WHAT you hear, you forget; what you see, you remember; what you do, you understand. This saying holds true anytime, anywhere.
Do we then wonder that the average Nigerian university graduate finds it difficult to
be self-reliant upon graduation? This is because he was not programmed to be self-reliant right from the onset. The essence of education is for personal and national development and Nigeria seems not to be achieving that.Education should make the educated a job creator and not a job seeker. In this article, Vanguard Learning sought to find out from stakeholders where Nigeria got it wrong, whether the problem is with the curriculum or its implementation.
Problem is implementation:
MOST of the respondents say implementation is the problem and not the curriculum. Professor Bashir Raji, Vice-Chancellor of Fountain University, Osogbo, believes that the curriculum is not the issue but implementation. “Curriculum in the university is supposed to be reviewed every five years but we don’t have to always wait for for that if new skills crop up. Example, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has become something that every graduate should have knowledge of. So if a curriculum is devoid of ICT, it will need to be reviewed. Many universities have reviewed their curriculum to incorporate ICT and entrepreneurship. But we still need to do a lot in the way we handle our curriculum.”
Professor Joe Ahaneku, Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka agrees with Raji. He says the curriculum is not the problem when it comes to the issue of unemployment. “I think it is the application of the curriculum in terms of engaging students on hands-on, ie practical and exposure to gain the skills. With the orientation we have had over the years, everything was becoming too theoretical with very minimal practical component. That informed the need for the establishment of Entrepreneurial Studies as a degree programme to expose students to certain skills so that at the end of the day, they will be equipped with the enabling skills to get established as individuals and also provide opportunities for others. So the issue is how the curriculum is applied in terms of the necessary facilities that are required for the students to really have hands-on.”
However, for Prof. MacDonald Idu of the Dept. of Plant Science and Biotechnology, University of Benin, there is need to change the curriculum as he believes a curriculum must be targeted towards national development.
“We need to change the curriculum of Nigerian universities completely. Many of the universities are still operating the curriculum they started with and definitely, the world is going faster than we think so we cannot continue to hold on to the old curriculum.
We have changed our curriculum over and over again at least in my department, but then, there is a need for a constant looking into of this curriculum to make sure that it is targeted towards national growth especially in the area of our economy. It is not worth it when you have a curriculum and that curriculum is not helping your country. Knowledge is supposed to be applied to something so I believe that the curriculum should be changed.
We could look into our curriculum every five years to see how it is helping the nation. If it is not positively affecting us, then change it. Change is the only constant thing in life. When we reflect that in our universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education, things will begin to go better for us.”
President of American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, Professor Margee Ensign says it is less the content you learn than how to learn, so their approach is more practical. What we do is to make the students start thinking now how they can apply their knowledge. It’s not just about having knowledge, anybody can have knowledge; it is how to apply it to solve problems.
The way we teach:
Raji said that the way we teach should be more important than the curriculum itself. “In the final year, the mindset of the lecturer should be to teach the students the application of whatever is in the curriculum, not just theories. I had the same problem when I started teaching. The first time I handled a course, I never knew the application of the course outside the classroom. I just taught it theoretically without actually linking the two but the people that designed the curriculum may have in mind that the lecturer handling it will be knowledgeable enough to link it for the students so that before they leave, they would have seen the link between the theory and application. But what we see now is that most students see it as a course they have to pass to graduate but not a means of livelihood. ”
“We believe our students have to be exposed to understand these problems and start thinking of how they can solve them because that is their job when they graduate,” says Ensign. Giving a practical example, Ensign said: “I was an election observer for the national election and I took the Computer Science students with me. People wait in line for hours in the hot sun to register and then to vote and I asked the students what they are going to do about it. One of them was taking notes and he said: “I know how to computerize this. We can do it.”
Many employed people see themselves as unemployed:
Prof. Raji said that most Nigerians generally see themselves as unemployed once they are not in government employ. His words: “At the last Governors’ Forum retreat, one of the topics was unemployment. What came out clearly was that we have all been stereotyped into thinking of employment in terms of white collar jobs. When you graduate, you get a job in the ministries. Those were the jobs created in the 70s and 80s but we find out that a lot of our graduates are self-employed and making a lot of money except it is not in the public sector. They gave the example of hairstylists and fashion designers. There are a lot of these jobs now, but when you ask them, they will tell you they are unemployed when some of them make up to N50,000 a month. So when there is a job advertisement, they all rush to apply. That was what happened in the Immigration Service stampede.
Some of those who died were already working as teachers in secondary schools but because of the level of corruption and our impatience as a people, everybody wants to become a millionaire and some of these ‘jobs’ are easy sources of money. Everybody wanted to go into Immigration because they want to become millionaires, not for the work they do but for the corruption that is embedded in it.
“Currently, we have introduced a lot of entrepreneurship and ICT and these are skills that most graduates will need to be on their own when they graduate. But as a university, you need to get them prepared to become job creators. So these are some of the things that we actually need to change not the curriculum per se. My students impressed me recently at their exhibition. They did a lot of things; some of these things they can actually do when they graduate but the thing is that most of them still see it as credit to earn a degree so they just pass it and forget it. So we need to actually help them get prepared, change their mindset before they graduate.”
More practical needed:
Relating it to the problem between microbiologists and medical laboratory technologists in Nigeria, Professor Ahmad Aliyu Ahmad, former Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Technology Yola, (now Modibbo Adama University of Technology) and former Head of Department of Microbiology, ABU, Zaria says that training of students should incorporate more practical aspects than theory. “Our students used to train for medical laboratory technology after their first degree before they could work in the hospital.
Now, they have been prevented from doing that. Now, they are trying to create Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in medical laboratory science in universities but unfortunately, they still come back to say they want to do master’s or PhD in microbiology so that they can take over the department completely.”
To solve the problem, Ahmad advises that more practical be incorporated in the Microbiology curriculum so that the graduates will become more relevant. “Most of the time, in courses like medical bacteriology or medical virology, if you don’t have the current techniques or the molecular aspect like genetic engineering or biotechnology, diagnostics will become a problem because they no longer waste time on long tissue culture; they have abandoned all that so that is the idea of incorporating these techniques. The courses will be structured in such a way that there will be more practical aspects in courses like immunology, virology, industrial microbiology etc.”
Ensign: “We prepare young people to be problem solvers,” so apart from the usual courses, AUN students are made to understand first-hand, the problems of their communities and country and proffer solutions. “Every student has to do a course in community service that focuses on one of AUN’s projects. You don’t just do a major, you do a general education programme – history, international politics, sociology – it does not matter what your major is. Every student has to do almost two years of a general education because the world is changing so rapidly in some ways, so it’s less the content you learn than how to learn. We do retreats and a big part of it is to brainstorm on how to take our projects and incorporate them in classes and internships so the students get first-hand experience and exposure.
Training & retraining:
Said Idu: “Yes most universities do review every five years but how many are really doing the right thing? What is their definition of review? Who are the people doing the review? Is it the same old person who has been teaching the same thing for 20 – 30 years? What do you want him to inject into it when he is not even current? That is why we have a lot to do; the basic thing is to train and retrain our lecturers.
“You may think it is not necessary but we need to be trained and retrained so that we can get abreast with what is going on in the world. It does not really take the shine off you if you ask questions when you don’t know what to do. As an insider, I can tell you that many of my colleagues do not know what to do but they don’t want to ask questions because they are shy. The day you stop learning is the day you die so we keep learning and learning. I believe Nigeria will go forward if we apply that method. I strongly believe that we should take a thorough look into curricula of our universities every five years. The National Universities Commission should be completely involved. Government should look into this so as to make this country work. I have a very big burden concerning it because I know that Nigeria is a great country and we are not there yet but at least we can start from somewhere.” (VAnguard)