High Quality Education Must Be a Priority

February 21, 2011

The Federal Government of Nigeria recently announced the appointment of vice chancellors and registrars to run nine new federal universities. Nigerians, suspicious of the government's intentions have been asking questions: Is this an attempt to silence loud opposing voices ahead of the elections? Is the president attempting to buy votes with these new institutions? Why build new universities when most of the ones that currently exist languish in criminal neglect?

Nigeria does not seem to invest in data and strategic planning, but anecdotally there would appear to be a real demand for functioning universities. It is legitimate however to question the need for additional universities when many existing universities rot in ruins.alt

Education does not seem to be a priority of this government. The chaotic election registration process has gulped over $500 million to date; the shocking equivalent of $10,000 per registrant. That amount of money would make a huge difference in the life of a Nigerian child. Our leaders would rather have an exorbitant shoddy chaotic electoral process than a well funded high quality education. Our government should reorder its priorities and put education at the very top.

A disastrous result of a decade of "democracy" has been the virtual collapse of Nigeria's educational system. Democratic institutions have given our rulers the cover to loot funds meant for the proper education of our children. What is happening to our children in their classrooms is a heinous crime. Our rulers are busily engaged in self-serving actions meant to line their own pockets. It does not matter how those actions impact or compromise the lives and fortunes of our young and vulnerable; their own children are abroad attending great schools with looted funds.

Most of Nigeria's public institutions are housed in decaying structures. And yet, the budgeted cost of building and maintaining them are more than what obtains in the West. The leaders of these institutions are busy "sharing" money that belongs to children. The result has been devastating; many graduates of Nigerian universities express themselves poorly; there are lawyers that cannot write a simple brief; and engineers who would not recognize a bridge if one fell on them.

We call upon our student union leaders, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and civil society to wake up and ask hard questions in the name of all our children: What will it cost to renovate and modernize our schools?; Is there a modernization schedule? What is the accreditation process for schools? Is the curriculum rightly structured to address the immediate and long-term needs of the country? What about the taboo subject of teacher accountability? Shouldn't the teachers and lecturers who instruct our young ones be accountable to them, and shouldn't students contribute to the process of evaluating the performance of their instructors? In effect, is there a strategic plan for education at the local, state and national levels?

It is okay to build new schools, there is also the need to maintain and sustain the existing ones. Our children, not goats, are in those classrooms.