Uche Akym Onyekwere, a Nigerian economist and philanthropist based in Nashville, Tennessee in the United States of America has described education as the ultimate investment of any country.
Onyekwere who made the statement while playing host to a group of African-American students and young people from other African countries, declared education as the indispensable condition for growth and development in any country. He added that the only way to actually measure the seriousness of any nation or people is basically by the way its government and policy makers treat and deal on matters relating to education.
In his view, education therefore, is the engine and the only way out of the many problems confronting Africa and the rest of the developing world. He warned that until serious attention is given to the education of young people who are the future leaders, Africa and indeed his home country Nigeria will remain on the bottom rung of the ladder.
According to him, “knowledge drives the economies and lives around the world today. Only those who have knowledge can lead and lead well, no matter how much we pretend about this reality.
“For instance, whenever I read the tragic stories of out of school children in my country Nigeria, I always feel saddened because I know the consequences of illiteracy and lack of access to education. After all, the great stories we hear about scientific breakthroughs and innovation did not happen on the streets. It takes place in laboratories and well-planned learning environments where knowledge is freely given to those willing to learn.
“No one becomes great without one form of education or the other. And let me be clear, education has many layers and we can actually appreciate it from different points of view. So, education could be formal or informal but what is of utmost importance is to get the education first because after it, every other thing follows. That is why this is a call to duty for our policy makers and government officials elected to serve.
“I am happy that in my home state of Abia back in Nigeria, young people are studious and hard working despite the harsh conditions. I understand that our students are doing well in most external examinations like WAEC, JAMB, NECO and other theory tests. This is gratifying but we must move beyond grueling personal efforts and pain in acquiring education. That is why we must prepare because preparation and planning hold the key.
“The leadership must not only provide the recourses the education sector needs urgently, it must also create the environment for academic excellence at all levels. Except we re-jig and re-think our education now, we stand the risk of running around in circles for ever. That is why we must begin now to mitigate a future calamity that awaits all of us if we decide to do nothing today to save tomorrow.
“I must confess, for many months, I followed the eight months old strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU in Nigeria. We all know that eight months is long enough to reverse two or three year’s gains of a student. Such a time could also paralyze even the best of students academically. It is unfortunate that we allowed our youths, our future to stay away from school for such a long period. Thank God there is now light at the end of the tunnel. I thank those who made it possible and I hope it does not happen again”.
Onyekwere therefore called on the relevant agencies, governments at all levels, supervising parastatals, agencies, stakeholders, parents, religious groups, non government organizations and everyone to rise up and save Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning before it is too late.
– Amechi Onwubuemeli