By Jacob Babalola
EDUCATION, which is the art of imparting knowledge, skill and judgment on individual is now taking a new shape in the country; such that average Nigerians find it difficult, if not impossible, to send their children to school to acquire knowledge. It is also a common saying that “knowledge is power”. How then can this ‘power’ be obtained when it is no longer easy to acquire ‘knowledge?’
Government at all levels will always preach the need to be educated for the country to develop, but what exactly is the government doing to make this objective possible or realizable?
Today, after obtaining the first degree, many Nigerians still go for second and even third degree, but at the end of it all, their situations remain virtually the same to the extent that even doctorate degree holders are now applying for unskilled jobs; after all, one must survive.
There are no jobs to boast of. Many of the old generation that got jobs after obtaining first degree are sitting perpetually on the jobs. Government is not helping the matter by her actions of approving elongation of tenure of offices for some officials that ought to go on retirement, as if to say without those set of officials, no one else can carry out the duties of their offices.
Political office holders continue to move from one office to another; collecting pensions from one side and salaries from another simultaneously, yet millions of Nigerian graduates are without jobs that can supply their basic human needs.
The action of government is making it impossible for young graduates to get job appointments and after remaining jobless or applicants for number of years, they end up being disqualified on age ground when government is announcing recruitment exercises into Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Another way of disqualifying job-seekers is to request for five or 10 years’ experience, even when most applicants have never spent a day in an office, talk less of a year.
Government would always promise job creation every year but the situation remains same because many graduates are already on ground, more are joining every now and then but opportunities for recruitments only come once in a while. And when such opportunities come, those in authorities share the job slots among themselves. Yet, government is complaining of an increase in crime rate.
Non-availability of government work is forcing many job seekers to embrace private companies’ jobs and what many get eventually is termination of appointments without any wrongdoing on the part of the employees (after many years of service) but as a result of adverse effects of the country’s economy.
Worsening the situation is the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown which has led to more termination of appointments by the private sector and lockdown of institutions of learning since March.
As a way of evading the responsibilities for all these, government would always preach establishment of private business, yet the environment is not totally conducive for such. Imagine the just increased prices of petrol and electricity tariff; how easy will it be for individual businesses to thrive under this circumstance?
Pupils of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are at home, except for those writing their final examination that government allowed to do so after much dialogue; though the plan seems to be underway to reopen all schools, nobody can say much as to the exact time for such reopening.
While members of staff in government institutions are sure of getting their salaries for as many months they stayed out of classrooms, same cannot be said of those in private institutions. As a matter of fact, many could have been disengaged by now, thus increasing the numbers of job seekers on the streets.
Imagine the stress parents and guardians go through these days to train a pupil in a primary school, talk less of secondary and higher institutions. Yet, our government officials are not bothered.
Gone were the days of free education in the country and not the type of free education system that government propagates today. What is most painful is that those in the positions of authority, who enjoyed the free education system as implemented by great leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Bola Ige (to mention but a few), in those days find it difficult to implement similar free education system enjoyed by them.
I still remember how textbooks would be distributed to pupils and students of primary and secondary schools every session and the textbooks returned at the end of the session for another set of textbooks, if promoted to the next classes. That system of free education made it possible for many parents and guardians to send their children and wards to school unlike now. Government then, took it upon itself to provide textbooks in all the schools unlike now when such seems to have been abandoned to private publishers.
The private publishers in turn, in order to remain in business, are now coming up with kinds of textbooks that two pupils from the same parents cannot make use of except both pupils buy the same set of textbooks on reaching any given class. Unlike in those olden days when teachers would write assignments on the blackboard or where there were workbooks separated from the real subjects’ textbooks and pupils only needed to buy workbooks; both are now compressed in one book, such that what an older brother used in a particular class cannot be re-used by the younger brother/sister, except the parents have to buy another sets.
One would then ask: is it not possible for the government to emulate the past system of free education rather than free feeding for the pupils of government schools only? If such is embraced, parents and guardians’ burdens will automatically reduce. It will then mean that a family of five children will only need to buy a set of textbooks for the whole five children and only need to buy exercise books for schoolwork and if government can supply textbooks for schools, both public and private, the parents will be better for it and by extension the country.
In the area of job creation, government must put in more efforts towards creating more viable jobs through the establishment of industries in addition to the usual government office works.
In recruiting to the government positions, the usual age barriers should be removed, as recently proposed by the National Assembly, for those that are truly ready to work, since it is not the fault of those job seekers to stay idle while their search for job lasted.
Government should encourage private sectors through necessary supports and by doing so, it (government) will have the courage to call private sectors to order when their members of staff are being relieved of their jobs without any serious offence, just like there is a method of disengagement in the public sectors.
School fees should also be done away with or brought to the barest minimum to encourage learning for all the citizens. In this case too, government must be ready to assist private schools in as much as they (private schools) are also paying some dues to the government. That the private schools’ operators are helping the government in her responsibilities to her citizens cannot be overlooked; though some private operators might be out for profit, but not all the private schools’ operators.
The country’s leaders should remember that they will be remembered for all their actions and inactions while in positions of authority by generations yet unborn.
Babalola is of Justice, Development and Peace Initiative, Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, Ekiti State.