Recently, Professor Sheik Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy launched a book titled “Skills Rather Than Just Degrees” to shift the concentration of Nigerian students on skills and training of their courses rather than earning just the degree certificates. Indeed, Pantami’s book is a challenge and eye-opener to the management of Nigerian universities and students. The book aimed to provide the answer to the question of why Nigerian universities produce almost nothing. Pantami’s book gears to address the manacle of the financial obstacle of all tertiary schools through training to fund themselves without government intervention.
The Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Professor Idris Muhammad Bugaje, has been advocating for the promotion of skills in Nigeria for more than twenty years and was known for his slogan: “Skills Not Degrees.” The slogan became the motto of NBTE in 2021 to suit its operational focus on practical skills in technical and vocational education. Bugaje’s Book: “Skills Not Degrees” was published in 2019 and geared towards improving technical and vocational education in all Nigerian schools. The book emphasizes skills for employability and the measurement of employment in every place of work. To Bugaje, only skill can provide jobs to all the unemployed citizens of Nigeria, not the government that has limited space for employment on its capacity.
The two professors have the same passion and vision for Nigeria’s progress to solve the most problems stagnating the nation’s progress because when people have no job they become a threat to the national security, but, surely with Professor Pantami and Bugaje’s ideas Nigeria will become a developed nation in the very shortest time because development is not measured by the high number of graduates of a country but its Gross Domestic Products (GDP), and GDP is measured by the number of goods and services produced by a country, and for this reason, China converted 600 universities to polytechnics.
Professor Pantami’s book demands undergraduates shift their attention to practice rather than just focus on getting a meritorious grades on their degree certificates. The book advocates for radical thinking of students on employment opportunities, it calls undergraduates of Nigerian universities to put more emphasis on practical knowledge of their courses, skills for employment and skills for self-reliance. The book is a guide for better learning not just for university students but also for lecturers in the quest for promoting skills because it is disheartening for us academicians to keep folding our arms while people keep pointing accusing fingers at tertiary schools as zero producers of skills.
Professor Bugaje’s book advocates a different perspective on skills than degree certificates from Pantami’s viewpoint, though have almost similar themes, Bugaje’s book focuses on all craft works including skills of artisans, students and technologists on how to perfect their skills for global market and standard. For Bugaje, no matter the amount of concern we have about our skills work if the works are not up to standard there will be no market for the products. Bugaje’s vision is for graduates to stop battling for white-collar jobs and be self-reliant. His research proved that skills work pays more than white-collar jobs in developed countries and Nigeria. Bugaje’s advocacy on skills is to create more space for employment and manage the issue of out-of-school children that poster economic and security dilemmas. In Bugaje’s forecast, the world will shift attention to skills, and Nigeria as the giant of Africa should rise to envision the global dream of prioritizing skills for its fast-track development. The paradigm of Bugaje’s book is to make skills the antidote to our woes in employment challenges that foster great challenges to insecurity. In the quest of improving skills, Bugaje trained 40 Panteka artisans into accessors and more than 100 ‘almajiris’ into artisans when he was the rector of Kaduna Polytechnic. The training, which took place in 2021, is desired to improve the quality of Nigerian artisans’ craft work for exportation, market expansion and economic growth of the country.
Another key value of emphasis in Bugaje’s book is to control the basic objective of the learner’s quest for education and empowerment of all men and women for productivity. Bugaje’s passion is to avert begging among ‘almajiris’ (Islamic School pupils) but to rely on skill for uninterrupted studies and economic expansion.
As the employment rate hits 37 per cent in 2023, the books of Professor Pantami and Bugaje will continue to help many graduates of tertiary schools to defend their learned skills while in school.
Pantami’s book will help in achieving the goals of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) align with the mandates of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, and the book will also help in developing education and innovation for the growth of the country.
Indeed, Professor Sheik Ali Isa Pantami and Professor Idris M. Bugaje are truly problem solvers that envision a better change for the country. Their efforts are to curtail redundancy, improve the country’s wealth, empower knowledge and make it profitable without constants increase in tuition fees in schools because the government cannot continue to fund education. The concepts of the two reputable professors will thwart the constant academic strikes in tertiary schools and will set a new dawn for Nigeria’s tertiary schools for revenue generation like in the developed countries. The books will reawaken the consciousness of Nigerian youths to create micro and macro businesses and to lock poverty in the country among students and graduates.
Professor Bugaje and Pantami’s targets are to give birth to a new Nigeria of the 21st century’s dream in science and technology, the books will utilize the potentiality of knowledge and the vast agricultural land of Nigeria for the teeming Nigerians. Though the two are northers their ideas are meant for the country and the benefit of all citizens, and to realize the goals of their books, all governors and ministers should get involved in promoting skills in all their domains, the Minister of Education should support their campaigns for the good future of Nigeria.
Now is the right time to change the perpetuation of Nigerian students for certificates and focus on the real knowledge of the practice. Nigeria’s value for the certificate should be less concerned with places of employment and interviews for jobs but prioritize skills. All schools not only tertiary schools should store the two books in their libraries to acquaint learners with the challenges of paper certificates without practical skills. On this mandate, the governor of Borno, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum has done a very good effort for purchasing thousands of copies of “Skills Rather than Just Degrees” book for the libraries of the state schools and his passion for skills could be traced to the time the state Ministry of Science and Technology partnered with NBTE for training on skills.
For the goals of Bugaje and Pantami to rekindle the hope of skills and innovations; schools must help to actualize the objectives by providing the equipment needed for practical teaching in accordance with the doctrine of teaching curriculum from the primary schools to the tertiary levels, and now that Buhari’s government is ending in April, the next president of Nigeria should carry Professor Ali Pantami and Professor Idris M. Bugaje in his cabinet to set better future of improving science and technology, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and craftwork of informal sectors for a better base on the provisions of skills in their books, and surely, any president that does it will be praise for doing the right thing for the country and the people.
Auwal Ahmed Ibrahim (Goronyo) is a lecturer at Kaduna Polytechnic, Mass Communication Department