About two years ago, over 200 Nigerian school girls were abducted by the miscreant group known as Boko Haram and their whereabouts have remained unknown despite widespread protests, opinions and government efforts which also attracted help from the international community. After that, there have been so many instances of kidnapping and abduction while government efforts have also been truncated by some misfits within the government itself. This paints a picture of a government or nation that is divided against itself.
There is no gain saying that there have been many other cases of abduction and kidnapping but somehow or for some reasons the victims of these abductions have been liberated and reunited with their families except for those abducted from the very grounds of their academic institutions. For me, this is a pointer to the priority placed on education by our government. Aside Nigeria, I am not sure of any other nation with legally constituted government where over 200 school children (either boys or girls) could be missing for close to two years without clues. Does this pass for a Guinness World Record?
Now there is another round of abduction from a school in Ikorodu Lagos and we are yet to know the fate of these children. You may wonder how this spells doom for the economy and the economic policies of the current administration. Nigerian government has been struggling with ways of easing the nation’s balance of trade while other internal problems pose countering threats to those efforts.
Now that oil revenues have remained unstable and there are high tariffs on luxury goods while some importations do not qualify for foreign exchange purchases from the Central Bank, the most likely source of increase in foreign exchange demand is the procurement of security gadgets, small arms and light weapons by colleges and their proprietors who want to protect their students and ensure that they remain in business by all means. Other parents who have the means will inevitably take their primary and secondary age children to safer countries near and far. Therefore, payment of school fees to foreign schools will also increase significantly, pushing up capital flight volume due to tuition payment abroad.
The idea of foreign education became widespread due to the inability of our universities to create and teach knowledge that is relevant to professional practice; only the hours of study and names of most of the schools meet international standards. Contents and quality of delivery have been wanting for a long while now. To the extent that Nigerians now co-own colleges in Republic of Benin, Lomé and Ghana, everyone except those who cannot afford it prefers to study “anywhere” outside Nigeria.
The pace of rising insecurity of lives of students within our colleges will surely make worse the present precarious experience and those who once coped by turning to the private schools will now have more than enough reasons to jettison that option. That way, our schools will experience the same fate that met our textile factories, departmental stores, airlines, manufacturing giants and the other economic actors that have either died or relocated to other countries.
These analyses and predictions sound logical; however it is uncertain if and when they will become real but of course if nothing is done quickly and seriously, what do we think will become of this country? What would it be like to live in Nigeria or even be called a Nigerian?
Originally, Nigerians look for undergraduate and postgraduate admissions for their children abroad specifically in countries like the UK, US, South Africa, Canada, Australia, India, Ghana, Republic of Benin and Togo. Now, we should expect the same trend for the primary and secondary school admissions. This trend started due to poor quality of education but now the need for security is reinforcing the incentives for parents to take their children to foreign schools. We would agree that insecurity in schools is a more compelling reason than poor quality education for considering foreign schools. Therefore, given the unfolding threat to security of students, we should expect an exodus of students out of Nigeria. Something like, the future of Nigeria gradually going into extinction.
Before things get that bad, the increasing outflow of money from the economy will first render the fiscal and economic policies of the present administration useless and it would become really difficult if not impossible to strengthen the Naira not against the dollar or the Pounds alone but also against the currencies of our neighbouring African countries.
It is a terrible thing for any nation or government to lose the confidence of her own people. Much as there are many Nigerians who still believe in the efforts of the present administration and the hope of a better Nigeria, an unsecured growing population is a big threat to patriotism, national unity and continuity. That being said, there is the need for an unwavering sincerity, communication, reassurance based on activities not promises to win the confidence and feeling of security amongst the people.
Hitherto, one of the biggest challenges to resolving the problems of the education sector like that of most other sectors in Nigeria has been the profession of simple solutions to complex problems. Our policy makers and leaders need to be able to think on their feet and take decisions proactively. We need leaders who embrace dialogic discourse and multiple collaborations to transform Nigeria. There are other problems that are as bad as corruption in Nigeria and government needs to give equal if not greater attention to them.
As we fight corruption, we should also be very steadfast in growing the economy and in doing that, education cannot be relegated to a place of low priority or indifference. A less corrupt nation where people become poorer by the day due to contracting economy does not sound like a great place to work or live. The permutations to lift Nigeria out of the present circumstances are not so linear and simplistic or the efforts will amount to sheer waste of time and opportunities.
Named as the Best Young Manager in South-West Nigeria (2013), Olugbenro Oyekan is the Dean of School and Associate Professor of Practice in Management at the International School of Management (ISM) Lagos.