The history of the evolution, trajectory, glorious zenith, decline and current crisis of Western Education as provided by Government has been so much chronicled that little space will be devoted to that in this presentation. The focus will be on the solution to the present dilemma.
- Nonetheless, retrospection is still required to isolate the secret to the success of our glorious past and identify those stem-borers that destroyed Education as the faithful bastion of our greatness as a people. We need to learn from history and respect history so we don’t end up as casualties of history. In this wise, the identification of the key players and their contributions as well as the specific era in the history of our education will be undertaken.
- On the basis of Government Policy, 4 phases (Era) are clearly identifiable as well as 3 key Players:
- Colonial Era
- Regional Administration to inception of the 2nd Republic;
- 2nd Republic 1979 – December 1983; and
- 1984 till date
- Voluntary Agencies/Individuals
I Colonial Era
- Academic standards tied to Britain and therefore globally recognised;
- Education by spread was provided largely by Missionary agencies;
- Education available at costs (fees) determined by the intersection of Missionary sacrifice and gaps in total funding. Student’ sponsors have to fill in the revenue gap in the provision of standard education;
- Market demand for educated labour was virtually insatiable;
- Education was therefore easily recognised as a short-cut key to success and greatness;
- Education of individuals was generally regarded as a choice investment for families, communities and other interest groups. Savings and loans were readily deployed to achieve this objective.
II Regional Administration-Inception of 2nd Republic (1979) – FREE EDUCATION
- Academic standards tied to Britain and therefore globally recognised;
- Education by spread was provided largely by missionary agencies, communities and individuals;
- Government became a major financier of education at Primary Education level;
- Market demand for educated labour remains encouraging;
- Education continued to represent a viable route to success and therefore a wise investment.
III 2nd Republic 1979 – 1983
Radical Policy shift emanated from political Manifesto of the then ruling party – Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) – in the South West.
- Free Education at both Primary and Secondary school levels became a policy;
- Ownership of all schools at these levels were compulsorily taken over by State Governments;
The then Federal structure (19 States) was relatively favourable and national economy buoyant (Pre-SAP era of #1 to at least $1) and generally supported the implementation success of the policy.
Alarm Bells for Future Crisis
The policy planted the seed of:
(a) Abdication of responsibilities in respect of their wards for funding and general interest in education on the part of parents, guardians, families, communities and religious organisations;
(b) Mass production of school leavers for a Nigerian economy heading for decline was an invitation to employment crisis; and
(c) Local artisans and technician were denied their regular supply of apprentices and the future dearth of this vital skills, with grave consequences for the larger economy, was sealed.
IV 1984 till date
Unfavourable winds started blowing against the Free Education Policy:
- The supporting political platform had been swept away in a military coup;
- 19-State Federal structure eventually ballooned to 36 and Naira – the indicator of our national economic health – plummeted to about #350 to a $1
- With huge funding gaps emerging, a logical sacrifice had to be made of one for the other:
(a) Free Education; or
(b) Quality Education.
- Most unfortunately, Governors prefer to sloganeer and sink under the burden of their Western Region legacy of “Free Education” even when clearly this is unsustainable without compromising Education that is fit-for-purpose (gainful employment etc.); and
- Today, our educational Institutions are largely infrastructural shambles that speak as much of the quality of their products.
Summary of Review:
“Free Education” has become a fallacy under our present circumstances.
Sustainable Education for the FUTURE
- We have the proud legacy of being World-class leaders in the field of Education. Free Education has proved, in our contemporary setting, to be an abysmal failure as a policy vehicle to maintain even relevance, not to mention leadership.
- Considering other options as a way forward, we need to vault over the threshold of AFFORDABILITY of education. Affordable products do not necessarily assure best quality – just as Mazda cannot compare with Mercedes or Maroko with Banana Island! The only policy that can restore our primacy in Education is ACCESSIBLE Education.
- To grasp the essence of Accessible Education as a policy, we have to move from the known to the unknown. We already appreciate the fact that Government cannot singularly fund quality Education. Accessible Education as a policy seeks to creatively cultivate and develop both private endowment and investment in Education to address the funding gap in the provision of world-class education.
- Fees payable by beneficiaries of Education, training and general capacity development will be a function of the short-fall in total budget for standard education of each institution net of Government fund and endowment.
- Thus, Government will do well to court the favour of such major interests as Old Students, Founders, Communities and public-spirited individuals – singular or corporate – to boost the flow of endowment resources. When Government took over schools from churches and other founders, pastors suddenly discover the taste and resources for private jets and flamboyance. Governments should wake up and get its acts together!
9. Families and communities used to pool resources to sponsor their promising children to colleges. Free Education weakens the communal role so badly that even the oversight and monitoring of the performance of students were abandoned. They became children and wards of the Governors and truancy, cultism and general indiscipline ensured our schools can only produce garbage. Parents and guardians must be held primarily responsible for the Education of their children and wards.
- Where charity and good will has failed to provide the required fund for the training of particular individuals, financial institutions will have to be established to provide Student Loans. It should be readily provided on the basis of such considerations as:
- Economic relevance/marketability of the course (prospect of loan recovery);
- Responsible, low-risk life-style of the applicant (this will steer students away from such high-risk behaviour like cultism); and
- BVN to eliminate abscondment and repayment default.
11. The financial institutions are not just meant to provide Student loans. Really, their major portfolio will be in the provision of funds for capital commitments on projects such as research and infrastructural development of institutions to meet global standards. For reasons of economies of scales and Regional Integration Agenda of the South West, the Education Bank should also operate along that parallel.
- In ownership and management of educational Institutions, Government is required to shed weight and retain only what could be maintained in line with world best practices. Being such a radical departure from our recent experience, a lot of paper work, consultations and advocacy will be involved.
- However, certain measure and decisions are obviously germaine and are recommended for consideration. For instance, from the outset, funding inadequacy is a critical factor that threw up this policy of Accessible Education and the need for Government to shed weight for the assurance of quality education.
- As a way forward therefore Government should return schools to their original owners and communities and limit itself only to the payment of salaries of Government Staff in those schools;
- The overhead and capital expenses of the schools will be borne by the owners and their students;
- The foregoing by no means precludes the Government from putting in place a system of subvention for those schools subject to availability of funds; and
- The schools’ owners are at liberty to recruit staff of their choice but such will not be enrolled on Government wages bill.
Social Responsibility by Citizens
- With over 60years of Free Education, there is hardly any adult that has not benefitted in varying degrees from that policy. This has been taken for granted all the years of Free Education and Old Students seldom return to their Alma Mater to impart on their welfare. Government should instigate an attitudinal change.
- Citizens must be required to furnish evidence of Social Responsibility, as alumnus, to their alma mater to enjoy Government Services;
- While schools are encouraged to form Old Students Associations, the larger membership of the majority of these Associations devote virtually their entire resources to personal welfare and mundane social matters. The alma mater is utterly neglected.
In engaging Old Students of schools therefore, being necessary, Government should be careful to identify and engage only genuinely committed Development Partners among them (not the food-pack and souvenir hunters). Such engagements should be regular with well-defined and passionately driven agenda.
Quality of Education
- Adequate fees to attain and maintain the requisite standard for products marketable both locally and globally must be charged by Vocational, Technical Colleges and Tertiary Institutions.
- Private Funding of Education Sector, in the foreseeable future, is the only sustainable option to guarantee the quality of education, knowledge acquisition and general capacity development that can rule the world. We are richly endowed with the intellectual, professional and investment giants required to midwife such a financial institution and its operation in the South West. Ogun State should raise the clarion call for this to happen.
- If the funding challenges of Education are decisively addressed by shedding weight by Government to allow dilution in the ownership and management of the schools, the old rivalries and competition for glory in the system will be revived. This is the spirit that drives our supremacy and greatness.
May we find the courage and political will to dare and do the needful.