Nigeria’s salvation lies in education

President Muhammadu Buhari, speaking this week in his hometown of Daura, Katsina state, said Nigeria’s socio-economic and political salvation would come from education. Express desire to acquire education, and the government will do its best to provide access to education, the president tells Nigerians.

If the timing of the president’s admonition to Nigerians was apt, the venue of the speech was, as usual, strategically chosen. It was in his country home, Daura, when he was honoured as part of the programmes lined up to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the famous Community Secondary School, Daura. The president and five others founded the Community Secondary School as part of their community service to the area.

Recalling his childhood in Daura, the president said he became an orphan at a young age. He said he was sent to spend nine years in boarding school and joined the army thereafter. “I spent nine years in the boarding school where the teachers showered us with love, care and total commitment. They treated you as their own children,” he said. “They commended you when you did well, and flogged you on bare buttocks if you misbehaved.”

He praised the current management of the school, which is now renamed Pilot Secondary School, Daura, for maintaining high standards.

Of course, the need to maintain standards in schools cannot be overemphasised. In fact, without doing so, education and training will be meaningless because through education, the culture of productivity is promoted by enabling individuals to discover and unlock their latent creative potentials in them and apply same to improve efficiency of their personal and societal efforts.

Education teaches good values to the citizens which make them good and useful citizens in the society. Such values include honesty, selflessness, dedication, patriotism, national integrity, hard work, etc. These are qualities of good leadership which are grossly lacking in Nigeria.

For about two decades after independence, Nigeria maintained high qualitative educational standards and indirectly a positive development index. Teachers, like the president said, exerted to train their pupils and were highly regarded by the society. Graduates of Nigerian universities were highly sought for. But from 1980s, the fabric of Nigerian education system started to degenerate and today the country’s school system is suffering a progressive decline.

Primary school pupils hardly have enough seats to sit or enough teachers. Many secondary schools hardly perform experiments or practicals while tertiary institutions are poorly funded and lack infrastructure. The Nigerian teacher is the most important educator in these institutions. Regrettably, his fortunes have suffered serious decline.

Today, the erstwhile highly esteemed and respected teacher is treated shabbily by the society. The previous Nigeria governments have woefully failed to fund education to the extent of making a significant impact on the educational system.

Yet, education is a vital investment for human and economic development and it is influenced by the environment within which it exists. Changes in technology, labour market patterns and general global environment, all require policy responses. Traditions, culture and faith all reflect upon the education system a community is exposed to.

The element of continuity and change remains perpetual and it is up to the society to determine its pace and direction. We are living in an inquiring and innovation-oriented society. The demand of 21st century is novelty, creativity, and integration of knowledge at global level, research, critical and analytical thoughts.

Rapidly, social changes are creating uncertainty and complexity in the society. To prepare the children and youth to cope with the present situation, students need to develop analytical and critical thinking, skill and attitude that would make them more flexible and innovative to deal with uncertainty and crises at national and global level.

The greatest need of the hour is to re-design our country’s curriculum, textbooks, teaching methodology and children’s literature, formal and non-formal education systems.

Schools of the future, such as the type envisaged by the president, will be designed for both learning and thinking. In fact, in the developed countries now, schools and colleges are being asked to produce men and women who can think, who can make new scientific discoveries, who can find more adequate solutions to impelling world problems, who cannot be brainwashed, men and women who can adapt to change and maintain sanity in this age of acceleration.

This is a creative challenge to education which Nigeria must be ready to face.

This explains why contemporary world attention has focused on education as an instrument of launching nations into the world of science and technology and with consequential hope of human advancement in terms of living conditions and development of the environment.

This is because, education, in the life of a nation, is the live wire of its industries and also the foundation of moral regeneration and revival of its people. It is also the force and bulwark of any nation’s defence and it has been observed that no nation rises above the level of its education.

Thus, the country’s education sector needs proper funding from federal, state and local governments to make the sector produce the desired results which will stimulate national development. Currently, little or nothing is gained from the education sector because of its neglect by previous governments, corruption and policy inconsistencies.

However, education is a vital instrument for national development but it cannot grow more than the political system which makes the policies that regulate education. A country that does not have good and quality leadership cannot have a sound educational system that is capable of contributing adequately to national development.

Therefore, like the president, we all must change our attitude to education and offer selfless service to the country. Universities, especially, must play a central role in rebuilding Nigeria’s economy and meeting the country’s most crucial need of infrastructural development.

Garba Shehu: 60 garlands for ideal spokesperson

Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, celebrated his 60th birthday recently.

Expectedly, many people have paid glowing tributes to Garba Shehu who is seen, especially, by his professional colleagues as a true epitome of journalism.

In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari said: “I salute you on the milestone. You deserve every good thing that can come your way. You stand in for me at very crucial times, and I congratulate you.”

Buhari prayed that God will give Garba Shehu longer life in good health so that he will continue to serve the country to the best of his ability.

Like the president, many others pray for Garba Shehu because in him, everyone could find themselves. To some, his unassuming demeanour represents the triumph of the human spirit over many battles in life.

To others, his quiet presence represents endurance of his struggle for the enthronement of quality journalism which will be the envy of journalists and members of other professions alike.

And the bright spark that is always in the eyes of Garba Shehu represents the kind of future we all hope for as journalists.

Yet, there was something particularly profound about Garba Shehu. Beyond the small frame and the scholarly look lay a compassionate individual who made everyone feel easy around him.

He radiates a depth and intelligence with a great understanding of humanity, with all its foibles. He also had great compassion as a result of his vast life experience. As a reputable journalist, he still respects media practitioners, from wherever and regardless of their status.

His humility and simplicity are second to none, making young professionals working around him to develop their confidence and professionalism and aim only to achieve perfection in their work.

Little wonder, Garba Shehu is variously described as a darling of reporters and PR practitioners. In Garba Shehu, reporters find someone, a big, reputable man, who quickly responds to their questions at any given time and on any matter, thereby closing the communication gap, which if allowed to remain open for too long, could wreak havoc, particularly in the relationship between the leaders and the led.

Tellingly, Garba Shehu is a stickler to time who works virtually 24/7. To him, the work of a spokesperson has no beginning or closing hours, especially in this era of recklessness being exhibited in social media which necessitates quick response to bunkums.

On this note, therefore, I join million others to wish this competent, high-flying and humble journalist happy birthday and good health.

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