Sunday, 31 January 2016

An Educated Mind With An Idle Hand; The Devil’s Amoured Tank

This title was inspired from a recent public debate organized by Prof Pat Utomi, with its crux being whether skills acquisition should be mandatory in tertiary institutions or not. Meditating over this topic, I became nostalgic and started to have a reminiscence of my childhood days with grandma. She was a woman who controls a bountiful and overwhelming respect basically for her height of literacy and passion for education. Grandma was the principal of a secondary school in my home town for a lengthy period until she peacefully kicked the bucket. The most important moment this topic made me remember was her usual mantra “Arakunrin (young boy), if you want to be somebody in life, go to school, study very hard and get yourself a good job” I am much older now and I begin to wonder why she never said “Arakunrin, if you want to be somebody in life, go to school, study very hard and CREATE jobs.” After all, there is an evident discrepancy between seeking for a job and creating one. Grandma, no apologies, your words were for the days of yore, we are in a new dawn. Unfortunately, we have been bamboozled by the ill and hereditary mentality of seeking for jobs after tertiary education and that counts as a reason why we still remain in a pathetic economic ecosystem.

Skill in this context is the quality of performance which is derived and developed through training and practice. Today’s youths have found themselves in a niche of numerous employable opportunities but with little employment opportunities. However, these opportunities can only be employable if one possesses the gifted hands and make judicious use of them even if the white collar system is not welcoming. In my personal opinion, the best institution to sharpen these gifted hands is the tertiary institution.

One of the inadequacies of the Nigerian tertiary education system is that it has failed to groom students for self-employment in the labour market. The egregious norm of always seeking for jobs after school has developed the mindset of being a job seeker and not a job maker. However, many graduates of today have become unrepentant job seekers, dauntless in their job search despite not being oblivious that job competition is becoming tougher and our unemployment status is near the double digit radar. Adequate machineries should be put in place by the government in order to incorporate several skills acquisition programmes into the curriculum of tertiary institutions so as to equip undergraduates for self-creation of numerous opportunities when they get to the labour market.

Going by the popular religious quote, “Man shall not live by bread alone but…” Permit me to phrase my version which goes thus; man shall not live by certificates alone but by every skills that cometh from his higher education. I believe this should be the general mentality in an economy like ours that has suffered from four consecutive increases in the unemployment figure. As at the third quarter of 2015, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reported that unemployment was 9.9% an increase from 8.2% of the second quarter with youths culminating 50% of the figure. I madden seeing the ridiculous status skills acquisition enjoy in present days. Only a few are conscious of the fact that the future of the Nigerian economy lies in the hands of those who possess entrepreneurial abilities and can display the dynamics of the operation of the hands. The Nigerian Universities Commission should see to the redesigning of both public and private tertiary institutions to enable skills acquisition and entrepreneurial prowess before graduation. If this is actualized, graduates will get to enjoy diverse number of job opportunities at their disposal. In addition, it will help to stab to death the monstrous malady of unemployment ravaging our nation.

It is tragic and unfortunate that the government has not accomplished the task of actualizing item four of the National Policy on Education which aims to acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society. Let me pronto sound to the helmsmen, a country’s development is a function of its manpower. Ditto, many academics have opined that effective skills acquisition in education is sine qua non to a self-reliant economy.
According to JAMB, there are 378 tertiary institutions in Nigeria, this figure should never make one imagine a whooping shortage of skilled manpower but the reverse is the case. This is sorrowful and embarrassing! As a reminder, the modus operandi of today’s higher institutions is mere theoretical delivery, relegating practicality to obscurity. Little wonder many Nigerian graduates have become ‘theoretical robots’ delivering only what is read on paper and failing to showcase what can be done with their hands. Education is not about sharpening the brain alone but also the hands. It is high time the government delivered our tertiary institutions from the hangover and overdose effect of theoretical delivery to embrace a practical dispensation of education.

In conclusion, there has to be a paradigm shift to provide a juxtaposition of academic and vocational skills. This can only be a successful accomplishment, if the curriculum of tertiary institutions is restructured, there should be a synergy between the government and private sector and the various vocational skills should be aligned to the interest of the students based on the skills they want to acquire.

This article was written by Abubakar Muideen Oladayo. A 200 level student of the Department of Economics, Obafemi Awolowo University.
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