Education and Development
Text of the Panel Briefing on Theme of 2009 Nigerian Diaspora Day: ‘Education as Catalyst for Accelerating National Development’
Presented at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 25th July 2009.
Adebayo Bamitale, Ph.D
Your Excellency the Ambassador of Nigeria in Ethiopia,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I feel highly honored to be speaking on the theme of this year’s (2009) Nigerian Diaspora Day: ‘Education as Catalyst for Accelerating National Development’. I think this theme is appropriate at this time in the life of our dear country Nigeria and of our continent Africa. The imperative for catalyzing and accelerating the development of our country and this continent has never been as urgent as it is now. Our gathering today in marking the Nigerian Diaspora Day is another indication of the fact that, increasingly, the role of physical distance is diminishing in human interaction, making it more convenient to continue to maintain our cultural, family, and national ties with our fatherland.
As we think about this theme, our thought is added to and enriching the thoughts of our other colleagues all over the world because at the level of the spirit and of aspiration, distance is not a factor. Our thoughts are important because thoughts precede speech and words go before action, just as consistent action is the harbinger of habit which maps out the way for manifestation of destiny. Our collective thoughts play significant part in the destiny of our nation and of the world. With this realization at the back of our minds – let us consider the theme of this year’s celebration.
Considering the keywords – Education, Catalyst, Acceleration, and National Development – we can clearly see that this is a strong theme having concepts drawn from diverse fields of Education, Philosophy, Chemistry, Physics and Economics, thus showing the depth of the thoughts feeding the selection of the theme. This theme becomes doubly important when we consider the concepts in the context of the increasingly important roles that Nigerians in Diaspora are called upon to play not only in the development of their countries of residence, in our case Ethiopia, but also in the development of our fatherland, Nigeria.
Two important images connecting education to national development are Catalysis and Acceleration. Let’s start by looking at the images given by the concepts.
(a) Catalysts – Catalysis is a chemical concept relating to modification of rate of chemical reaction – change” – (usually accelerating the rate). Catalysts help to facilitate and increase normal chemical reactions. The catalyzed process would have happened anyway, but it may happen at a time that is too late. For example could you wait for seven days to have your bread? No. You want it tomorrow morning, so you added yeast – a catalyst – to facilitate and accelerate fermentation, so that instead of getting your bread next week, you have it on your table in the morning.
(b) Acceleration – a concept from physics meaning rate of increase in velocity [speed (distance per unit time)], that is increase in rate of moving forward – going at a faster pace; the opposite of which is deceleration, which is reducing in speed. Note the issue is not lack of speed; the issue is increase in speed as opposed to reduction in speed or uniform speed.
These two images are powerful when looked at from the angle of our theme. It means that national development will take place eventually and by chance, without acceleration and catalyzing; but would you rather wait for 100 years to develop your national capacity to feed, cloth, shelter and improve the quality of life of your people when this could be achieved in five years? We cannot afford to wait that long. This is the point at which investment in Education helps to bring about what would have naturally taken decades or centuries to achieve.
Education, training, capacity building and intellectual development are activities aimed at developing human potentials and are core concern of every country in Africa at this time. Education can take various form: formal, informal, preschool, school-based, post-school, and continuing education. The key goal of education is to fit the individual citizen for contributing their utmost for the society.
The problem with education in many African countries including Nigeria is that the goal and focus of education has changed four times within the last 200 years. This is a dynamism too difficult for many African countries to follow especially given the political environment of the last fifty years. In the last 200 years, education has had to serve the following focuses:
(a) Pre-colonial education with the goal of fitting the new entrants (children) to the society into the socially, culturally and religiously accepted roles and responsibilities. This take form of cultivation, spiritual, cultural trainings and rites of passage. Religious and cultural impacts were predominant.
(b) Colonial education and the creation of individual wheels that enables the colonial system to function smoothly. This resulted in disruption of the pre-colonial situation, confusion of focus and impact on the psyche of the people.
(c) Post-colonial education and the need for healing from colonial experiences, setting up a viable nation, ensuring a critical mass of citizenship who can make the country work in “Post-colonial” economy; and
(d) Globalized education and the imperative of creating truly global citizenship – products that could compete internationally. The concept of “Digital Natives” and “Digital Migrants” and the demands of the “Digital Economy”;
The implication of this problem is that African educational systems have been incapable of catching up with the exigencies of the demand of modern day. Most countries are not aware of this changing focus and so have not developed policies and programs to take advantage of the situation or to effectively sharpen the focus of their educational system.
National Development – an economics concept – refers to the ability of a nation to pull its weight in the comity of nations – to feed itself, to provide for its citizens, to handle the welfare of the people, to ensure social amenities – education, job, electricity, water, health facilities – to guarantee peaceful situations and to create a conducive environment for individuals within the society to support themselves.
Development is plainly progress – not remaining at the same spot – and not regressing in terms of the measures of development. It is an aggregate of a number of facets. Nations are ultimately like individuals, with interest, motive, goals, and purpose. No nation should be content to remain stagnant in this dynamic world.
Development is multi-faceted and can be seen from different angles –
• Infrastructural development – Measured by availability of necessary infrastructure such as road, communications, access to health facilities, electricity, etc.
• Economic development – Measured by economic indices such as Gross Domestic Product, Gross National Product, GNI, etc.
• Social development – Measured by the status of vibrancy of the society – women participation, youth contribution, community interaction, effectiveness and smoothness of operations of social institutions leading to improved quality of human life.
• Political development – Revealed bydegree of transparency in government, democratization, capacity of citizen to have a say in how they are governed; elimination of kleptocracy, avoidance of nepotism, absence of corruption, etc.
• Spiritual development – Like human beings, every country has a soul and a spirit. Spiritual development is a measure of a nations contact with its soul and is demonstrated in the moral and ethical consciousness of the people.
Development is ultimately a function of liberated human capacity – the more effectively liberated (rendered free) a nation’s human capacity is the more likely it is for the country to move forward. In every area because human beings are at the core of development because human beings carry the seed of divinity – “Ye are gods, children of the Most High” and so “Nature waits earnestly for the manifestation of the children of God…” They are the ones who create new employments, who transparently run the mechanisms of the state, who build the skyscrapers of beauty, who use modern machines to provide food that feed the population, and who design modern tools and instruments to make live easier for the people.
Where human capacity is constrained by poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, ineptitude, wars, corruption, and civil unrest, the divinity in man cannot manifest and so people cannot be their best. When people cannot be their best, a country cannot be its best. Hungry people, poverty-stricken people, unemployed youth, cannot contribute their maximum capacity or realize their potentials. Undeveloped potential means unwritten song, unpublished book, unrealized dream, un-preached sermons, un-inaugurated companies, un-formed organizations, unrevealed inventions, unknown Nobel laureates, and handicapped destinies. And in the increasingly competitive world, a nation of handicapped citizens cannot fulfill its purpose in the comity of nations.
Whatever indices are used to measure development, one way of ensuring this and militating against regression at the individual and collective or national level is to ensure the liberation of the human capacity and development of potentials. The best way to open up the capacity of the people is through education. Education will let the book be published, the song written, the dream realized, the company formed and the invention revealed. The sad reality is that the song is dying in the heart of many of our youths.
This is even more so because we are in an increasingly globalized, knowledge driven age, where skill is becoming more important that physical prowess. Even in sports such as athletes and football, sportsmen can no longer afford to rely only on mere physical stamina and practice. Strategies, training strategies, theories, knowledge of physiology, scientific design of shoes and jersey are taking place. Knowledge is playing critical part even in sports. Unlike never before in human history, applied knowledge is really becoming power and is giving comparative advantages in various areas of human life.
So, education is important for making single human units – citizens – to reach their maximum potentials. It is when a critical mass of human units – citizens of a country – reach their potential that collective consciousness of the nation can be geared for optimum performance, making the country to also reach its maximum potential. When this happens we have national development; this is why education is crucial for every nation. This seems like a pretty obvious issue, but are we really sure it is obvious? Are we paying lip-service to the value of education as catalyst for accelerating personal and national development? Are African countries really putting education on the front-burner? Is Nigeria really doing its best to strengthen the educational sector?
Knowledge and action should be concomitant; or as a philosopher once said: “To know and not to do is in fact not to know”. If our educational budgets continue to be less than 10% of our annual budget, can we really say that we know that education is important for national development? If our educational institutions cannot attract and retain the best minds, and if our brains continue to drain away to strengthen other nations, can we really say that we know what we are doing? If our students continue to spend more time at home than they do in school, can we bring out products that are capable of competing in the global market-place? If our libraries a filled with 18th century books, can we stand and compete at the cutting-edge of space technology, information technology, genetics sciences, nuclear science, and other areas of development?
A number of countries like Brazil, China and India are demonstrating to other developing countries the role that education can play in accelerating national development. These countries are almost like many African countries in terms of demography and experiences but each have concentrated on education as tools for national development. Although the three countries are not yet there, there are signs that they are accelerating towards national development. Even during the global recession, the economies of these countries continue to look up.
What is true at the national level is true at the personal level. What is your personal budget for education? How much of your time do you allocate weekly for self-development? Even at the personal level we must sharpen our saws. Constantly and consistently we must improve on ourselves: learn new languages, learn some new skills; keep up with development in your field. What we do at personal level ultimately add up at the national level.
Let us all agree and commit to the idea that education is crucial for personal and national development. Let us then practicalize this at every level in which we are involved. Our key for moving forward in the increasingly globalized, knowledge-driven, competitive world, where effectiveness and efficiency takes on increasing importance will be how convinced we are that education is crucial to personal and national development. This conviction must then be expressed not only in glowing words but in concomitant practical action at all levels – personal, family, local and national.