There is no gainsaying the fact that education is an instrument of empowerment. The reason why there is increase in the quest for formal education by most citizens of the world is because of the fact that education helps the downtrodden and poor members of the society attain great heights, which ordinarily they will not be able to attain if they were to be illiterate. Notwithstanding the benefits accruing from education, it is unfortunate to note that education in Nigeria is bedevilled by multifarious challenges, such as incessant disruption in academic activities, due to industrial action normally embarked upon by members of the academia; poor infrastructural amenities; examination malpractice; inadequate academic personnel; and incessant hike in the cost of study, among others. Although there is a notion held by many that the afore-listed challenges witnessed in the Nigerian educational sector are caused solely because of the poor attention accorded to education by the Nigerian Government, actually, the decline in the fortunes of education in Nigeria will persist until the educational policies of Nigeria are programmed in a practical and participatory manner, with the jettisoning of overreliance on the theoretical pattern of teaching, so that Nigerian students will become intellectually empowered to demand and assert the enforcement of their educational rights from the Government.
Reasons for the Argument being put forward
Participatory form of education instils intellectual courage into students. Many Nigerian students are intelligent, but lack the courageous spirit, needed to assert their educational rights when occasion calls. The resort to industrial action by members of the academia which has become a common reoccurrence in Nigeria, with the consequential incessant disruptions in the academic activities of institutions of learning, goes to show how education in Nigeria has been adversely affected due to the inability of Nigerian students to demand the accordance of adequate attention to education from the government. Most Nigerian students lack the intellectual prowess, needed to sell across their grievances to the Nigerian Government and members of the academia, whenever the later embark on industrial action over the poor attention accorded to their welfare in particular and the Nigerian education sector in general; but Nigerian students normally exhibit indifference and helplessness, whenever such industrial actions take place. If the educational system of Nigeria is programmed in such a manner whereby students are taught to express themselves within the ambit of civility, such students will become courageous to speak out and challenge many vices stifling the progress of education in Nigeria.
Participatory form of learning leads to self-discovery and innovative ideas. Education will be of less importance in a situation whereby students are not encouraged to think outside the box. The pattern of teaching obtainable in Nigeria, in which students are not encouraged to chart a new course in the intellectual domain, stifles the emergence of ideas that can help develop virgin fields in education. Many Nigerian students are not encouraged to disagree with the theories that are being put forward by their teachers, while forgetting that the beauty of education lies in the continued search for better intellectual truths, which can only be achieved when people are encouraged to disagree with already existing theories, while projecting their new line of thoughts with cogent and verifiable pieces of evidence.
Practical-oriented forms of education create room for intellectual enhancement. It is axiomatic that most of the things we learn theoretically are at variance with the practical implementation of such ideas in real life scenarios. What is obtainable in a profession like law attests to this fact, as the practical application of the knowledge of law in real life, differs from the theoretical knowledge of the course as taught in the classroom. In other words, a situation whereby law students are only taught the theoretical aspect of law, without any form of practical knowledge instilled into them, ends up creating a scenario whereby law graduates might be intelligent, but unable to posses the courage and practical skills needed to practice their profession to the satisfaction of the society.
Participatory forms of learning help checkmate the perpetration of sharp practices by students in their course of intellectual pursuits. In an era where intellectual materials stored in the cyberspace can be easily accessed by anyone, it becomes paramount that students are compelled to prove that they have knowledge of, as well as appreciate the ambit of the academic work which they profess to have carried out. When students are conscious of the fact that they will be expected to make oral presentations in class of intellectual activities carried out by them, as well as entertain questions from their colleagues and tutors, it will help checkmate resort to sharp practices by such students, with the consequential increase in the standard of education.
The way forward
Having seen that there is need to whittle down the over-reliance on theoretical form of education in Nigerian institutions of learning, it becomes necessary to proffer ideas on how such feat could be achieved.
There should be lesser number of students enrolled in classes. Where there are fewer students in a class under the headship of a tutor, it will help see to it that the teaching pattern becomes more interactive in nature. This is as opposed to what is obtainable in many Nigerian schools, whereby a teacher is expected to teach a large number of students, thereby denying such students the opportunity of being carried along effectively. In view of that, Nigerian Government at all tiers, as well as private investors should be persuaded to build more schools with adequate facilities and personnel, which will on the long run, help reduce the burden of overcrowded classes and the consequential instilling of a participatory form of learning in the Nigerian educational system.
Friendly interactive sessions among students should be encouraged. Some students do not feel comfortable expressing themselves in the presence of their teachers whom they regard as their superiors. That being the case, the creation of room for students to interact with their peers on intellectual activities, will help such students develop some level of confidence in them. When students are intellectually courageous, they will be empowered to ask questions on issues bordering on their studies, and accordingly make progress in their field of endeavour; rather than such students dying in silence with the consequential decline in the fortunes of education in Nigeria.
Oral presentation of assignments should be made compulsory for students enrolled in Nigerian schools. When students are mandated to defend any project given to them, as well as entertain questions bordering on such presentations from their colleagues, it will help checkmate the practice of plagiarism that is becoming rampant with the availability of academic materials on the Internet. The line of action recommended should be enforced starting from when students are still in the formative stage of lives, in order that confidence might be instilled into them on time. Moreover, teachers should encourage, rather than discourage timid students in the course of oral presentation of their projects, as doing otherwise might be counterproductive, being that the affected students might drop out of school in order not to suffer humiliation.
Participation in extracurricular activities should be made compulsory for Nigerian students. Some students lead the life of recluse, being that they only study their books without indulging in any form of social activity while enrolled in school. Such students end up becoming half-baked graduates, even though they might be intellectually sound. There are many organizations registered in Nigerian institutions, such as Students’ Union Government; literary society; and press club, among others. The rules of schools should be couched in such a manner whereby it will be mandatory for students to identify with an organization in school and also become active members of any of such organization they identify with. This line of action being recommended, will help see to it that Nigerian students are trained in the art of developing courage to assert their rights and express themselves at any given point in time, which will give them the leverage to fight many vicious challenges that have withheld the progress of education in Nigeria.
The challenges facing the educational sector of Nigeria are multifarious and intertwined. Nigerian students are the ones mostly affected by the challenges of substandard education witnessed in the country. For the anomalies being experienced in the Nigerian educational sector to be remedied, there is the need to see to it that students who are at the receiving end of the crisis bedevilling the Nigerian educational sector are empowered to fight for their rights. Achieving this feat can only be made possible when the students take it upon themselves to confront the educational challenges facing them in Nigeria. And this can only be made possible by empowering the students to speak out and clamour for their rights, devoid of the exhibition of timid and indolent lifestyle that seems to be the way of life of most Nigerian students.