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Schooling in Nigeria a scam?



By Olabisi Deji-Folutile

Unfortunately, the reality is that Nigeria cannot achieve its full potential until it begins to invest in its human capital.

School na scam! I hear this phrase a lot of times these days, especially from Nigerian youths. Ask them what they mean, they will tell you that the whole hype about education being the foundation for a productive and profitable future is all lies – that all the talks about schooling being the gate pass to a life of comfort are all made up.

As far as they are concerned, Nigerian schools are teaching them things they may never need or use in life. Unfortunately, society keeps telling them that the road to success in life lies in school, when they can actually see that most of their peers doing well early in life are school dropouts. And the ones that society idolises don’t even have degrees. That is confusing!

One of them told me recently that going to school is a waste of time. To him, people spend so many years in school and still come out to do things that do not really require any form of academic rigour to handle. He cited examples of graduates ending up as fashion designers, photographers, event planners, etc. That’s share waste of time, isn’t it? These ones could have invested their energy in these vocations rather than waste their time studying what is not really relevant to their lives.

Well, that may be true. Many youths ‘doing well’ in Nigeria today are dropouts. A lot of them are into music. A lot of them got into the limelight through reality shows and they seem to be doing well for themselves.

Meanwhile, the number of graduates doing menial jobs is mounting every day. Just this past month, the story of a female graduate of the University of Calabar, who left her teaching job to ride a tricycle, popularly known as Keke NAPEP went viral on social media. According to her, she took up a teaching job after she graduated but, because the pay was meagre, she decided to venture into driving a commercial tricycle, which she said, brings her far more financial returns than her teaching job.

Another lady, Unyime Asuquo, a graduate of English Language, is also riding keke to earn a living because she has not been able to secure a job since graduation. If after leaving a university, all you come back to do is ride keke, why go to school in the first instance? No one needs a degree to learn how to ride keke, so why waste time and energy in a higher institution just to become a keke driver? How do you convince people like these that education is not a scam?

I know people talk a lot about the correlation between academic success and success after school. They claim academic feats rarely translate into success in life. They cite examples of first-class graduates working for third-class degree holders and wealthy stark illiterates employing brilliant professors and teachers. All of this seems to further justify the phrase that school is a scam. After all, if the narrative of schooling guaranteeing a great future is true, professors should be the richest people on earth and first-class graduates should probably be among those controlling the world’s wealth.

I may not have empirical data to back this up, but I have observed an increase in the number of Nigerian youths dropping out of higher institutions. I have also noticed that these youths aren’t really bothered about not finishing school. The ones I know are not idle either. They are all working – some as social media managers, web designers, SEO experts. These are skills they learn on their own in most cases. They even earn more money than graduates and they seem at par or even better than their graduate colleagues in terms of eloquence, industriousness, and relevance.

Are these enough reasons to conclude that schooling is a total waste of time? Definitely not! Rather, I would say what we need is a functional educational system. It is now apparent that Nigeria’s current educational policy is neither satisfying the yearnings of its teeming youths nor delivering the needs of the labour market. From personal experience at recruiting for jobs, I can tell you for free that many people who parade themselves today as graduates are unemployable. This does not mean that these youths aren’t smart; they are not just groomed for the labour market.

First, we miss it as a society when we think that every child should go to higher institutions. That is a grave mistake. There was a time when Nigeria had functional technical schools where students could learn vocational studies and specialise in whatever area of interest they were good at. Then there was carpentry, welding, building, hairdressing, catering, etc. These colleges were equipped to provide these vocational courses. Had my youth friend been aware of this, he would have known that you don’t have to go to university to become a fashion designer or event planner.

As a matter of fact, the main objective of the 6-3-3-4 system of education, championed by a renowned Nigerian educationist, scholar, and former minister of education, the late Prof Babs Fafunwa, was to produce self-reliant graduates with better labour market skills and earning potential.

The 6-3-3-4 system of education, introduced in 1982, according to experts, was designed to inject functionality into the Nigerian school system, by producing graduates who would be able to make use of their hands, head, and heart. It was designed to produce the expected technician class needed in Nigerian society.

It had a provision for technical schools. The idea is that every child would have six years of primary school, three years of junior secondary school, and then proceed to a technical school or senior secondary school depending on their interest and ability. As early as Junior Secondary School 3, the students proceeding to these technical colleges would have done so. They don’t have to waste their time by finishing senior secondary school or sitting the UTME because they really don’t need that stress.

Technical colleges prepare the students for specific trades or careers. They could spend 2-4 years there depending on their programme of choice. And they are awarded certificates at the end of their study. These colleges had workshops. They were not the typical classroom settings. The students had the opportunity of experiencing what they were expected to see in the labour market. In other words, the colleges offered practical lessons. These schools teach students life skills that cannot be taught in the traditional classroom setting.

In the developed countries, these technical schools are almost the complete opposite of a university. Rather than receiving a broad education, they prepare their students for a particular job of interest. Whereas, universities are for people interested in research or a general pursuit of knowledge.

The 6-3-3-4 policy initially seemed laudable; unfortunately, it didn’t take into consideration the fact that at the tender age of 13, some children may not really know what they want to specialise in. Besides vocational courses are stigmatised in this part of the world and those who go for them are largely regarded by society as being crude, unpolished, and dull.

Perhaps, it would have been better if the pupils had been allowed to finish senior secondary school before going for the vocational courses. So, it was replaced with the 9-3-4 system of education which merged the six years of primary education and the first three years of the JSS education. That muddled everything up. We ended up neither being here nor there.

Be as it may, the technical colleges are almost all dead now. That integral part of our education is gone and this is one of the reasons why the young ones are convinced that schooling is a scam. This is one aspect of the problem.

The other leg of it is the use of obsolete curriculums in many higher institutions. Many of these institutions have not reviewed their curriculums in years. The result is that they produce graduates that cannot use their hands, head, and heart. The world is changing but the curriculums have remained static. To be relevant, schools have to upgrade their curriculum to be in tandem with the needs of today’s world.

There is also a problem with the way our higher institutions structure their programmes. There are some course combinations that are not allowed here. This restricts the students and prevents them from expressing themselves. The schooling system should be reviewed to make room for more goal-oriented courses. Institutions can encourage students to have majors and minors. You can major in Computer Science for instance and have a minor degree in history or music. This will ensure diversity and help students to discover their purpose.

Besides, Nigeria has a funny way of getting people admitted to university. Everybody must have a credit in English and Mathematics. I often wonder, the mathematical formula that someone studying English would need or the lexicon that a maths student would need to solve mathematical problems. We just put unnecessary stumbling blocks in students’ way. Some students spend extra five years at home looking for maths and English to gain admission into Nigeria’s higher institutions. This is another problem. Imagine going through such a hell and coming out to ride a tricycle.

For me, school is not a scam. Rather, the dysfunctional education system that we have in this part of the world is the scam. Education remains a key driver of societal growth and progress. However, it would be a mistake to think that we go to school to obtain certificates and that the certificates should be a meal ticket. Proper schooling should help to develop one’s critical, logical problem-solving skills. Collins English Dictionary (2009) describes education “as a process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

You don’t have to go to a university to learn these skills. Some of the highest paying careers in the US include dental hygienist, Air Traffic Controller, Margin Department Supervisor, Construction Manager, Automobile Service Station Manager, Cardiovascular Technologist, Elevator Mechanic, and Power Utility Technician. They are all learned in trade schools or technical colleges and not in universities. Some Nigerians all in a bid to obtain foreign degrees often end up attending these schools abroad meanwhile, back home, our employers discriminate against polytechnic graduates.

With the IT revolution in today’s world, people in charge of our education should be thinking of how to establish centres where youths can be taught how to code, develop websites, design and implement software solutions. That is how to make education and learning practical and relevant.

I know that Nigeria’s situation can frustrate many people. There is a deliberate move by our leaders not to focus on the education sector. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has told us that politicians shy away from investing in education and health because such investments are generational as it takes 30 years for the results to show.

Since politicians only have a four-year term in office with a maximum of eight years if returned for another term, he said they often ignore these sectors and focus on road constructions, building of secretariats which to them can easily be paraded as achievements.

Perhaps, the other point the governor forgot to mention is that politicians make their money from kickbacks on such projects which make them attractive than investing in human resources.

Unfortunately, the reality is that Nigeria cannot achieve its full potential until it begins to invest in its human capital. Bill Gates made this valid point sometime ago when he advised the country to build human resources rather than bridges and roads. As good as these infrastructures are, they become useless if done at the expense of providing quality and practical education to the citizenry.

A Yoruba proverb says a child that is not trained well will sell off his parents’ house. In other words, if a father builds a house at the expense of his child’s education, that child will end up selling the house built. If Nigeria continues to build infrastructure and devalues education in the process, its uneducated and half-baked graduates will destroy the infrastructures and the country will be back to square one. A word is enough for the wise!

Culled from the Sahara Reporters

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End SARS Protest One Anniversary: Nigeria and the Consciousness



“In a way, Nigeria is fascist in disposition considering that the government posturing often suggests that whatever the government does on behalf of the state is best for the people” —Ebuka Onyekwelu


One year after the end SARS campaign which started in Ikeja Lagos as a protest against police brutality in Nigeria, the level of citizens’ awareness remarkably appears to be on a steady increase. There are now efforts by some people to look critically at the end SARS protest against the backdrop of what the campaign has bequeathed Nigeria or her citizens in terms of institutional changes which are more enduring and sustainable. But, sustainable change arising from the protest is yet to be seen because; it is the norm for the people to be ignored by their government. Matter of fact, it comes naturally to the Nigerian government to disregard and altogether sideline the people not only in public policy formation but even in public policy implementation. Consequently, government and its actions run usually, in opposite direction with the people and it does not bother the government.

In a way, Nigeria is fascist in disposition considering that the government posturing often suggests that whatever the government does on behalf of the state is best for the people. In perspective, since 1999, Nigeria has never had a president who failed to warn that “Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable”. So the supremacy of the state is the preoccupation of those in government and for them, no one should question the decision or position of the government. This clearly superimposes the state and its will on the people as against the state being an expressed will of the people. Summarily, this is the principal idea behind the government’s unwillingness to take criticism or opposition, or in short democratize.

One year after the end SARS campaign which started in Ikeja Lagos as a protest against police brutality in Nigeria, the level of citizens’ awareness remarkably appears to be on a steady increase.

In many ways, it also explains why our institutions are so weak that nothing happens except by some political approval. At all levels of government across the country, the situation is the same. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Nigerian system is boldly resistant to social change. The country’s justice administration system is grossly underperforming. Government at all levels simply move at their own pace and at their own preferred direction, unchallenged. They simply expect the people to just fall into conformity with absolutely no questions. This was the order the end SARS movement was up against.

Getting a clear picture of how the country truly functions puts one in a better position to be able to properly assess the audacious end SARS campaign and how it rattled the regime, but also why it has not made significant systemic changes. At first, the regime simply dismissed the end SARS campaign as a deliberate act by opposition elements to distract the government, and then later referred to it as mere social media noise. But when thousands of Nigerian youths across the country defied the odds and joined the protests, then the government recanted and the Police Chief ordered the disbandment of SARS unit of the police force, across the country.

It was a remarkable milestone because for almost the very first time, the Nigerian government is responding to the demands of the Nigerian people. But because the end SARS campaign is something much more than putting an end to police brutality, it was difficult for the millions of protesting young people to just rescind their energies and anger against a country that is a clear threat to their present and future. Nigerian youths simply want a government that can guarantee their future of a decent and fairly comfortable life if they are willing to work. To this, the government did not know exactly how to react.

Being the first time in recent memory the government of Nigeria is acting towards the direction of the people’s demand, there was the tendency for the protesting youths to push their luck further by making other legitimate demands and in fact push for an overhaul of the country. And that was exactly what happened. Looking back, it was at this point that the government and the ruling elites saw the potential danger the newfound consciousness pose to their stronghold on the government and all the benefits of state power which they appropriate to themselves. Disbandment of SARS and institution of judicial panels of inquiry across several states were, to their minds, concessions in excess, which the protesting youths should accept, be happy for and then return home in victory. But the youths were already disenchanted and have developed particular disillusionment towards Nigeria’s ability to treat them right in their own country. The problem really, was that nearly everything is wrong with the manner and way the country works, such that most of her citizens have nothing to hold on to as proof that they should remain hopeful of a better future. Really, for the youths, it is a personal fight about their lives and future in their own country.

However, social change cannot happen all at once. No matter the intensity of our disgust for how Nigeria is presently designed to function or how the country actually works, yet, any meaningful transition to the most desirable must also be a process. Nigeria as it is now, many will agree, is worse than it was before. Hence, Nigeria was not “destroyed” in a day and assure cannot be fixed in a day. The voice of positive change raised by Nigerian youths during the end SARS campaign resonated with the aspiration of millions of well-meaning citizens of Nigeria within and outside the country. But demanding or even expecting too much change at once was a strategic error that culminated in the most horrendous Lekki Tollgate shooting scandal and corollary consequences which has further exacerbated insecurity in parts of the country, and rapidly deepened the many sufferings of ordinary Nigerians. Ever since that time till now, there has been brazen, audacious criminal activities especially in Southeast Nigeria, which until then, was the most peaceful zone in Nigeria. Attacks on security formations, setting diverse public offices ablaze, and carting away arms from burnt police stations were the hallmark of the aftermath of the Lekki shooting.

Nigeria, as predictable as it is, no one has been charged, held responsible, or dismissed from the force for the Lekki incident. The end SARS judicial panel in most states have suddenly stopped sitting. Perhaps, only the Lagos state panel has completed its mandate. Anambra state with one of the most notorious tales of SARS brutality and direct murder of several citizens who upon arrest by SARS operatives, have never been seen; nothing has been heard of the panel set up by the governor after its first or second sitting. In all, no police officer or SARS operative has been jailed or found guilty of brutality or murder. In Lagos, many people who were able to prove their case was awarded varying degrees of financial compensation and that was all. Here is Nigeria again, reinforcing her treacherously skewed conception of justice as mere monetary payoffs.

Although the error of strategy in demanding total change in one swift is easily overlooked considering the largely anomic nature and leaderless character of the end SARS movement. Yet, one year after, it is clear that Nigerian youths are not ready to give up their demands for good, responsible, and focused leadership across the country. Nigerian youths are now more defiant, fearless, and even belligerent towards the government. They are willing to risk it all while making their demands. This without a doubt is a very serious danger to the anti-democratic attitude and posturing of the government. Normally, this should give any government reason to rethink its existential relevance to the governed, and that, Nigeria must do and on time. So far, the lesson is that when the people insist on clear demands from the government, they usually get attention. But to fundamentally change the country, they only have to keep the pace of their demands and sustain the pressure on the government.

The end SARS campaign a year ago is only a successful test run of the Nigerian people’s will to make legitimate demands from their government and get results. Moving forward, the Nigerian government at all levels must adjust accordingly as the growing consciousness of the people dictates or face diverse levels of intense crisis, fundamental disruptions that will most likely include armed struggles, which can result from needless use of force on peaceful protesters.

♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent,  is a columnist with the WAP

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Addressing Mental Health becomes Relevant as Suicide Rate Soars



Last week, a 23-year-old physiology student, Chidiume Kenneth Ekene, committed suicide right in the corner of his hostel at Uli, Anambra State.

Usually, common suicidal methods prevalent amongst victims are poisoning, suffocation, jumping into the lagoon (drowning), and sometimes, firearms, but Chidiume’s case was through self-immolation (deliberately setting oneself on fire). It was hard to imagine the torture and gradual melting of his body in the presence of breath.

The news was shocking at first, but with the accounts of his friends and coursemates, negligence and ignorance ripened the deceased thoughts of suicide. They all confirmed that they noticed his unusual behaviour and statements saying that he wanted to die. In a Facebook post, one of his mates revealed her careless reply to the deceased: “…die make I come chop rice.” (see the screenshot below) And many believed it was a spiritual attack.
Suicide means death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die while a suicide attempt is self-inflicted harm with any intent to end one’s life that did not eventually result in death. Staying silent about suicide is a problem because it fuels suicide itself, breeds confusion, promotes stigma, and isolates people when they need help the most. People become suicidal when they are experiencing a high level of stress, mental suffering, high-level hopelessness, and despair. It is a way of them feeling in control when they are in an uncontrollable situation, but sadly, make a permanent decision to end their life in a temporary state of pain.

Suicide is gaining its root gradually amongst teenagers and young adults, even adults.
Suicide is gaining its root gradually amongst teenagers and young adults, even adults. But we seem to understand the adult victims’ situation and ascribe the teenage and young adults’ case to a spiritual attack; hence, the advocacy for mental health at all levels and all ages has been like a fairytale. This is the reason why young adults who can effectively handle a social media app could not recognize a suicidal statement from their friend, how much more reporting to the appropriate authority.

Talking about reporting to the appropriate authority, the question for many would be “which authority?” “Do schools, especially government universities, orient their students constantly on the importance of visiting or reporting a case to the school’s counseling unit? If we have hotlines to call, what is the awareness level amongst citizens? The majority of students in our society go through the four walls of the university and cannot identify the counseling unit block in their school; no wonder the height of cluelessness exhibited by students faced with a clear suicide warning. It is high time we changed the narrative. The saying “there is no health without mental health” extends to “there is no productive society without mental health”. Being concerned about the economic state of our country is no more important than the dilapidated state of mental health in our face. Mental health does not have to stop at personal conviction alone; rather, it must expand to become a national consciousness and culture if we must breed a healthy society.

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It is Illegal to Use Billboards, Signage in Enugu Without Approval – ENSSAA



Enugu State Structure for Signage Advertisement Agency (ENSSAA) says it is now illegal for any person or group to erect billboards and structure for signage in the state without approval from the agency.

The General Manager of ENSSAA, Mr. Ike Ezugwu, stated this on Sunday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu.

Ezugwu said the law establishing the agency said licences and permits must be issued to individuals and organisations for the construction and placement of outdoor structures in any part of the state.

“So it is unlawful for any person to erect, construct, enlarge and operate outdoor structures without first being registered with the agency.

“And once we identify those without approval, we remove them and the owner bears the cost of removing it.

“It is our responsibility to control, regulate and monitor them.

“By licensing them, we have them in our database,” Ezugwu said.

He stressed that the agency was working hard to ensure that the state is rid of illegal billboards and posters, saying “if we stop regulating and controlling them, the environment will be littered with illegal billboards”.

The General manager explained that the agency was unable to cover all the 27 local government areas in the state due to insufficient manpower but maintained that they are gradually making success.

He, therefore, urged billboard owners in the state to register with the Agency, stating that what they pay forms part of government’s Internally Generated Revenue.

Ezugwu added that the agency collects 10 per cent as a cost of the collection while state and local government councils collect 40 and 60 per cent respectively from the monthly collections.

According to him, state and local government councils usually collect these levy which amounts to double taxation.

“The State House of Assembly later passed ENSSAA law by harmonising these collections and entrusted it to us,” he added.

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