‘Reduction of educational imbalance among states, regions key to dev’

Omolewa-ProfEmeritus Professor of Education at the University of Ibadan and Babcock University, Professor Michael Omolewa, has established a nexus between the educational imbalance among states in the country and the stunted national development plaguing the country.

He has, however, stressed that it was time for the Federal Government to reflect on the arrangement of a system, which fails to encourage merit and competence in determining admission to its educational institutions.

Omolewa, the 32nd president of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), who was the keynote speaker at the 17th Professor Bassey Andah Memorial Lecture, in Calabar, Cross River State, in a paper titled, “Education and Nation Building,” said, “The need to reduce the educational imbalance among states and regions is vital to the development of the nation. The government may wish to consider alternative strategies to addressing this imbalance, such as expanding access to less-developed areas or increasing enrolment by building more institutions and providing more staff and facilities.

The former permanent delegate and ambassador of Nigeria to UNESCO maintained that focus on merit will stimulate healthy competition in society and ensure that no preferential treatment is given to any section of the Nigerian population.

The former diplomat  who spoke extensively on issues like combating the problem of educational imbalance, educational policy, and the takeover of schools by government as well as the challenge of educational imbalance among others explained that, “While western education helped to bring together many sections of the wider Nigerian geographical space to engage in dialogue and negotiation over the building of the new nation, it was also responsible for creating a gap between those who had access to it and those who did not, within regions and between rural and urban settings and other geographical areas. For example, there was a gap between Southern Nigeria, where the people had wider access to education, and Northern Nigeria, where access was limited.”

He continued, “…By 1914 there was hardly any sign of western education in Islamic Northern Nigeria, except at some stations along the trading posts on the Niger River. The Muslim population of the North were suspicious that the Christian missions would use the schools to convert their children. They therefore remained resentful of western education,” he stated.

The retired don also stressed the importance of revisiting the school curriculum and bringing back our history; after all, the new national anthem talks of honouring “our heroes past”. But there are currently limited avenues through which to identify who those heroes are, what makes them heroes and how they became heroes. This is what history as a subject can unravel, not the growing catalogue of biographies, many of which lack historical depth and analysis.

“A new education policy on the language of instruction must be developed and the possibility of a common language for the Nigerian nation must be explored. Policy makers, planners and education practitioners must be made to appreciate that education is not merely the learning of facts: it is rather the training of the mind to think. We must strive to nurse an environment that is conducive to education and will promote lifelong learning. This will give learners the freedom to meditate and reflect on issues and allow them to appreciate why the nation must be built for the totality of society, Omolewa added.

He said it was important that the affairs of the nation be consistently conducted through justice, equity, democracy and transparency. Ultimately, the nation will respect decisions taken in the interest of the whole and which have been guided by the welfare and interest of every member of society, without consideration of their origin, gender, ethnicity or religious affiliation.”

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