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While the word “scam” means a dishonest scheme or fraud, it has a semantic extension in Nigeria to mean anything irrelevant or insignificant. Common on the lips of young Nigerians is the expression “school na scam” (schooling is a scam). While many adults may silence them for saying this, a sincere appraisal of the situation reveals that this claim of the netizens is true. Isn’t a schooling system that cannot help scan the future of the students truly a scam? I have argued in some previous articles that having the kind of skills called handwork in Nigeria such as tailoring and hairdressing is a more productive engagement than going to school. If a young lady who is a tailoring apprentice cannot cut a piece of cloth after six months, the trainer will most likely summon her parents and inform them about the need for a deliverance session for her. On the contrary, students who cannot define and identify a preposition successfully push their way through many departments of English in Nigeria, and countless are graduates of computer science who cannot tell the function of Ctrl V. What else do we call a scam?

Furtherance to this academic dilapidation is the number of departments running courses that the lecturers cannot explain their contemporary relevance, not to say the students. School curricula are sacrosanct in Nigeria; they are like customs and traditions that have to be with the owners forever. Courses are not channelled to contemporary realities and experiences of the learners. The higher institutions keep postulating what the society is not adopting. The poor working condition is killing the ingenuity in academics. A career demanding passion and attention has become just a means of surviving that does not even guarantee survival. Writing and research are now just for the purpose of gain and promotion. The gown (higher institutions) that should dictate to the town (society) now gets influenced by the town. With these and more being the reality, we ask: how do we restore the glory in education?

Sadly, the best option is at the moment the worst option. The government that should champion the transformation is the brains behind the retardation. To expect anything from a government that has kept students and lecturers at home for over five months is, frankly, to be waiting for Godot. While we hope that the government will, soon enough, wake up from its slumber and do the needful, few things can be done by other stakeholders to make school a scan rather than being a scam. 

First, parents should pay attention to the interests of their children and let that guide their paths. It has to be re-emphasised that compulsory education ends after junior secondary school and this is why it is now called Basic 9. Schooling should not be made to look like a heavenly duty. A child that wants to become an actor can be registered in an academy at an early age in life and the one that loves to weave hair can be enrolled in a sophisticated salon. The ones who also wish to continue with formal education will do so enjoyably and will not consider schooling a scam if it is what they want for themselves.  

Secondly, there is a need for a complete overhaul of the curricula of different departments and faculties. Faculties of Arts and Humanities that do not teach courses in aspects of popular culture, peace studies, the internet and social media are behind the 21st century needs and reality of modern students. Notwithstanding the attitude of the government, academics must, even if just for posterity and fulfillment, endeavour to discharge their duties diligently and most importantly channel their contents to the needs and passions of the students. Like John Dewey said, if what interests the child is not in the child’s best interest, then make what is in the child’s best interest interesting.

Lastly, the students too must wake up to the fact that schooling is not a ritual. Their primary task as young persons is to also think out of the box and think of legitimate ways and things they can channel their knowledge and energy to for a prosperous life. A student of English for instance can leverage the knowledge of the discipline to be an editor, scriptwriter, public speaker, content creator, writer of stories and biographies, among many other jobs where you do not need an employer. The ingenuity in anyone manifests when you are dedicated to whatever you choose to pursue as a career. 

Finally, I wish to establish again that education is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values which make one a useful member of society. Education, if understood, as whatever one does to meet up with life expectations and schooling as one of its agents can, therefore, not be a scam if the aptitudes of students are considered in guiding them and if the government, the parents and the academics all stand to their responsibilities and expectations.  

Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr GAB) is of the Department of English, Lagos State University.

Source: Daily Trust