By Zayd Ibn Isah
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.” – Nelson Mandela
The expression “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face” is a lovely English idiom, that cautions against irrational, self-destructive reactions fueled by anger. This advice underscores the importance of avoiding revenge and actions that harm oneself, as the consequences might be dire. Unfortunately, Olutimain Ilenre deviates from this wise counsel, disregarding caution and engaging in what appears to be one of the most detrimental self-destructive acts of the 21st century—burning his original certificates.
In his thirteenth year as a graduate, Ilenre claims that none of the jobs he secured during this time required any of his certificates. “I finished school in 2010 and did my NYSC in 2010/2011; till today, I haven’t used these certificates to get a job,” Ilenre said in a viral video posted on Facebook. He believes that acquiring certificates in today’s Nigeria is a waste of time and advises parents to prioritize teaching their children handiwork over traditional schooling.
While some might question his actions, there is no indication of him being irrational, crazy, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. His voice remained composed while voicing grievances to his friend and proceeding to set his original certificates ablaze, reducing them to ashes. What was going through my mind as I watched him set the certificates ablaze was, “Did this guy know that he may get life-changing opportunities tomorrow that may require him submitting these certificates as proof of his knowledge and expertise?”
- Proliferation of small arms hampering Nigeria’s progress, says NSA
- NIGERIA DAILY: Real Reason Onion Is Expensive
Although his advice to parents to prioritize technical learning for their children instead of traditional education is spot on, echoing sentiments shared by other concerned Nigerians who believe that acquiring skills is the solution to rising unemployment among graduates, stating that going to school to acquire certificates is useless may have been expressed in a moment of anger. It’s essential to recognize that the sole aim of education should not be for certificates, but how much you can think for yourself, by yourself, and at the right time.
Prominent leaders and entrepreneurs like Nelson Mandela and Elon Musk exemplify the transformative power of education in their lives. Musk, when asked about learning about rockets, reportedly said, “I read books.” Through voracious reading, he launched himself onto the global stage. Mandela also emphasized the importance of education when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world”. The experiences of these great men underscore the profound impact education can have on personal and societal development.
That said, Olutimain’s act of self-destruction should serve as a wake-up call to the powers that be. The current education system is long overdue for review. Let us revive our technical schools. In 1952, there were three technical institutions located at Yaba, Enugu, and Kaduna, along with seven trade centres and eighteen handicraft centres scattered across the country. In 1953, the first Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology was opened in Zaria. After a while, similar colleges were opened in Enugu and Ibadan. We need to revive these schools so our students can learn to be great entrepreneurial assets instead of liabilities.
According to statistics, Nigeria boasts 170 universities as of 2023, comprising 79 private, 43 federal, and 48 state universities, including esteemed institutions like the University of Ibadan, the University of Nigeria, the Obafemi Awolowo University, and the University of Lagos. Vanguard Media reported in 2021 that annually, universities and polytechnics admit nearly 2 million students, resulting in approximately 600,000 graduates. As part of its golden jubilee celebration, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) stated that no fewer than 400,000 graduates participate in the scheme annually.
However, a substantial portion of these graduates faces the reality of awaiting government jobs, given the disparity between job vacancies and the annual influx of graduates. To address this challenge, there is a pressing need to overhaul our curriculum, placing a stronger emphasis on technical education.
Moreover, Nigerians attending schools need a change of orientation. In first-world countries, people don’t attend schools with the mindset of acquiring certificates and waiting for government jobs. They go to acquire knowledge and use the knowledge gained to carve a niche for themselves. But here, we attend schools with the target of white-collar jobs, and some don’t even read their books. They do all manner of things to pass exams, after all, na certificate be the Koko, and when jobs are not forthcoming after NYSC, frustration sets in; it is then we realize that school is a scam. And this is where the problem lies.
Zayd Ibn Isah can be reached via: [email protected]