Reporting from Nigeria: Emeka Nweze
Conservative estimates place the national literacy rate at 57 percent. A disturbing percentage of teachers across all levels are unqualified. The infrastructures aren’t inadequate, obsolete or in disrepair: it is simply non-existent. No doubt, some will take umbrage with my candid castigation. If you, my reader, are indeed one of the “some”, then before launching into a frenzied rebuttal, please stop and think for a second. Yes, Einstein: there it is. You can read. Your umbrage is proof of such. A majority of Nigerians do not have the privilege (yes, yes Bacon got it right: knowledge IS power) to be offended. The reason is simple if depressing. They cannot read.
There are several culprits we can charge for this disgraceful state of affairs. The dismal government expenditure on education (well below 10%) sounds like a prime candidate. It certainly ties in rather well with the incessant corruption perpetually stagnating Nigeria’s socio-economic development. However, my entries always have brevity as an ingredient. Ergo, our focus will be on what I consider to be the two most salient culprits: ethnic conflicts and religious convictions.
The first miscreant, ethnic conflict is no small fry and almost excuses the debacle that is Nigeria’s education system. With over two hundred and fifty ethnic groups and five hundred living languages, Nigeria is not “culturally diverse”. It is a mind numbing cacophony of tongues, customs, marriage rites, and inevitable “preferential treatment”. This particular perpetrator in our line-up is most certainly responsible for the miserable condition of this nation’s education system. But…can we really pass sentence in good conscience? If Americans, with just one language and hope (American dream), are prey to internal conflict and misunderstandings, what chance does a nation with over a thousand different dialects and customs stand?
The second crook is a heavy weight of some repute. Its influence even extends to Nigeria’s international image is such that even foreigners that couldn’t point Nigeria out on a map if their lives depended on it associate the word Nigeria with religious. Usurping the phrase “Nigerian letter” is no small feat. But the seemingly relentless bombings and the blood-curdling collateral damage in the form of innocent children is a testament to just how deep-seated problem the problem actually is. Naming your terrorist organization “western education is sin” only substantiates my argument. Understanding is viewed as evil in this part of our pale blue dot. On the other hand the accumulation of items you lose interest in as soon as you get home is exalted. Spilling gallons of innocent blood to preserve ignorance is the noble path to securing one’s place in the limited theater called afterlife.