By Kayode Ketefe
Today, the whole Nigerian landscape is brimming with countless educational institutions ranging from the primary to the tertiary and comprising both private and public establishments. But there is paradoxically growing illiteracy amidst growing number of these institutions.
The reason could be located in both the quality and nature of education being imparted. Every great nation on earth today has been able to achieve the feat through maximum acquisition of scientific knowledge and technological capabilities.
This fact admits of no exception in so far as our definition of greatness goes beyond mere material prosperity. This is because there are some affluent nations who, though don’t belong to the exclusive class of the scientifically competent, are nonetheless ostentatiously wealthy because they keep exhausting and selling their abundant, albeit exhaustible natural resources.
But except this latter group of “artificially” great nations diversified, as it were, by employing their returns to lay the foundation of multifaceted development, the boom will eventually disappear; leaving the people to rue what could have been if the resources had been wisely invested.
Acquisition of scientific knowledge and its concomitant application in diverse technologies will never fail to bring lasting returns because man has left the cave for good; he now lives in the age of wonders.
Unlike some other forms of “truths” which claim to be immutable; scientific truths are not immutable, they keep changing to accommodate new discoveries and the existing laws are accordingly modified to account for new phenomena. What is permanent in science is the principle of constant search for the truth.
In Nigeria, we have not been investing in the future via passionate, systemic pursuits of the only form of lasting powers -science and technology! We feel comfortable being a consumer nation, in so far as we have petrodollars to buy imported necessities and exotic vanities.
Not a moment is spent on thoughts of becoming a producing nation. The irreplaceable natural resources which we could have discreetly employed to lay the foundation of sustainable development are being squandered through multiple avenues like corruption and bad management.
The entrepreneurial bankruptcy of our political leaders ensures that we keep exporting raw materials instead of refined products; that we still engage in flaring gas- a wasteful measure leading to both economic loss and environmental damage; that we fail to see the correlation between regular power supply and economic growth.
Our state of scientific backwardness also has culture-based dimension. We have cultivated attitudes and belief system that are antithetical to evolution of scientific knowledge. It seems that we are bereft of that daredevil mentality of insatiable pursuits of knowledge that makes other races routinely engage in investigative enterprises- the hunger to understand the secrets of the universe. Right from childhood our children are being nurtured to imbibe certain ideas capable of prejudicing their minds against later-life empirical pursuits.
By way of illustration, let us examine two short songs, sung by children in two different locales – Yorubaland, in Nigeria and England. The two songs deal with the same theme -rainfall. The Yoruba version goes, “Ojo nro s’ere ninu ile! Ma wo’ nu ojo ki aso re ma ba tutu, ki otutu ma ba mu o.” This literally means “Rain is falling, keep indoor while playing. Don’t enter into the rain, so as not to get drenched and thereafter succumb to cold.” The English “version” goes “Rain, Rain, go away, come again another day, little children want to play!”
Now, look at the Yoruba version, it urges a vile submission to the forces of nature! It warns of consequences of staying in the rain and enjoins the child to passively retire indoor; it offers nothing to the child on the possibility that rain itself could be controlled or manipulated by human exploits.
Look at the English version; what a command issued to the rain! Rain go away! We little children want to play! Now, little and insignificant as this may seem, it may have far-reaching consequences on the psychology of the child and his attitude to nature in future.
One child may grow up believing all he could do is to offer prayers to higher powers for protection against an inclement weather; the other may grow up believing in controlling the weather through empirical tool of meteorological knowledge.
There are some set of laws that govern the universe, and these can be fathomed through empiricism. The pathway to liberation is the systematic accumulation of knowledge of these laws. To this end, we should re-invent our educational system to give a pride of place to science-based curricula and also encourage massive participation of Nigerians in the sciences right from the cradle.
Our universities and other research institutions must get appropriate funds every year to enable them beam searchlight of researches into some of those areas where humanity is still groping in the darkness. We should stop being passive members of human race, we are capable of contributing our own quota to human progress, what we need is to imbibe the correct attitude and create the enabling environment.
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