In an age, especially among the Nigerian youths that prefer to follow Ramon Abbas, aka ‘Hushpuppi’ than Tolu Arotile, Michael Otedola or Aliko Dangote, it is no longer news that the’ quality of education originally recorded from the 1960s has depreciated to date.’ We are in an age of titles without trust, a time when traditional rulers and universities enjoy the act of giving titles to young men and women with questionable source of income and suspicious show of wealth. Sir Olaniwun Ajayi in his book, Nigeria: Africa’s Failed Asset? provides some background to the Nigeria’s complicated political history and social situation. Nigeria’s literacy barely over 50% is based on ‘unethical corrupt and generally despicable conduct in the society’including unethical inbalance practises in our educational system.
In the Bible, Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones calls for a rebirth in order to revert the declining quality of education (Ezk 37:1-14). There are different plagues eating the quality of education in Nigeria and they need rebirth, a change. Professor Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary, Nigeria University Commission highlighted some of the plagues, including ‘teachers, students, parents, government, infrastructure, social vices and curriculum related.’ According to him, the decline state of education “is a global phenomenon, but while the developed society approach to tackling the menace is genuine and pragmatic, Nigeria and other African countries resorted to mere rhetorics.”
Prof Ikenna Onyido, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, explained that the inability to tackle the menace in Nigeria continue to raise ‘the alarm at the rate Nigerian universities are churning out what he called lazy professors’ and described as “internet professors.” Prof Onyido in his address as a guest lecturer at the 55th meeting of Committee of Deans of Schools of Postgraduate Studies of Nigerian Universities (CDPGS), held on 16th April, 2018 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, “condemned the way PhD certificates were being awarded to undeserving persons, describing such practice as more dangerous than the Boko Haram insurgence … He tasked the committee to design iron-cast quality control and adequate sanctions to curb what he called “abuses that result in counterfeit PhDs which are more of an existential threat to the country than Boko Haram, in the long run.” Prof Onyido bemoaned the state of our universities, the ivory tower with other knowledge centres ‘for allowing mundane things in the larger society to influence it.’ According to him, “Over time, universities, along with other knowledge centres, have come to be regarded as key agents of social change and development, allocated with the explicit role of producing highly skilled manpower and research output that meet perceived economic needs.”
On the state of education today and using the words of Prof Onyido, “A very troubling phenomenon is the wholesale importation of the toxic values from the larger Nigerian society into the Nigerian university system, and the domestication thereof … This negative philosophy has been adopted in our university system where I have spent more than 40 years of my life … This is why we have vices in universities such as cultism, extortion, sale and use of narcotics, prostitution, sexual harassment, sex and money for marks and grades, examination malpractices, admission racketeering, absenteeism, lecturers with multiple teaching jobs in the name of adjunct lectureship/professorship, plagiarism.” To stop the decline in the quality of our education, research in universities must revolves around professors. According to Prof Onyibo, ‘the candidate’s ability to conceptualise and execute research’ is ‘one of the criteria for making professors, whether by promotion or by appointment … But the way professors are made in some of our universities these days is nothing short of pure magic. Traditional rulers and men of influence in the society are known to have led delegations to vice-chancellors in order to plead for their son or daughter to be made a professor.’
Prof Onyibo’s findings about the corrupt process of becoming a professor resonates with Prof Okebukola’s highlights on some of the plagues facing our education system including ‘teachers, students, parents, government, infrastructure, social vices and curriculum related.’ No nation can attain sustainable development without universities as ‘key knowledge centres whose major preoccupation is to generate, process, share, disseminate and transmit knowledge.’ Just as the reviving of the dry bones signified God’s plan for Israel’s future national restoration, the reviving of the dry bones of our teachers, students, parents, government, infrastructure, and curriculum could chart the pathways for meeting the challenges. Enough of a situation where ‘an academic staff, whose admissibility into a Ph.D. programme was settled by external arbitration in 2015 was, by 2017, a professor already, to the consternation of a cross-section of the university community, for the magical way in which that professor was manufactured.’ The corrupted and abused methodology for the award of higher degrees, been “Nigerianised” suggests a dry bone that need new breath in order to stop the typology of professors by producing professors who are now called “China professors.”
The plagues that continue to weakens our educational system and ‘the wholesale erosion of academic culture and tradition’ points to the dry bones of our systemic corruption which hinders ‘mission-oriented research, which is a sine qua non for sustainable development.’ The promise for the dry bones of our educational system to be raised may seemed impossible in the light of our present condition. Our educational system has been divided (Public and Private) and separated that unification and restoration seemed impossible. Just as God gave Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones as sign, God is calling you and I to tell the bones, our educational system that is under captivity to stand up as a vast army and walk in Jesus name.