Thursday, June 19, 2008

Excerpt from Leke Alder's book

Books have a way of changing lives and one great point I have always noted is that great books are written by great people. I tend to read from some particular author most times because am sure i wont be disappointed.
This excerpt titled 'the philosophy of underachievement" is from a book written by Leke Alder. I have been privilege to go through some of his presentations that I am always looking out for the next one. His style of writing is unique, likewise his personality.
You want to do like me, do visit and be amazed to see a Nigerian doing great. It also makes me still remain assured that the best of brain that you can get anywhere are Nigerians.

The philosophy of under achievement
1. The shortest route to underachievement is called Nothing. Just do nothing. This is the first rule of underachievement. Fold your arms and just sit down. Stare into the skies, twiddle your thumbs, tap your knees; and if those seem too strenuous, meditate on Nothingness. Let your mind wander and day-dream but by all means do nothing.
2 Make indefinite plans. And each time you miss an opportunity to prove your worth, remind yourself of your grander plans.
3 Put in half effort into every job you have knowing that the man who said “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” is a pathetic liar who doesn't understand the principle of efficient allocation of energy resources.
4 Always wait for perfect conditions before you start anything. If the conditions aren't right, don't even think of starting.
5 Spend your time hanging out in your friend’s office during working hours, but if that seems a little extreme, spend evenings at your club or your friend's house telling tall stories. The more effusive your stories and plans, the better. Do what Boys do: hang out and gist!
6 Wait for the perfect contract even if it takes 3 years. Why waste your time starting on small jobs when the real ones will soon come along?
7 Love process very much and don't focus on productivity. Indeed, the preparation for the assignment should be more than the assignment. Gather data, prepare to start and shuffle papers. You should indeed be commended for how far you've pushed the file through the bureaucratic labyrinth of your desk.
8 Always take 'No' for an answer. There is no need to argue. You are a liberal and a gentleman. You don't want to be crude.
9 Blame your past and if that doesn't work blame your parents, your wife, your girlfriend, past governments and even Mr. Alder's dogs. It really doesn't matter who; just blame someone.
10 Wait for inspiration to do your work. Always wait to be inspired before you do anything.
11 Do just enough in anything. Don't follow up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dynasties Of Poverty And The Education Challenge

Dynasties Of Poverty And The Education Challenge
By Reuben Abati
I spent the better part of Tuesday, April 29, attending the Global Leaders Forum organized by the Oceanic Bank at the Muson Centre Lagos, as part of the bank's Corporate Social Responsibility drive. The attraction was the array of super star speakers: Wole Soyinka (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1986), Rita Dove (1987 US Poet Laureate), Eric Maskin (Nobel Prize in Economics, 2007), and Henry Louis Gates Jnr. (leading US literary theorist, scholar and cosmopolitan intellectual) . There was a certain formlessness to the presentations on the theme of Human Capital Development and Wealth Creation, but all the speakers harped on one essential value as the key to wealth creation, human capacity development and national sovereignty, namely education.
Maskin had spoken about the challenges and the discontents of globalization in terms of disparity between the developed and the developing world. His final recommendation as a means of bridging the gap and releasing the potentials of developing countries is in the area of training and retraining workers to increase productivity, wages and international matching opportunities. And he had asked: who should pay for this education? Rita Dove offered a cultural analysis of the human capacity challenge when she submitted that young persons need to be taught experienced and recorded history, and introduced to the culture of reading/literacy in order to offer them access to the soulfulness of art and communication and doors of possibilities.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. began with the poser that knowledge is important, knowledge about the self, and like Dove, he had emphasized the need to teach young persons the history of their own cultural heritage.. He then went on to tell the story of W. E. B. Du Bois, and how he and others (Soyinka, Kwame Anthony Appiah) managed to publish the Encyclopaedia Africana (1999) after 27 years of trying to do so. Professor Soyinka commented on the human mind as a catalytic force and societal importance of human resource, the primary resource that ties together, and transforms inert, virtual and dynamic resources. He lamented the tragedy of brain drain in the Nigerian economy and the need to develop the local environment and nurture national human resource potentials through education. In the end, the Speakers drew attention to issues of leadership, culture, values, good governance and how education is so important to the building of human capacity.
If this was the only message that came out of the Oceanic Bank Global Forum, I believe the event truly served its purpose. There is indeed an emergency in the education sector in Nigeria which needs to be continually remarked upon. Nigeria used to be praised for its rich natural and human resource potential. The former is being mismanaged because the latter has lost its capacity for performance. Nigeria's rating on the competitiveness index is one of the lowest in the world. National Productivity is at an all-time low. No Nigerian university in the past five years has featured on the list of the best 200 universities in the world.
The situation is so bad that local employers of labour are now reluctant to employ graduates of Nigerian universities and polytechnics. You could cross the hurdle only if you have a First Class or a Second Class Upper degree, even with this, you are likely to be treated with suspicion. Many Nigerian employers now travel to Ghana and to Europe to recruit staff. This is why a large number of graduates of Nigerian universities seeing how so unworthy they seem to be in the eyes of their employers now go abroad, after two or three years in the Nigerian system to obtain a foreign qualification. They return to better jobs and higher positions. The few courageous employers of labour who are still recruiting local graduates really have to look for the good ones, through a series of tests and sheer faith, but even then these rough elements have to be trained and retrained at additional cost. The school to work equation in Nigeria is skewed; there is no serious national manpower projection and planning.
Four separate incidents occurred in the past week alone which would seem to offer an insight into the nature of the problem. At the University of Ibadan, the students had taken to the streets to protest incessant power outage and lack of water supply on campus. They held the campus hostage and then spilled into the Ibadan community. Electricity tariff has just been increased, average national electricity supply is down to about 1, 000 MW. This, in a country of over 140 million people. It is not as if the students were reacting to anything strange. They were just exasperated. The same week, the national union of university teachers, ASUU embarked on a warning strike for one week, the second time it would do so this year, to remind the Federal Government of the need to negotiate some of the issues responsible for the dispute between university teachers and the government since 2002.
This includes the sacking of 49 lecturers at the University of Ilorin in 2001, and ASUU's principled protest that they should be reinstated and should not have been victimised for taking part in a labour strike. In Nigeria, it is not only university teachers that go on strike, teachers at all levels do so, including primary schools. The third incident occurred on Wednesday, a day after the Oceanic Bank event. The Federal Minister of Education, Dr Igwe Aja Nwachuckwu, at a press conference to inaugurate the 2008 Education For All Week had lamented that 11 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school. These 11 million children according to the Minister are part of the 80 million children worldwide who are out of school. With Nigeria having more than ten per cent of the global average of children who are missing out on the opportunity to be educated, it is not surprising that Nigeria is not in a position to meet the six Education For All Goals by 2015. A few weeks before this official declaration, UNICEF sources had earlier been quoted as saying no less than 10 million children of school age are out of school in Nigeria.
Professor Wole Soyinka had laid the problem at the door step of anti-intellectualis m on the part of the Nigerian leadership. He also drew attention to an existing anti-culture of exclusion and its threat even at the infant level, as well as the narrow ghettoes of ignorance and religious fanaticism, by reminding the audience of how a nursing mother was murdered by her own pupils in a school in Gombe state because she had tried to stop the students from cheating in an examination hall. She was accused of having violated a religious tenet, and the pupils turned into a murderous mob. Such stories are familiar within the Nigerian education context.
At the university level, female lecturers are raped, strict male teachers are murdered by their own students, and with violent gangs having taken over the campuses, the students dictate to their teachers how they should be taught and sometimes what they should be taught and how they should be examined. The madness has been reported even at secondary and primary school levels. Again, a few days ago, some staff of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) who were in custody of the examinations papers for English Language in the on-going School Certificate Examination were attacked by armed robbers and dispossessed of the examination papers! We don't get to hear of such stories from Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ghana where the same exam is written. The identity of the exam paper robbers is still shrouded in mystery but it is not impossible that they are students. WAEC has now had to postpone the writing of the exam till May 14. This crisis is the harvest of many years of neglect of the education sector by distracted leaders at all levels who by the 80s had begun to play games with the future of Nigeria.
There is terrible decay in the Nigerian public school system. Public schools lack facilities; they are congested, the teachers are not paid on time; at the university level where the pay has been increased, facilities for quality instruction are unavailable, and generally, governments politicize education and treat the system with contempt. A military officer was once appointed the sole administrator of a first generation university!. In my days as a primary and secondary school student in this same country, Ministry of Education officials used to go onto the streets during office hours to arrest any child of school age, that they found on the street, out of school. It was a thing of shame for anybody's child to be arrested by "Roga" as they were called. But these days, it is taken for granted for children to be out of school. The 11 million children that the Minister spoke about (they are probably more than that) can be found on the streets fully engaged as beggars, pickpockets, and hawkers of all sorts of items including toothpick.
Rita Dove recommended the idea of mentoring and the promotion of a reading culture. But Nigeria is trapped in the age of illiteracy. Young persons no longer want to read. They have since joined the mad rush for lucre. Across the country, the 50th anniversary of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, a major classic is being celebrated. I was in Abuja the other week as compere of an evening of readings put together by the Federal Capital Territory Administration. I was astounded when a young lady, a final year English studies undergraduate, in a private conversation, could not establish the connection between Chinua Achebe and Things Fall Apart.
She insisted that Things Fall Apart was written by Peter Edochie and that the man in fact played the role of Okonkwo on television. She had never read the novel but she had watched the television series based on the novel, and Edochie who acted the lead role had made an impression on her as the author! I had to give her my copy of the Heinemann 50th anniversary edition of the novel, to purge her of her crime. Louis Gates Jr. had recommended the teaching of history to young people. He should be interested in the fact that a few years ago contemporary managers of the school curriculum in Nigeria suddenly decided that history was a useless subject and they had tried to remove it from the curriculum. When the media, and others protested, history was grudgingly returned to the curriculum as an optional subject!. Again at the Oceanic Bank event, Maskin had specifically recommended the education of low-skilled workers to deepen their capacity and by so doing create a competitive advantage for developing countries.
In this regard, there is also a serious crisis in Nigeria today. Nigeria is losing the capacity to maintain existing infrastructure, or develop new ones because its blue collar workers suffer a skills-deficit. Every country needs its machinists, tailors, plumbers, bricklayers, welders, mechanics, factory hands etc. Unfortunately, Nigeria is now saddled with mechanics who function by trial and error, and end up damaging people's cars, bricklayers who cannot read building plans, plumbers who cannot run pipes, tailors who cannot sew a fitting cloth without you having to amend it later. Many Nigerians are now going to neighbouring countries to look for labourers. This country once had Government Technical Colleges and Trade Centres where blue collar workers were trained. There was also under Obasanjo a Universal Basic Education Programme, but there was greater emphasis on the sharing of money.
The ruling class and the emergent Nigerian middle class are trying to protect their own children by sending them to private and privileged schools, which now exist from primary to the university level. The children in these schools are protected from the rot in the public school system. But what is being widened is the gap and the conflict between the classes. The children of the poor who are going to the terrible schools, are likely to end up being poor because they may not acquire the skills they need to survive in a world that can only become more competitive. This replication of poverty, and its social implications, is what Professor Charles Soludo, Central Bank Governor and moderator of the Oceanic Bank forum, referred to as "dynasties of poverty and the bleaching syndrome".
It is society that will bear the cost because the army of poorly educated children, trapped in empires of poverty, together with their cousins, the uneducated poor with attitudes, will make it impossible for the products of the privileged and private schools to enjoy the wealth and the opportunities they may have acquired. The children of the Nigerian rich in the future will have to live in houses with higher fences, stronger window braces, and drive bullet proof cars; they would have to protect themselves against the 11 million plus armed robbers and social invalids who are now being created.
Nor is the life of the rich idyllic in relation to education. The schools to which they send their children at home and abroad are expensive to say the least. Many parents out there are under pressure to pay school fees, or send their children abroad and we find here part of the explanation for the corruption in the land. To prevent social implosion, the signs of which are already here, Nigerian governments, federal, state and local, must wake up, and begin to pay attention to education. The secret of countries like Japan, Germany, Singapore, the United States, Britain, India, and Nigeria's defunct Western region, lies in the careful management of their national education system. The problem is not what to do; it is finding the will to act.