Prof Asiwaju Busari Shaamsuddeen Akande is an educationist. He is the secretary of the Council of American Chartered Institute of Management and Leadership based in the State of Kentucky, and the current director-general of Non-Interest Finance Professionals of West Africa. In this interview, he discouraged student loans and proffered ways the authorities can attract investments into the education sector in Nigeria.
How can Nigeria attract investments into the education sector?
This can be achieved by emphasizing on the quality of learning, expansion of higher education through alternative financing mechanisms, paying attention to early childhood development and reading. The country can create awareness of culture, engage good teachers/instructors and make the educational sector accountable by promoting autonomy.
Many young students are still looking to Ghana, Togo and nearby smaller countries for higher education. Why such attractions despite high cost?
I don’t think that size matters when it comes to the educational success of a country. When you are small you can recover faster, develop faster and make all the innovative changes faster. These smaller, neighbouring countries produce young graduates with the required skills to support key industries. In Togo or Republic of Benin, there is no issue of strike. There is quality supply of electricity, safe environment, peaceful co-existence, specialisation of university courses, not where a graduate of Law got his degree from University of Agriculture and School of Legal Studies produces mass communicators. In Benin Republic you have a University of Management strictly for management sciences.
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Do you think the President Bola Tinubu administration would make any difference in the educational sector in Nigeria?
I strongly believe the administration will make a major impact in the educational sector if it would be able to identify and recognise the three major purposes of education in the country. This will include learning valuable facts, creating effective critical thinkers, and a process for creating the citizens and workers of the future.
The Tinubu administration should identify where the country is lacking in these three major purposes before any difference can be achieved.
It is a known fact that majority of Nigerian graduates are not employable because the educational sector has failed to focus on the third purpose of education.
I must say that our educational focus is a static one. The Chinese educational purpose is based on memorisation and retention of valuable facts and critical thinking, the Japanese on moral education while Thailand is on patriotism.
What do you think about the student loan promised by the Tinubu administration?
It is a good idea but not in a country like ours. Debt is part of our culture. For the past 30 years, we have been known to be a doubtful and bad debt country. In my opinion, I can relate the syndrome to our colonial masters for their debt mentoring. You remember that our debt profile at independence in 1960 stood at £5billion.
A student loan, be it non interest or 1%, is an abnormal debt. As a financial management analyst, I think another incentive should be reconsidered. Student loan should be out of it. What happened to corps members entrepreneurship loans where they would use their discharge certificates as collateral? Nigerians are smarter than expected. What is the economic value of the discharge certificate used as collateral to an average Nigerian graduate? What happened to farmers’ loans? Were they repaid? No!
Average Nigerian parents can sponsor their children to school, be it federal, state or private, and in most cases, foreign schools. Many parents engage in private loans. Remember that the borrower will end up paying more than what he/she initially borrowed.
What is your general impression about the Tinubu administration?
On a personal note, President Bola Tinubu is not a magician. He has already pledged to end the malaise and his moves has been lauded by professionals and critical thinkers even though with a public backlash over rising food and fuel costs.
I give it to him as he promised to boost the manufacturing industries, electricity and public transport. He is handling the exchange rate system, health, education and technology.