Nigeria: bringing innovation to education

By Winnie Emeh. Winnie is a graduate of Glodavis College, Agboju-Amuwo. She is from Lagos, Nigeria.

Ever seen a historian working in a bank or a surgeon selling in a boutique? Seeing a political scientist working as a clerk is as bizarre as having an engineering student do his industrial training (IT) in a pharmacy. I took a tricycle in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State and in a discussion that ensued between the tricyclist and I, I discovered he is a graduate of Accountancy and a Chartered Accountant too! Yes, the list could go on and on. Daily, on the streets, in every state that makes up my country, Nigeria, graduates are walking aimlessly with files underneath their arms, all in the name of job-hunting. Weird as it sounds, people are switching professions for money-making missions. Why else would a graduate of medicine be seen working in the bank? It is simply due to the fact that Nigeria as a country does not provide the enabling environment for people to practice what they learn, and so, we are forced to practice what can feed us.

That brings us to the ugly truth: Nigeria’s education system is lacking. It is either of these two reasons: (1) We do not learn anything or (2) We are not permitted to practice what we learn. Research has shown that the problematic issue plaguing the Nigerian education system is that we are not allowed to practice what we learn. I was fortunate to have attended a science retreat for students during my high school days where we were really drilled down into the difference between science and technology; we also extended the concept outside the box to the real definition of education. Science was and is still the systematic study of both living and non-living things. During the course of study, knowledge is gained and the application of the knowledge gained is referred to as technology. There is clear difference between the two terms also though many think of them as the same.

So also there should be clear understanding of the meaning of education which is a process of teaching, training and learning to improve or gain knowledge and develop skills. Nevertheless, education is incomplete without application. The real essence of education is to gain knowledge that when applied can better one’s life. The purpose of education is defeated if it only allows us to hoard knowledge, which is exactly what we do here in Nigeria. When a graduate or specialist in a field of study is placed in a different field to practice, he or she is not able to utilize the knowledge gained in his or her specialized field of study and the purpose of having gained that knowledge is defeated. The issue is really alarming and has become a national issue; but what is the solution? How do we curb the problem? This is where we bring innovation to education (i.e. application of knowledge).

The introduction of new ideas, “Innovation” to education, is the only way to save the Nigerian education sector from falling. Such new ideas would involve lots of effort from the Government at local, state and federal levels. I believe the nation’s budget should be adjusted in such a way that more funds be allocated to the education sector. This would provide schools with adequate learning facilities which would include laboratory equipment for science students, art facilities and workshops for art students and other necessary instruments to facilitate a “learn and practice” education system. It is rather unfortunate that schools that lack adequate facilities for a conducive learning environment are springing up on a daily basis. As impossible as it sounds, one of my friends attended one of these schools. She went through the usual three years as a high school senior student majoring in the science department without seeing the four walls of a science laboratory. The excuse being that there was no laboratory facilities in the school she attended. I would not put it past the fact that she is not the only unfortunate victim and so many others are walking all around the nation. What use would such person be in the development of technology in the nation when she had been taught only the theoretical aspect of her field and does not know how to practice what she has learnt, not to mention inventing new things? This is practically the reason no Nigerian or Nigeria as a whole, has invented anything. Unless we want it to remain so, something needs to be done!

Adequate funding of the education sector would facilitate the learning process and make it fun and interesting, while being educative and quite efficient. A major reason parents send their children abroad to study is because an enabling environment is created over there to apply whatever knowledge is gained. Nigerian students excel abroad not really because they teach better than at home but the application of knowledge gained over the past years makes learning easier. The fight against knowledge hoarding is not for the government alone, but also the private sector, to bring all hands on deck since some schools are owned by them. Public enlightenment is the only way to make a general awareness. That we do not practice what we learn is a serious cause for alarm, a waste of fees spent in the course of schooling, time spent in the course of learning and also a waste of certificates awarded.

By the time everyone becomes interested and involved in addressing this threatening situation, not only would the Nigerian education system improve but the certificates awarded to graduands would call for a genuine celebration. With a graduate, there is an improvement in a section of the society and gradually, the impact of education is felt nationwide when we not only gain knowledge, but apply it and make our lives better.

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