Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Education – Sell out to bail out? (YNaija Frontpage)

“The concept of school seems so secure,
Sophomore, three years, ain’t picked a career.”
– Kanye West. All Falls Down, The College Dropout (2004)


If all goes well—and it should—by the end of the week, I’ll be a university graduate. It’s a weird feeling mostly because, unlike most of my colleagues at other universities, I don’t imagine my life after graduation will actually be any different than it is now.

You see, my university, the University of Waterloo, is a strange one. Unlike many others, we only went to school four months a year. The rest of the year, we spent working.  It was called co-operative education, co-op for short. For many a student, co-op grows into a full time job opportunity.

In my first co-op term, by some stroke of luck, I landed an internship with an influential youth-focused NGO at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. For a couple of months I lived in a house at the heart of Manhattan with some of the smartest and most accomplished young people I would ever know—all much older than me. In the day, I did my job reading and analyzing UN policies and at night, I made sure to read everything I remembered people talk about during the day. My hard work soon paid off.  A few weeks of red bull powered sleepless nights and I could seamlessly butt into intelligent conversation on virtually any subject, from Thorstein Veblen  and the developing world’s conspicuous consumption to the relationship between the ‘five points of Calvinism’ and American prosperity without betraying my age and level of education. A few more months and I was a ‘development expert’ helping the interns who actually worked in the missions write their bosses’ speeches.

By the end of this crash course education, although I was disappointed to finally realize that the United Nations was far from the force for good I once imagined it to be, at least I now knew a job at the United Nations was no dream of mine. As I graduate, I can confidently say that whatever I learnt in this four year period that will be useful to me going forward, I gained from those real word educational experiences.

But then again, this raises the question of what exactly our young Nigerians are actually learning at school. Over the last few weeks, a lot of social commentators have taken to the airwaves with rant after rant about low JAMB and NECO scores and frankly speaking, I think it matters little. We have a much bigger problem in our educational system. You see our educational system fails at helping young Nigerians apply their knowledge.

The future that represents scares me.

At least twice in the last week, I overheard complaints from business owners about how barely competent many of our graduates are. Shell spends millions of naira a year on its own university for retraining its staff. Beyond the lack of economic growth that limits the availability of job opportunities in the first place, Nigerian graduates seem like any human resource professional’s nightmare.

Thankfully, I came across a brilliant solution to this problem put forward by Rahm Immanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff and current Mayor of Chicago.

Let corporations run the universities.

With 9.4% unemployment (very high by American standards), 100,000 job openings and a hundred million dollars spent on job training, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s Chicago, Illinois bears a lot of resemblance to the current state of education in Nigeria. So what did he do? He had corporations pledging to hire graduates have a big hand in designing and implementing a curricular that would have them with degrees and in jobs in two years. This way employers get the talent they need to keep productivity high and students face less uncertainty with finding jobs after they graduate. Excellent match if you ask me.

I hear aggregate magnate Aliko Dangote (for all his faults) has been trying to 15,000 young people for his new cement factory for the past few months. Perhaps we can offer him one of our defunct technical schools so he can train his future workforce? I’m sure he’ll do a better job than the Pentecostal churches.


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Comments (36)

  1. Hi,

    I'm new here but I just wanted to say a ting or 2 about your comment. I hope I don't offend anyone. Also, my arguments are based on this conversation right here and not much else.

    I think I would agree with E on the point that the purpose of university education is "Jobs". While these jobs may vary in form, whether you're a bricklayer or a businessman, a policeman or a pastor; it is a job you have, and one you were educated for. People are educated for the sole purpose of being productive to themselves and their societies. This is why we have curricula. The governing body sets what they believe will be the skills needed for one to become a productive member of society.

    I don't think the point was that Dongote is better equipped to educate the whole workforce, or that he should personally go and take control of a university or college, but that based on his claim that he intends to hire 15000 people, he is best suited to know the qualities and knowledge that will be needed to work in his factory. Seeing as we are not saying dangote should be made the minister of education, it would then be clear, that if you were going to "Dangote Polytechnic" or even less, studying "Dangote course" in any school, you knew that after you were done, you would be going to work in a dangote factory. If as a student, this isn't what you want, you would not study there. I don't think anyone is saying that dangote should takeover and personally run an institution of learning.

    I also strongly disagree with your opinion that the purpose of university education is character building. Let's be perfectly honest, by the time students are getting into the university, their characters are often already mostly developed. The idea that four of the most unregulated years of your life would somehow build your character is one that I cannot agree with.

    Finally, I also am not on board with the idea that planning of a university, should be left to those with decades of experience under their belts. In most other industries, I would agree that decades of experience would be key, but with something as basic and yet, constantly changing and dynamic as education, I would argue that those best suited to envision the future are those who are going to live it. Experience is necessary but what is just as important, if not more so, is vision. I am not saying E has that vision or that he doesn't, all I am saying is that that is what is needed to prepare the future generation for what is becoming an increasingly uncertain future.

  2. I'm enjoying the conversation.

    @Adara: I am surprised you direct you caution only to Ugo. What about Iyinoluwa's insults to him. Be fair.

    1. I'm sorry, maybe I missed something but what insult.

  3. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Where do I start? Nothing as tiring as engaging an ignorant person. Add a good measure of dishonesty to that, and you have a ticking bomb.

    If I raise issues in my first post which you decide to ignore in your response – either the issues flew over your head i.e. your intellectual capacity doesn’t rise to the level of recognising the issues – whose fault is that? Also, for all the talk about “address the issue”, one of the issues I raised happens to have molded the rest of your conversation. So, cut the cheekiness. It’s childish.

    So, what are you proposing. Something novel? No. Something recently developed? No. Something that improves the quality of undergraduate university education? No.

    Let me help you out. The purpose of [university] education is not “jobs”. That’s a poverty approach to looking at a very broad issue. Even the purpose of industry is not “jobs”. It is to create value for shareholders, which provides jobs in the process.

    The purpose of [university] education is to primarily train the mind of the individual to think effectively so that the individual is equipped to maximize her potential in the real world. That’s the basic reason for education. It is not “jobs”. It’s to produce individuals who can interpret their world and take right decisions and do exploits. Since you haven’t noticed, let me point out to you that not everybody who goes to a university graduates with a degree, some like Steve Jobs acquire the knowledge and move on to apply it. Also, not everybody who has a university education ever takes a paid employment. There are multiple career and life paths that one could take. Getting a job after school is just one.

    Also, jobs differ. What about those who don’t go into industry like factory work? What about people who wish to go into public service, ministry, social work, academics, or even professions like legal, the arts, medicine. (Note: This has an implication for my later argument.)

    Shell University is not an effective example of a corporation owned “university” that you proposed because 1. It does not offer a full undergraduate curriculum. 2. It accepts only graduates. So, the Shell University in Nigeria doesn’t take kids straight out of secondary school. It takes university graduates and gives them something more suited to vocational training to make them “Shell” ready. For your information, Shell doesn’t employ everyone who goes to the school, at the end of the training, they conduct a selection process to decide which of the graduates they would employ and the rest have to go into the world and seek employment. So, the Shell University is also a CSR project.

    The concept of corporations partnering with universities at the undergraduate level with a view of recruiting from the pool of graduates is a very old concept. You didn’t invent it. Neither did Rahm. Your article doesn’t break any new ground and is a rehash of ideas that have been expounded and debated for years. So, take a chill pill!

    This is the issue, which you are skirting around and not addressing. Who is better positioned to run a university – an educationist or an industrialist? Why should an industrialist force himself to become and educationist when there are educationists who are specialists in their field available.

    Is Dangote better equipped than say, Covenant University to train graduates to work in his factory? You are the one who brought up “Pentecostal churches” in your article. [So, you shouldn’t be surprised when the leading university in the country which is also run by a Pentecostal organization pops up in the conversation.] So in answering the above question, you have to look at proven track record. It’s only a deaf and dumb person that would choose a carpenter overa musician when he needs someone to sing at his father’s funeral. You have to understand that people have to be given their due credit. How can someone who has spent years doing one thing (industry) and not a day doing another (education), suddenly be better than the person who spent years doing the other things and actually became the best at it (Oyedepo)? It’s only bigoted people who think the way you do.

    In the Illinois and Germany examples that you presented, the school administration and academic leadership remained with the school administration and academic leadership. The corporations made their input as to the kinds of skills they would like transferred to the students by the schools hence helping the school to mold a more real-life curriculum and perhaps partnered with the schools in providing internship training and other kinds of support like being available for research or study. In exchange for these partnerships, the corporations parts with some funding to the schools. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about this arrangement. As Titanium as pointed out, Dangote is already doing this with some universities in Nigeria. There are so many corporations in Nigeria that have these kinds of partnerships with Nigerian schools.

    Heck! American schools go as far as Indian universities and schools to recruit talent.

    The question is how does this kind of partnership as proposed by you add value and to who. It tends to be about the school benefiting from funding and the corporation getting a tailor-made labour force. What about the students? What about them? What kind of education did they pay for? Did they go into school to be factory made for a particular organization or did they seek an education to be equipped to function in this increasing complex world?

    Why go for an education that limits your choices in life or doesn’t give you an edge in the world? Trained by Dangote for Dangote! What if Dangote doesn’t fall through for the students? What if Dangote is not where they want to work? What if their career plans change along the way? If you went through a regular university programme, you would know that change of career trajectory happens in school to many people? If you also have been studying up, you would also find that people are becoming increasingly job and vocation fluid.

    I know your article was a self promotion aimed at extolling the superiority of the kind of internship heavy university training you just got from University of Waterloo. I also know that you are stiff-necked. Once you call something black, that’s it! It’s black, even if someone proves to you that it’s white, you will argue all you can to “keep” you right and the other person wrong.

    Now, following the questions about how this plan benefits the students. How has it benefited you? (Forget your friend Seyi Taylor’s sycophancy. If you come back to Nigeria to work for him, he will start you on a salary of N50,000 a month and act like he is doing you a favour. That’s the reality.) Now, you are convinced – whether voluntarily or non-voluntarily – that the UN is no place for you. How do you compete with people who went through the normal curriculum which is academic learning heavy? Since you seem to think that the purpose of your education is for a job, how do you really fair in the job market with your peers? How flexible are you having spent a huge portion of your time in school acquiring “practical” skills to work in the UN?

    Well, you made a purchase decision. So, I expect you to defend your decision and education resolutely. But, let me tell you what I think, I think I have done this before. Your thinking – which is the primary reason for education – is faulty. I suggest you read up more on thinking. Also, you lack a certain level of emotional maturity especially in a debate situation, how to maintain your cool and articulate your position in the face of challenge – this is learn in the classroom sessions. Then, the purpose of university education is also character molding which is why your certificate says you have been found competent in learning and character to be awarded the degree. So, you need a dose of honesty. You can’t build a reputation by assuming one position today and tweeking your position the next minute or two weeks later e.g. your position on Dangote’s ability to create his 15,000 promised jobs which you called suspect two weeks ago but you turn around to be so sure about it today, so much that you used your confidence in Dangote’s ability to create jobs to access his yet to be displayed capacity as an educationist.

    Finally, since you are planning to consult for your dad in setting up a university, please note that it’s not only funding that makes a school. Also, drop your ego, tell daddy to consult real professionals with years of experience in both administration and academic leadership in universities. You just don’t cut. You have neither the experience nor the knowledge and from what I have seen so far the humility to learn.

    NB – Took the time to write this, not that I am hopeful that you would humble yourself and learn, but that others who may be reading out there might find these thoughts, especially the questions, stimulating. Just in case you are unable to grasp the meaning of this, it means that I shall now longer engage you on this particular post.

    1. Ugo you have a great thesis here and I totally agree with your arguments. However, I believe this is a civil discussion. You can do without the intemperate language.

      1. I actually don't mind "intemperate language". Its interesting.

    2. Let's take it from the top.

      The purpose of [university] education is to primarily train the mind of the individual to think effectively so that the individual is equipped to maximize her potential in the real world.

      This is complete BS. You don't maximize your potential in the world by selling ekpa with your diploma on the side of the road. You do it by working for someone. If you don't have the skills for "maximizing your potential in the world", your mountain of degrees mean nothing in the long run. IT won't help you make money and it sure as hell won't help you change the world.

      The funny thing is that if you ACTUALLY read the damned article, you would have realized this is the entire argument.

      I wrote "you see our educational system fails at helping young Nigerians apply their knowledge."

      And this million word thesis is sure as hell not a step in the right direction. Just saying.

      PS: Your "real professionals" with years of experience in both administration and academic leadership in universities can barely get the wards people have entrusted to them employed. I'ld rather he consulted people who have experience with making sure young Nigerians not only have a future they will desire but make a decent living doing so.

    3. One more thing :

      "Since you seem to think that the purpose of your education is for a job, how do you really fair in the job market with your peers? How flexible are you having spent a huge portion of your time in school acquiring “practical” skills to work in the UN?

      How about three full time offers and my own business before graduation.

      I rest my case.

  4. brings us to the question: what is the purpose of education?

    1. Jobs.

      1. @titanium: what kind of education?

        @E: just jobs? Have you acquired your education just to get a job???

        1. yes. to create a job. to keep a job. to actually DO a job. Anything else is a red herring.

          That's my opinion.

  5. Interesting Germany does this too. Will look out for them.

  6. A wise man once said that what you disdain will never come your way. For those of us in Nigeria lamenting about how tough Nigeria is to navigate (e.g. Seyi Taylor in your 5 Reasons piece which I think is excellent), but also delight in attacking rich people just because of their religion and their calling, be rest assured you can’t even smell the kind of success these people have attained in life. If you want life to be easier for you, switch your approach, and adopt celebrating success where you see it.

    1. Haha! Oh well.

      You see, I don't disdain success, so I don't fit your description. I do disdain injustice and favoritism – even if they come wrapped in appearances of success. I'll leave it at that.

      That said, the truth is the more open we are to discussing out problems frankly and specifically, the more likely we are to fix them. Blinding ourselves with this everything good narrative when the reality is clearly different isn't the way at all.

      Confess all the positive you want, reality will meet you at the door of your house once you leave that air conditioned "atmosphere of miracles".

      Goodluck and good day.

  7. **Perhaps we can offer him one of our defunct technical schools so he can train his future workforce? I’m sure he’ll do a better job than the Pentecostal churches.**

    Iyin, you said you are SURE he'll do a better job. You are blowing hot and cold at the same time. So you are SURE Dangote will do a better job than your dad's church? When last did you even come home?

    Do you know how much planning and funding went into these universities. How much do you think it takes to run one? Have you visited the first generation ones to see the programmes they have on ground and their facilities? Check out Covenant and Babcock for a start maybe you'll have a rethink. They are not Harvard but they are not pushovers either.

    I attended OAU in case you were wondering.

    1. I can't believe we are debating whether Dangote will do a better job of training workers for HIS OWN factory than Covenant will?

      Or I guess Covenant and Babcock kids are gunning for work in Dangote's factory.

      These schools are graduating kids that are getting lost to unemployment because they don't have practical experience. That's my point. And yes, I think Dangote will do a better job than my Dad's church except they partner or something.

      PS : Effort is not rewarded. Only results.

      Anything worth doing is a lot of work.

  8. University of Waterloo. You can make good money getting a good education as well. 🙂

  9. Amazing. Thanks for that link. I guess he is doing his best

  10. @Seyi Taylor: I find it curious that a horde of bone-headed people on social media spend all their time criticism government or churches and their leaders and most recently they have included members of the churches. They make all the silly comments in the world, pulling their “facts” from the air. Yet, those ones are considered “activists”. But, when another group of people call them out on their insincerity and empty-barrel approach to issues, those ones are called “voltrons” and criticized for “not facing the real issue”.

    You people who think you own Twitter in Nigeria, are just plain hypocrites. You use free speech to defend touts spewing nonsense against people in power or wealthy people, or powerful people. Yet, free speech doesn’t cover anybody who has a view different from yours on any matter at all.

    Your friend, here, Iyin Ayobeyi made a serious blunder, which I believe was deliberate by ending his article by taking a cheap shot at Penecostal churches, which I think has succeeded in making the conversation about entities that this is not about instead of the ideas he expounded in the article. What do you do? You come and defend him and take a shot at “Penecostal voltrons”. What about doing what you preach and “address the issue”?

  11. Mr. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: I think I have told you this before – this criticism business, which you are obviously just venturing into – requires a lot of humility and learning.

    You don’t have to respond to every comment. Neither do you have to answer every question thrown at you. It makes you look insecure, which I think you are, and also makes you look stupid, which I don’t think you are.

    I recall another post of yours where you vehemently contested Dangote’s ability to create a certain number of jobs he said he would. Now, two weeks later, you are here affirming his ability to create those jobs and hinging your empty argument on that ability. Which one you dey na?

    This is why I advise my friends who want to go into government or social or public criticism to be true to self. If you are true to self, you’ll always be consistent. Don’t take the easy populist route. Don’t say, what you know in your heart is not true just to defend a pre-conceived position.

    I hope you have the humility to learn. This article would have done just fine without that cheap jab at Pentecostal churches that you neither attend nor give money. Simple! Learn and move on!

    1. A few points to clarify :

      First, I am not in the criticism business. Maybe you are. I acknowledge I have a lot to learn regardless though but I'll have you know your comments aren't particularly contributing to that process.

      Second, my comment about Church Universities came from a good place. My dad is a District Oveseer at Foursquare. Look for him, Rev. Aboyeji. They are starting a University in september and I plan to visit it in December and help out with planning. They are amazing (I even went to the church college at University of Waterloo – St Jeromes University College) but they aren't a guarantee of jobs. Why not critique my contribution on its merits and stop with the silly red herrings? hunh?

      Third, planning to hire 15,000 people is not the same as hiring 15,000 people. So I haven't affirmed or denied anything. I have merely stated facts.


  12. leadership.ng/nga/articles/21695/2012/04/11/first_class_graduates_get_automatic_jobs_dangote.html

  13. Of Course, Can there be a rational argument amongst Nigerians without bringing up the issue of Pentecostal churches?

    Sad that that is the way it is…

    on the brighter side tho, it is interesting that they put the Pentecostal Churches at par with the Government tho' as well as expect them to do what the Government cannot/will not do.

    The writer started intelligently (for literary reasons) but ended up like most commentators on the Nigerian problem do.

    I hope he'll read these comments and learn from them.

  14. Iyin because you founded a startup that developed a product for students doesn't automatically confer 'education expert' status on you.

    You're far away in the great white north & away from the present realities in Nigeria's education system. Keep dreaming & quoting kanye west while the churches take the bull by the horns and do schools right!

  15. Great article E! I love the concept of corporate organizations training specifically for their needs. No concept is fool-proof but I think it may help in cutting unemployment and the need to import workers (which is a concept many of the Pentecostal Voltrons seem to be ignoring).

    BTW, if that's the education you got, rock on! Where can I get me one of those?

  16. Taking a lot away from this, what Rahm is proposing is what Germany has been on for years. A coordinated mechanism between the the private and education sector. contrary to what many think, it does not make education more expensive but qualitative, afterall Nigerian students are paying something for the crap value they get now.

    It would be hard to agree with you except one does understand your position having related to "‘five points of Calvinism’ and American prosperity". I did a social research on that as well and I have come to the conclusion that the Nigerian Pentecostal Church is pro capitalism and it would go a long way if we could adjust to that than pretending to be holier than thou.

    No development concept is absolute 100% foolproof, hence your suggestion for a pilot scheme to be run at one of the technical universities by Dangote is just what we need now. If we get to have 6 of such pilot schemes running for 5 years with monitoring and evaluation, the output will be a pointer to what will work for us.

    At the moment we are on the road to no where with Education, unless we make an attempt to be working on something concrete like Aboyeji has raised.

  17. **''I hear aggregate magnate Aliko Dangote (for all his faults) has been trying to 15,000 young people for his new cement factory for the past few months. Perhaps we can offer him one of our defunct technical schools so he can train his future workforce? I’m sure he’ll do a better job than the Pentecostal churches.''**

    Iyin, you just ruined this otherwise ok article with the above comment. It's like you can't speak two sentences without dissing Dangote or the churches. What is the problem? Are you been paid to do this? Give them a break man and get it together. The foundations of education in Nigeria was laid by these religious institutions that the founding fathers of this country (and probably your grandparents) benefitted from. (CMS grammar school, Wesley colleges all over, Ansar-ud-Deen schools all over the country etc.)

    There was a time one or two Nigerian universities were top ten in the commonwealth but we allowed gradual degradation of standards and refused to move with the times. Private institutions are trying to salvage this and you are dissing them. Do you know what it takes to run a university? It's not moin-moin o.

    1. The foundations of education in Nigeria is exactly why we are where we are today. No?

  18. But carrying an idea that worked in Chicago, USA and planting it in Nigeria doesn't mean it will work. We've to take note of different environments and situation. Yes, I agree that corporations should have more involvement in designing curricula. No, I don't agree that corporations should run these schools. Let's start with granting these schools autonomy, make it market-based with less subsidy, lower d barriers to setting up private schools, reform JAMB, etc etc

  19. Correction:

    *What do you do when you write a bland UNINSPIRED article that you know has zero chance of inspiring conversation?

    * 3. Logic, and damn, 4. Simple Thinking.

  20. What do you do when you write a bland inspired article that you know has zero chance of inspiring conversation? Yes … You throw in a cheap jab or two at easy targets like your President or Pentecostal pastors (churches or the members or all three) or the nation's richest man,

    For crying out loud, what does Pentecostal churches have to with this article?

    Again, I find my self wasting time to educate an extremely arrogant and ignorant person. But, I just have to.

    Are Pentecostal churches given 'defunct' government schools to manage? NO! So the 'do better than Pentecostal churches' comment is just silly. Plain silly. Does a Pentecostal Church run the #1 university in Nigeria today? YES. Covenant University according to Nigerian University Commission. So, based on what does the writer know about Dangote that makes him think he'll be a better university manager/educationist than the Pentecostal Churches?

    I don't know what kind of education University of Waterloo has given this writer – but if he is a model product of theirs, I think they need to inverse their calendar and put their students in the classroom 8 months a year instead of 4 and actually give you some serious lessons in 1. Integrity and ethics 2. Research aka the relentless pursuit and undiluted respect for facts 3. Logic and damn, 4. Simple Thinking.

    1. "So, based on what does the writer know about Dangote that makes him think he’ll be a better university manager/educationist than the Pentecostal Churches?"

      The fact that he can provide jobs?

      You clearly didn't read the article. Sad

  21. Interesting idea. It would require government getting out of the way completely though. How about fees? 🙂

    1. Students with paid internships can afford fees? No?

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail