LEGAL IDEAS FORUM

Certification Versus Education: The Nigerian Story.

Why do many Nigerians go to school?

-To acquire education which would help them impact positively on society.

– To get that refinement that happens when education rubs off on a person.

-Because they have a predilection for scholarship.

Decades past, any or all of these answers above would be very correct. But can these answers still fly in our age and time? This writer is not very sure.

What we see these days leaves one in shock. It does seem that all of these very beautiful reasons for which our forebears studied in the past, have all given way to vain acquisition of academic certificates and titles which leave nothing to show. That is why it is now possible to get candidates who register for academic programmes in the universities and would not attend lectures, would cut corners during exams, would not subject themselves to the rigours of academic research but engage mercenaries to write their desertations for them and still end up graduating with honours. And what is more? Some even end up being hired as lecturers. Technically speaking, such a person ends up being certified without being truly educated. (And when such a person, by any stroke of mistake, gets hired as a lecturer, you get a situation where fraud is recycled all the way). Today, we have an overwhelming number of citizens who brandish big certificates but can’t sustain a 15-minute intellectual discussion in that supposed area of their specialisation, let alone writing a lose article related to that discipline, to say nothing of a well researched academic one. If a graduate of journalism, for example, cannot write a simple news report in clear language or present a balanced analysis of a given issue of public interest, then it raises a big question mark what such a person spent all their time doing in college. And then you listen to the language of an appreciable percentage of high degree holders in Nigeria today? Hmmm. That’s a story for another day.

We are Nigerians and we love titles and those of course include academic titles. That is why many would stop at nothing to have one attached to their names so that they can feel good and look like they are in the league. Just recently, the fraud that surrounded the promotion of the country’s sitting minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, to the rank of a professor by the Federal University of Technology, (FUTO), Owerri nearly broke the internet and has continued to raise a lot of dust. This is a university where it was established the man in question never taught for a day in addition to his not even meeting the criteria for that promotion in the first place. And then, it was later discovered that the fraudulent appointment was even received by the minister with a letter full of inexcusable errors even months before it was offered. God! The desperation to have that “professor” title attached to one’s name! And this is just one out of many oo. This one probably may have come out in the open because of the person involved.

Titles, especially academic titles, are beautiful and indeed noble but at least one has to earn or merit them. If one cannot make good any such certificates or titles with commensurate output, then one is actually being dressed in borrowed robes so to speak. And why anyone would wish to be so dressed in borrowed robes is lost to me. Suffice it to state however that everyone would not end up in the academe. We would not all end up as scholars surely, but like the saying goes, knowledge has a universal application. That education one has acquired has to at least show in one’s critical thinking and approach to issues. The Igbo cliché has it that “na ahịa ọma n’ere onwe ya” (“good products market themselves”). It’s not usually difficult to notice those who truly know their onions or at least are making sincere efforts to be better in their chosen disciplines, irrespective of the class of certificates they hold.

Certificates or academic titles should not just be acquired for the sake of being it, otherwise, the society ends up with so many certified ignoramuses, which seems to have regrettebly become our case in Nigeria.

About the Author
Donald Chisom Udeoba is a graduate of public Administration, an author and social commentator.

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