At Authors’ Forum, science rubs mind with art


Ike, Banjo and Are

The sixth edition of the Authors’ Forum, organised by University Press Plc, dwells on science and technology education in Nigeria, AKEEM LASISI writes

If the Provost of the Federal College of Education, Katsina, Prof. Mamman Wasagu, is interested in building a museum, it will not be difficult for him to equip it to an impressive state. The reason for observing so is that he seems to be very good at keeping things.

He demonstrated this in Ibadan, Oyo State, on Wednesday when he produced an ATM card he obtained as far back as 1979, when he started his university education in the United States. He did this during the 2014 edition of the University Press Plc’s Authors’ Forum where he was the keynote speaker.

But Wasagu was not out to boast to the audience that his ATM card is perhaps the oldest in Nigeria. Rather, he wanted to establish the fact that in terms of technological development and invention, Nigeria still lags behind, at a rate that all and sundry should worry about. While the ATM technology never got entrenched in the Nigerian system until a few years ago, it was already a common phenomenon in a developed world such as the US in the 1970s.

This was one of the points that stirred up sober reflection at the Authors’ Forum held at the Kakanfo Conference Centre, Ring Road, in the ancient city. With the Chairman, Board of Directors of University Press Plc, Dr. Olalekan Are as the chairman, Wasagu, who gave a good account of himself as a science scholar, administrator and President of the Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, provoked thoughts on the state of science and technology in the country.

Since the Authors’ Forum has risen to become a reliable melting pot for prominent writers, publishers, booksellers and other stakeholders, at the event were renowned authors and scholars such as Emeritus Prof. Eyo Bamgbose, Emeritus Ayotunde Yoloye, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo, Professors Chukwuemeka Ike, Akinwumi Isola, Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare, Akachi Ezeigbo and Duro Adeleke.

Others included Dr. G. A. Akinola and Chief Dipo Gbenro.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Are set the tone for the lecture and discussion that followed. According to him, the Authors’ Forum is a symbol of University Press’ commitment to the development of the book and education industry in general. While it also provides an opportunity for stakeholders to appreciate efforts being made, Are, however, stressed that it was an avenue to reflect on “what we have been doing and what more to do to reshape the society.”

Are said all leaders of thought owed children the debt of coming come up with quality content to shape the future the country desired. He lamented that many of the problems confronting Nigeria, especially unemployment, were a product of poor policy planning, poor implementation, especially on science education.

Are said, ‘The education system should inspire young minds towards self actualisation and national development. But here, we only teach one plus one is equal to two. We are not thinking, and we don’t teach thinking. Our education must make people to think. Many examinations are now planned in the US to show whether you are thinking or not.”

Wasagu’s thesis was an extension of the points that Are raised. He noted that the topic was very relevant at a time that many youths remained jobless. While noting that part of the problem was that most Nigerian universities had been localised, a development that had watered down the quality of knowledge in circulation, he said most disturbing issue with education in Nigeria is that there is too much gap between theory and practice.

Wasagu, who asserted his cultural identity with his agbada which, he said, he never felt ashamed of wearing even when outside Nigeria, quoted many experts to buttress his point that since technology is the act of practicalising science, sience without technology is sterile.

He said, “The Nigerian educational curriculum teaches more of theory and neglect practical. Science is knowledge through practical and it is sad that many people have the wrong notion of what science is all about. It sets limit to errors and it must also be noted that all facts in science are tentative.

“They change with more researches and findings. It is also unfortunate that Nigerian teachers do not want to be tested. Many of them are not ready for the job. In the US, there is what is called ‘New Generation Science Standard’ which is a policy designed to aid learning and move away from the conservative technique. The missing link in Nigeria today is the practical experience and understanding of what the society needs.”

He also decried the frequent changes in curriculum, saying the government and its relevant agencies had done the system more harm than good in this regard.

“There is not much difference between the old and new curriculum. Even if there were, do the teachers who would execute them have the knowledge of the new arrangement?” he asked.

On the teaching of entrepreneurship, he said it was wrong for academic institutions to rely on lecturers — who lack the needed experience. Rather, real entrepreneurs should be engaged so that students would get the best. Besides, Wasagu said the search for white-collar jobs and what he called ‘bigmanism’ were part of what have compounded the unemployment crisis in Nigeria. He said entrepreneurship, the principles of which he gave to include creative planning, skills and hard work – was the answer to unemployment in the country.

In his contribution, the Head of Department of English at the University of Ibadan, Prof. Remi Raji, challenged STAN — being led by Wasagu as the president — on the need to include the humanities in its programmes for development.

He said, “We need to include arts in the process. Society cannot survive on the slogan of science and technology alone.”

Both Are and Wasagu agreed with Raji, but the first was quick to correct an assertion made by him (Raji) that UI started as a humanity-focused citadel.

Are said, “You are right by observing that you cannot live by science alone. But UI didn’t start as a liberal institution. No. Science students were more than arts in the early years.” He said.

If there is one thing that all the participants agreed on at the event, it is the fact that Nigeria’s failure is that of thinking.

Copyright PUNCH.

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