As we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of Nigerian Independence, our nation stands at the doorstep of dynamic opportunity. As the largest economy in Africa and home to more than 168 million citizens and growing, there is no shortage of bold ambitions for the future development of Nigeria. And yet, despite our large population and considerable resources, we have consistently fallen short of this promised greatness.
If we are to maintain Nigeria’s ascendance, we must ensure that investment is funneled to our future and that education is prioritized as a rightful cornerstone of our thought leadership. This mantra should be applied in our policies and noticeable in the thoughts and actions of our governmental stewards.
There are wellsprings of opportunity throughout this country, sons and daughters who have the potential to reshape Nigerian history. Investment in education will not only allow our children the fundamental right of learning and honing their skills here in-country but will instill a critical sense of patriotism and state pride, as opposed to disillusionment and perhaps even disdain.
Education is ultimately a pillar of infrastructural development and here in Nigeria, it is in dire need of a sectorial audit and overhaul.
Our children are not properly overseen during the typical school day and how can they be? Our teachers are not afforded salary at a scale that they rightly deserve, our classrooms, state to state, continue to be inadequately equipped, our student to textbook ratio is abysmal and our drop-out rates directly correlate to unemployment and subsequently crime.
We stand at the precipice of true globalization – the era of the e-economy has dramatically and forever altered our domestic and international marketplace. Is it not possible to today incentivize our children to stay in Nigeria and have access to technology that will allow them to engage at a newly competitive level?
I am tremendously proud of our efforts to revitalize the technological infrastructures of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and commend those that have been spearheading the development of e-libraries throughout the nation, enabling our students to have access to high-speed internet and, in many cases (sadly not all), an uninterrupted flow of electricity.
Our leaders must begin to recognize that more funds should be dedicated to the building and repairs of schools, salaries and training of teachers, and a strong development of curriculum. Thanks to our God-given abundance of natural resources, the national budget has grown to such a size that we’ve succeeded in initiating this $1 billion sovereign wealth fund, which will hopefully grow in the future, while our foreign reserves have risen to some $47 billion. And yet despite this wealth, as a nation we only contribute approximately 8% of the national budget to education, compared with neighboring countries like Ghana, which contribute 31%.
To better understand the critical nature of the need for educative reform and assert how important refinancing the sector is as a state and federal priority, perhaps it is best to address the ramifications of doing nothing. A lack of education creates national voids impossible to fill. It begets indoctrination that fuels the militant insurgent movement. Rising insecurity, ranging from violence, kidnapping and thefts, as seen in the South to extremist terrorism in the North is the direct result of millions of young men with no hope of jobs.
Poor education begets unemployment. It affects our aspirations to cultivate our vast arable lands due to a shortfall in vocational expertise. In September 2013 during a visit to Abuja, a World Bank country representative cited an unemployment rate of 22% in Nigeria. When looking at young men and women, the rate climbs to 38%.
Considering that 60% of our population is under the age of 53, we have an increasingly unsustainable situation.
Moreover, it seeps away from us Nigeria’s best and brightest. Affluent families can afford to and often do send their children abroad. Those learned children have no inherent ties to the country, nor to returning to fill a professional deficit simply in the name of charity.
From my modest upbringing and commitment to my family, as the son of two teachers, to my time studying at the Harvard Business School, I have always felt obliged to deepen my roots in Nigeria and do my part to serve as a proponent for academic transformation.
If Nigeria is able to steadfastly pursue these new investments, determined reforms, and open innovations, the dividends that will be paid back in the future may indeed be immeasurable. The condition in which we deliver our nation to the next generation will undoubtedly define their ability to shape our history as a nation and society.