An average Nigerian youth strives to go to school for the very wrong reasons. The importance attached to schooling is so overwhelming that going to school has been erroneously perceived as a license to success in life.
Is schooling actually the breakthrough everyone needs for significance in life? Drawing inferences from my schooling days, classroom teaching experiences and subsequent experiences in the Ivory Tower, I have deduced that knowing the disparity between schooling and education is the crux of the matter. When this disparity is well addressed, Nigerian youths would gain the right perspective in their pursuit for a right standing on the very competitive terrain of relevance.
There is no gainsaying the fact that good schooling can produce good graduates. But the rude reality that stares us in the face as a nation is that we have not been able to translate our first class honours to significance in life. This is not a celebration of mediocrity; it is a clarion call for value added educational delivery.
The value placed on certificates as a parameter for relevance is the reason why we retrogress as a nation and fail to get our educational priorities right. Certificates become stale achievements when the bearer lacks value for lifelong education.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian educational sector is not helping matters. Policy makers are not redefining the system to meet the realities of our present state. New trends should inspire the entrenchment of new policies that would harness the potentials of these surging undeniable trends. But this paradigm shift has been neglected by the government.
This scenario is playing out visibly in the tertiary sub sector of the education industry, in the continuous deregulation of university education. While the increase in number of higher institutions (especially universities) in response to the increasing number of candidates seeking admission is a welcome initiative, what remains disturbing is the alarming rate of their proliferation without a corresponding funding of the existing ones; thereby, raising questions of quality in education. This has strengthened the wanton crave for schooling. It is imperative to have more universities but not on the altar of sacrificing quality.
It should be reiterated that the mindset of getting a university education by all means is laced with the very wrong motive. These include improved lifestyle and acquisition of certificate for job hunting. But the question is: has schooling increased the chances of making it in life? Is having a first class a yardstick for economic well-being? Every youth should make up their minds not to allow their schooling to affect their education. Yes, schooling! That’s what we indulge in which has sadly robbed us of education.
Let me draw a line between schooling and education. Schooling is time-bound, but education is lifelong. Regrettably, our society’s judgment of academic success is wrapped in mediocrity. The priority placed on academic qualification is defeated when upon getting a job, you still have to learn on the job. The reason is not farfetched: graduates are not trusted to deliver until tested. The years of pursuing a degree should be a defining period of a youth’s life. But many youths tend to be more confused after graduation than they were upon admission.
What is the way out? Constitutional intervention, structural realignment and attitudinal change! The government and policy makers should be on the vanguard of the first two. This is not the heart of my recommendation. I want to zero in on the third level which is ‘attitudinal change’.
The value placed on education should be birthed in the place of personal discovery. If you do not discover your uniqueness, you do not deserve the spotlight. The spotlight is for people who have value to offer. Value in this wise means the inherent quality and usefulness that forms an aura of uniqueness over your life.
A first class in the hands of a clueless graduate is a frustrating reminder of a pursuit in futility. This is why many go for higher degrees yet do not find answers to the meaning of life.
Before you think of what to do with your certificate, how about thinking of what to do with your life? How can you add value to the society? Discovered value puts educational pursuit in perspective. The certificate at this realm becomes a backup not a projection of who you are.
At this juncture, I should chime the need to subscribe to Open and Distance Education (ODE) in. If the conventional mode cannot accommodate the number of young people who seek tertiary education misconceived as schooling, who says they cannot be entrepreneurs? The conventional schooling system gives little or no leverage for entrepreneurship.
Open and Distance Learning (ODL) affords subscribers the opportunity for self-development and engagement in volunteering activities, learning a vocation or skill. The time advantage is key on this pedestal. This is education which transcends schooling.
The chances of getting a job after graduation in today’s Nigeria are slim. Why not use the self-paced learning opportunity ODL offers to kick-start value adding ventures? Also, instead of repeating JAMB every year, why not seek the ODL alternative? The conventional university system obviously has limited access, but there is no limit to enrolment on the ODL mode.
University of Ibadan being a dual-mode university offers Distance Learning Centre has a viable platform worth exploring for anyone who would tag along this paradigm shift.
We need attitudinal change. Let Nigerian youths stop going to school and embrace education.
Dayo Olajide, Communications Officer, University of Ibadan Distance Learning Centre, writes through email@example.com.