By Dr Omoniyi Ibietan
Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwun earned PhD in educational policy from the University of Southern California, in the United States. He represents Ashanti Region in the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana. He is the Minister of Education in Ghana. Like Nigeria, Ghana is operating its Fourth Republic and by my reckoning, Ghana has made quantifiable and remarkable progress in its Fourth Republic more than any other period in her contemporary history.
The other day I listened to Adutwun on TikTok. I was so gratified that I was listening to an African. He went to school and he had education. Not everyone who went to school had education. Some went to school to obtain certificates to work in order earn a regular source of income, meet their needs and perhaps wants. Others simply went to school to obtain certificates to tyrannise the unschooled.
Adutwun left me with an exciting optics of what the future of Ghanaian education sector will be in another decade, just by the way he articulated (with conviction and palpable altruism) his vision of what education should be in his homeland. So, he genuinely bemoaned the existence of a curriculum that left the African child dogmatic because our children are largely educated to take things hookline and sinker, with unquestioning obedience. Whereas, the most effective pedagogy should be multiperspectival and pivoted on the ability of the student to subject social realities to interrogation – an unequivocal dialectic reasoning to be precise. The ability to subject all realities to dialectical reasoning is a hallmark of scholarship and social progress.
It’s been a while I listened to Adutwun but I revisited my memory again after seeing Dr. Emma Woodward, a child psychologist, re-storied Adutwun on LinkedIn. So, I thought I should share my support for an ‘assertive curriculum’ and particularly in the context of Nigeria’s slow but steady movement towards tech-induced social and economic prosperity.
Just yesterday, President Buhari gave a fillip to that steady movement by his endorsement of the Nigeria Start-up Bill, thus making it an Act. Indeed, if we de-emphasise mere certification and encourage massive startup revolution we may begin to concretely resolve the employment crisis (both unemployability and unemployment), as well as security challenges arising from the ‘recruitment’ of young, idle people for political brigandage, and finally become more strategic in our efforts at corruption governance because the processes may become more effective if people find more derivable, honourable rewards through productive ventures that are underwritten by a climate of social justice.
So, I write because of the imperative for active citizens’ obligation to forge alliances to advocate for a review of the Nigerian curriculum and to take advantage of the new Startup Law, to change our present condition and begin an upward movement towards prosperity. I do not want to wait until Adutwun goes to the African Union Commission to lead the team for education. He may never get there.
So, to the brass tacks. Adutwun reasoned that an assertive curriculum is that which “empowers the African child to challenge the status quo”. But sadly, that’s not a reigning paradigm in most parts of Africa. As Adutwun asserted with a tone of regret and frustration, “we have tamed the children, we just want them to put down what they’ve been taught”. Some kinds of memorisation which Adutwun condemned, insisting “we cannot memorise our way out of poverty, out of climate crisis” and indeed, out of our avalanche of miseries.
In the stead, the Ghanaian Minister advocated a rethink in Africa towards critical thinking and innovative reasoning, the type required in the 21st century, the 4.0 Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR). As he inferred, embracing the unstoppable technological revolution is the most potent way to migrate from poverty to prosperity. But we must be intentional and decisive about, and the strategies have been lucidly articulated by Acemoglu and Robinson in WHY NATIONS FAIL: THE ORIGINS OF POWER, PROSPERITY AND POVERTY.
Indeed, Adutwun thoughts resonate with what is already established theoretically and empirically by objective thinkers, including Paulo Freire, the Brazilian philosopher of education and perhaps the developing world’s most lucid and brilliant pedagogical thinker.
How did Adutwun advocacy start or resurge? The Minister had visited schools to interact with students, to observe and ascertain the level of education in contemporary Ghanaian society. But he was disappointed as he succinctly narrated: “…when I finished speaking with the children, I asked, ‘do you have questions for me?’ No hands up, whereas hands need to be up to ask questions.” So, he advocated for a turn because “this kind of educational thinking will not transform any society”.
What is the implication for Nigeria? What should we do in Nigeria? Align with Adutwun? Have we unbanned the teaching of history? The worst decision society should take! Don’t we need history to understand the past and avoid errors of the past in future? The reason Marx said “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living…”. Isn’t it an unpardonable folly to outlaw the teaching of history, when the Internet is the largest repository, an unprecedented treasure trove of man’s history, and where those we refused to teach history can go to read up and glean what they desire?
More concretely, are we revisiting our curriculum to accommodate Adutwun’s resurgent advocacy and to equally embrace Freire’s pedagogies? Are we ready to have total education and to de-emphasise mere certification? Are we ready to fund education sincerely? What did they do differently in South Africa that a university would declare financial surplus for 14 consecutive years but university teachers in Nigeria (one of the most patriotic groups in our national life) would periodically go on strike due to poor funding? Are we really benchmarking?
We are not at threshold of the percentage of budget stipulated by UNESCO to be allocated to education but are we really doing justice to what is allocated to education at the moment? Are we spending judiciously and strategically? Are we blocking leakages and all ‘institutionalised’ bottlenecks of corruption?
In totalising, with endorsement of Nigerian Start-up Act 2022, the President has acceded to a silent revolution that is capable of addressing unemployment and unemployability, and de-emphasising mere certification because the Act birthed a framework that will make startups to flourish and open a floodgate for economic prosperity.
For the purpose of those who do not know, the Act is one other expression of Nigeria’s intention to a digital economic culture. A startup is any young company established by one or more entrepreneurs, to “develop a unique product or service, bring it to the market and make it irresistible and irreplaceable”. Many startups have begun to sprout in Nigeria before the Act. So, the Act legalises creation of an enabling environment for “the establishment, development and operation of startups in Nigeria” by nurturing the growth of technology-related talent. Naturally, startups start with an ideation. From idea to research, to feasibility of the idea’s concrete manifestation and sustainability, then to establishment, funding, and so on.
So, how do we create the imperative melting pot among our requirements for a prosperous future through assertive curriculum, startup businesses, ethical revolution and the integration of the objective of the Start-up Act 2022 into a new educational curriculum that makes the school lever to be an employer and not necessarily a job seeker. And how do we migrate from there to rely less on imports and begin to produce by ourselves, what we really need? This, in my opinion is the pathway to real prosperity and development. This is the correlate I see between the Ghanaian emergent ‘Assertive Curriculum’ and the enabling Nigerian Startup Act 2022.