The quality of graduates from Nigerian higher institutions has been in a downward spiral for quite some time now and many people have come out with many reasons why this is happening. Most at times, the blame lands at the feet of the government and how it is not providing enough funding or support for schools under it.
I beg to disagree with this line of argument. Most of the fault actually lies at the school level. Some of you may not agree, but I will still attempt to make my case all the same with this three part series titled EDUNAIJA which is my take on some of the reasons for the quality of graduates that we have, so far.
“Hmmmmmmm that’s a good question, class take that as your assignment and submit it before the next class”. That was a lecturer punishing us for daring to ask him a question during a writing class in school. Everybody was mad, and angry, not at the lecturer for not answering the question or treating it the way he did, but at the student for asking and adding to our work load.
In Nigeria, one of the greatest mistakes you can make is asking a question that challenges what the lecturer is teaching. Argue? No even try am. Tell a lecturer that you recently came across an article that relegates his teaching to the background, at the risk of elongating your years in school and becoming persona non grata in class with the possibility of the status seeping into the whole school. Na to beg lecturer after lectures o, “I am sorry for what happened in class sir”, it would not happen again”. This “apology” does not necessarily guarantee that you will be forgiven; it may just reduce the severity of the punishment initially planned if one is lucky.
The lecturer is seen as the benevolent dictator that has decided to come for his lectures as such the students should be grateful and treat him/her with utmost reverence and respect. Speak when spoken to, if you have any issues with the lectures; keep it to yourself, especially if you have not bought his lecture notes or refined lecture notes (text book). His/her marks are based on different criteria, among which academic performance is not always paramount. Students tend to be more dedicated to being on the lecturer’s good side than getting value for their academic time in school. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? There is hardly a student that went to a Nigerian tertiary institution in the past 20 years that this does not resonate with.
It’s natural that lectures and exams can be based on the lecture notes, but must the answers too? Any answer that is not linked to the lecture notes exposes the student as not haven purchased it in the first place; no matter how correct it may be and this has consequences. More so where those that purchase it are already guaranteed a mark or grade just for the purchase. No phone a friend, ask the audience or 50-50 needed, guaranteed! As one of our lecturers on many occasions would tell us then, “I have the yam, and I also have the knife. It is what I cut and give you that you take”. Gbam!!!!!!!!!!!
So the student comes out of school, shackled to the teachings of his lecturer and his/her notes, which is not much to go on since a greater part of it is lifted from lectures and materials gotten from the lecturers own time in school, sprinkled with whatever little research he/she has managed to do. Regrettably, most of this knowledge has been “relegated to the dungeons of antiquity” in developed countries, and are at best an earlier version which has given birth to children, grand children and in some case even great grand children, yet these are the things that hold sway in our classrooms.
So all the student succeeds in doing academically throughout the time in school, is passing the assignments, tests, and exams and doing whatever is necessary in order to come out with a work ready grade. An understanding or personal interpretation of what is studied is absent. Laziness is the order of the day. Of what benefit is Google, what is Google sef? Why waste the time when all that is needed to pass is in the lecture notes or not academically related at all? For those of you that are parents and have kids that can use the Internet, ask them when last they got materials for school through research from the Internet, your findings may shock you.
I may seem harsh, but I have met graduates of computer science that cannot write programs, I even met one during my NYSC days that did not know what a mouse was. I lie not. How can one blame her, if e no dey wetin them teach her, how she wan take know? When my younger sister was an undergrad, she once ran away from the computer because I said it may have a virus. Seriously! She did not want to get infected.
The school administrators know these things are happening and yet they do nothing to stop it. Students are at the receiving end, because while those charged with preparing them for the future do not, the students have nowhere to run to. Those in authority that should take action, will simply align themselves with their colleagues, probably pointing out complain, and complainant to the culprit.
I am not saying all the lecturers fall into this category, or are like this. There are still a few that recognize their place and purpose in the lives of their students and treat it with the utmost sense of responsibility and seriousness, they will never compromise this (Mr kaza Kaza, Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Management Science, University of Abuja. You are appreciated sir. God bless you for what you are doing for your students. I don’t know you, but your good reputation precedes you). But they are the exception and not the norm. If at all, it should be the other way round.
The place of discourse in school can never be over stated or emphasized. You are there to learn and gain knowledge, and the flow of this knowledge is not one way. There is a need for interaction between and amongst students, and between the lecturer and his/her students. These interactions must not always accede to what the lecturer is teaching in class, especially in this age where the shelf life of knowledge is short; very, very short. The culture of didactic interaction has to be encouraged in our schools; the understanding of what is taught is the key to learning, and its application.
We have not even seen the worst yet, employers and stakeholders are just complaining about the quality; wait till they realize that these graduates will form the pool from which the next generation of Nigerians who will run the affairs of this country will be drawn. Then they will blow a gasket.
Change must come, and it must start now. The teacher, lecturers, school administrators must return to the primary reason for their profession: teach and educate, etc. The wealth you create in and through your students outweigh anything you could possible make off them. The future is not a destination, it’s a place we create in the present, and if we continue like this it is certainly going to be unpalatable for all of us and our loved ones.
We can do this, and we will.
God bless Nigeria.