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The five pillars of 21st Century academics (I)

In the last 100 years, Africa has been both discovered and recovered, with Europeans doing the former while African natives were responsible for..

By Huzaifa Jega 


In the last 100 years, Africa has been both discovered and recovered, with Europeans doing the former while African natives were responsible for the latter. In spite of the completion of this circuit – the cyclical engine of history, so to speak, Africa has remained the poster child for everything unflattering. It would seem that Africa is the only exception to this well-established rule: that dominated or colonised people eventually not only grow to throw off the yoke of this domination by achieving political parity, but actually turn the tables and reversing the power dynamic. About every index of social, political and economic progress is at best dismal as long as the frame of reference is Africa. It might take decades or even centuries before this isolated incapacity on the part of Africa to be properly unpacked in perspective, but that I can think of, the fastest way out for Africa is to lead the looming intellectual revolution that will produce the “operating system” of the next phase of human civilization through very sound academic exposures for the continent’s school children.

As the microcosm of Africa, no other country symbolizes this predicament as well as imperative for action than Nigeria. Once you think Nigeria, you have found Africa. Most of the challenges standing in the way, in both the African as well as Nigerian contexts, are driven by accelerating sociological changes – on the global as much as domestic scenes. These trends are, for the most part, abetted by a faster rate of technological development and practical infusion in everyday life. At the same time, those forces are providing myriad new opportunities for human advancement. Given the crises engulfing the country, the future is uncertain but we must awaken and be ready for it just the same. The schoolchildren enrolling into the education systems of the country will be young adults by the 2030s and will certainly come home to either roost or boost. It is up to the society to decide which way this goes. The society or political and administrative authorities must prepare them for the future, for jobs and realities that are not materially extant in the present context, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated and will come to decide the very survival of our people. It will be a shared responsibility to seize opportunities and find solutions now.

To this effect, governments and societies must invest heavily in five academic development objectives that are not only designed to help all tiers of the nation’s education system navigate through the uncertainties but also facilitate a knowledge-value revolution that will bring to bear a profoundly constructive impact on the Nigeria’s social, economic and political ecosystems.

The intended outcomes include the development of curiosity, imagination, resilience and self-regulation in school children; they will need to respect and appreciate both popular culture as well as out-of-the-box ideas, perspectives and values; and they will need to cope with failure and rejection, and to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will be more than getting a good job and a high income; they will also need to contribute effectively and productively in the progress of Nigeria and the world at large.

The first of these five pillars is enhanced and sustained access as well as significantly improved enrolment, retention, transition and completion rates for female primary and secondary school children and indigent out-of-school-children (OOSC). This measure will make efforts to capture a critical mass of school-aged female and male children into the education system thereby among others mitigating the consequences of a large uneducated or undereducated population, a situation that is already beginning to rear its ugly head as manifested in the low level of economic capacity causing acute poverty and the industrialisation of criminal activities that has plunged the country deeper into the abyss. It will also engender the type of social/political awareness and exposure that will increase the intellect and agency of especially adolescent girls in making choices, under the guidance of their parents, constructively affect their lives. Under this objective, there will also be a need to expand the availability of school infrastructure especially at the junior and senior secondary school level to boost access to children transitioning from primary schools. Then there is the need to work for the refurbishment or rehabilitation as well as upgrade of a good number of both primary and secondary schools with modern teaching and learning tools thereby improving enrolment of school-aged children while also enhancing retention and completion rates through the creation and sustainment of conducive teaching and learning environments. To materially work towards the enhancement of retention, transition and completion rates in particular, a psychosocial support mechanism will be required for traumatised and special-needs children. The import of this mechanism is to capture and keep all enrollees in the nation’s primary and secondary schools in the peers’ loop, where both hard and soft support could be provided by peers and in special circumstances guidance and counselling experts.

Poverty is about the greatest challenge most parents and educators cite and so to support an effective reorientation of Nigeria’s education fortunes, Human Capital Savings Accounts should be created and allocated to promising young brains which will fund tuition, housing, feeding, healthcare and other relevant costs up to university level anywhere in the world. The selection process must be both need and merit based. Significant resources, planning and execution as well as decision-making authority with regards to the management of education outcomes under the themes of school enrolment, retention, transition and completion rates should also be transferred to host communities through School-based Management Committees (SBMCs).

For the northern part of the country in particular to succeed in resolving or finally assimilating the “almajiri-tsangaya” education system into the structured mainstream of 21st Century academics, a special programme, which will seek to induce and leverage the type of civil and intellectual revolution that followed the aftermath of the Sokoto Jihad, should be designed and implemented. This will make sure that the solution to the contemporary obsolescence and social incompatibility of the “almajiri” teaching and learning order is engineered by the tsangaya intelligentsia. This approach will avoid the fatal mistakes made by most programmes conceived and implemented in this respect so far, in that it will not be on the auspices of the same “boko” paradigm that the almajiri system considers an illegitimate and poisonous usurper of its rightful place. This will also serve other higher level objectives by complementing efforts towards a cultural gear-shift, raising awareness especially with respect to girl-child education and increasing the realization of duty and responsibility in the pursuit of “Chinese” Knowledge.

But what is “Chinese” Knowledge?

Jega is a management consultant based in Abuja can be reached via [email protected]

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