Education in Africa: The Irony

Published on 26th March 2012

While Nigerians parade degrees, a lot work in areas not related to their degree. For those in corporate America, many are in the backroom operation and not in the front office. They are the engine that drives everyone else’s establishments but never their own. A wrong approach to economic development. Many work for local, municipal and federal government. US federal wages and salaries, show overwhelming majority of federal workforce to be blacks, including Nigerians.

Of all blacks including Nigerians that teach in colleges and universities, less than 4% have tenureship and when it comes to ownership of corporations, blacks have less than 4% exposure, even with 13% of US population and annual consumption that is nearly $1trn.

More blacks get PhD in US than any other ethnic group, and that number is large due to Nigerians. Since 1918, 84 years hence that Nigerians have been coming to the US, no individual of Nigerian descent has been elected to Congress or won election to any state elected office. Indians, virtually new comers to US, today can boast of 2 governors: Louisiana and South Carolina - all less than 40 years born of Indian immigrant parents. While Indians make less than 1% of any US population set,  they have learned how to organize and be effective.
The glamour and clamor of degrees that  motivates Nigerians have not in real terms helped them to either transform their native land or be a force in any new country. It's not enough to run around demanding to be called Engr, Pharm, Prof, Dr, Nurse, Arch., and all the other titles due to one's education/career. What matters are real time gains translating to ownership, job creation and enhanced standards of living because one's education has helped them to transform and emancipate.
Asians that man the pedicure and manicure sector of US personal beauty service  control an economy of $25b just on that singular act. What industry are the Nigerians dominant in? On what zip code or Census Tract are Nigerians prevalent? Of course, in home healthcare one can see Nigerians but it is a 'quicksand' engagement as many get audited out or indicted for unbecoming conduct.

The world keeps moving while Nigerians celebrate their diplomas and certificates. It does not matter that in 1894, 15 years after electricity was discovered,  Ijaro Power Station became one of the earliest in Africa to have power long before many US cities. Today, more than 117 years after, Nigeria cannot boast of 10% power load to sustain its need and its power minister, one of several before him with PhD, is challenged to deliver.

Bravo to the degree seekers and certificate huggers, after all said and done, most Nigerians still line up to look for job in others' establishments and given that labor is the most important aspect of economic development, Nigerians have not cornered any industry.

My father taught me that education is more about the confidence one gains having such but most importantly the attitude expressing such. With an undue sense of timidity before others but a false heightened sense of superiority and hierarchy among their own, Nigerians fall short in making their education work for them.

Today in US, 85% of Nigerian born kids who graduate college will end up working for others than for businesses owned by their own. The Asians work for themselves. The Hispanics may not care much for education but their work ethics are more valuable than what degree hugging Nigerians display.

So who is gaining in America? Go figure.

Now, there is a PhD holder as President of Nigeria: Someone most Nigerians always said, it will do better when a degree holder is president. Well, the jury is out on GEJ. It reminds one of the saying, be careful what one asks for because they may very well end up with it.
Leadership has nothing to do with a degree. As much as Nigerians clamor for that, leadership is more about another brand of PhD: Passion, Hardwork and Dedication, and not the other celebrated but less collateral diploma - PhD. There is no need celebrating a paper that no one inherits when the holder is no more. One can however inherit a legacy of passion, hardwork and dedication-- ingredients for continuity and community building, that is passed on.

E E. Okpa, II
Dallas, Texas.


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