- Posted by Editor
- On September 9, 2019
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Education, literacy and technological development in Nigeria
By Young Erhiurhoro
TO many Nigerians, education and literacy are synonymous words in both etymological and literary usage. But in this article, we want to define the two words with clear disparity and how both words had affected and continue to affect our technological development in this country in recent times.
Without further delay, education to the layman’s understanding can simply be defined as the process or art of imparting knowledge, skills, ideas, facts etc on a person or group of people by another person (considered to be educated) in a given time or situation in a particular environment. This kind of education can be formal or informal, it can be organized or unorganized. Whereas, literacy in its simplest form can be defined as the ability to read or write. As one education scholar puts it, “Literacy is the ability to decipher white chalk on a blackboard and black ink on a white paper.” However, as earlier pointed out, our major objective in this discourse is to establish the fact that there is clear disparity or difference between “Education” and “Literacy”. Recently, in a UNICEF conference, a Briton who was seriously angered about the slow pace of educational development in Africa told the participants saying, “We must not forget that not every literate person is educated and not every educated person is literate.”
In fact, in my own understanding, I think the statement or remark made by the said Briton is purposely made on Nigerian educational system. Why did I say so? In Nigeria, we have an inherent believe that every average Nigerian who can read and write is highly educated. We also believe that, once you have a paper certificate to tender or show, you are educated person. This is the missing link in our educational system since the crashed of the second National Education Development Plan (1970-1980). This is the difference between a developing country and a developed country. Without doubt, to be educated is quite different from to be literate. But in Nigeria, we always used the two to mean one. To be candid, the 21st century Nigerian graduates from our mushroom universities, many of them are only literate in the art of reading and writing but not educated in their chosen disciplines. This is why you see a graduate of Computer Science Operations who does not know a keyboard, mouse or monitor. In the same vein, a graduate of Mechanical Engineering in Nigerian universities cannot identify a spark plug or engine block. What about the banking sector, a certified accountant by ICAN does not know a balance sheet. In the same way, a graduate of Petroleum Engineering cannot install a rig or pipe.
What about the teaching field, a person who is certified as a professional teacher by a university or a college of education does not know the difference between small letters and capital letters. In short, the list is endless. We should not forget that every graduate in this group is a mere literate but not an educated graduate. Let me sound it loud and clear here that, until Nigeria’s educational planners know the true difference between education and literacy, all our boastings in the educational sector before the outside world are like infiltrated football.
Such training that hinged on literacy rather than education cannot meaningfully contribute to the technological development of any country. Such a country will remain a developing country and will continually and perpetually depend on other countries for its technological sustainability. This is the complete picture of Nigeria’s educational system. In Nigeria, almost everything is imported from other countries, the most popular and vibrant importer to Nigeria at the moment is China. But the most ugly side of the story is that, Nigerian higher institutions parade the highest number of graduates around the world every year. But can’t we ask ourselves, if we can produce this huge numbers of graduates every year, why all our companies, government parastatals and agencies are moribund or being operated by only foreigners? The answers are not far fetched.
First and foremost, in advanced countries like China or the US, their government knows the difference between education and literacy. They planned their educational system, laws and policies towards this very end. In advanced countries, you must be literate and at the same time, educated. To be educated in such countries mean to be well vast or have practical knowledge of a particular trade or skill. This is why their technical colleges are well built and fully equipped than many of our so called universities. Attending a university there is not a do or die affair as the case with many Nigerians. Without doubt, you will agree with me that an ordinary motor mechanic or electrician in the US or China are the ones heading all the departments in our oil companies and other companies across Nigeria. They give directives and orders to our numerous Ph.D holders from the different foreign universities they have attended and they obey. I even learnt that many of these Nigerian workers in these different companies are being used as messengers and errand boys to these foreign technicians. This is because those American and Chinese technicians are vast in practical expertise in their chosen disciplines than our so-called graduates of Engineering and the rest of them. It is a woeful tale!
Secondly, let our educational policies and laws be shifted from mere acquiring paper certificates (literacy) to practical acquisition of skills (practical education) as the practice in advanced countries. In Nigeria, we placed much value on paper certificates than acquiring the needed skills in such discipline. This is why in terms of global technological development, Nigeria is far below recognition in world map. The Federal Ministry of Education should place high premium on the National Board on Technical Education (NBTE) henceforth. The National Policy on Education (NPE) should be continuously reviewed by our educational planners to place emphasis on technical education in the country. In this case, the National Universities Commission (NUC) should not give licence to every university or higher institution without following the approved procedure. Licences awarded to “room and parlour” higher institutions (private and public) that do not meet up the requirements should be immediately withdrawn by the commission.
Thirdly, the funding of higher institutions in the country should be improved. When there is improved funding from the federal budgets, infrastructural development of higher institutions will also improve. Recently, in a Delta State University (DELSU) 63rd Inaugural Lecture delivered by Professor (Mrs.) Ebele Joyce Egwunyenga, a professor of Educational Administration; she observed from her findings in a poll conducted on twenty African countries that, Nigeria blatantly allocates only 8.4% of its annual budget on education while Ghana allocates 31.0% of its annual budget. In the said poll, Nigeria was placed last on the list while Ghana topped the list. Education cannot grow when it is not well funded by the government. Let’s be sincere, can we really compare our educational standard to that of Ghana in this 21st century? Our universities of technology, polytechnics and technical colleges across the country must be streamlined to give practical education on different areas of technology in order to boost and improve our educational and technological development. This can only be achieved when they are well funded by the federal government.
Conclusively, I want to draw the curtain here by pointing out again that, there is wide margin and big difference between education and literacy. A country that really wants to make waves in technological advancements, must draw bold line between education and literacy and makes its citizenry to know the same. Education is not about parading thousands of graduates who are worse than illiterates or infidels. Let Nigeria’s education be practical and technology oriented!
Young Erhiurhoro;Kjc is a reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.