By Anote Ajeluorou
The yearly University Press Plc’s Authors Forum was held last week at Kakanfo Inn, Ibadan, with a gathering of scholars and intellectuals. Although this year’s keynote is a departure from the regular one that usually dwells on books and related issues, this year’s did not fail to excite on account of the lecturer and the manner he handled his topic, which was on science and technology and how Nigeria has failed to make the most of it for its developmental needs.
Present at the event was such eminent scholars and academics as Profs. Ayo Banjo, Niyi Osundare, Femi Osofisan, Managing Director, UP Plc, Mr. Samuel Kolawole, Prof. Remi Raji-Oyelade, Eze Prof Chukwuemeka Ike and a host of others.
Delivering the keynote was the Provost, Federal College of Education and African Regional Representative on the International Council of Association of Science Education, Prof. Mamman Audu Wasagu. He spoke on ‘Science Education as an Entrepreneurship Platform and Career Opportunities for Sustainable Youth Employment’. The import of his lecture rested on the premise that with a growing youthful population and an ever-widening gap in unemployment, Nigeria was walking the tight rope. It was time, therefore, something urgent was done to arrest the situation. With sectarian threats all over the country and youths becoming ready recruits for their nefarious activities, it was time to do more than pay lip-service to issues of unemployment by all strata of society, especially government and corporate citizens.
While bemoaning Nigeria’s poor attitude to strengthening science education that should usher in technological advancement and attract corporate patronage, Wasagu said attention should be paid to governance structure and how it has added to the sundry woes bedeviling the country. For him, “poverty and illiteracy are indices of bad governance. Until we can solve poverty and illiteracy problems, we cannot guarantee good governance”. Using the recent Ekiti State’s governorship elections, Wasagu said, “Credible elections do not guarantee good governance”.
Instead of educating today’s youths, the professor of science said education in Nigeria was deepening illiteracy because of policy summersaults, especially as it concerns activities of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Commission (NERDC), which he said must stop its rapid change in curriculum so as to stabilize the educational system for development. He said there was nothing bad with Nigeria’s educational system that NERDC keeps tinkering with all the time. He, however, stated that problem of implementation was what bedevils it. He said the 6-3-3-4 system that was copied from the U.S. was still being used there with great results, and “is seen as the golden system as everyone wants to go there to study”, but this was different from what obtains in Nigeria’s application of the same system.
For science education to be meaningful, Wasagu said it must have technology as its by-play otherwise such science education would become sterile. He argued that while science concerns itself with knowledge, technology is its application to enterprise or entrepreneurship that should bring about employment. In bringing this analogy to bear on current trends in Nigeria’s technological situation, Wasagu came to the conclusion that the country was far from attaining technological drive.
In all Wasagu canvasses for the type of educational that encourages entrepreneurship for the purpose of solving unemployment problems in society. He also encouraged youths to have entrepreneurship mentality that would remove their minds from paid employment. Such entrepreneurship minds would be such that involves the creative process, requires devoting time and efforts towards creating things, involves reward and risk-taking.
Such youths must be goal-getter, culture of work, creativeness and persuasiveness, must build skills, know-how and risk tolerance as being integral to the success venture.
But Wasagu was also mindful of the contribution of all strata of society for the success of technology-driven society. He argued that government and industries must be ready to fund research and incorporate every bit of technology that is developed locally into mainstream as means of encouraging innovations coming from institutions. He stated that unless this done, Nigeria would continue to be the highest importer of finished goods from Asia and the rest of the world.
To stem the tide of such high import to the country, he said, “Neither our industries nor the governments are ready to fund research and development in the country; this has partly contributed to the low value addition of raw material such that a large percentage of our manufacturing industries have shut down while others are simply in ailing conditions; there’s doubt that our current paradigm for science and technology, especially the way and manner we conduct, finance and perhaps distributes its services may not lead us to the promiseland”.
Continuing, Wasagu stated, “Therefore, we need a transformation agenda through the use of science and technology that will lead and fuel the emergence of a 21st century workforce highly adept at meeting the needs of the public, private and labour markets to usher in growth in jobs opportunities and wealth creation’ changing in economic competitiveness are creating an increasing demand for science and technology education and teaching competent young boys and girls with requisite skills and science and technology curricula must change to reflect the skills required in modern markets”.
On the often-stated view that the west should transfer technology to Africa, Wasagu said such was vain wish that would never work. He said what works is either that technology is created from within or stolen from wherever it can be found! He urged Nigeria to imitate what happens in the west where governments and industries invest heavily in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education otherwise referred to as STEM. He added, “Many contemporary policymakers consider widespread STEM literary as well as specific STEM expertise to be critical human capital competencies for a 21st century economy”.
In this vein of making science through technology to help solve problems, Wasagu made a case for what the objective of science education should be, noting, “The traditional view of science that we once knew as curiosity-driven truth-seeking has significantly diminished and the professional scientist is now more likely to hold a dominant understanding of science as market-oriented, pre-competitive and administrative, providing exciting and long overdue opportunities”.
For Wasagu and all progressive-minded people, entrepreneurship holds the key to job creation, which in turn rests what scientific and technological advances can make possible. However, for this to happen, he argued that there should be paradigm shift in the educational system from ‘less content or theory to skill acquisition that leads to entrepreneurship”.
In concluding, wasagu stated, “Strengthen the curricula in entrepreneurship, encourage annual career talk for the promotion of awareness of career pathways and opportunities, increase public awareness on the value of early stage entrepreneurship in science education, reduce bad governance and tackle science illiteracy through the provision of equal to quality science education”.
During the question and answer session, novelist Ike recalled the technology that was developed in war-ravaged Biafra during the country’s 30-month civil war, and condemned Nigeria’s attitude towards technological development. He said Biafra, pressed to the wall, was able to refine the fuel it used after Port Harcourt fell to the federal forces. He enumerated all manner of weaponry and other usable technologies that were developed at the time that eventually fell to disuse after the war.
Ike said, “Biafra taught us to use our brains. When Port Harcourt fell, Biafra had to refine its own oil or collapse. What is oil refining? When you heat crude oil to certain degree, you get kerosene; heat it to another level, you get diesel; and heat it to another degree, you get petrol. But Nigeria didn’t want ot create the impression that anything good came out of Biafra. Crude oil is being refined in the Niger Delta by local hands. We can do many things productively if we choose to use our hands!”
ON his part, Chairman, University Press Plc, Dr. Lalekan Are welcome guests to the sixth annual Authors Forum, as the company’s efforts and commitment to its drive as the nation’s foremost publishers. He noted, “This gathering offers us the opportunity to reflect on what we have been doing, and what more that we need to do to reshape our society. Thus, more than ever before, we must gear up for the challenges the present times have placed on our laps. We owe it a duty to ourselves and our children to come up with quality content in order to achieve the bright future of our dream.
“The shocking unemployment rate in Nigeria is in sharp contrast to the robust economic growth rate suggested by the national accounts data. Many young Nigerian men and women, after leaving school, are not gainfully employed for individual and national development. This is due, in part, to poor policy planning and implementation in our educational system, especially science education.
“Interestingly, scientific knowledge and its applications are deployed to the creation of job and entrepreneurial opportunities in developed nations. This they achieve by fashioning a school system that teaches students the actualization of scientific processes for the purpose of creating wealth for individual and collective benefit. The educational system in such countries revolves round inspiring young minds to undertake researches that explore the sustainable usage of resources at a rate at which they can be replaced naturally for self actualization and national development. This we have even seen in the Asian countries, where young school leavers are able to invent and innovate ideas and technological products to solve society’s needs.
“In other words, science education is the bedrock upon which scientific and technological advancement, which drive national development depends. In essence, science and technology education is critical to the elimination of unemployment and the realization of sustainable youth empowerment in Nigeria.
“It is in view of this that Professor Mamman Audu Wassagu, a renown science educationist is here amongst us to present a keynote address on Science Education and Entrepreneurship Platform and Career Opportunities for Sustainable Youth Empowerment. It is our hope that his presentation will be of great benefit to us as authors, teachers, lecturers, students and parents”.