Our Current Reality.
Many factions and political parties, over the last few decades since our embrace of democracy, have come out with their five-point agendas, six-fold strategies and all the other campaign gimmicks aimed at addressing our current economic challenges and building a better Nigeria; or to be blunt, get themselves elected by tugging at the heartstrings of the average Nigerian. From an analytical perspective, the two burning issues which need to be addressed urgently for Nigeria to survive past 2030 are -the high unemployment rate/poor job satisfaction among the Nigerian youths of today and the predicted population explosion by 2030; both of which will increase the level of poverty in the Country.
How did we Get here?
Some of the more brilliant ideas from our politicians and activists have touched on reviving our academic institutions by building more schools or upgrading the existing ones, creating more job opportunities, investing in farming and agriculture, building more industries, creating more entrepreneurship opportunities, and so on. In truth, we have seen some traction with quite a number of these projects especially in the area of education. Statistics prove that by the year 2030, the number of Nigerians with basic primary education would have increased to 78%, from the current state of 53%.
Despite this increase in the number of literate Nigerians, our current reality shows a consistent decline in the unemployment rate for the Nigerian Youth, educated or uneducated, in the last two years. If education truly provides the foundation for success, then what could be the reason behind this alarming trend in the rate of unemployment?
According to a 2014 Publication by ACF(Action against Hunger) in collaboration with IRIS, Nigeria is fast moving towards the position of the most populous country in the world and by 2030, would reach a new high with 261.7 million people.
Even though data shows a steady decline in fertility rates, it is predicted that by 2050, as much as one in every 10 births globally, would be from Nigeria; naturally, imposing a strain on the dwindling economic resources. On the surface, while this explosive growth may appear to be the obvious reason for the decrease in the number of available jobs and the forecast of dire poverty by 2030, It is pertinent to note that this may not necessarily be a disadvantage. The rapid growth in population size coupled with lower fertility rates would mean an increase in the number of people who fall into the workforce category(15-64 years.) The positive impact of this would be an increase in higher GDP, revitalizing the economy and reducing the level of poverty. As such, taking the expected population explosion in isolation, as the key driver of our Nations dire economic future may not be an entirely accurate conclusion. The exact combination of events that would trigger this abysmal decline in our economy by 2030 are:
- Rapid growth in population size with high dependence on the available economic resources.
- No long-term plans to provide concrete solutions to some of the basic challenges that would come with the rapid growth viz unemployment and poverty.
To quote one of the most authentic leaders Africa ever produced, Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace. Apr23, 2013”.
Unfortunately, even though we have achieved some progress in establishing more academic institutions, one major Issue which we have not yet thrashed is our sub-par educational system.
The Average Nigerian Youth who graduates from a tertiary education would have spent about 16 years of his life learning a vocation, which should ideally prepare him for success. He graduates school and enters the Labor market, only to find that the job he wants is fiercely competitive, with more qualified people than he, vying for the same positions. The same is equally true for the Nigerian Youth who decides to acquire a skill rather than attend a formal educational institution. He comes out to face the harsh reality that the skills he thought would prepare him for entrepreneurship are mass-produced, and he has to innovate to survive in the choked market.
Perhaps, where we are getting it wrong is our approach to education. Our leaders seem to think that quantity alone (establishing more institutions and enlisting more students) is the efficient approach and the theme of their pedagogical strategies is ‘mass education, which does not translate to quality education.
Mass education does not constitute the foundation for success; quality education remains the key to good success. Quality education involves a multi-focal approach to learning, with an emphasis on life skills and capability building. The advantages of such a holistic approach are:
- It provides the Nigerian Youth with the relevant skills to survive in a less than ideal society.
- It provides them with the right leverage to impact positively on society.
- By transforming them into Idea creators, this innovative approach creates youths who can readily adapt solutions for most situations.
What Are Our Neighboring African Countries Doing Right?
Let’s take a look at one of our closest Neighbors, Ghana. Even though they do not have the perfect system of education yet, they are getting there gradually. One major feat they have been able to accomplish is bridging the gap between the socio-economic classes and offering the poor the same quality of education as the children of their wealthier counterparts. How did Ghana achieve this? A very simple solution- Free education.
The then President, Kwame Nkrumah saw education as the key to reviving Ghana’s economy and set up a two-point agenda to resuscitate Ghana’s academic system and also her ailing economy. His objectives for the Ghanaian education system were:
1. Quality education for all through free education for all Ghanaian children up until Junior secondary school. This agenda helped improve the level of literacy among the Ghanaian Youths.
2. The school curriculum was designed to train students to become the resources the society needs.
The Presidents that came after Nkrumah built on this concept and as a result, Ghana has some of the best educational institutions in Africa today. Even more importantly, their economy has revived significantly to become much more stable than ours. Indeed the tables have turned!
Devising the Solution to Our Economic Challenges Through Design Thinking.
By using the methodology of Design thinking we can identify the root cause of our challenges and devise solutions that will address them once and for all. Also, because design thinking is a dynamic approach to problem-solving, the processes, ideas, and tools provided by this innovative approach are capable of being refined and modified to adapt to different situations.
Empathize: Let’s define, first of all, the reason why we are in our current situation. Should we blame the colonial masters, our past presidents, governors or senators? The humbling truth is that the fault lies with each one of us. Every Nigerian that has ever lived in this country has had a part to play in bringing us to this present economic situation. By accepting full responsibility, we lay the framework for forgiveness and healing and the ability to move on. There’s also a need to stop comparing our present to the good old days unless such comparisons will offer constructive solutions to our current challenges.
Identify: Next, we need to assess our current challenges viz corruption, unemployment, high crime rates, subpar health care, poor infrastructure, inadequate energy supply, and identify the root cause of all these. The common denominator they all seem to have is the Nigerian mindset-mediocrity. Ask the average Nigerian what they would do if they had a chance to rule the country and you’ll be disappointed with the answers you get. Rather than improve our knowledge and broaden our horizons through continuous learning, we are quite comfortable dusting mediocre solutions and handing them down to future generations.
Ideate: Based on the identified challenges, the next step would be to draw up a one-point agenda to address the fundamental flaw in our society – our mediocrity mindset. The institution that lays the foundation for this mindset, our educational system needs to be thoroughly analyzed and where necessary, overhauled. The revamping of our educational system will enable our Youths to become idea creators: strategic thinkers who can analyze situations critically from different perspectives, innovative risk-takers willing to step out of the confines of mediocrity and test uncharted waters, pacesetters who continuously upgrade themselves to become more relevant to Society.
The school curriculum should be designed to enhance capability, adaptability, and accountability in the Nigerian Youths using the methodology of Design-thinking.
- Basic life skills should be taught in schools. First aid and basic life support should be made compulsory from elementary to higher institutions.
- Compulsory Language Lessons: Every child must learn two foreign languages and one other Nigerian Language apart from his mother tongue. This would create more unity within the Nation and also provide ample opportunities for Nigerians to communicate with the outside world.
- History and Government should be an essential part of the curriculum. History because we cannot move forward if we don’t have an idea where we went wrong. The history lessons should be designed to foster a sense of pride in our accomplishments as a nation.
- Schools should shift focus from theoretical lessons which merely encourage students to revise for exams. Practical problem-solving situations that allow students to brainstorm and create their own solutions should be the way forward.
- Our entire academic system should be revamped to inculcate a learning mindset in the Nigerian Youth with an emphasis on enabling them to think outside the box.
- Vocational training centers should focus on developing individual creativity and innovation and not imparting the same skills
- .Moreover, the educational system should effectively bridge the gap between the poor and the wealthy. Sustainable policies need to be put in place to ensure that quality learning is either totally free for all or highly subsidized.
- There is also a need to train the trainers too. What stops schools from hiring teachers from among the best students in our tertiary institutions? What kind of training or motivation do you think we give to our children if they are being taught by half-baked individuals. Even after hiring the best from our academic institutions, they still would need to undergo a compulsory one-year training on the new teaching methods. Thereafter, occasional teacher training modules should be rolled out to ensure they are continuously up to date on innovative teaching methods.
Design Prototype, Test and Refine: The ultimate step would then be to construct several prototypes of what our model academic system should look like and test-run it in selected schools in the country. Depending on how easily implementable the ideas are in real- life we can go back to the drawing board and modify properly before launching it nation-wide.
Let’s build a Nigeria today that is free of mediocrity and filled with innovators, for a tomorrow that is free of poverty.
The concept of the ‘Idea creator’.
… strategic thinkers who can analyze situations critically from different perspectives, innovative risk-takers willing to step out of the confines of mediocrity and test uncharted waters, pacesetters who continuously up skill and upgrade themselves to become more relevant to their Society.
What’s your honest opinion?Please share in the comments section.
Will revamping Our educational system help our Economic situation?
- Yes it will but it will take time and we should look at other suggestions first.
- Yes it will and we should start now
- No it won’t -there are other more pressing issues at hand.