I've followed the teachers strike in Nigeria with huge feeling of disappointment. Thank God it's over now. My disappointment is primarily with the misplacement of priorities that I see in government circles.
I make no hesitation in saying it - the key to lasting prosperity for Africa is investment in education, particularly science and technology education. The recent teachers strike in Nigeria which paralysed learning for 3 weeks is regretable.
It is most regretable that a country that seeks to be among the top 20 economies by 2020 should take the education of its youth for granted. I really see no reason why defence should be taking such a large chunk of our annual budget when we are not fighting war in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yes, the Niger Delta problem is there but again it has its root in neglect.
If we are really serious about joining the world's Club 20 by the year 2020, investment into the education of the manpower needed to make this happen must be massive. I see investment into education and energy as key to Nigeria's development.
The teaching profession today looks very unattractive because the teacher's take home at the end of the month doesn't really take home. As a result a number of them are leaving the shores of Nigeria to find greener pastures elsewhere. Those that stay back are not encouraged. The infrastructure at their disposal is highly deplorable. Our teachers needs to be treated as the destiny moulders that they are. We obviously can't be what we are without them. Every good professional is a product of a good teacher.
Even good soup is a product of good investment. Today it is easy to hear some of our politicians say 'those good old days' refering to the learning situation when they schooled. What made those days good was because even though the country didn't earn as much as it earns now from commodities sale, better investment was made in education. A good number of our accomplished professionals today schooled on government scholarships. Some of them were from such poor families that they would never have attended the schools they attended if their parents were to fund it.
Investment in education may not produce immediate economic benefits, and can be difficult to justify on those grounds. In the long-term, however, it is essential if a country is to work its way out of poverty by self-sustainability.
I just hope that the recent nationwide teachers strike will be the last we'll ever experience.