STRUGGLING WITH THE FUTURE: MY FIRST ALMA MATA

When a crisis hits a vast institution it can seem reasonable to say that the task of handling the crisis falls mainly to the institution itself. It must regroup and survive, or else fail and collapse. But things change when there is evidence of criminal activity and of efforts to hide it. At that point it becomes urgent for everybody including good people inside the institution, to let daylight in and expose wrongdoing without hesitation to outside authorities.

All that might seem obvious, but for some of those at the helm of affairs of Nigeria’s primary education system for three decades now,  a call to order has yet to be made. Instead of fully accepting mismanagement of that sector, they keep shifting blames on one another.

As worrisome as it may be, that Nigeria still spend less than 9% of her annual budget on education – the mainstay of an economy, the share for primary education expenditure remains at 36%, which is much lower than that accross the continent- 48%. As at 2008, the total primary classrooms was 319,590, while total primary schools was 54,434 and total school teachers at 586,930. What does these figures tell us ? an average of 10 teachers per school, average of 70 primary schools in each local government area. The latter seem encouraging, however the distribution might be skewed, and in this part of the world, the large numbers of classrooms wouldn’t matter, it is the impact those four walls will have on the pupils that pass through it, this is worsened by the “mushroom” schools, also called private primary schools that  has taken over the country.

A Primary School with their teachers in Nigeria


According to the World Bank Data, Nigeria primary education witnesses a decline in % net enrollment of pupils, with 65% in 2007 and 58% in 2010. One might ask, why the decline? In neighbouring Benin, 89% enrolled in 2008 compared to 94% in 2010, Ghana also is encouraging its primary education sector growing from 72% in 2007 to 84% in 2011. Despite the incentives been given to lure children into school, the number seems to be decreasing. However, in as much as education isn’t free in Nigeria at this primary level, parents will still have an excuse of not sending their wards to school. It is good to know that some states like Imo, Ogun has started thinking in this direction- the northern governors are  should take  cue from this development.


Nevertheless, as 100% enrollment and free primary education might sound sexy, the quality of knowledge acquired from this institutions should be at par with the numbers. One might ask? Where does quality starts? The number of trained teachers in these primary schools in Nigeria still hangs at 66% in 2010, and when compared to other African countries such as Kenya with an average of 98% between 2009 and 2007; Rwanda with an average of 95% for years now; Togo, one of our neighbouring countries that in 2007 has 15% now has 77% of trained teachers in 2010. Between 2007 and 2011, Burundi and Tanzania has averaged 89% and 100% respectively of trained teachers in their primary schools. Can one give what he doesn’t have? It’s is quite obvious that priority should be given to the re-training of primary school teachers in Nigeria.

Nevertheless, as the NERDC (Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council) introduces the new curriculum ( an headache for the three tiers of schooling in Nigeria) for primary schooling in Nigeria, the institution that is responsible for training of teachers, should be strengthened with qualifiied trainers. When an institution needs cleansing, a times it should be revamped! To put it kindly, whoever has upheld those curriculum for the past decades must be out of touch with reality that is now catching up with the education ministry.

While universal primary education is important (Togo, Burundi, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Tanzania have achieved or/are nearing the goal –MDG reports 2011), much value will be added through quality education. When  a country wants to become an economic power in the near future, it is not by “time travel”, it builds capacity of her human resources!

CAPE VERDE: THE AFRICAN HAVEN AT THE END OF THE WORLD

On the night of July 26, 2012, I left for Dakar (The Airport looks untidy with no wireless internet appearing anywhere on my gadgets), all that caught my eye was a black cat, strolling around the international transit lounge. As my flight to Praia, is on the next day, I had to bring out my rugged laptop and start reading, until my power cable made a pop sound! Telling me its morning already.

Flying to Cape Verde, there was no avoiding the sea. An archipelago of 9 islands, lying almost 450km of the western tip of Senegal. There was almost no slope or road or window from which the seas could not be seen. With a population of about 459,000, the sea took Capeverdeans away, flinging to France, Brazil and New England, while as many stayed changing to their Dry land. “While their exile broke hearts, it gave them money to send home” said Moses, an energetic taxi driver, speaking English vaguely, took me to Pestana Tropico Hotel. Certainly, he had so many to say about the Island, but the 700 Cape Verde Escudos (CVE) couldn’t take us longer than stopping in front of the hotel.

Taken from the Plateau, overlooking the Gamboa Beach
and the crowd at one of the city carnival

Just by the sea – Now that am “home” I can now look forward to the United Nations Space Based Information on Disaster and Emergency Response(UN-SPIDER) 5days Technical Advisory Mission to CapeVerde (meaning Green). While I was engrossed with my meal – Batata Frita (French Fries) and Atum grelhado (grilled fish), I peeped through my window, and just out there were a massive crowd, just by the Gamboa Beach. Since the weekend might be the only opportunity to catch a glimpse of what the summer is like, I decided to join the crowd, and perhaps – engage in some photography.

As the days of the week passed by – visiting organizations involved in Disaster and Emergency Response, my nights were occupied by responding to mails, and updating colleagues in Nigeria of task plans, while monitoring other important projects virtually. However on Wednesday, the UN-SPIDER team went on an excursion to Tarrafal, about 5hrs north of Praia. It was quite intriguing how the winding roads kept us in between the valleys, plateaus, and hills. Just on the road is a concentration camp built sometimes in 1936, turned museum since 1974. The town stands in a class of its own, with temperature at about 25°C, the beach was occupied by tourists from different part of the world, while the sea foods at the restaurant could leave your taste bud hungry for more. Had some great times to play beach soccer with the kids, while some team members, swam their way into the ocean.

Looking at Fogo Island in the Sky was amazing as we
arrive at  Cidade Velha



Friday Night was angelic at the Quintal da Musical. This was the music house for those sad, syncopated mornas, the blended Portuguese fado, Brazilian modinhas, and the laments of Angola and just like Moses told me “it might be from the shanties of British seafarers”. At this restaurant, you have to book a table, some days before coming, which reminds me of Figlmueller in Vienna.Falling in love with the atmosphere was an understatement, encapsulated in the rhythm of the music, and the dance of the singers, who sang barefoot, a tradition culled from the Cesaria Evoria, one of the greatest Capeverdean singers, who died on December 17th, 2011 at age 70). Humming…Sodade…Sodade…Sodade…dess…nha…terra … “Music here is about love, emigration, homesickness, looking for work, waiting for rain, missing people” said Uche, a Nigerian I met at one of the markets on the Plateau. Uche sells Compact Discs at the Market. He’s been living on the Santiago Island for 5years, with his elder brother who has been staying in Cape Verde for 15years.
The slave market – the UNESCO World Heritage Site
at Cidade Velha


Saving the best for the last – if you visit Cape Verde, and you didn’t stopped by at Cidade Velha, then you have missed the Ribeira Grande. I and Professor Isi of RECTAS decided to visit! At 4,000 CVE, Moses will take us visiting the Old City (about 45mins drive from Prainha, 15km from Praia), a UNESCO world heritage site, which quickly expanded to become the first capital city of Cape Verde. Beholding the slave market brought back memories of how Africans were been treated and transported to other parts of the world. The relics of the old churches echo the grieving sounds of the energetic African idol. In the 16th century, this city prospered from transatlantic slave trade, with slaves being brought from Africa to the isolation of Cape Verde to work in inhuman conditions in the cotton fields. Cidade Velha was a target for several pirate attacks, and in 1712, it came under an attack by an army of looters. The city subsequently went into decline, and was usurped by Praia, which became the capital in 1770.

As the night crept in, there was one more place to visit – Bar ‘O Poeta, all thanks to Agnezkia and Fred.  Just situated around the Rua da Assemblera Nacional. The sound of the cavaquinho greeted us, as we entered the soul lounge. Unlike Quintel de Musical, there were few guests, and the funana pace of music was allowed. Humming the songs away, this was our “Café Atlantico” – the haven at the end of the world, where the waves crashed and the wind blew there was always something good, and surprising, and comforting. One of the souvenirs that return the memoir of Cabo Verde is the 1,000CVE artwork I got from the market on the plateau – quite an art to behold!