Making our Education Work

One of the grimmest realities of life in Nigeria is that there are not enough jobs to go round or available. This reality a lot of times is hidden to undergraduates who finish school filled with hope of securing employment immediately, especially from major firms or the Federal Government. But in a country where half a million university graduates are churned out each year and less than 100,000 jobs created annually, that dream comes to reality for only those at the top of their class or in our quite nepotistic world, to those who have connections or are favoured. This isn’t entirely the failure of the economy, but more a failure of our educational systems and societal mind-sets. In Nigeria, we are more concerned with the attainment of degrees and amassing of titles via education rather than truly learning and using that knowledge to provide solutions to contemporary problems. While I was thinking about this scenario, I came across this blog post that captured it excellently. The post described African intellectuals as "lazy scum", which I quite agree with, minus the somewhat harsh description. There is a serious lacuna in our society between being educated and applying that knowledge to add value through creating solutions. The typical Nigerian graduate knows only what he has been taught, and that which he learned more or less by rote memory. It is a classic case of garbage-in, garbage-out. He has no idea of how to use it by himself...

To solve the problems prevalent in his environment. Unless this gulf is bridged, Nigerian graduates would continue to find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to employment opportunities. This is because the creation of solutions to problems in an environment adds value to that environment, and once value is created and it is in demand, a job has been created. This is the first step to creating entrepreneurs or job creators out of our Nigerian students. It is not so much a function of updating the curricula of our schools to world-class standards, as much as it is of teaching them to use the knowledge learnt in classrooms and workshops and labs, combined with the local knowledge around them to craft solutions to problems. It also requires a paradigm shift in the mind-sets of the students themselves. Like I always tell people, there is always, always something you can do in your immediate environment that can solve a problem, and in the long-run provide you with a job. This mental shift comes with the realization that there aren’t just enough jobs out there, and there might not be one for you unless you create yours. Moreover, the energy that is unlocked within you when you feel like you have the Holy Grail of energy to a contemporary problem is much more satisfying than a routine job, even more than one that just requires sitting at a desk all day.

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