Education, Youth and National Development and Unity in Nigeria


A Paper Presented by Prof. C.U. Abengowe, Trustee, Diamond Crest for Youth Education Foundation.

The development of any society is the interplay between man and his environment. This interplay that ensures self discovery plays a major role in energizing, motivating and mobilizing the people towards a common goal. There is no doubt that at creation, variables that make man simpler, easier, and peaceful and morality prone were created.

The inability of man to curtail his ego and self love constitutes a major obstacle to attaining nature’s promise and a sane society. Undoubtedly, man is a product of his environment or value system. It is the value system that shapes the perception and beliefs of the people. Value systems influence perceptions, behaviours, attitudes and character from generation to generation. Therefore, a society with a strong value system will experience high development and produced a disciplined group of people, while the reverse goes for a society with a weak value system.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of who a youth is, conceptually, a youth is defined as one who has just passed the stage of adolescence and has matured into young adulthood through physical, cognitive, social and emotional growth. Youthful stage is characterized by a strong stamina and passion for realising certain sets of goals and objectives. Such characteristics include zealousness, impatience, radicalism, idealism, ambition, ego, hardwork, etc. Usually, the fight for emancipation from parents should now be over, health is good, vocational skills have been recently acquired, and some work experience has been obtained. Social relationships may be enjoyed with fewer restrictions. Awareness, alertness and energy are near their peak.

Role of Education

Education is a fundamental human right of all people – of value in and of itself, for improving the quality of life and an essential part of social and human development. A cursory look at the Nigerian Educational system shows that despite the huge investment in the education sector, the quality of education is declining. The rate of illiteracy of 15-24 yrs is about 63% (Gidado, 2012). The number of out of school children of which a significant proportion are adolescents and youths is over 10 million (UNESCO 2009). There is still a dissonance between tertiary education curriculum and the world of work with graduate unemployment put at over 20 million (National Bureau of Statistics). The resultant effect is that our youths are put on edge, and experience frustration consequently resulting from unemployment and lack of fulfilment. Many have taken to social vices like theft, internet fraud, armed banditry, kidnapping, militancy, and terrorist activities among others.

In spite of the diverse weaknesses in our education system, salvaging our educational system coupled with good governance are still the panacea for redressing the challenges of youth restiveness, as well as other vices confronting Nigerian youths. Therefore, there is no better time than now for a curriculum review to accommodate Peace Education. Incidentally, the United Nations has chosen Peace Education as its theme for the International day of Peace celebration slated for 21stSeptember 2013.

What is Peace Education?

Peace Education is the process of acquiring the values, knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills and behaviours to live in harmony with one’s self, with others and with their natural environment. Harris & Synott define peace education as a series of teaching encounters that elicit in people:

  1. The desire for peace
  2. Non-violent alternatives for managing conflict
  3. Skills for critical analysis for structural arrangement that produce and legitimise injustice and inequality.

The Nigerian curriculum should provide for Peace Education to be taught as encouraging a commitment to peace as a settled disposition and enhancing the confidence of the individual as an agent of peace, informing the students on the consequences of war and social injustice, the value of peaceful and just social structures.

Peace Education curriculum should comprise of things like environmental responsibility, communication skills, conflict resolution, democracy, human rights awareness, tolerance of diversity, citizenship, and gender equality.

Conflict Resolution skills should primarily focus on the social, behavioural symptoms of conflicts through techniques like negotiation, peer mediation, managing anger and fighting fair. Communication skills should include listening, turn taking, identifying needs and separation of facts from emotions.

Democracy Education curriculum should comprise of identifying institutions of democracy, roles and responsibility of such, citizenship education and the commitment of citizens to accept the inevitability of conflict education. It should also provide opportunity for the training of students to foster a conflict positive orientation that conflict is a platform for creativity and growth. Other components of democracy education are critical thinking, freedom of speech, tolerance of diversity, compromise, and accountability in governance. Democracy should decrease the likelihood of violence and war, and promote the culture of peace.

Human Rights Education should centre on raising awareness of Human rights through the awareness of students to the International Covenants and declarations of the U.N and ensure local policies are in tandem with such declarations.

Government should strengthen the Informal system of education, so that school dropouts and out of school youths can benefit from the peace education curriculum in an informal setting. Success in the education sector will correspondingly translate to a higher level of National development, as conflict will be reduced drastically.

Job creation, skills acquisition development and partnership with Government policies will no doubt be a boost to good governance, thereby building higher level of trust between the government and the governed.

This conference therefore offers a platform for scholars from the academia, civil societies, development partners, faith based organizations, youths, opinion leaders and government to rub minds on creating the right opportunities that will position our youths as the engine of growth in a just, peaceful and egalitarian society. I wish all participants and stakeholders a fruitful conference.

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