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Education Minister’s damning verdict on Nigerian graduates

Umah Muhammed
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NIGERIA’s Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, while inaugurating some projects in Yola, Adamawa State recently, averred that a number of graduates from tertiary institutions of learning in the country weren’t worth their weight in gold because they could neither write nor read correctly.

Many of them still struggle with writing applications. The Education Minister, who was represented on the occasion by the Director of Tertiary Education in the Federal Ministry of Education, Hajjiya Rakiya Gambo Iliyasu, declared, evidently with a tone of disappointment: “Some graduates of tertiary institutions across the country cannot read or write application letters.” He explained that many could not write a full sentence without multiple corrections having to be made.

It is indeed saddening that the country’s graduates are coming up short on their ability to read and write when they are ideally expected to have passed that stage at the Ordinary Level. The literature on the internet is awash with arguments about the poor performance in education not only with respect to the products from the country’s tertiary institutions but also in relation to people in different levels of human endeavour. It seems sufficiently clear that the country’s education system is afflicted with several maladies, many of them foundational principles and practices. For example, since the late Professor Babs Fafunwa exposed the merits of instruction in the mother tongue, has the country fully harnessed the gains of that policy? What about the issue of curriculum development?

The truth is that the Nigerian education system is afflicted with legions of maladies, and the fact that graduates do not betray enough enlightenment to be employable is only a logical corollary. Many learn by rote and are grossly deficient in the area of practical application of knowledge. They are often unable to solve practical problems in their respective places of work. The problems of Nigerian graduates therefore go beyond the issue of being able to read and write even if those are core issues of concern. But having identified problems, it is still within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Minister to find solutions to them. The Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) has for instance been on strike for an entire academic session in the public universities and there hasn’t been any demonstration of empathy or concern by the government. It is within the purview of the Minister of Education to influence negotiations that could resolve the impasse, but that remains a pipe dream. He has time to complain though that the country’s graduates are not literate enough to be employed.

Truth be told, the minister’s complaint about the Nigerian graduates are not really helpful to the country. What would be helpful is for him to come up with suggestions for overall improvements in the education sector, from primary schools to tertiary institutions. This would apparently address the problems of reading and writing and make the country’s graduates readily employable. The minister cannot justifiably be sitting on the fence as it were and thumbing down the products of the flawed sector which he supervises. That’s not acceptable.

The visceral criticism of the Nigerian education sector seems very much like the case of a restaurant’s chef turning up his nose at the meals and deserts served at the same restaurant. The fact that there are many problems in the education sector is not debatable. The question is whether Mallam Adamu Adamu is ready to offer solutions or is merely content to excoriate a system which he has an opportunity to change.


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