The jobs and the works: Towards a pragmatic appraisal of education in Nigeria

Professional bodies in Nigeria

By Ganiu Bamgbose

In an uncharacteristic anticlimax, this exposition will proceed from its conclusion to its body and to what may be called an introduction if there would still be a need for it. Jobs, which demand that people are gainfully employed, are truthfully scarce in Nigeria. However, works, which demand that a person gets meaningfully engaged, are ever available for those who possess the requisites. Practically speaking, if a graduate of Fishery does not get a company to hire him or her (being a job), does she or he also need the approval of a company to smoke and sell fish at the back of her or his compound (being a work)?  If a graduate of  English with a solid academic background does not get a company to work? Does she or he need a company or employment to edit people’s manuscripts in a country where very many people struggle with the standard usage of the English language? The problem is clear and simple: people who have works to do all think they deserve to get jobs!

Picking insights from a series of lectures by one of Nigeria’s foremost educationists, Professor Emeritus Pai Obanya, the labour market is full but the world of work is still very spacious. In line with pragmatism as an educational philosophy, learners should learn by doing and teachers should help students develop problem solving skills through inductive thinking which hangs on interaction with his or her culture. A culinary education where students are being spoon fed is therefore not a pragmatic approach. The type of education that helps students define parts of speech as if they were reciting poems without being able to identify such word classes in actual sentences is not pragmatic in approach. Suffice it to say therefore that QUALIFICATIONS ARE NOT AS IMPORTANT AS PERSONAL QUALITIES.

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A 21st  century student needs three categories of skills or what Pai Obanya has described as a tripartite skills set for 21st century needs and these are hard skills, soft skills and go-getting skills. Hard skills are in the realm of cognitive intelligence such as the knowledge of subjects and concepts. Such knowledge abounds in Nigeria. Students, like their teachers, can define and give the characteristics of terminologies, quote scholars, give facts and figures and, there it stops. Not so much is known about what this academic knowledge can do in the real world. The soft skill can be likened to the affective domain of education where emotional intelligence and character is measured. It is at this level that an elderly person looks at a graduate and says: I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU’VE BEEN TO SCHOOL? This is to say that such a person lacks in good character such as what the Yoruba call OMOLUABI! The smartest of these skills is the go-getting skill which is in the realm of imaginative thinking.

A graduate of Teacher Education who has stayed at home for over a year complaining of unemployment lacks in the go-getting skill. So, what stops from gathering the young ones in the neighbourhood for extramural classes? The serious lack of creativity among certificate carriers in Nigeria is one of the biggest challenges of the country. An education that teaches skills without opening students’ eyes to the practicability or societal usages of such skill is in my view a culinary education where students are being spoon fed.

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It is essential for the country to critically examine the problem of unemployment along with many other indices among which are unemployability and the lack of soft and go-getting skills. A 21st century university graduate should not only adopt the acquired knowledge in giving back to the lecturers during examination. Students should be able to adapt knowledge in other crucial fields such as work creations and to also move to the level of inventing where something comes out of all that have been adopted and adapted. Education should have as its main goal the enhancement of social relevance.

Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (GAB) is a Doctoral Candidate of English, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

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