nation.
National Development implies a general and sustainable improvement in the socio-economic well-being of a state, arising from the structural transformation of the economy. The rating of state in terms of the level of development is based on the degree of availability and utilization of goods and services, which embrace basic human needs such as food, housing, water and education amongst others.
How have we utilized education (through the National Policies on Education) for national development in Nigeria since independence? Again, this is the subject of another discourse. Suffice to state here, as elaborated in the body of the work, that the structure, plans and designs of the policies, the educational system in Nigeria lack policy coherence, policy ownership and ample implementation.
Thus, its focus on self-realization, individual and national effectiveness, national unity and ‘the objective of achieving social, cultural, economic, political, scientific and technological development, has not materialized into the sustained and sustainable development of the nation. Reason? Incoherent policy implementation and other challenges such as incessant strikes, lock-outs in the tertiary institutions, (note the recent protracted strikes action of ASUU and the almost one-year strike of ASUP, which has just been suspended); unattractive and dis-incentive service conditions, leading to brain-drain –to pastures that are not so green nowadays; poor work environment in institutions leading to inadequate resource materials in libraries and laboratories; immoral and unethical practices in the institutions—financial mismanagement by Administrators and misconduct by staff; poor management of crises in the institutions; inadequate funding of education by government, including lopsidedness in allocation with a disproportion in allocation in favour of recurrent expenditure over capital expenditure; delayed releases of appropriation; poor funding of the free education policy at the primary school level; mushrooming of private institutions and difficulty in regulation of standards.
Thus, obviously, the concept of national development should manifest in the life of society through technology, economy, politics and the standard of social living. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in Nigeria, as a result of the failure of our educational sector to play its key role of providing the knowledge (human capacities) which will drive development, especially as we peep at the global knowledge society and economy.