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Odimegwu Onwumere, Writer/Consultant, Rivers State, Nigeria.
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“Made in China” education drives Nigerians to study overseas

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Many Nigerians have unnerved views that the education industry is supposed to be one of the biggest industries in the country. If the successive governments have harnessed the industry very well, it stands to earn the country about $300b per annum.

Those in this line of scrutiny are of the outlook that not even the National Seminar in 1973, which led to the formulation of National Policy on Education in 1977, revised in 1981, and the introduction of the universal primary education (UPE) in 1976, have helped the country’s education sufficiently.

Gasping for ways to improve on the country’s education, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) was later launched formally by then President Olusegun Obasanjo in Nigeria on 30th September, 1999. The UBE was aimed at making education reachable and making all citizens literate by the year 2010. But Nigerians are today in 2016!

On March 14 2016, in Abuja, while making his address at the 2016 Commonwealth Day Celebration, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu assured Nigerians that the government was committed to achieving the 16 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); an expansion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by governments in 2001, which came to an end in 2015.

Without doubt, many richest Nigerians have queued on the weakness of the following governments to establish schools as part of their own measures to foster the needed qualitative education that Nigeria seeks. And they are tapping from this no matter the “Made-in-China” education they render to their patronizers. China is known for low quality products! The big chasm in the Nigeria’s education system, the citizens are looking elsewhere to attain sound education.

Spending heavily to study abroad

The pillars of Nigeria were dazed when the Chairman Senate Committee on Tertiary Institution and Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Senator Binta Masi on February 9 2016, in Abuja, during the official Commissioning of Federal University of Lafia, FUL, to the Nigeria Research and Education Network, NgREN, said that Nigerians spend $2bn on school fees abroad.

Many Nigerians focused their attention on the huge sum of money mentioned and flummoxed. The Senator was horror-struck, adding that it was unnecessary that Nigerians even travel to other African countries to get educated.

Her position was that the country was at the peak of getting the research and education network right. Conversely, some Nigerians contradicted the views of the Senator and said that it’s a pity that Nigerians are travelliing out in droves to get qualitative education elsewhere. But they do not have other option due to the fact that majority of the public schools in the country – from kindergarten to tertiary level – do not even have working hostels, which they enjoy in schools across the shores of the country.

Reason for the exodus abroad

Checks have revealed that no matter the measures that the government is putting in place to stop the trend of exodus of Nigerians to study abroad, it is a tall dream to stop them because Nigerians, who have schooled overseas, did not experience unremitting strikes that preceptors and their unions embark on in Nigeria, which congealed many academic sessions in the recent past.

Specialists have said that there are inadequate teacher educations, betrayed quality assurance in the area of class dimension, minute number of teachers and tutorial objects, laughable governance of schools, zero execution of Schools Management Committees (SMCs), insufficient budgetary for education, low incentives for teachers, and so on.

Budget and Grades watered down

In May 2013, Sarki Mallam-Madori, a public affairs analyst argued in inference, saying, “From 1997 and 2000 statistics show that federal government expenditure on education was below 10% of overall expenditure. It noticed that, the national expenditure on education cannot be computed because various states expenditure on education cannot be determined, in relation to the UNESCO recommendation of 26% of national budgets.”

In an appearance in July 2014, the Rector, Olawoyin Awosika School of Innovative Studies, Prof Abiola Awosika showed remorse that the education in the country is going down by the day, of which students’ grades are lowered in order to see if they could measure up with the trend, whereas it should not have been so.

She pointed out that the flight of solid curricula in the universities and colleges of education that were supposed to build up people is a big blow. Prof Awosika said, “We lowered the Joint Administration and Matriculation Board (JAMB) scores again this year; 180 for universities and 130 for colleges of education and polytechnics.”

Education killed by politicians

A Nigerian who wouldn’t like the name in print said that the schools in the country have been wrecked by apparent corrupt leaders. And this has led to the malfunctioning of other government agencies.

There are other factors that those in this line of thought said are imminent why Nigerians will not stop from travelling to overseas for studies. They include paying for the handouts of lecturers to get more points in tests and exams of which any students that did not abide by the dictate risks being delayed to graduate by his or her lecturer.

Some Nigerians who could not afford the money to study abroad drop out of school. There are situations where lecturers and students are cultists, details have opined. And the apparent cultists threaten the welfare of others who are not members. Many Nigerians argued that if the Senator was frowning about Nigerians studying abroad, perhaps, due to the exorbitant money they pay to get admission in the schools abroad, the private schools in Nigeria are even worse.

Private schools couldn’t help

Nigerians said that the private schools in Nigeria, unchangingly, collect huge sum of money from Nigerians without showing same in academic impartation. Only “Made in China” education!

The worry is that due to the economic harshness that many homes are going through, the effort by parents to keep their children in schools is unwholesome. A school of thought said that it does not see the rationale in spending huge sums of money that amount to hundreds of thousands per a term for a toddler in the Nigerian private nursery or elementary schools, whereas he or she would be meeting in the same university with those that went to public schools and most times, the toddler is just empty in head.

U.S. Department of Education vs. Nigeria’s

There are insinuations that apart from the supposed mal-functional hostels that majority of the schools across the country run, the scientific laboratories in virtually all the schools are like artifacts in the museum.

The blame has been heaped on the successive governments in the country, because statistics have shown that the workforce in Nigeria is not in the dearth. Lecturers from Nigeria excel in other worlds where they are exposed to the necessary amenities that include power, technology, conducive environment and sundry.

But Buhari, represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Akaneren Essien, while delivering a message at the 2014/2015, and 29th convocation ceremony of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), held at the school’s Abraham Odia Stadium, swaggered that N500 billion was allocated to the education sector in the 2016 federal budget. He described this as the highest so far allocated to the sector in the country.

Buhari said: “The 2016 budgetary provision of N500 billion for the education sector is the highest so far, and it is our desire to apply every kobo in this budget to deal with various need of our universities to ensure that they become more globally competitive.”

On-the-contrary, the USA federal government allocated approximately $154 billion on education in fiscal year 2015. Going by the programmes administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which appear in two separate parts in the USA budget, critics have said the statements made by Buhari at the occasion were mere politics and charade compared to what obtains in the USA budget for Department of Education.

Suggestions

Nigerians are of the judgment that the schools in the country would have been the best in the world if the country had used its resources meant for the education sector judiciously and ban political-leaders from sending their wards to school abroad.

The Executive Secretary, Kogi State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB), Mallam Nuhu Ahmed was of a view that the Change mantra of Major General Muhammadu Buhari administration will amount to an exercise in futility if the education sector is not bettered.

At five-day training on December 14 2015, for quality assurance officers organised by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the state SUBEB with the theme “Strengthening the Capacity of Quality Assurance officers for Improved Quality Delivery” in Lokoja, Ahmed said, “Nigeria cannot develop without quality education.”

Ahmed squabbled, saying that the country will be measured by the qualitative education it gets; and how quality the country’s basic education is will form the bedrock of the educational harvest of the country.

He added, “The dream of a change in Nigeria will be a mirage if there are no quality teachers in the schools. The need for qualitative basic education delivery must be intensified by the government because without quality teachers there cannot be quality product amongst the students.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Writer and Consultant; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

A snake appeared while I was praying

By Odimegwu Onwumere

For some days now, I’ve added powerful ways of making my supplications to my Chi (Infinite Force in Igbo). I have found out that anytime I engage in serious supplications, the more mindfully happy and self fulfilled I become.

I’ve totally expunged fears of any kind from my mind. Even when it seemed that my finances are dwindling, I feel fulfilled. Since I started engaging in this spiritual atonement of self, I’ve noticed that my dreams are no longer malarial; they come true.

This morning around 7.30 to 8.00 am on Feb 25 2016, while on such excruciating supplications, I heard a hiss. I did not know from where it came. I thought that it was the usual hiss that a lizard-like animal often found in rooms make.

In my part of Igbo, the lizard-like animal is called ‘ncheke’. I was disappointed when I finished my practice of supplications and looked out from the window and found it was a snake on the trees I used as the fence of the building.

I live with nature, in the village-side of Port Harcourt. I was tensed-up when I saw the snake. (The snake is Eke Ikputu). With the fears imposed in my sub-consciousness by my ‘Christian faith’ about snake, I rushed for the insecticide and sprayed. The snake looked at me and gradually moved away.

When the snake left, I went back to supplications in order to unravel the mystery behind the snake – if there was any.

While my ‘Christian faith’ had told me very bad things about snake, I saw while on transit in my supplications that snake spirit animal is a Life Force.

I was told that in many cultures, due to snake’s prehistoric energy, it is revered. I was told that the presence of snake in one’s life means that the person is about to experience healing opportunities, novel change, crucial transitions, and a well hyped energy manifesting. I was told that snake is a spirit animal that can bestow supervision about life changes and transitions. I was told that snake can manifest in many ways be it emotional, physical, or spiritual stratum. I was told that with the presence of the snake I should be very careful of how I use my energy as they transmit to the earth and nature.

Now I’m doing my best to increase my energetic regularity, because how we hold unto our spiritual vibration might be what has been holding many of us down or up. I’m doing much for further awakening. I’m growing and doing everything positive to promote my growth. I now know that my support to move forward is near, not farfetched. I’m happy that I’m spiritually happy! Lord Ikenga.

CSR: Companies entice journalists but prefer social media

By Odimegwu Onwumere

There is ongoing debate among stakeholders of industries that corporations should necessitate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a business necessity.

The argument hinges on the fact that corporations should become socially conscious, but the media have a great role to play on how the CSR business is heralded to the world,.

Those in this line of argument have said that the media have the right to checkmate organizations if they are living up to their expectation of what the global definition of CSR means. But wretchedly the obverse is the case as corporations have now taken to social media, while enticing print journalists with workshops, awards and sundry.

Companies entice journalists

Until of late, CSR among businesses has rotated approximately within “risk mitigation and self-regulation”. Inspired to make convinced companies to stomach the law and execute decently, CSR has focused principally on issues of in-due-course in factories.

Across the country, different companies elevate journalists through organizing of workshops, awards and seminars. Companies apparently do this in order to make journalists add more social responsibilities to their duties.

To the companies, they are observing the tree tenets that are observable in the CSR business which are People, Planet, and Profit to journalists. However, checks have proven that companies engage journalists in these so that their brands would also be promoted.

Times without number, connoisseurs have blamed journalists for promoting the nuisance of firms about CSR. There was anger that journalists aid in demeaning the CSR standard.

The Managing Director, TruContact, Mr. Ken Egbas speaking at a forum organized by Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN), with the theme “Challenges of Corporate Social Responsibility in Nigeria – Roles of Organizations, Government and the Media”, held at Grand Seren Hotel, Iyaganku, GRA, Ibadan, Oyo State, last year, was very heated about this.

Egbas said, “Where that leaves you is that it drops the standard so low because the journalists, who are supposed to demand for standard do not even know the standard for CSR and sustainability reporting, which is very sad.”

Ifeoluwa Oloruntuyi, a public affairs analyst saw this in 2013: Of how companies entice journalists through training, awards and seminars to promote their brands.

Oloruntuyi said, “But many of the firms, which had instituted the media awards to encourage and appreciate journalists, tend to be more concerned about using the reward project to better position their brand and products if the criteria designed for winning entries are put on spotlight.”

The analyst was alarmed, adding that most of the awards instituted by the companies are awarded to journalists who best promote their brands in their entries than others.

Oloruntuyi hyped, “In most cases, winners emerge through the volume of patronage their reports have impacted on the organizations instituting the awards. Only few of the entries are immune from the toga of what critics have tagged ‘patronizing and image laundering’ reports, which are intentionally targeted at winning these awards.”

Concern mounts

Many Nigerians are however asking where the budget for CSR goes. The question is rife. The BJAN observed that many of the companies fall below best global CSR reporting guidelines.

The Group Managing Director, SO&U Limited and chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Mr. Ufot Udeme apparently saw why companies publicize whatever they do for journalists without making it secret.

Udeme said, “Is there really a need to leverage an organization’s CSR initiatives? It is argued that some of the highest givers around the world give quietly, sometimes even anonymously; they sincerely want to meet a need without attracting unnecessary attention to themselves. Why don’t organizations do the same?” Egbas wondered why many of the companies give paltry to the society and boast of giving back to the society christened CSR.

Egbas said, “They call people together and give them gifts, or give exercise books to school children or renovate a school classroom, grade a small stretch of road, then, they call the journalist and splash the photos on the pages of their paper and they call that CSR.”

CSR for social media

While journalists are being blamed for promoting the much giddiness of corporations, the companies maneuver them in most cases and begin to build Facebook pages and Twitter profiles for their programmes.

Effervescently, every CSR professional is working to achieve both measurable and attainable goals in quantitative and qualitative aspects. Companies might think they pay heavily for the print journalists to publicize their products, but they get that at a very cheap price using social media and getting to a wider audience, beyond the environs where the products are manufactured. According to InSites Consulting’s 2011 global study on social media use; in Europe alone, there are 476 million internet users, of which 350 million are using social networks.

A school of thought has said that the companies do this all in the manner that they are sharing good news of their activities. Hence, they ride on social media to massage their ego. Most times they are not transparent and the journalists they have maneuvered for social media are in dearth of fund to carry out proper investigations to tell their side of story on the companies’ CSR programmes.

Not to rubbish journalists

Companies are nonetheless not doing the social media exploits with the intent to rubbish journalists. The fact is that they are observing the shift taking place in the corporate affairs. What they are doing is to push past awareness into action.

Authorities have said that companies do this, because they have seen that CSR functions have been unlimited now against a primordial function of “keeping and restraining” companies out of woes.

CSR as driver of innovation

It was observed that globally companies have climbed above board of only selling product or service. In the world today, CSR is gearing towards being driver of innovation. This is where the three-fold comes in – which is people, planet, and profit.

CSR is centred on people and not obnoxious laws. The highlight is that stakeholders in the business world are making sure that more sustainable and socially responsible entities are built.

The global CSR operation today is that businesses now know their constituents, unlike in the times past when companies controlled the message of their products.

Social media for provocative discourse

It was discovered that companies prefer to use the social media mostly due to the quick responses they garner from their customers through provocative discourses they post on their unique social media pages that spark them to know what their consumers expect from them.

Companies also use the social media to influence their consumers and know their responses over a product. And many of the individuals that respond are self- naming, therefore enhancing dialogue between customers and companies, which is the main reason companies engage in social media.

Therefore, they are using the social media methodology as a way to get to the people quicker than hoping endlessly when a print media would vet their stories before publishing.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a writer and consultant; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

University graduates in Nigeria resort to vocational education as grammar has failed

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Investigations have revealed that majority of university graduates face in the labour market what they didn’t learn in school. This is creating a heated argument that the curriculum – 6,3,3,4 system of education – is not really structured for the Nigerian system.

Accordingly, the society is in dearth of skilled technicians like bricklayers, carpenters, painters and auto mechanics; laboratory and pharmacy technicians, electrical/electronic technicians and skilled vocational nurses. Just to mention but a few. Professionals have said.

The country is in lack of the above, and the federal government formerly accredited this, saying that about 80 per cent of Nigeria’s youths are without-a-job and 10 per cent underemployed. What this means is that the aim of creating the National Board for Technical Education (by Act No. 9 of 11th January, 1977), which boasts as a principal organ of Federal Ministry of Education specifically created to handle all aspects of Technical and Vocational Education has been defeated, as this aspect of education is not enshrined in the country’s conventional education curriculum.

Ebele Orakpo and Tare Youdeowei, Nigerian journalists argued in a public debate, “By provisions of the National Policy on Education, we will need at least one technical college in each of the 774 local government areas of the federation. For each local government, you need a minimum of four vocational centres so the products of the vocational centres will be the raw materials for the technical college. The technical college will produce the craftsmen who will be the raw materials for the polytechnics.

“The polytechnics will produce technicians and technologists. So in effect, we need to have 3,096 vocational centres in the country. For every four technical colleges, we are supposed to have one polytechnic. So Nigeria, with 774 local government areas, will need about 194 polytechnics to service our much touted technological revolution.”

Unlike Nigeria, Victor E. Dike, the author of ‘Leadership without a Moral Purpose: a Critical Analysis of Nigeria and the Obasanjo Administration, 2003-2007’, in a civic presentation, said, “Before the Industrial Revolution (between 1750 and 1830) the home and the “apprenticeship system” were the principal sources of vocational education. Vocational education became popular in the elementary schools in the United States after 1880 and developed into courses in industrial training, bookkeeping, stenography, and allied commercial work in both public and private institutions.”

Mrs. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I as then education minister noticed how the government and Nigerians have grown thick skin in waving away vocational education with the left hand, hence she stated at the launch of the 2012 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) in Abuja, that she identified poor public discernment of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), as part of the constrictions encumbering Nigerians from copiously embracing the hypothesis.

It is evidence that globally, Nigeria has been termed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that she has the worst education indicators. The UNESCO’s Country Director in Nigeria, Professor Hassana Alidou at the summit hinted that since the first edition of GMR in 2001, Nigeria was yet to follow modalities in making sure that the six goals of Education for All, adopted in Dakar in 2000, is achieved. The highlight of this is that the 2012 report, positioned a somewhat unmistakable picture of Nigeria’s progress and challenges on vocational education.

Regret on vocational education

Apart from the USA, findings are, according to Dike, “India and the “Asian Tigers” could not have become what they are without massive investment in technical education.”

It was opined that in these climes, they have improved on by adding emphasis in their vocational and technical schools to training in the computers and information technology, due to the economic meltdown in the world.

Against this backdrop, vocational and technical educations which were once abandoned in Nigeria, have been incessantly talked-about in the recent times to be relevant to refilling the gap in the Nigeria’s educational system in the area of providing manpower and technical knowhow.

This is because it is regret everywhere that governments at all levels had abandoned vocational education in Nigeria for a long time, making graduates from such educational system to be treated unfriendly, for the exaltation of university graduates.

For example, many persons that went to technical colleges come out with trade certificate and most times end up their careers on the roadside. The disparity between Higher National Diploma and Bachelor of Science certificates is another proof that technical education is relegated to the background.

But the reverse is that the unceasing unemployment in the country today has made many parents to start registering their children in technical schools, because university graduates who do not have skills go back to vocational schools to acquire skill for the enablement of employment. Technical schools were once termed as where never-do wells go; for second rate students.

Lessons from the USA

Dike said that the number of public and private vocational schools has greatly increased in the United States since 1900. He added that there was an impetus on vocational education during World War II (1939-1945) when the armed services had great need for technicians that the civilian world could not supply.

“There was a further upsurge on vocational training from the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (the G. I. Bill of Rights), which allowed World War II veterans to receive tuition and subsistence during extended vocational training.

“There was also the Manpower Development Training Act (1962), the Vocational Education Act (1963), and the Vocational Education Amendments (1968) and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act (1984). These programs help to improve the nation’s workforce and ensure that vocational training is available for economically (and physically) challenged youths,” he said.

Connoisseurs, however, have said that such notion being exhibited against technical schools graduates in Nigeria is a very bad mentality, which was inherited from the colonial masters. The resultant of the abandonment of vocational education is the fact that Nigerians have seen that grammar and white collar jobs cannot drive the country’s economy.

And there is apprehension that schools in the country produce graduates who can’t swank of skills. Again, there is angry-speech that a typical graduate in the country is unemployable. Hence, Nigeria is looking for a way to improve on her educational system for the enablement of her youth to be independent and acquire employable skills and re-skilling and retraining those that have.

Technical Innovation

It is believed that there are the fundamental energy needs of the normal rural family but few persons are educated about the technical knowhow. What those in this line of thought are suggesting is that every measure to put in place necessary teaching implements that will boost teaching, learning and skill is needed.

Government has said that this will enable entrepreneurial programmes in the Nigerian educational institutions. In November, 2015, the Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri, Dr. Cele Njoku was passionate about this with her 80-page, first foundational lecture of the institution, titled “Technical and Vocational Education and The Business Education Question.”

In making sure that Nigerians acquire skills in different occupations, at least, in October 2015, Osun and France signed N8bn solar plant agreement to build a 13 megawatts solar plant in the state. In November 2015, experts canvassed more initiatives on renewable energy. The Bank of Industry, BoI, and the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, saw the need in technical education and provided a long-term financing for the fitting of off-grid solar home systems “in six communities in a pilot phase.”

Even Major General Mohammadu Buhari, during the Nigeria Alternative Power Expo, NAPE, saw the need to call on investors in the power sector to modify stress towards environmentally friendly substitute sources of power generation in order to guard the ecosystem. The BoI Managing Director, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa, distinguished the need to impact on the lives of thousands of people through the initiative.

With vocational education in place, the quest for rural-urban migration won’t be fad; Mr. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in October 2015, promised enormous solar power in one year, while inspecting Solar power stands mounted at a Trade Fair by the Department of International Development (DFID), which was a follow up to the conformity signed between Nigeria and the UK for gigantic solar power in Nigeria.

In 2014, an assemblage of Nigerian engineers, technologists and scientists designed a state-of-the-art model solar car that was expected to put Nigeria on the technology and innovation internationally. They did not build the car with grammar, the Team leader and Creative Director, 9jaBOLT Solar Car Project, Mr. Ebube Ebisike said Nigeria was invited to officially contend as Africa’s sole delegate in the World Solar Challenge in October 18-25, 2015 in Adelaide, Australia.

Improving on vocational schools

Proprietors of vocational schools have called on Nigeria to come to their aid due to what they said is the expensive cost of running such institutions. According to a source, this is important, because “Most of them do not have required workshops, laboratories, buildings, and so on.”

The source went further, “We have 171 technical colleges approved so far but not up to a quarter of them have passed accreditation. Most are owned by state governments, only about 22 are owned by the Federal Government.”

The source added that Nigeria will expend about N1 billion to launch a technical college of international standard. This amount is both for the infrastructure and equipment. And in the 774 local government areas, it will cost Nigeria N774b.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.