Education is in dire straits in Nigeria. More than 10 million children are out of school across the nation. The federal budget always falls short of the requisite 26 per cent recommended by UNESCO for developing nations. It is a well-known fact that “education is power,” but Nigeria continues to treat the subject of education with abject levity.
It is against this grim background that one welcomes with profound happiness the book Realities of Nigerian Education written by Chief Sam O. U. Igbe, the Iyase (Prime Minister) of Benin Kingdom. A retired Commissioner of Police, Igbe was a colonial era civil servant and a trained school teacher of yore. He is indeed a master of the subject, and pointedly laments that the family, the community and the society at large have obviously abandoned “the responsibilities to ensure strong educational foundation for their children.” Education standards keep falling given the unprincipled politics played by the mandarins of government. Chief Igbe submits that there is a crying need to review the National Policy on Education to take care of the identified deficiencies in the system. This way, a purpose-driven system of education can be instituted through the potent instruments of appropriate curricula and syllabi.
In his foreword to the book, Prof. Mon Nwadiani, former Dean of the Faculty of Education, University of Benin, stresses that “this book is largely informational, educative, inspiring and soul searching as to where, how and why we got the business of educating the citizenry wrong. The unique value of the book is the presentation of strategies aimed at enhancing the quality and relevance of education in concert with the spiritual nature of man ceteris paribus.”
According to author Igbe, “Education is the most prized contrivance by mankind to better his lot. Of all the living creations, only man has developed this means of passing his values, skills and attitudes to succeeding generations. Educational development began since creation, and continues throughout the life span of mankind.” He believes that the “governing class will definitely need self-cleansing to achieve these educational objectives.”
In Realities of Nigerian Education, Igbe starts out with what he terms “Indigenous Education” wherein it is incumbent on the home, the neighbourhood and the community to provide the foundation for the education of the youth. He then delves into formal education as promoted by the early Church Missionary Society (CMS), the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, the Baptist Mission, the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Mission.
The CMS established the first Teacher Training College in Abeokuta in 1859, an institution that was later moved to Lagos in 1867 and then to Oyo in 1896 where it became known as St Andrew’s College, Oyo. The author incidentally undertook a Pivotal Teachers Training Course in St Andrew’s from 1954 to 1956.
The Baptist Mission established a station in Abeokuta in 1850 and founded the Baptist Training College at Ogbomosho in 1897. The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland established its mission in Calabar in 1846 and then founded the celebrated Hope Waddell Training Institute in 1905. The Roman Catholic Mission opened its station in Lagos in 1868 and founded St Gregory’s College in 1876.
Igbe deposes that the early colonialists did not participate in the pioneering activities of these missionaries. “It bears repetition,” he avers, “that they (colonialists) were preoccupied with the problems of subjugating the inhabitants of the newly acquired colonies, and the subsequent activities of having to procure commodities for the fledgling industries in their home countries.”
It was in 1882 that “the first Education Ordinance was promulgated to introduce some control and supervision into the educational efforts of the missionaries.” Yaba Higher College was established in 1932, and in 1948 the “Education Code was passed establishing a three-years Education Diploma Course for students who passed the Cambridge School Certificate, and thereafter, passed the entrance examination to the Yaba Higher College.”
Igbe in Realities of Nigerian Education then undertakes a crucial dissection of Special Education in regard to Autism, Slow Learning Disability, Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders, Educational and Behavioral Disorder. The vision and mission of the National Mathematical Centre are ready grist to the mill of Igbe’s appreciation of education in Nigeria. The need for technical and vocational orientation to conquer joblessness in Nigeria cannot be gainsaid.
The author ups the ante on the question of the National Policy on Education from the time of the Regional Education Laws to the military era and the democratic epochs. The role of the teacher is indeed pivotal whence the urgency of proper teacher education. His understanding of teaching strategies and methods can hardly ever be bettered.
The modern technological gizmos of today do not escape the attention of Chief Igbe in Realities of Nigerian Education, as he writes: “The Jet Age with all its breathtaking breakthroughs in mechanical, technological, electrical and computer engineering, and the seeming fictitious science appliances have now evolved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Chief Sam O. U. Igbe has written a very crucial book in Realities of Nigerian Education which ought to stand the teachers and the governmental authorities in good stead toward moving education in Nigeria forward. His rallying cry should reverberate across all the geo-political zones of Nigeria thus: “The youths in their various ways must become part of the necessary specialist national labour force as Jet Age Nigerian academics, technologists, technicians, scientists, and the diverse hard work experts gearing to distinguish themselves to make the name Nigeria unforgettable in this age of educational adventures.” Chief Sam O. U. Igbe deserves celebration for writing the timely book, Realities of Nigerian Education.