The Fab Tale
Smiling, stabbing behind
Patting, kicking the hind
Laughing, frustrating the vine
Embracing, closing on the ravine
Traitors, lilied cowards
Threatening another’s ward
Demolishing their future’s walls
But yours, taste never the rod
What hope has the tutored?
With over-bloated tuition
Out of the grasp of their talons
Who will save the shallow?
The fab tale is a façade
A beautifully disguised fraud
Lacking temerity of a face-off
Deserving a unanimous fatwa
ENYA Domeremember John
So the change-touting federal government increased school fees in unity schools! From about N20,000 to N75,000 (as if the imposed economic hardship on Nigerians is not hard enough!). And from reports, several students are presently at home, as their parents cannot afford the tuition. What was a strategic tool in the education of Nigerian children, providing quality education at a subsidized rate has been taken out of the reach of the average Nigerian household. (See Jonah Ibiamagabara’s piece here for an explanation of unity schools).
The federal government claims it is a necessary step due to dwindling revenues, which is a fact. But, correct me if I am wrong, was it not this same federal government who just subsidized pilgrimage to Mecca, giving out the dollar at N197 instead of the market rate of over N400? (And will do the same during Easter to Christians). Is it not this federal government that maintains a presidential fleet of ten planes with its attendant maintenance cost? Where is our priority?
One of the major reasons why we are where we are today is because successive governments have neglected education. Our institutions of learning are but shadows of their former selves. Dilapidated structures, insufficient amenities, poorly trained, remunerated and motivated teachers are some of the ills our schools are facing. State governments are also culpable. For instance, primary school teachers in Cross River State have not been paid for three months. If you add September, it becomes four months. As a result primary schools are presently shut down. It is the same story all over Nigeria. Is it that our leaders do not yet understand the value of education? Or is it just plain wickedness? For if they do not understand the value of education, then why do they always send their own children to study abroad? How can you subsidize personal pilgrimage, but cannot subsidize education! What is the practical value of a personal religious trip to national development? How does it improve productivity? Who e epp?
The reason the economy is bleeding due to low oil prices is because there is no diversification. The government gets most of its revenue from oil. Other sectors of the economy are performing poorly. The economy must be diversified if the government hopes to create more effective sources of revenue. But how do you diversify the economy without training the necessary manpower? And how do you train the necessary manpower without education? See the connection?
We cannot achieve industrialization without education; the right kind of education. Throwing money at the problem will not solve it. If more money was the answer, then we would have become industrialized during booms in oil prices. Borrowing from The World Bank, China, Paris Club, or whichever money-lending clubs are out there is an exercise in futility. It is in periods such as this that a government should sit down and plan, and set its priorities right.
I am not against cost cutting by the government. But it should not be targeted at schools. There are several other avenues to cut cost. Reduce the number of political appointees, reduce how much politicians earn, reduce the over-bloated civil service, and tackle corruption. You punish poor Nigerians, but turn a blind eye to a National Assembly that pride itself on its budget padding prowess. That is cowardice!
And another thing the government has failed to understand is that there is a direct correlation between a people’s level of education and their governability. You cannot neglect education if you want to have civilized and law-abiding citizens. Of course the prevalent illiteracy and ignorance among the people benefit the political class. It is easier to deceive uneducated people. But let them not forget that even if they send their children abroad to study, they will still come back to face an ignorant crowd that will be a constant thorn in their flesh.
I conclude with this question: if Boko Haram says that “Western education is sin,” what is the federal government saying through its actions?