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Skills to Build Nigeria

Not long ago, American president, Barack Obama made a veracious remark. He said, “Folks can make a lot more by learning a trade than they might make with an art history degree”. Long before then, the late Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew had warned that “Poetry is a luxury we cannot afford” -Talking about his country of course. These two great leaders were pivotal at different times to the transformation of their countries. They understood something we need to understand now. Nigeria must be bold enough to face the fact that not all training or education are useful to us at this point in our development. Some are ridiculously lousy and wasteful of time, money and intellectual capital. Education is a beautiful idea no doubt. It is perhaps the most beautiful idea even much more than democracy, but what is more useful is a thoughtful and strategic kind of education: One that is directed at solving real problems, as against one that encourages us to dwell in wishful thinking. 

At the risk of being the devil’s advocate, let me quietly present that Nigeria’s problems lie in the type of training and education we dish out. Look around you; we have created a society where practical skills are perhaps the scarcest commodities. We struggle to find good hands in almost all areas. Mechanics constantly struggle with their trial and error approach, tailors damage fabrics, carpenters are not precise in their measurements, and fabricators hunt us with poor finishes. Go a bit higher and you see doctors in confusion, engineers only on papers, teachers throwing bad grammar at our young stars. Go further and you see our leaders more confused than their followers – not sure of what to do with the scarce human and material resources at their disposal. All of these are bound to leave us in a state of frustration where refineries cannot function dues to lack of know-how at various levels, electricity cannot be generated because we don’t know how to and won’t allow the ones that do carry it out, house collapse here and there. The stories are endless.

 

There is a sad shortage of skills in Nigeria and it is the reason we are where we are. We don’t know how to fix the country and despite what anybody will claim, this author maintains that we don’t. If we do, we would have. And yes, there is and always has been a leadership crisis but even that, is a direct result of the lack of skills on several levels.

So many factors contribute to the shortage or lack of useful skills in Nigeria. The most profound is the worrying disconnect between education providers, policy makers and the society we live in. Policy makers develop education programmes for educators to give out without taking a sober look at what the present day society (government, businesses, hospitals, hotels, etc.) really needs. Recent empirical data shows that, nearly 80% of employers blamed inadequate training for the shortfall in results. The result of poor training shows itself everywhere: one of the most elite government programmes in Nigeria is the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), as it proudly projects the nation’s next batch of development implementers. Yet In October 2013, official figures from the NYSC lamented that 89% of corps’ members in the country that year could not write good letters in English language (the official language of business, education and government in Nigeria).

It is also reported that over a million jobs remain unfilled every year in Nigeria because job seekers lack the skills employers (public and private) need, and without an urgent remedy for this mismatch of demand and supply of talent, the unemployment rate will go even higher. In response, some organizations invite foreign talents, others can’t afford them hence improvise and do shabby jobs. The rest close their doors.

What can we do as a nation? We need to de-emphasise certain type of education and embrace the ones that have direct benefit. In the 19th and 20th century, apprenticeship was a common practice all-over the world. People were sent to shops and factories to learn through action, it helped develop the technologies and comfort the world now enjoys in the 21st century, but this method has become obsolete. What we should do as a nation, and urgently at that, is to introduce real-life modular systems that will help in the transfer of practical and useful skills at various levels in our education and training system. The idea lies in the dissemination and acquisition of practical skills that are needed for the building of our economy, military, government, etc. it is skills that build economies. This is what we need to do to move to the next level as a nation.

2019-05-09T08:58:34+00:00May 9th, 2019|