July 13, 2011

Conversations on Education*

CO (name withheld):

Every time the Nigerian government talks about being a top 20 economy by the year 2020, I can't help but think that the people that govern this country must have … with them. How on earth are we going to become a top 20 economy when all the annual indices are going south? This year again, we went down 3 notches to 137 out of 183 economies. The government says our economy grew by more than 7 percent, but when the annual worldwide indices come out, we go down several notches. Are these people ever going to admit that they have NO idea what they are doing or do they just plan to continue to waste our lives or arrest people who criticize them? I rest.

IA (name withheld):

Our economy is parasitic with too many rent collectors stealing from the State and investing abroad.

Secondly, we are largely uneducated in Nigeria. Even our degree holding leaders lack extra-curricular education. Education comes from wide reading and general understanding. Our leaders cannot see the impact of their stealing on the implosion of this country.

Western Nigerians are ahead of the rest of Nigeria because some visionary, Awolowo, as premier 50 odd years ago made education free and compulsory. Education impacts the economy because people are more enlightened, can challenge bad governance and become more productive generally. Together with education, we need massive national reorientation. Text messaging could be used as a platform for national orientation. I am sorry to say that we are a mediocre country. The law of averages applies: those who are thrown up as leaders are a fair average of who we are as a people: mediocre!


There is a disproportionate emphasis on "education". Educational certificates are supposed to be a testament of capability not an end in itself. Are you an automobile engineer but cannot service your own car? Engineer, Professor, Dr. Nnaji, for instance (no pun intended), can he wire his own house? Most of our educated people have no practical competence in what they studied. That is why we produce more graduates every year than any country in Africa but there is no real innovation and no entrepreneurship beyond the Onitsha Market variety – which is, go to Taiwan or China and import secondary school projects (products) and sell them. That is all we do. Get rich quick. No real investment of time, effort and money in an innovative endeavour.

I have said this before in my writings. I will say it again. We need to de-emphasize elitist education and emphasize proficiency. Not what degrees you have but what can you do. Not what qualifications you have but what do you do. Today most of the Ministers being sworn in have no real credentials in the portfolios they are being given. If you want to hire an employee in an IT department for instance, you don't judge him on the certificate he has alone (that can be “Oluwole” from US) but you put a computer on his lap and give him a practical test on the platform he is going to work on in a typical on-the-job scenario. I have no IT qualification but just this week alone I have saved my company thousands of Euros. I took over a development of a legacy system being done in the UK and completed it.

Take any of the ministers, what have they done in recent past to merit such promotion? Not the doctorate degrees, or the many papers and research thesis they have published and seminars they have attended. Not the places they have worked. But what did they achieve? Did any of them build a successful business, venture or enterprise without hanging on government contracts and patronage? Did any of them exceed expectations in the companies they ran or worked for? Did any of them introduce any novel innovation in any place they worked? what makes them exceptional to take up the portfolio to manage on a national scale?

The other day some guys hacked our own very Defence Academy website and posted trash on it. See report:

It took several days before those military academy people could put it down.

IA (name withheld)

Saint Eugene hi.

Conventional thinking is, education is an not an end in itself but a means to an end. I however have a contrary view. Education is an end in itself as well as a means to an end. It us crucial that every citizen is educated. The liberation of the mind which education brings cannot be compromised. Even if there are no jobs, education as an end in itself would equip many citizens to become entrepreneurs.

I agree with you though that our educational system is dysfunctional and certainly vocational education must be restored.

Thanks for sharing.

DK (name withheld)

Omission please. 


I do not agree that a professor of electrical engineering has anything to prove by wiring his home! For a productive resourceful mind working on new alloys which would reduce transmission losses THAT WOULD BE A LESS THAN OPTIMUM USE OF HIS TIME...

The academic has his role. The artisan too. It's about both being the best they could possibly be!


We agree on one thing. Education is a means as well as an end. Make no mistake I do not expect an engineer to be an artisan. That was not the point. You will notice that in my first writing education is in quote. But the point I make is that most people use education in Nigeria as a means to get lucrative appointments, employment and etc. The skills that education is supposed to impart are often never there. In this case many legitimate graduate certificates is as good Oluwole.

When I hire someone for a job. I will like to see that the person has the necessary skills (note not skill is this sense is not equivalent to certificate or academic qualification) for the job (50%), the education or academic qualification (30%) and the career profile and disposition of the person towards the job (20%). The last is also very important. Why? Because many people are employed in a job they are doing simply because they have no option or so they think. That is why you have many civil servants who are traders in the office or businessmen with their own interests in markedly different area than what they are employed to do on a regular basis. You know what then call such people? Round pegs in square holes. They are good and qualified but not for that position. A consequence is they only do just enough to get bye and they kill the innovation that should attend the time and effort that should have resulted from their jobs.

There are times when an employer benefits by hiring someone who is, to some degree, more skilled or qualified than is required for a job. There are also times when the employer looses. A contributing factor is corruption. When people are hired simply because they are “connected” then certificates are simply a way of justifying the hire rather than an evidence of skill or qualification.

What do you think about this?

*This is an on-going conversations among some of people in touch with this blog writer. Ideas expressed here have been slightly edited for clarity. The is not an advisory. See the disclaimer page.

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