Owing to the collapse of Nigeria’s educational system, occasioned by successive military adventures into political offices, and the legendary emphasis on the rule of force over the rule of intellect, it has, for some decades now, become the fad for Nigerian parents to send their wards to neighbouring West African countries, especially English-speaking Ghana, for secondary and tertiary education.
Rather than importing or allowing Ghanaian nationals to have teaching appointments in an age when education was a career for the wretched of the Earth in Nigeria, the return of Ghanaians to their country has been followed with the passion of parents to send their wards to study in Ghana. The trend began with secondary education in the early 80s. Since laissez faire government was in place with so much tolerance for corruption and financial crime in public offices, Nigerian graduates, even in a profession like Education, had veered from the career into banking, oil and gas, insurance and the like, where it was so much easier to make much money.
Individuals who made Second Class Upper and Lower Divisions in various disciplines had applied for jobs in banks and oil companies or had gone into politics rather than taking higher degrees that would afford them to make meaningful contributions to knowledge. Consequently, those with lesser grades and lesser opportunities to get good jobs were the ones who had to take to teaching as the last resort. This created ample opportunities for neighbouring West African expatriates to have Nigerian education in their firm grip. Most of the schools attended by children of the rich at Federal (Unity), State and Local Government or private schools, were (and still, are) largely staffed by Ghanaians- Queen’s College, Lagos, Federal Home Science Association School, Ikoyi, American International School, British International School; almost all Nigerian private schools; name it.
Other professions like medicine, dentistry, etc, were also affected. Before you could say Jack, the educational system of less-economically endowed West African States had suddenly become a reference point.
Rather than the parents looking out for or examining where they missed the mark, they seek a quick fix or a deux ex machina by abandoning their country to look for solutions in other lands.
Today, a Nigerian parent pays as much as $6,000 (six thousand US dollars) to sponsor a medical student at the University of Ghana, Legon. That excludes other expenses like feeding and accommodation. His Ghanaian counterpart does not pay up to $500 (five hundred US dollars) to study medicine in the same university. The rationale, of course, is that if a Ghanaian University will have to sacrifice a placement to train a foreign national who eventually would not use the expertise to develop Ghana, then it makes sense to make as much money from such international student if only to monetarily compensate for the losses that would ensue from such exportation of skill and manpower.
Schooling in the University of Ghana, Legon, a parent vowed, is like schooling in the University of Ibadan in the early 1950s. The classroom and landscape designed by the colonialists are still in place, and in an age where in Nigeria, university hostels have as many as eight to sixteen students in a room, the Alumni of the University of Ghana, we are told, have insisted that there should not be more than one student per room. And that they had to allow a two-student-per-room arrangement after so much persuasion. Of course, the quality of education to be acquired in a 16-student university hostel in Nigeria cannot be the same as in Ghana, where the number of students in a room is at most two!
While the Nigerian medical student pays as much as $6,000 per annum, other four-year undergraduate programmes attract as much as $2,500 tuition fees. Barring official corruption, in all facets of our national life, Nigeria has so much money to give the very best education to her citizens as provided for in the constitution and as enshrined in the section that talks about the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy. Rather than advancing socio-politically, we look back into the good old days of colonialism as the golden era of our national life.
Late last year, a graduating student of a Nigerian College of Medicine had gone to take an international elective in Cardiology at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. At the end of the course, the supervisory professor had driven him around town and had asked him some few questions about what he felt about colonialism and political independence in Africa. Undeniably, the Nigerian student had to pay glowing tributes to colonialism in concrete terms. He cited the structures of the University College Hospital, Ibadan and their enduring architecture as evidences that the colonialists had scored higher marks than the African politicians who took over the reins of Government upon independence! How else can one be more sincere to himself?
The Nigerian educational system is not the only area that has suffered as a result of this trend. Lately, Nigerian entrepreneurs have found a safe and stable haven in Ghana. Since the factors of production, especially power, are stable, he can have a safe conjecture on how his business would thrive and so can plan accordingly. In the same vein, petty traders, who have to buy and sell seasonal goods, especially during Easter and Christmas times, have had to go to Ghana to buy them at wholesale to retail in Nigeria since most of the manufacturing companies that had closed shops in Nigeria now find a home in Ghana.
One cannot but reflect on the title of Onuora Nzekwu’s book, EZE GOES TO SCHOOL, anytime one thinks about the way Nigerians now look forward to Ghana for quality education. The children’s literature, having endeared itself to readers over time, has become a classic where Eze, the central character, has become synonymous with the Nigerian child. Sadly in our national consciousness today, the title could only appear to read: EZE GOES TO GHANA.
Daily Independent (Lagos)