St. Patrick’s College Calabar And A Case For Productive Education In Nigeria By Dominic Ottih

St. Patrick’s College Calabar And A Case For Productive Education In Nigeria By Dominic Ottih


By Dominic Ottih


While on my way home the other day, after a hard day’s job, I stumbled on one of my bosses clutching a small jar of liquid soap, walking with uncharacteristic swagger and gait, with an infectious smirk on his face, borne out of palpable excitement.  I interjected his momentum, jolted him out of his reverie, and jocularly asked whether he had won a lottery or had been gifted the ticket to fly the PDP flag in the next gubernatorial election.  My question triggered a paroxysm of laughter, and more laughter. He said a combination of both would be too insignificant to elicit such quantum of joy.  To my utmost shock, the jar of liquid soap accounted for the rapturous excitement.  I found this incredulous until I heard the whole story.

Boldly written on the jar was ‘SPACO LIQUID SOAP’.  Clem told me that the liquid soap is a product of St Patrick’s College, Ikot – Ansa, Calabar.  As a matter of fact, he said the liquid soap is only one of numerous products manufactured by the school.  Some of the other products include bar soap, paint and cooking oil.  I also learnt that the school runs an oil mill, where palm fruits are extracted and processed into cooking oil.  And these products are manufactured by the students as part of their curriculum.

LG Roundabout, Calabar

I think this is a rare feat and a very commendable one.  The school authority deserves kudos for daring to be creative, thinking outside the box and engendering practical and productive education.  This is a breath of fresh air especially in a country where book knowledge takes pre-eminence over practical learning and skill acquisition.  In Nigeria, we are bedeviled by the malaise of paper qualification syndrome.  And this explains why our graduates are not competitive at the global market place.  Our computer scientists may not have operated a computer throughout their tutelage in our educational system while our engineers are unable to bridge our technology gap, not to talk of building bridges, or even providing solution to our numerous technological and infrastructural challenges.

 Our engineering firms boast engineers with intimidating resumes, many of them being proud recipients of masters and doctorate degrees, yet our local construction firms lack the capacity to fix ordinary asphalted roads that can survive one rainy season. Today, various Chinese companies are building everything in Nigeria from roads to bridges and railway tracks. Only last week, the Federal Government of Nigeria signed an agreement with two Chinese companies to the tune of about $1.293 billion for the construction of Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project. Why was this agreement not signed with Nigerian companies? Or don’t we have civil and electrical engineers?  Or are our own engineers’ pseudo – engineers?

We have petroleum and petrochemical engineers, geologists and chemical engineers yet our oil industry is effectively powered by expatriates because our paper qualified manpower lack requisite practical skills. Many of our hospitals today have become abattoirs as our paper qualified but poorly trained doctors destroy more lives than they save in their daily sessions of trial and error. Indeed, many people have died because their otherwise unserious ailments were misdiagnosed while the doctors treated non-existent ailments that ended up exacerbating patients’ conditions.

An emerging practice in the corporate world in Nigeria is that corporations gravitate towards foreign trained Nigerian professionals in clear preference over their home grown counterparts with arrays of high-sounding qualifications on paper. And the reason for this is not far-fetched.  Corporations are aware that acquisition of practical skill would benefit their businesses more than paper qualifications, no matter how exalted and embellished they are. And they understand that Nigerian educational system is not configured to inculcate such skills.

Developed countries are developed because their educational systems are designed to impart robust, practical skills that invariably translate to effective manpower. In such climes, focus is on ‘show me what you can do’ and not ‘show me your (paper) qualifications’. And this explains why technicians from such countries come to Nigeria and perform the tasks our highly qualified engineers lack the skill to do. And yet, every day we lament about the abuse of expatriate quota. As kids, we were regaled with stories of how primary school kids in developed countries manufactured mechanical and electrical devices like fans, electric irons and televisions, because the adults would rather utilise their time in building more serious and sophisticated devices like airplanes and cars, and would not be distracted by these other small things.  Although on attaining adulthood, we have since realised that those were fables, yet it remains a pointer to the fact that their educational system is designed to train kids who would eventually be able to practically solve human challenges.

Over the years, successive governments have mouthed the need to have a technology driven education model. There have been all forms of sloganeering, jingles and talk shows. But these are mere platitudes and histrionics.  Indeed, huge funds have been budgeted and allocated over the years. But in the typical Nigerian fashion, nothing was done except that few persons with the right political profiles smiled to the bank. And the subterfuge continues. The 6-3-3-4 system of education was designed to teach kids in junior secondary, practical skills like carpentry, pottery, sewing, auto mechanic skills amongst others. And for these, funds are approved for the purchase and installation of equipment. No equipment is installed nor are the kids taught any practical skills. Even the regular Physics, Chemistry and Biology laboratories have no materials for practical. Students are theoretically taught practical.

The other day, I was listening to a radio phone – in programme centred on the lingering ASUU strike. A caller said he had his university education in Kenya. He said on gaining admission he was informed of the day he would graduate four years later, and according to him, he graduated exactly on that day. But that is beyond the purview of this essay. The issue is that the caller, who said he studied a science course in the university, lamented that he had a torrid time in his first year in the university, and this was because he did not have the privilege of performing or being thought requisite science practical, rudimentary to further study in the sciences.  He regretted that those things were thought him theoretically in the Nigerian secondary school he attended. He lamented that his Kenyan counterparts and students from other countries had a head start over him because they were taught the rudimentary practical in their home secondary schools.

In view of the foregoing, I think St Patricks College should be a guiding beacon in highlighting and fixing what is lacking in our educational system.  The government should latch unto this, seize the opportunity and introduce this model across Nigerian secondary schools. Indeed, the school should be made a centre of excellence for skill acquisition and practical learning.  And the government should uncharacteristically endeavour to replicate this model across all the schools in the country, or at least some of them.  Government needs to realise that people are wired differently. It is not everybody that has the inclination to be a doctor or an engineer, an accountant or a surveyor. Who said some body cannot become a welder or a carpenter and be successful as is obtained in developed economies?

St Patrick’s College model can help kids to discover themselves and their talents early enough. It is even possible that pursuing their talents rather than proceeding to acquire high sounding degrees might add more value to the economy. Some of the devices that have fundamentally changed the word and made life better today, were made by kids who were helped by their country’s well organised educational system to discover their talents and found out that they did not have to sacrifice their dreams on the altar of acquiring bogus degrees. There is a whole litany of them. From Bill Gates who dropped out of school to co-found Microsoft, Steve Job who also dropped out of school to found Apple to Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard to co-found Facebook.  These prodigies have gone on to birth corporations that have contributed immensely to the growth of the American economy. And wait for it, Google’s profit before tax in 2010 was higher than Nigeria’s budget in 2011.

It is yet morning on creation day. One can safely predict that if St Patrick’s College practical and skill acquisition driven learning model is replicated across all Nigerian schools, and consistently, vigorously and sincerely pursued, in the next couple of years, Nigeria will be placed on a pedestal where we can proudly celebrate our own Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and birth our own Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Dominic Ottih is a Lagos based accountant

************

Send your articles for publication to editor@paradigmshiftng.com. You can also send your eye witness reports, photos and videos to iwitness@paradigmshiftng.com

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By Dominic Ottih


While on my way home the other day, after a hard day’s job, I stumbled on one of my bosses clutching a small jar of liquid soap, walking with uncharacteristic swagger and gait, with an infectious smirk on his face, borne out of palpable excitement.  I interjected his momentum, jolted him out of his reverie, and jocularly asked whether he had won a lottery or had been gifted the ticket to fly the PDP flag in the next gubernatorial election.  My question triggered a paroxysm of laughter, and more laughter. He said a combination of both would be too insignificant to elicit such quantum of joy.  To my utmost shock, the jar of liquid soap accounted for the rapturous excitement.  I found this incredulous until I heard the whole story.

Boldly written on the jar was ‘SPACO LIQUID SOAP’.  Clem told me that the liquid soap is a product of St Patrick’s College, Ikot – Ansa, Calabar.  As a matter of fact, he said the liquid soap is only one of numerous products manufactured by the school.  Some of the other products include bar soap, paint and cooking oil.  I also learnt that the school runs an oil mill, where palm fruits are extracted and processed into cooking oil.  And these products are manufactured by the students as part of their curriculum.

LG Roundabout, Calabar

I think this is a rare feat and a very commendable one.  The school authority deserves kudos for daring to be creative, thinking outside the box and engendering practical and productive education.  This is a breath of fresh air especially in a country where book knowledge takes pre-eminence over practical learning and skill acquisition.  In Nigeria, we are bedeviled by the malaise of paper qualification syndrome.  And this explains why our graduates are not competitive at the global market place.  Our computer scientists may not have operated a computer throughout their tutelage in our educational system while our engineers are unable to bridge our technology gap, not to talk of building bridges, or even providing solution to our numerous technological and infrastructural challenges.

 Our engineering firms boast engineers with intimidating resumes, many of them being proud recipients of masters and doctorate degrees, yet our local construction firms lack the capacity to fix ordinary asphalted roads that can survive one rainy season. Today, various Chinese companies are building everything in Nigeria from roads to bridges and railway tracks. Only last week, the Federal Government of Nigeria signed an agreement with two Chinese companies to the tune of about $1.293 billion for the construction of Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project. Why was this agreement not signed with Nigerian companies? Or don’t we have civil and electrical engineers?  Or are our own engineers’ pseudo – engineers?

We have petroleum and petrochemical engineers, geologists and chemical engineers yet our oil industry is effectively powered by expatriates because our paper qualified manpower lack requisite practical skills. Many of our hospitals today have become abattoirs as our paper qualified but poorly trained doctors destroy more lives than they save in their daily sessions of trial and error. Indeed, many people have died because their otherwise unserious ailments were misdiagnosed while the doctors treated non-existent ailments that ended up exacerbating patients’ conditions.

An emerging practice in the corporate world in Nigeria is that corporations gravitate towards foreign trained Nigerian professionals in clear preference over their home grown counterparts with arrays of high-sounding qualifications on paper. And the reason for this is not far-fetched.  Corporations are aware that acquisition of practical skill would benefit their businesses more than paper qualifications, no matter how exalted and embellished they are. And they understand that Nigerian educational system is not configured to inculcate such skills.

Developed countries are developed because their educational systems are designed to impart robust, practical skills that invariably translate to effective manpower. In such climes, focus is on ‘show me what you can do’ and not ‘show me your (paper) qualifications’. And this explains why technicians from such countries come to Nigeria and perform the tasks our highly qualified engineers lack the skill to do. And yet, every day we lament about the abuse of expatriate quota. As kids, we were regaled with stories of how primary school kids in developed countries manufactured mechanical and electrical devices like fans, electric irons and televisions, because the adults would rather utilise their time in building more serious and sophisticated devices like airplanes and cars, and would not be distracted by these other small things.  Although on attaining adulthood, we have since realised that those were fables, yet it remains a pointer to the fact that their educational system is designed to train kids who would eventually be able to practically solve human challenges.

Over the years, successive governments have mouthed the need to have a technology driven education model. There have been all forms of sloganeering, jingles and talk shows. But these are mere platitudes and histrionics.  Indeed, huge funds have been budgeted and allocated over the years. But in the typical Nigerian fashion, nothing was done except that few persons with the right political profiles smiled to the bank. And the subterfuge continues. The 6-3-3-4 system of education was designed to teach kids in junior secondary, practical skills like carpentry, pottery, sewing, auto mechanic skills amongst others. And for these, funds are approved for the purchase and installation of equipment. No equipment is installed nor are the kids taught any practical skills. Even the regular Physics, Chemistry and Biology laboratories have no materials for practical. Students are theoretically taught practical.

The other day, I was listening to a radio phone – in programme centred on the lingering ASUU strike. A caller said he had his university education in Kenya. He said on gaining admission he was informed of the day he would graduate four years later, and according to him, he graduated exactly on that day. But that is beyond the purview of this essay. The issue is that the caller, who said he studied a science course in the university, lamented that he had a torrid time in his first year in the university, and this was because he did not have the privilege of performing or being thought requisite science practical, rudimentary to further study in the sciences.  He regretted that those things were thought him theoretically in the Nigerian secondary school he attended. He lamented that his Kenyan counterparts and students from other countries had a head start over him because they were taught the rudimentary practical in their home secondary schools.

In view of the foregoing, I think St Patricks College should be a guiding beacon in highlighting and fixing what is lacking in our educational system.  The government should latch unto this, seize the opportunity and introduce this model across Nigerian secondary schools. Indeed, the school should be made a centre of excellence for skill acquisition and practical learning.  And the government should uncharacteristically endeavour to replicate this model across all the schools in the country, or at least some of them.  Government needs to realise that people are wired differently. It is not everybody that has the inclination to be a doctor or an engineer, an accountant or a surveyor. Who said some body cannot become a welder or a carpenter and be successful as is obtained in developed economies?

St Patrick’s College model can help kids to discover themselves and their talents early enough. It is even possible that pursuing their talents rather than proceeding to acquire high sounding degrees might add more value to the economy. Some of the devices that have fundamentally changed the word and made life better today, were made by kids who were helped by their country’s well organised educational system to discover their talents and found out that they did not have to sacrifice their dreams on the altar of acquiring bogus degrees. There is a whole litany of them. From Bill Gates who dropped out of school to co-found Microsoft, Steve Job who also dropped out of school to found Apple to Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard to co-found Facebook.  These prodigies have gone on to birth corporations that have contributed immensely to the growth of the American economy. And wait for it, Google’s profit before tax in 2010 was higher than Nigeria’s budget in 2011.

It is yet morning on creation day. One can safely predict that if St Patrick’s College practical and skill acquisition driven learning model is replicated across all Nigerian schools, and consistently, vigorously and sincerely pursued, in the next couple of years, Nigeria will be placed on a pedestal where we can proudly celebrate our own Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and birth our own Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Dominic Ottih is a Lagos based accountant

************

Send your articles for publication to editor@paradigmshiftng.com. You can also send your eye witness reports, photos and videos to iwitness@paradigmshiftng.com

Click here to subscribe to The Paradigm Newsletter

Comments

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