It’s quite unfortunate that education, which is generally believed as capable of enhancing human progress, has been given another definition in Nigeria as a road leading to poverty. Frankly speaking, the easiest road to poverty in Nigeria has continued to be the desire of many Nigerians to acquire higher education in tertiary institutions. The struggle to enter Nigeria’s higher institutions is not a battle for the lily-livered or weakling but the exclusive reserve of those who are not only strong but are equally financially stable to cope with its huge demands.
When admission processes are through and admission letters are handed over to successful candidates, the real battle has only just begun as passing through Nigeria’s higher institutions is not different from the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle.
Sometimes, students end up spending as many as six years or even more for a four-year course because of the incessant industrial actions by different unions. After passing through such harrowing experience and the certificate is finally secured, especially when the compulsory service to the nation is completed, most of those who are able to secure jobs immediately after their NYSC often see themselves as very lucky. Unknown to them, they have merely got themselves into the hidden poverty-distribution zones!
Year-in year-out, they work round the clock trying unsuccessfully to make ends meet. The longer the years they spend in service, the poorer they get while struggling more and more to break the jinx of poverty. Even those with professional courses among them are not spared. As we speak, the only solace for young medical doctors trained in Nigeria is the opportunity they have to relocate and practice out of the country. Indeed, more than 11,000 have already left the shores of Nigeria for greener pasture abroad while the National Assembly is now working on a bill to discourage such massive migrations out of the country.
How Nigeria intends to beat a baby and at the same time prevent it from crying is what the entire nation is waiting to see. If doctors trained in Nigeria are trooping out of the country, is it without any genuine reason? Why must Nigeria’s leaders make life so difficult in the country and still expect everyone to keep dying in silence out of frustration? Why are Nigeria’s leaders never ashamed of preferring medical tourism to fixing their country’s health sector so that it can serve the interest of everybody and medical practitioners too will feel fulfilled working under a highly conducive condition?
Meanwhile, as graduates are languishing under highly deplorable working conditions and situations, their less intelligent counterparts, many who dropped out of school or those who end up as apprentices in one workshop or another are usually finding their feet easily. Many of them, also disillusioned about their situations, often make serious attempts towards relocating out of the country and are most times successful. Some of them work abroad only for a few years and return to the country to either buy up properties or build their own houses while those they left behind in the nation’s civil service as high-shoulder graduates are still unable to find their feet, many living on loans under very depressing conditions.
Sadly, in many instances, stagnant workers even rent housing apartments from those they had earlier considered as dropouts while they lament their worsening conditions in silence. This is the sad situation most Nigerian graduates currently working in the country have found themselves.
It’s difficult to believe that Nigeria’s leaders, rather than make education rewarding, only choose to uplift and encourage the miscreants in the society such that many touts are now living in open affluence, extravagance and opulence funded by state-backed extortion. Whenever some state governments for instance disclose how much they share among their more than five hundred retirees and a mention is made of something around 2.1 billion naira, the public would think that the government is doing very well and it’s time for retirees to smile. Unknown to them, the breakdown of the money from the government means that none of the retirees can get up to N10 million. That is after serving the state for between thirty to thirty five years, and receiving an amount that is not more than what some popular touts spend lavishly on their harem of female friends within a week!
It is just another pointer to the fact that the whole idea of a pension scheme for workers is not only a scam but also evidence that education in Nigeria is a sure road to poverty. Ironically, the same deceitful leaders will always pretend to encourage pupils and students to focus on their studies when it’s already an open secret that education in the country has been totally bastardised and products of higher education rubbished, making education and certificates almost worthless. The only educated workers who are able to achieve some measure of breakthroughs are those who have mastered how to act like Romans when in Rome by getting themselves deeply involved in all manner of graft. It is such a pathetic situation that requires an urgent divine intervention.
The writer, Oyewusi is the coordinator of Ethics Watch International, Lagos.