The latest fad amongst Nigeria’s new elite,is securing expensive foreign education for their children.Apparently,owning a bigger Mercedes Benz car than your neighbour no longer confers bragging rights.Keeping up with the Joneses now means being able to say,”my children are also over there.They are doing their A levels in England.” Even if you end up “drinking Garri” at night.And,therein lies the problem : a practice which is usually the preserve of the upper class has gone mainstream,with dire consequences for Nigeria.As we all know,Nigeria may have enough for everybody’s need,but certainly not enough for everybody’s greed.A society where middle-class greed rivals upper-class privilege is heading for trouble.
Every normal society has a parasitic upper class,which is highly privileged.But because this class is usually tiny,it’s excesses are not so harmful to society.The rest of society can afford to ignore the antics of it’s members.Nigeria is abnormal in that every graduate is a would-be Lord,the result of the “indigenization” of colonialism.Instead of ending colonialism,we “indigenized” it,by replacing privileged white colonial officials with black ones.Our education system was primed to produce black “Englishmen”,rather than workers.The resulting sense of entitlement means every village boy who makes good(only just),turns up his nose at the same Nigerian schools that produced him; he now wants to send his children to “Eton“. For secondary education,no less,for goodness sake.Outrageous.The usual excuse is that ” our schools are dire.They have become so bad”.An excuse used by even those,who attended poor village grammar school,usually near-barefoot,and on a breakfast of “dry-garri and palm-kernel nuts”. Were those grammar schools really so great? .Give me a break.
Sure,the state of Nigerian schools leaves much to be desired.But,we will not solve the problem by promoting brain-drain and capital flight.Make no mistake about it,no matter how good their foreign education,most of these privileged kids are not coming back to work in Nigeria.So no skill or technology transfer on that front.Second,because their parents are comfortable,these kids will not remit a dime back to Nigeria.Instead,their parents will fund their education with money made from Nigeria.Nigeria gains absolutely nothing from their education,and loses everything in terms of human and financial capital lost.If these kids ever come back,they come as expatriates.An example is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.Although Nigeria needs her skills and know-how,and i believe she should be paid what she is worth,for all her “Nigerianness”,we might as well have hired an American or Chinese economist.
Every serious government ought to be worried by this turn of events.Nigerian can ill-afford the loss of it’s youth on this scale.Certainly we cannot afford to continue to lose these millions of education-dollars each year.Our schools are derelict and teachers poorly-paid.If we invested some of these millions here,our education system will the better for it.By far.To redress the situation,government needs a mix of “carrot and stick” measures.To rebuild confidence in our school-system,government needs to invest heavily in education,not only by improving infrastructure,but also by making the working-conditions of teachers attractive.This is the only way to attract top teaching-talent.In addition,if it is okay for government to levy tariffs on imports,why not certain exports ? Government should impose a levy on anyone going abroad for secondary education(O and A levels).Something like 150,000 dollars a year per child.Now,this would certainly concentrate minds,and,in combination with better schools from which to choose,would deliver the change we crave.