The low standard of education in Nigeria and, in particular, parts of Northern Nigeria will continue to be a subject of debate among scholars and concerned section of the elite for the very good reason that education is the bedrock of any development-related ideas. It holds the key to enlightenment needed to raise the bar of knowledge essential for positive growth of whatever kind. Even more controversial is the issue of girl-child education. With the giant strides women are making in the society, it is curious that anyone would hold back thoughts about educating the girl-child in Northern Nigeria or anywhere else for that matter. Furthermore, the distinction being drawn by policy makers between what is termed western education and Islamic education is generating its own debate, needless as it is. The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, joined these debates in a thought-provoking speech he delivered at the convocation of the Nile University of Nigeria.
Cerebral as ever, the royal father, in his opinion, made it clear that the authorities in his part of the country had no reason not to provide education for the less privileged. He asserted that they were not doing enough to provide education to children in the region, Western or Islamic. He lamented that in discussions about the low level of education in the North, the blame is put on the victims. When it is not that parents refuse to send their wards, especially the female ones, to school, it is that the children themselves are not interested in going to school. He submitted, in what amounts to a confession, that before ascending the throne, he was of that frame of mind which realities on ground now indicate otherwise. First, he pointed out that the schools are not there to start with, and in the few places that have schools, poverty is a big hindrance, an obstacle on the path of children desirous to acquire education in whatever hue it may exist.
Having analysed the situation, he made a few suggestions that, in the opinion of this newspaper, sound not only immensely reasonable but also cost effective. Mosques are commonplace in parts of the north. Sanusi is of the view that they must be made part of the educational infrastructure where they can serve as school classrooms in between prayer times. Also, he admonished the wealthy class in the north to make a conscious effort to be part of the funding of education; they should be able to put in place scholarship schemes directed at the children of the poor. The economist-cum-royal-father said that subsidy on petroleum products that benefit only few must be channelled into more useful purposes such as providing education for the less privileged members of the society. We commend the royal father for his illuminating insights that we think are practicable as the nation grapples with ways of resolving the crisis in the education sector. We agree with his position that there is nothing like Islamic education or western education as both dwell on the same subjects that aim at opening up the mind and expanding the worldview of the beneficiaries. He was spot on, in our view, when he said that education is important in the life of everyone without which it is difficult to be a good human being, let alone a good Muslim or Christian.
It is a cliché to suggest that a major challenge confronting education in the country is the issue of funding. That is too obvious even to the uninitiated. Consistently, the government at all levels, in their budgets, give the impression that education is a luxury and so does not deserve to attract the kind of funding prescribed by world bodies like the United Nations (UN) and its arm, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Sadly, when the governments make reference to the provision of infrastructure, they point to roads and bridges. More money is spent on roads, for instance, than on education, and that explains why out of school children end up on those roads as miscreants and nuisance to the rest of the society. Nigeria has also continued to, perennially, feature abysmally low on the world’s Human Development Indices for the fact that investment in human capital development is not as enhanced as it should be. This has been attributed the incidences of poverty, malnutrition, ill-health, crime, criminality and insecurity. Poor quality education is also impacting negatively on the quality of governance in the country with is inevitable implication of a misconception of what it means to be in government.
We join Emir Sanusi to urge the government and the wealthy class to declare war on ignorance by making education available to all. No nation in the world has ever recorded growth and development without giving education a pride of place in the scheme of things.
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