It is 9 am as I stepped finally into the long-stretched passage. It was empty; no teacher, no students; only me. I was late, quite unfortunately. The lectures start at 9 am, and it is expected everyone be in the class at least 8:55 am. And, surely, here, once it is 8:55 the lecturers all file out to the various classes. And once it is 9 am, the classes start. If you arrive a minute past 9, you are late, as I was this day.
The reality of this empty passage sent my mind back to the country I was coming from. I was not even comparing the punctuality of the academic cadre or the standard of education itself. I was thinking of the massive collapse of its essence, its availability and the poverty of its prospects.
The night before, I read it on the Internet that lecturers in the Polytechnics were still on strike. They had been before the University lecturers joined in the middle of last year and continued till early this year. University students sat through 6 months dining with the two worst devils of life: idleness and boredom. The Polytechnic lecturers took few months break and had resumed strike again. And, as it seems, politicians are busy carpeting and cross carpeting; somehow they are not interested in the rants of these distracting academic hordes. So when will the students in Polytechnic go back to class? It is not even known.
I live in Korea, and in this country education is everything. I think it is not necessary to blow anymore horn about the strength of this nation’s economy, standards of their infrastructure and quality of their living standards; all hinged on the power and value of their education system. But it is worth mentioning what I found to be the major discrepancy between these two nations. Here, psyche is the central and most respected national resource; human resources are the strength of the government, the economy and the society, which is why education is everything. Every effort is invested and legitimately dispensed at developing the individual to become a global brand, to earn the capacity to compete with his mates anywhere they are found in the globe.
This country situated on the peninsula betwixt China, North Korea and Japan squat on a total of 100,210 km sq area of land. But unfortunately 72 percent of this land is hills, plateaus and mountains. Meaning that their populations of a little over 50,000,000 people live within the remaining clusters, in relatively higher density, 501.1/km2, higher than most nations of the world. From the shackles of Japanese domination in 1950, this country has risen in leaps and bounds. Among its endearing statistics is the fact that within these decades that followed its independence South Korea economy has been transformed into a G-20 major economy and has the second highest standard of living in Asia, having an HDI of 0.909.
Yes, South Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy and the world’s 15th (nominal) or 12th (purchasing power parity) largest economy. But Korea has no Crude Oil, Tin, Iron Ore, Gold or Diamond Mines. This economy is export-driven. South Korean corporations like Samsung and LG (ranked first and third largest mobile phone companies in the world in the first quarter of 2012 respectively) dominate world markets, among the many beautiful, yet daunting stories of their transformation.
Behind this testimony of exemplary 50 decades of industrial development is an educational and social philosophy that underscores, perfectly well, that the true wealth of a nation is not its natural resources as much as it is its human resources. And each new day as I walk towards the class in Sunkyunkwan University, I am reminded of this philosophy. And also of wholly dedicated, hard-working, cheerful teachers who can go to any length to impart knowledge to the students. How many times I pity the extent of their personal sacrifice to advance the academic goals of their students. But they all work according to this country’s educational philosophy.
The classes are fully equipped with advanced learning infrastructure. The chalkboard a long time ago had given way to a board fully equipped with Power Point presentation facility, digitalized and connected to the Internet. Our test books are online and everything we have to do is online based and of the best standards compared to anywhere in the world.
Here, sadly, a 60 mark/grade after an exam is just a pass! Not even a credit. So any score less than 70, you have to go through a review to step you up and you have to write an exam to prove the review produced the expected result. And this and other factors have driven this nation from the brinks of poverty to industrial heights.
But, somehow, as I entered the class with these thoughts, I began, once again, to nurse that deep gorge of guilt that comes to me when I remember my country, Nigeria. That feeling also comes along with a certain gnawing pain of the advanced nature of ignorance spawned by our system on both the leaders and the lead that seems to suggest nothing will change soon. Since I was born the story has always been that the situation is bad for the common man. It had gone from worse, to worst, until there is no relative adverb to describe the situation now.
I did not cause Nigeria’s problem. I did not steal anybody’s money to be here. My father until his demise was a poor village farmer. My mother is still living off her labour in the farm. I am only a fortunate candidate of a scholarship programme. But this feeling when it comes doesn’t leave me soon. It keeps digging deep hole on my moral fibre. I keep wondering if there is a way I may have contributed to making Nigeria what it is. Leaving over 70 percent of her human population disillusioned and gasping for life, not knowing how and from which source the next meal will come. Seeking miracle in anything mentioned to possess divine power.
I was also keep wondering how Nigerian students abroad whose parents are part and parcel of this system that created the rot feel. How do they feel knowing their parents have left many of the nation’s youths disoriented and confused? How do they feel when their parents pay so much for them to study in this kind of environment, and knowing that this money, by every legitimate standards their parents cannot earn it? How do they feel when they remember that having messed up the system and exported them abroad to acquire the best education their parents left the system back home in total pell-mell. How do they feel to learn that their mates down in the villages are giving up legitimate endeavors and making career prospects in kidnapping and robbery? How do they really feel? Worse than I do? Or maybe they do not feel anything at all?
In the last one-month a drama has been playing out between the Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi on the one hand and Ministries of Finance, Petroleum and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, on the other. As it were the whole nation focused on it, because of the whopping amount of money involved. And as that drama played out, the reality of the hopelessness of the Nigerian situation dawned so much on me. That drama defines us in the mean time. Nobody in Nigeria’s governance system has an alternative thinking—or may be just a tiny minority of wayward thinkers who do not even possess the gut and grit to make it to the positions of governance.
To many of them there now at the corridors of power, be it political or bureaucratic, all they want is money. Everyone is talking money, oil money; how it is stolen, how it is not stolen! No one else is thinking. To Nigeria and Nigerians this oil money is everything. You have it, you have everything, you don’t have it, and you don’t have anything. That charade at the House of Assembly also defines the 2015 and the slapsticks of cross-carpeting that have become a daily news menu. Because everybody, everybody politician, wants to place himself at the vantage position to have a bite of the piece of the cake come 2015. They have been eating, and they want to keep eating.
Google, two regular guys’ idea is about to worth more than our oil. The Facebook founder is just 24 years old. But where are Nigerian youths? Is anybody concerned at the mess we left him or her? Of the frustration we are building up among them? Just education! Give them education, a qualitative one, so that they can on their own change their world, compete with their fellows elsewhere. No! Nigerian politicians do not see the resource in the youth. They are only tools used and dumped during elections.
In this generation Nigerian leaders are wired in pursuit of oil blocks and loots because in our clime ideas do not sell and if ideas sell, regular guys will become threats to Nigerian politicians. May be that is the fear. Because I do not see the big deal in investing 30 percent of our resources in revamping the educational system, and establishing it on the best standards and employ it to eliminate this endemic poverty in our clime.
As I sit in the class this day carrying this feeling and thinking these thoughts, the pain gnaws even harder that nothing will change. What will I write more than have been written these years, and what will I say that that has not been said? Like Amos in the bible called their likes, they are cows of Bashan. But we will keep lamenting to their ears. Even when they refuse to change, heaven will bear witness that we told them, as our fathers did.
Izuchukwu Okeke Job
Suwon, South Korea
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters