My ambition and priority as a young man was to build a career in the human development space. I have always believed in the change making potentials in young people and I see myself as a bridge that will link young people to their dreams.
It was a dream come true when I became the lead panelist, in one of the biggest and most popular consulting firms about two decades ago in the city of Kaduna, capital of northern Nigeria.
I was conducting all kinds of interviews for the company and clients and I was happy because in that position I will start linking up youths to their dreams. However, the new position exposed me to so much emotional stress and pain. Often, I interview candidates who have the required academic qualifications but lack complementing skills. I had nightmares and sleepless moments anytime I sit to write recommendations to employers about the candidates because a higher percentage of the youths only have certificates but don’t have the skills that employers are looking for, so I can’t help them.
The frustration reached its peak when I discovered that it was a curricula content issue and not candidate’s faults. That was my turning point from a normal, secure, ambitious job to a much more uncertain job where I needed entrepreneurial qualities to strengthen the lives and sharpen the skills of youths to enable them to participate in the global economic prosperity.
It is so painful that COVID-19 has further exposed the content of our education curriculum. Education, I believe, should match the desires of the society and the labor market. It must be flexible, risky and full of entrepreneurship. This will produce a generation of young problem solvers and entrepreneurs.
It is frustrating to note that Nigeria has over 170 Universities with over 9,000 professors, yet ‘we can’t use our education to solve our problems in terms of a pandemic like what we have today. We can’t manufacture test kits, we have to rely on others to do it for us. We can’t make our own standard ventilators, we aren’t even trying to manufacture any serious drug or produce any vaccine on our own, and we are just waiting for others to do it’. If others don’t make any drug or vaccine we will all sit down and die.
Although, government has taken action to increase access to education and improve funding for public schools and universities, these solutions do not address problems with educational content and curricula. The primary purpose of education should be to enrich the learners and by extension the society.
There is a great need to review our education system and its core values. We need to move fast to strengthen the lives and sharpen the skills of our youth to start thinking critically and start responding to the needs of the society instead of waiting to copy the trial and errors of others. The content of educational curriculum must address humanity and society as a whole.
We need a holistic education what will address learners’ minds to think critically, hearts to embrace all even when they disagree, and hands to be practical in all endeavors. This will enable us prepare young people to solve their personal and societal problems as well as prepare them for future pandemics.