What should education do for the country as an instrument of development? Issues such as what does the country want its citizens to be? Where should the country be in ten or fifteen years’ time in terms of the development of its people, resources and infrastructure? when the issue of education as a tool for development is raised.
According to the National Policy on Education in 1977, the Federal Government of Nigeria expressed awareness of the fact that “education is the most important instrument of change in any society”. And that “any fundamental change in the intellectual and social outlook of any society has to be preceded by an educational revolution”.
To further support this, the justification for the use of education as a useful tool for socio-economic development does not require any long argument or overthinking. It is quite simple: no development can meaningfully take place in any country unless you build the assets in human resources.
Indeed, it was the Late Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and former President of the Republic of South Africa, who alluded to this when he said that:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”
Unfortunately, its implementation has become a nightmare for many developing, especially the Sub-Saharan, countries where hap-hazard policy formulation and execution, coupled with either the absence or the lack of enforcement of ineffectual, laws and regulatory activities to guide educational development.
The recognition of national goals and the vehicle to be used in reaching those goals are one thing, identifying, harnessing and effectively executing them to achieve the desired effect is another. We now know that apart from the many flaws which have been identified in the National Policy on Education, the implementation has not been feasible as a result of several factors. These include the difficulty of meeting all the educational needs of a country with a large population of about 180 million people through the limited resources of government, the ever-changing terrain of education as guided by the local and global forces, the growing realisation that conventional formal schooling cannot meet the phenomenal appetite of Nigerians for Western type of education and acquisition of certificates, and the problems with finding all the necessary human and infrastructural facilities to educate people on a massive scale.
In a number of African countries, with Nigeria being a sterling example, whereas the cascading effects of all the levels of education are known to establish a composite whole in the implementation strategies of education for national development, each level is often taken in isolation of others. Furthermore, the apex of the system, being tertiary education, is often treated with planning that is not consistent with or designed for long-term success. In a number of cases, many institutions operate illegally and indeed many have been known to produce several cohorts of graduands without any law or operate with obsolete laws that are only fit to be consigned to the archives at best or oblivion in its actual sense.
A cardinal goal of the government’s commitment to transform Nigeria using education as a socio-economic development tool of the massification of quality education was through the Universal Basic Education.
Quite interestingly, right from the onset of the NPE in 1977, Open and Distance Learning had been identified as an integral part of education to be used for socio-economic development of the nation. It recognised ODL as a distinct sector of education to be organised nation-wide and given individual flexibility in the development of the human resources towards national development.
Article by: Busayo Tomoh