The state of education in Africa is a tale of depression and a story of gloom. It was not always this way, but Africa has become a nation or continent that ignores its future and youth, that guarantees poverty and dejection.
I grew up on the continent of Africa; the region was West Africa, precisely, Nigeria. Growing up was fun, and I enjoyed the great stories and successes of different African educational luminaries. This changed over the years as a result of neglect and corruption at the foundational levels across the board. I was fortunate to go to an excellent primary school, the University of Lagos Staff School. This was my foundation and helped lay the groundwork for my early childhood development.
However, all of this changed in the nineties, when suddenly I found myself at a premium university Ahmadu Bello University.
This great institution, located in the northern part of Nigeria, is a place of pride and honor; it boasts of some of the best luminaries the country has produced. I hate to admit that we have contributed to destroying the fabric of our nation also. How best can you explain spending ten years in a four-year program as a result of strikes at the local and national levels of the society?
The current state:
The best rated Nigerian university is currently ranked number 3000+ in the global ranking. Let us put this in some perspective: Harvard University, a private university in the USA, boasts an endowment fund of over 30 billion dollars; this is more than the national reserves of most African nations and more than the federal budget of some countries.
The education gap is extremely wide at the moment, and early childhood education is a foundation and legacy in which every nation must invest. Asians are investing an enormous amount in their children’s education and even in some cases mandating children to learn English at school to make them competitive in the global market. Israel, India, Japan, Brazil, and Cuba are exporting their intellectual capital at the moment. It will be a futile effort and a waste of time to try to bridge the gap; it’s almost impossible with the current model. I am proposing a radical approach as described in the future state.
Education in Africa at the current state cannot compete on a global scale. I will use Nigeria as an example. Here are some tough proposals that will challenge conventional thinking.
Education should not be a focus on the certificate but be a strong emphasis on skills and the application of the knowledge. I am proposing the following options:
- Rural and community innovation centers: These facilities will focus on educating locals in the rural community on basic hands-on skills that are teachable and transferable. An example will be teaching villages and locals how to assemble and decouple solar panels; we will trigger innovations whereby locals will use the solar panels to power their homes while learning skills on the basic use of technology at the grassroots level, using their local languages for a start in those areas. There must also be secure communication centers where the locals will share ideas via a radio station that will be broadcasted and coordinated by the locals as a way of showcasing their innovations and skills. Every year, there will be regional competitions sponsored and promoted at the local government level.
- Rising Stars Incubator program: This program will focus on primary, secondary, and university students in Nigeria. The program is designed to focus our children on going to community centers to learn how to build and innovate in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. This will work by challenging all the religious organization receiving government tax credits (churches and mosques) and organizations that want to qualify for research tax credits to provide facilities like community centers. The community will vote for the chosen centers, and these will be the training centers.
- Federal Programs (NYSC): This program model should be immediately changed and focused on three major programs yearly whereby the government will use the skills and talents to achieve primary innovation goals for the country. Imagine a scenario in which highspeed rails construction takes place in a region of the country. All corporations with science, engineering, or management backgrounds should be at this location to use their skills to build, supervise, learn, and implement the building of railroads. The expatriates could initially oversee the project, but within a month, our locals should have the skills to execute the project continuously. We could target other projects such as agri-business in the midwest part of the country and allow all corporations to focus on it for some time. Finally, a state will be the hub of technology startup and innovation.
Universities and Polytechnics:
There must be a one-year freeze period focused on national security and development. You may ask “Why?” For one, the educational system is in a current crisis. The proposed solution will be to make every university a center of project building and innovation for particular projects. One example can be seen at the University of Lagos, which given a full mandate to develop and implement a complete working prototype of a waste management system in the slums of Lagos. Meanwhile, at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria has a mandate to design a functional, made-in-Nigeria car within a year. Reverse engineering is not rocket science, so we can import the parts and decouple and reverse engineer this kind of product to build working prototypes. The prototypes will allow students to learn and create a unique product for Nigeria. In the final example, we can look to Federal Polytechnic. Here, Ibadan was given the mandate to develop a model–in conjunction with an earth scientist–to develop ways in which we can build a road with local Nigerian products. The road will be accessible and affordable for every Nigerian business.
All of these projects at can be funded at government expense while the students will take full credit for these initiatives with a badge of honor towards graduation.