Sunday, 01 January 2017 01:09

Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the STEM Curriculum to Revolutionize Nigeria's Education, Benefit The Child

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The Nigerian Federal Government ought to have the  encourage to strengthen our country 's educational  system by (i), emphasizing  Science, Technology, Engineering , and Mathematics curricula beginning from the early years in our public schools through the universities; (ii)  testing millions of our school children in order to separate about 20% of the best brains for special training at Government expense in Nigeria's Science Academies to serve as our nucleus scientists; and (iii repatriating millions of our best science brains from Western countries where they had gone to avoid hardships at home.

Any government , including the Nigerian  Federal and State Governments, is empowered by  virtue of the  eminent domain to do what is best for the country. Education is not a luxury but a necessity.  That includes removing brainy and creative children from their families and providing proper training, school lunches, mentoring, and getting them ready to champion scientific jobs.

This is not new.  China, Japan, North Korea, and India are followings the approach outlined in this essay and reaping huge, unsurpassed benefits . China, Russia and tiny North Korea are harvesting the best scientific brains, while Nigeria and many African countries are lagging behind, losing their best brains or just beginning to wake up from deep slumber punctuated with anti-science superstitions (voodoo mentality).

The purpose of this piece is twofold: first, to build on the educational philosophy and pragmatism  of Obafemi  Awolowo's and his indelible  contribution to  Nigeria's school system;  and second, to  categorically state that my country Nigeria is destroying the future of young Nigerian children when our instructive practices concentrate heavily on ineffectual programs that do not make a significant dent on our national development and that cannot  prepare the young for the future.

Awolowo's impact is indelible in that what he did for Western Nigeria is impossible to ignore or repeal. Awolowo's collision with Nigeria's education juggernaut is newsworthy. Awolowo's impact cannot be obliterate; it is  ineffaceable, ineradicable, permanent, stubborn, obstinate, unforgettable, or deep-rooted. It is like a tree's  mkporogwu (tap root) or your body's akwala (veins).

A nation like Nigeria needs to revolutionize its education in order to remain viable and survive as a nation in the next Century. Nigeria can survive by implementing  the STEM curriculum in order to make wise decisions that would benefit the masses. The Nigerian Federal Government ought to listen attentively, not askance, when science is the topic of discussion.

How can we use science to provide information and knowledge that can help Nigeria's Federal Government make wise decisions?  Science provides jobs for smart Nigerians in manufacturing, telecommunication, and agriculture. Science allows common people to work together to solve common problems affecting them such as providing enough food to feed a bourgeoning population.

Another problem needing urgent solution in Nigeria is how to place cattle herders and their cattle in safe enclosures in order to not allow them to forage, scavenge, or rummage at will, destroying people's farms and killing villagers. Science brings together people with similar points of view from different Nigerian tribes to make decisions to save their country. President Buhari cannot pretend he has all the solutions in his brain. No man or woman can. We need cooperative efforts, individual "I too know."

Specifically, what does science do for the average Nigerian on the streets?  You could use physics, which helps with engineering, to construct new and improved buildings and structures. There should be reduction in the numbers of Nigerians living in abject beggary and squalor and who have such communicable diseases as polio, syphilis, small pox, chicken pox, small pox, leprosy, and HIV/AIDS.

Chemistry helps scientists to create new compounds with better properties that would rid Nigerians of many of our illnesses and improve our lifestyle. Examples are carbon fiber, and lighter materials for use in planes and cars to make them more fuel efficient. Science enables us to better understand the world around us. Science can promote instant global communications.

We do not need Nigerian languages (Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, Kanuri , or Munchi, except to help us understand the scientific world  around us.  We do not need Nigerian  religions (Chistianty, paganism,  and Islam) except to entertain us  or to restrain us when isi mgbaka (insanity or craziness created by belief in various gods ) puts us on the risk of killing off each other. We need to think like Awolowo to rescue Nigeria from the bottom rail it has fallen to since Nigeria's educational systems have all but disappeared. We cannot fail to catch onto the vision of Awolowo's philosophy and pragmatism.

While we are still on revolutionizing the Nigerian educational  system,  Awolowo's theory and pragmatism jump at us and jumpstart  us in the right direction. Theory is a hypothesis, a conjecture, speculation, assumption, presumption, supposition, or guess.  Pragmatism is defined as practicality, expediency, matter-of-factness, uncomplicatedness, or simplicity. That's what the Nigerian school child is in dire need of; how to move into the 21st Century with the rest of the children of the world.

We give credit where credit is due. It is due to  Chief Obafemi Awolowo for having the foresight and forethought to come up with free Universal Primary Education (UPE ) in the West (now extended to the universities). That UPE gave the Yorubas  a broad headstart /jumpstart in the educational arena .It should do the same for all Nigerians regardless of tribe and State of origin

A headstart is an advantage, advance, start, leadership, or vanguard.  It is like the battery and jump cable that kick your dead car into life when the temperature falls below freezing point in Alaska. Let the Igbos and Hausas (nay, all Nigerians)  learn from Chief Awolowo. Let the Hausas and Kanuris embark upon and extend the philosophy of Awolowo whereby  Illiterate traders enroll in schools established in the middle of Enugu's Ogbete and Lagos' Alaba markets.

Chief Awolowo said: "Let there be light!,"  and there was  a great light in Western Nigeria. This light ought to be duplicated all over Nigeria. How? Travelling Schools on horses and camelbacks follow cattle herders along their routes, teaching their women and children to read, write, and compute.  Lorries packed  ndi nkuzi (teachers) ply the byways/side streets/lanes of Southern Nigeria. They  teach the poor, hardworking, long-suffering, sweating village woman selling akara balls in the hot sun  at Surulere or Utonkon. They teach  the basic computer programming language so the akara fryer understands how life is changing each passing minute.

Science can enable that akara frier to communicate with her son in Russia or Washington DC through hand-held computer or cell phone. Why can't she send a 3-dimensional picture of her image and akara  cooking in the hot palm oil to her son while she is learning useful skills in the blazing, sweltering, baking,  blistering, roaring, scorching, roasting, glowing, and burning  sun-baked environment? There is  no end to boookeeerrry (book learning).

The application of science is limitless. The application in the Nigerian context is immeasurable, unbounded, and inexhaustible.  Let some Nigerian geniuses translate calculus, differential equations, geometry, and topology into Nigerian languages (Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba)  to enable us get faster to the moon and back; to fix our roads, remove shit from our water to make it drinkable, and prevent our mothers from dying in local unhygienic maternity wards or travelling overseas for prenatal and postnatal care at prohibitive costs.

Because we are now becoming  global-minded rather than constrained in the village or regional, we need to be able to communicate with the world through a common language that would get us on the road to modernity. The common language shall come around iff (if and only if) we become immersed in the asusu (language or dialect) of science that traverses, goes over, or passes through regional boundaries. That language is nothing less that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  The use of quadratic formula to solve algebraic equations  is the same at Enugu as it is in London.

A car drives anywhere in the world, doesn't it? An airplane files over all terrains, no be so? In order to survive in the next century, we need a steadfast, solid,  unyielding grounding in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Let every Nigerian say "STEM" throughout the land. Stem, Stem, Stem, Stem, Stem, Stem.......

What shall we do when our oil is no longer needed or yielding fruits? What do we do if our population continues to expand until we have no more arable land to grow cassava, yams, plantains, corn, or wheat? Do we curl up and die when no one needs our dirty oil that pollutes our environment, that infuriates Buhari to the point of sending hired assassins with powerful armaments to kill persons who are trying to save our environments, and who are saying: "Mr. President, there's a better scientific way than petroleum"?

Science will teach us to invest in driver-less  vehicles that do  not use Nigerian petrol, that use solar panels that trap energy from the sum.  It has gone beyond science fiction but it is happening today when solar energy gotten from the blazing sun is making kerosene generators from the Chinese as obsolete as outside latrines dug in the earth.  We cannot continue to walk around naked under uncomfortable heavy  lace when our future clothes are made from fibers that are as cool as cotton.

We need massive education in the sciences to avoid being  left behind  in the race to the moon; we cannot  be redundant or go back to the caves like our primitive fore parents  had lived, particularly as the Nigerians love to have multiple sex partners  and fill tiny huts with neglected children who are constantly coughing, sneezing, shitting  with bloated stomachs and who are frequently infected with malarial fever and dysentery.  Science ought to take care of our many problems iff (if and only if) we begin to cultivate scientific minds as a matter of exigency, urgency, or necessity.

As the Nigerian population explodes unchecked , aren't we at the point where we need to practice birth control and family planning? Do we need to pay the boko haram insurgents  to kill off 20,000 of us per day so 20,000 others can eat?. Who would feed us when there is not enough arable land to support Nigerians' obsession with starches (rice, cassava, garri, cocoyams, potatoes, wheat, to name a few).

All Nigerian educational system does is prepare us for a life of the past century; a life of abject poverty and dependency. We are rapidly becoming  a beggar nation that cannot feed itself;  but we lives hand –to-mouth pleading for handouts, particularly leftovers that others have rejected and  that are stamped "expired do not consume."

We Nigerians feed on remnants of poisonous foodstuffs swept into gutters of overfed nations. Come to think of it, we line up as suppliant and compliant vagabonds at the World bank and other exploitative lenders to fill applications for loans that have such excessive interest rates  that our  oil,  children, and other natural resources cannot pay off in 1,000 years. We cannot pay off the debts we incur as a result of lack of scientific knowledge in the lifetimes of our people. We shall not forever be indebted.

We cannot do without science education in Nigerian public  schools. Surely, we cannot do without science education in the Nigerian public schools. If we try to do without the science knowledge, we shall be virtual indentured servants or rent-paying occupants on slave plantations owned by the European slave masters. Yes, we Nigerians , some with PhD's in very impressive fields , are contented to be able-bodied Nigger servants who are property of Mr. Charlie at the head of the  manufacturing concerns of  superpowers represented by the Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, the French, and Germans.

So long as we are under-educating  or mis-educating  our young people in the science fields, we run the risk of forevermore remaining the Third World people who live in  superstition and darkness rather than light and enlightenment, who die young from preventable illnesses, and who forever remain consumer nation rather than producing people.  We run the risk of becoming non-beings from whom all exploiters harvested transplantable body parts  (heart, liver, kidney, pancreases, eyes, skin, and other  needed  components). Without science education in the  Nigerian public schools and without  practicing the philosophy of Obafemi  Awolowo, we are nothing. We are nonentity, unknown, insignificant.

Submitted December 31, 2016. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Dr. James C. Agazie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , jamesagazies.blogspot.com

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.