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When University degrees are useless

Posted: May 21, 2016 at 5:49 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Hazeez Balogun – Lagos

What Is The Worth Of University Degree?

As at the last count in the month of March 2016, according to Federal Ministry of Education, Nigeria with 36 States and Abuja the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has a record of 40 Federal; 40 States and 62 private universities, making a total of 142. The country also has 25 Federal; 40 States and 32 private polytechnics, totalling 97. Several thousands of graduates enter the labour market each year from these institutions. This report considers the proliferation of tertiary institutions in Nigeria and its attendant effects on economic, social and political developments of the country.

The evolution of educational industry especially at primary and secondary levels began with the missionaries. Since the missionary’s initiative that led to the establishment of the first secondary school in Nigeria, The CMS Grammar School in Bariga, a suburb of Lagos in Lagos State, as the oldest secondary school in Nigeria, the education landscape has over the years witnessed a growth in leaps and bounds.

The post independent era witnessed tremendous rise in the number of public primary, secondary and tertiary institutions as agitations by the regions for state creation led to the proliferation of schools by both government and private individuals and missions.

Access into these institutions has also become a source of concern to stakeholders as regulatory authorities have clearly declared that the carrying capacity of all the existing universities falls short of over 1.5million jostling for admission annually.

Even as the worth of the quality of training and certificates issued by the existing institutions has become a source of concern home and abroad, however, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu recently announced that the Federal Government planned to establish six new Universities of Science and Technology in a bid to increase access to tertiary education in the country.

Over the years, lack of space to admit more students has been a critical challenge confronting tertiary education in the country.

About 1.5 million candidates sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) annually but only 150,000 candidates, or 10 percent, get admitted.  According to data recently released by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), 66,000 candidates who chose the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) as their first choice would sit for the university’s aptitude test (or post-UTME) for the 2016/2017 academic session. However, only 9000 spaces are available in the university.

Despite the few that always gain admission into the few spaces, quality of their training and certificates have become worrisome to both the government and regulatory authorities as stakeholders in the labour market expressed doubt over the quality of learning.

A former Faculty Officer of the California State University, Dominguez Hills, California and visiting Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Professor Chidiebere Onyia stated that the quality of a Nigerian graduate is a reflection of the entire education process in Nigeria.

“The point being that the product which is the certificate awarded at the end of a degree or programme is a factor of the quality of teaching, learning and assessment framework that has occurred throughout the education of these students.

“This quality of education is reflected in the thinking of some policy makers as they proffer solutions to very complex problems. This has led to kneejerk solutions that exacerbate the problems in the future which, however, seem to provide solutions in the near term.

“Imagine a student that is reading at a second grade level but is in Primary 6 because of the social promotion model practices in a significant number of schools. These students continue struggling with basic literacy proficiency and eventually meet the credit requirements through whatever means including the continued reduction of pass mark by JAMB for higher education admission,” he said.

He lamented that as a result of these numerous learning deficiencies and policy inconsistencies, students are unprepared for the learning expectations from their lecturers, saying that these had led to all sorts of unethical practices that result in a graduate with minimal disciplinary proficiency.

The resultant scenario, according to him, has led to situations where standards are lowered by the lecturers because majority of students cannot cope.

“This also presents an ethical dilemma for the lecturer- Should he/she pass these students with ‘let my people go’ against his/her better judgment or refuse to acquiesce to all sorts of pressures and allow minority that meet the learning requirements to graduate?” he added.

Onyia argued that the hidden multiple lines of deficiencies leaves the graduates with what looks like an ordinary piece of paper rather than a certificate.

“The flip side on a civic level is that these students over the years have also learnt that it’s okay to perform at a mediocre level, ignore taking responsibility for their actions and have mastered the act of putting any ethical compass they may have learnt during their younger age at abeyance.”

As it relates to employment, Professor Onyia said the moment the purpose of hiring to add value to the existing process is defeated, it will be counterproductive to hire based on sentiments.

“Hiring process is one of the most important processes in any organisation that seeks to improve and grow; therefore whether it’s a multinational or a local organization, hiring an unprepared graduate is a bad business decision.

“Even philanthropic organisations hire qualified people to further the vision for which they were established. Let’s get to the root of the problem and stop playing the ostrich as a nation,” he added.

Dr. Ayo Ayodele, English Department, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Lagos said Nigerian graduates, going by the curriculum and what has been taught by their lecturers, are good.

He argued that the general perception that graduates were not leaving up to expectation was not in any way connected to so much deficiencies in the content of the curriculum, but the inability of students and graduates to engage in personal development outside the school training.

“A lawyer trained by a university and out of the law school by all means is good to go because he has gone through all the procedures, also a medical doctor satisfied as good by the medical council.

“It is generally perceived that some of our graduates are not leaving up to standard not because of so much deficiencies in the content of what they were thought, but for personal development.

“There is a place for what you learn in school and a place for what you are able to do to develop on your own. You find a lot of university graduates whose foundation right from school has been very faulty without deliberate moves for personal development. If such student gets into the marketplace it will be difficult for him or her to cope sufficiently and compete effectively with others. In the long run, all of these come back into system and employers begin to complain,” he said.

Making a case for graduates trained in public universities, Dr. Ayodele stated that studies have shown that first and second class graduates produced by private universities are equally not exonerated from the complaint in the work places.

“It is not about the system or about the curriculum. It is about how the curriculum was taught; personal effort by students to develop themselves; and three, systemic dysfunctionality within the Nigerian nation such that students who are not willing to exert themselves also find encouragement in lecturers who are not willing to exert personal development. So you find a system that encourages indolence.”

It was, however, observed that several Nigerian graduates abandon their chosen careers after graduation and moved on to business. Ironically, most of them are doing very well in their businesses. There are also some who did not even go to school at all or dropped out of school and are contributing positively to the growth of the society today. To them, the certificate is just a paper that says ‘you went to school’.

For instance, Afo’s joint in Ajah, Lagos is a place to be. That is a corner where a 31- year- old Afolabi Samson, a graduate of Sociology from Lagos State University (LASU) is doing his business. He specialises in frying ‘Akara’ and ‘Puff-Puff’.

He got into the business after searching for job but could not get one. Today, he says he will not accept any job offer even if he gets.

“I started in September 2013 because I was tired of waiting for a white collar job. When I wanted to start, I didn’t have a dime on me but I was still determined. I looked around and thought of something that I could be good at and I came up with this idea of frying Akara and puff-puff. I then decided to loan some money from some family and friends but didn’t tell them what I wanted to do. I was able to raise N135,000. I used it to buy my gas cylinders, gas, pots, frying spoons, beans, flour, oil and other ingredients. I bought everything in bulk because I did not want to get stuck halfway after a month of business. So I made sure I invested everything in the business before I took off.”

There are many other graduates who have found themselves in Samson’s predicament and have decided to throw their certificates in one corner and get their hands dirty. Another of such is Iyabo Oshodi of Simply Perfumes, a burgeoning perfumes retail store. Iyabo finished from Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ogun State. According to her, she merely finished school just to satisfy her parents.

“I never for one day practiced Mass Communication I studied in school. After school I did not even serve. I borrowed money from my mother and I went to wholesales of clothes and perfumes in Idumota. After a while I saw that perfumes were easier to sell and were bringing in more money, so I decided to concentrate on perfumes. That was how I started Simply Perfumes,” Oshodi said.

This trend is becoming widespread and experts say it is a good development. Dr. John Ibidapo, who owns Focus College says that the rate at which the universities are churning out graduates is astronomical and the youth should not expect to find jobs out there.

His words: “I think it is inevitable and a good development. I lived in India for three years and I can tell you that virtually everyone is a graduate there. The man that cuts my hair in India is a graduate. The man that is driving taxi is a graduate. You can strike up intelligent conversations with him while he drives you to your destination. It is only in Nigeria that graduates see themselves as special beings. When they go without jobs, hunger will teach them to find a vocation.”

Perhaps where you will find more people without a degree is the entertainment industry. That however does not mean that a large number of them did not go to school. One of such is the popular television presenter, Funmi Iyanda. In a chat with her, she explained that education and seeking knowledge does not necessarily mean the same thing. She revealed that after her graduation, she has never gone back to the school she finished from to get her certificate.

“I hated school but loved education. I wanted to know things and discover things, not to be told things. I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t see how writers got paid. Since I hated asking anyone for money, I decided I’d be a journalist but my father wanted me to be a doctor because well, everybody’s father wanted them to be a doctor, also my father wished he was a doctor. Four years after University, l walked out, l didn’t even bother to collect my certificate. Today I am into media,” she says.

This is a list of popular celebrities who made it without a University degree.

Genevieve Nnaji is a very intelligent woman and with her good command of English, you would never know that she did not acquire a University Degree, even several years after saying that she would go back to school. Wizkid dropped out of Lead City University in his second year. Till date, he has not gone back to school.

9ice attended Abule Okuta Primary School and CMS Grammar School, and dropped out from his Law course at the Lagos State University to concentrate on music.

Mercy Johnson is one of the highest paid actresses in Nollywood. After she failed  JAMB several times, she turned to acting.

Dbanj left University without graduating and went to the UK for greener pastures. He came back to Nigeria to become a superstar musician.

Ramsey Noah attended Atara Primary School and Community Grammar School. He obtained a diploma at the University of Lagos, after which he pursued a career in acting. He is yet to get a degree.

Chidinma initially wanted to study Mass Communication but declined her admission into the University of Lagos due to her advancement in the Project Fame competition which eventually brought her to fame.

DonJazzy, the producer C.E.O of Mavin Records dropped out of Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma in his first year. And he took to music ever since.

Tuface Idibia enrolled at Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu (IMT), where he did his preliminary National Diploma course in business administration and management. While attending IMT, he performed at school organised shows and parties. He eventually dropped out to pursue his music career.

Aside all these, some Nigerian graduates are today in serious agony because they were unable read the course of their dreams. The case of Bimbo Arobieke is a case study. Though brilliant in secondary school and had vowed to read medicine, she lost out of the game when she scored 214 in JAMB. She was advised to read Physics at the interim with the hope of crossing to medicine later. Today, Bimbo teaches Physics in a secondary school at a remote village in Ogun State. “My saddest memory was the day I was asked to settle down for Physics. I have ever dreamt to be a medical doctor. How can I ever forgive myself?” she queried.

With these crucial challenges, it is obvious that all the stakeholders in the education industry, especially the parents, teachers/lecturers and government, need to play their roles adequately to safe the future of the Nigerian youths and defend the integrity and dividends accruable from tertiary education in Nigeria.