The man who returned his certificate

I remember an event a few years ago when a man returned his certificate to the issuing authority. Indeed, decades ago, academic certificates in Nigeria, especially those issued by universities, were codenamed “meal vouchers”. This was quite appropriate as having such qualifications could secure jobs which in turn provided income and food on the table for the holders.

Time has passed and with that, the intrinsic value and the face value of these certificates have been eroded almost to zero, which explains the tragic situation in which our young people have found themselves. They have skills but cannot find jobs, and because they cannot find jobs, they are hungry and have to fall back on their elderly parents who were working and, in some cases, selling assets to train them.

The frustration of these young people was expressed recently in the action of Mr. Osunleke Alaba who could no longer bear the shame of carrying a certificate which could not bring him a meal. After taking statistics on his situation, he decided to return his certificate to his alma mater, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State.

When I started high school, my mentor, Mr. Allwell Atulaegwu, once asked me to write a dissertation on education. After grading my work, he then wrote me a model essay and defined education as “what remains after all that is learned is forgotten”. It took me years to discover that it was the great scientist, Albert Einstein, who made that statement.

It’s relevant to this story. The tragedy of our education system today is that what is learned by students, at all levels, has diminished so much that very little remains, or in some cases nothing, when all that is learned is forgotten.

The reasons are on both sides of the learning process. On the part of the students, many of them enter the institutions with the intention of simply choosing meal “tickets” without any determination to go through a learning process. For such a student, the rigors of studying hard and undertaking practical work are a mere waste of time. He is only after the end, which is a certificate, a magic wand that he can wave and jobs would appear.

There are others who enter college to study the wrong courses in the sense that their vocation, interests and abilities lie in other fields. Now, in a grossly flawed system as early as high school, many young people find themselves in this situation, and in many cases they only find out after they “graduate”, only to find they can’t fit in nowhere. . Such is the unfortunate case of Mr. Alaba, who studied agricultural extension and rural development, while his interest lay elsewhere – in the world of entertainment.

According to his later revelations, this gentleman has nothing to do with agriculture, other than buying food produced in the sector. His interest and penchant is to make people laugh, smile or simply relax. In truth, he could have earned millions of naira by now if he had been guided early enough to pursue his interest.

With the high level of pain and hardship prevailing in Nigeria today, Mr. Alaba has a lucrative career all his own. He will make Nigerians laugh and in doing so he will pour money into his pocket and bank account. This hasn’t happened to him in about six years as he languishes as an unemployed graduate.

Of course, this is not a LAUTECH problem. It’s everywhere. There will certainly be a crisis in the Nigerian education system if the NUC advises universities to insert a “Reimbursement” column in their admission forms that would require institutions to agree to reimburse dissatisfied students for the fees they have paid for the years spent in such places. Schools will not be able to cope with the deluge of requests from their former students who would show up at the bursar’s or registrar’s offices to take turns depositing their certificates. Things have gone so wrong, and it portends grave dangers for Nigeria tomorrow.

What the former LAUTECH student did was only an authentication of what has already been established that many products from our universities are simply “unusable”. Now, it must also be added that they are also unable to create jobs for themselves, two facts that call into question the usefulness of our educational system. This calls for reforms in the admissions process and teaching methods in our universities and polytechnics if Nigeria is to transition into the emerging global knowledge economy.

Unfortunately, the flaws that led to Mr. Alaba’s misfortune are not going away anytime soon. Earlier today, I was browsing the website of the 9th National Assembly and was amazed by the number of bills to create new institutions, some of which are higher education institutions. It would be easy for many to argue that these are largely agricultural colleges and universities and of course a veterinary institute in Gombe – all of which reinforce the Buhari administration’s commitment to deepening the agricultural sector.

Unfortunately, it seems like the easiest way for a senator or member of the House of Representatives to justify the big salary and perks they receive is to sponsor a bill to create an institution. This way you don’t make enemies by trying to reform an existing institution that is blatantly inefficient or even an absolute waste of resources.

More so, the creation of a new institution, similar to the existing ones, is quick because it may only be necessary to copy and paste an existing law, and in the end, you have a feather in your cap as the sponsor of the bill – the main bragging rights and bargaining chip for legislators around the world.

As frustrated students push for their schools to reopen, may the system scramble to place them in their intended classes and teach them well.

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