With the exemption of primary and postgraduate studies, I am a product of Nigeria public school system. In fact, I remember that when I was writing my common examination, it was my aspiration and the aspirations of my classmates and friends to gain admission into Federal Government College. Imagine that our biggest dreams as children, 30 years ago was to get into public schools. Because to come home with an admission letter from say Ijanikin or Kings College or FGC Ajazare or Ogbomosho or Okigwe was to join a very distinguish club that included our elder brothers and sisters, our bigger cousins, our unties and uncles, our mothers and fathers even our ground parents in some cases.
And so, it was with pride that you would go to the tailor to sow your boarding school clothes, and to the market to buy the cutlass that you will use to cut grasses in school. It was a pride that you dragged your box full of your clothes and provisions through the school gate at resumption. With pride you chose your bed space at the dormitory and hooked up your mosquito net. With pride you followed your mates to the tap in the morning to fetch water to bath. With Pride you pin your school bags to your chest and sang the school anthems at the assembly hall with your set. With pride you introduced yourselves anywhere you went as a student of Nigeria public school.
But where is that pride today? thirty years ago, it was the aspiration of my parents for me to go to Nigeria public school, what is my aspiration for my children today? What is your aspiration for your children today? I will tell you, you send them abroad for education and if you cannot afford this you send them to a private school and if you cannot afford to do this, then you will be very reluctantly considering the Nigeria public schools. So in thirty years our public schools have gone from been the first choice for our children to been the last. To me this is one of the saddest commentary on the state of governance of our country over the last thirty years.
And the trend bad state of Nigeria public school worries me more than what is happening in the North- East or in the South-South. It worries me more that the states of our bad roads and the epileptic nature of our power supply in this country. And I will tell you why.
- firstly, education especially when it is generally accessible is a bridge builder for the public school system is often a seen of very many important social first. It may be the first time the son of the rich would share a bunk bed with the child of the poor. It may be the first time a Christian would share a desk with a Muslim. It may be the first time a boy born and bred in Abba would be best friend with a boy born and bred in Zanfara, so that they would jump fence together, cut grass together, watch toilet together. And so forty odd years later when this boy from Zanfara now a man here is one of his colleague in office may be say “you know how all these Igbo people are, they are all the same” he is able to interject and say “no I went to Federal Government College Enugu and my best friend then was Chinedu, so no that is not how all Igbo people are”. I tell you the future of a multi-cultural nations like our’s depend on interjections like this in every conversation up and down in this country.
- Secondly, education particularly when it is secular and broad-based, helps to great shared social perspectives. But in this country where it is not possible to choose or change your own tribe. Education create a brand new tribe, one that can be freely chosen by anyone regardless of their background. And what tribe is this? The tribe of those who value knowledge, who respect empirical data, who deflect to superior argument, who are life-long admirer of reasoning. For now, you know that HIV/AID cannot be cured by having a bath, and that it is the competence and not the ethnicity of a man that fly the plane. Now know that meningitis is a disease of the body, not of the soul, but the soul carries diseases such as tribalism and bigotry. It education that gives you this capability and respect what is a fact that in all cases, regardless of the faith, or the tribe or the social background of the person that point the fact to you.
- Finally, education especially when it is qualitative and broad-based it helps to moderate social tension; this is the tension between the “Haves” and the “Haves-Not” for by giving poor people the same quality education with the rich, you are not only giving them the capacity to change their social-economic circumstance, you give them capacity how to moderate how the express grievance over that social-economic circumstance. In a country that is deeply divided over tribe and faith, to neglect the education of the generality of our people, in a country where peace depends on our ability to carry out very sensitive conversation over potentially explosive issues.
To neglect Nigeria public school is not just to ask for trouble, is to guaranty trouble. For in the end, the society cannot rise above the level of its public school. So that to predict the future of a society, what you need to examine is not the contents of speeches of its politicians what you need to examine is the quality of its curriculums for its students.
I am saying this because I am a realist, you know this does not mean that I have my heads in the clouds what it means is that I believe firmly that idea precedes reality. Before something can exist in the physical-material world, it must have existed as an idea in somebody’s mind. So for instance, before there was electricity there were people who thought about it, then dedicated their lives to going out to invent it, to chasing that dream and following those convictions for a clear thinking not concreate that hold up great nations. For the height of a tree is the dept. of its root. So a society cannot give much more than the sum of its thought. It is what you reason that is what you conceive, and when life put pressure that is what you will give.
For this world is advanced, not by the latest gadgets but by people who don’t accept mental limitations. This is the power of the mind. That is why Agbada and Babariga cannot compete with ideas. That is why Nigeria with her natural resources cannot compete with a little nation with no natural resources worth mentioning called Singapore. This is a large part of why we were colonized, not because we were lesser human being, but because we lack struggle for civilization while the other side have access in many critical areas to more advance thinking as evidence in more sophisticated technology. That is why that Poet, Prophet, philosopher by the name of Bob Marley once urge us to
“emancipate yourselves from mental, slavery non but ourselves can free our mind”.
Imagine it, in Nigeria where election campaigns are dominated by debates and not by slogans. Where you can no longer purchase the vote of that woman by solving a mudu of rice into her hands. Where she would have said no, no Mr. Politician keep your rice. Just help me answer one simple question, how do you intend to balance the budget. Imagine in Nigeria where researches into sicknesses that afflict us such as Cicle-cell or prostate cancer or breast cancer where research and development into cures into illness is happening here. Where other people do not come harvest our medicinal plants, take them elsewhere, convert them to wonder drugs.
Imaging a country where it common knowledge that there is no physical or mental-physical to be gained by slicing up the urinary of a young girl or limiting her social-economic options. Imagine a country where we no longer allow limitations to be placed on anyone on the ground of customs and traditions of faith or religion, where everybody is free to become who and all they can be in this life. Imagine a country that is powered by the almost limitless of our collective and enlightened minds.
And ask yourself on what sides of the struggle to build the society like this are you on? Are you fighting on the side of ignorance and prejudice and bias and blind and unquestioning adherence to cultures and traditions? Or are you fighting on the side of reason, of the spread of knowledge, of enlightenment for all with the unprecedented power that the internet has given you to spread your ideas, you as individual, you as a company, you as an NGO, you as the government. What part of the struggle are you fighting on? Let us rebuild Nigeria public school.