Rescuing and educating the Nigerian child: The Wakirike model, by Owei Lakemfa


A SINGLE nuclear weapon can wipe out an entire city and its living contents. It can also cause severe blast over an average five-kilometre radius from the epicenter. Its radiation effects can kill more and deform human beings over decades.

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Nigeria’s 18.3 million out-of-school children, is larger than the combined population of at least 13 African countries, including Gambia, Gabon, Botswana, Djibouti and Swaziland. With this, it is like a country romancing multiple nuclear weapons.

It is a disaster waiting to happen and the Wakirike, better known as Okrika, an Ijaw subnationality, does not want to wait; it desires to take steps, at least, to avoid the impending disaster in its area.

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Its United States Branch invited me to Newark, New Jersey to suggest how this can be done.

To me, the Wakirike USA interest in the child, shows it is composed of a people concerned with collective interests, not just for today, but also tomorrow. This fits into my basic belief that the future does not belong to the individual no matter how successful or powerful; it belongs to the collective.

I told them that the past of any people was shaped by their education. The today of any people is moulded by their education. So will their tomorrow. Therefore, when a nationality educates its child, it educates the nation and its future. Also, that education is the most precious gift anybody can give a child, and once given, it is for life; it cannot be retrieved.

To me, when you train your children, you are preparing them for the future. This training reflects in their lives. That is why in Nigeria, when a person behaves badly, he is said to ‘have no home training’.

However, it is not only human beings that can be trained. Horses and dogs can also be trained, even to give salute at the parade ground. So, for human beings to be of value to themselves and their societies, there must be a combination of training and education.

For me, education is basically the development of societal values for the continuation and progress of society and humanity. Also, it is the development of critical consciousness, so that the educated, as Brazilian educationist, Paulo Freire posited, can liberate himself and society.

I quoted Albert Einstein, the legendary scientist who argued that: “Educating is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” In other words, education is not mere literacy, passing examinations and securing certificates. An educated person should be a rounded figure who is useful to himself, society and even the future generations.

I recalled that in my primary school days in Lagos, we had classes from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday went to compulsory vocational school, where we were taught to use our hands and apply our brains.

We learnt various vocations, including carpentry, wood work, cookery, pastry, hair weaving and electricity. It was generally called ‘hand work’ and we were required to submit a project per term.

I, therefore, argued that what is required is an education system which combines the arts with emphasis on culture, creativity and building the mind. A system that embraces science which nourishes and develops the imagination, propels experimentation, and constructs articles that simplifies human existence.

We need an education that would make the child conscious of himself and his heritage. Not an education like in Nigeria, where the ruling elites are so terrified with children learning about their history, that its teaching was banned from 2009, for 13 years.

I argued that the Wakirike should be different from the rest of the country in terms of education, social and human development like the Kerala State in India.

In admitting that Wakirike, unlike Kerala, is not a state, I pointed out that in pre-independence Nigeria, communities and societies in the South built schools and collectively sent some of their promising children to school when they were neither a state nor an administrative division. So, what is required is vision, determination, community spirit and a sense of dedication.

I gave the example of the Urhobo Progressive Union which established a scholarship fund in 1936 and established the Urhobo National College on October 1, 1946.

In my main submissions, I suggested that the Wakirike Nation in educating the child and guaranteeing a bright future, should first, establish an education foundation and fund to build education institutions and provide scholarship for students. Secondly, declare education a right for all Wakirike children and ensure this in practice. Thirdly, promote a programme to wipe out illiteracy within a timeframe, say of five years. Fourthly, research into the education needs of the Wakirike, including the number of out-of-school children and, the number of classrooms and teachers needed to make a demonstrable change. Fifth, influence the education curriculum to ensure the Wakirike child is well-rounded and imbibes the culture, language, folklore, values, resoluteness, honour and integrity identified with the people. Sixth, encourage the teaching of history, including the origins and development of the Wakirike Nation, their contacts with Europeans and tolerance of foreigners. Seven, build more schools within a given period. Eight, liaise with state authorities to make school environment conducive. Nine, construct and run vocational schools that will be beneficial for all Wakirike children and youths, more so in communities impacted by armed militancy and the culture of oil bunkering. Ten, counter the culture and mentality of ‘who-school-help’ and encourage an entrepreneurial spirit with possible start-up plans. Eleven, advance climate change consciousness and respect for the environment.

On how funds can be raised for such a programme, I said there are three basic steps. The most basic, is to agree to educate the entire Wakirike people. The next, is to come up with the ideas and planning of educating the Wakirike people. Then, to apply the Wakirike ‘Can Do Spirit.’ That is the spirit which whispers quietly into receptive ears that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Mr. David Solomon, President of the Wakirike USA whose 30th Annual Convention I was addressing, explained why the theme of education: “Education stands at the core of our mission. We recognise its role as both an equaliser and a catalyst for positive change as well as a tool society can use to instill values of nationalism, reorientation, social responsibility and accountability.”

As one of the steps of implementing its programme to educate the Wakirike Ijaw people, the convention proposed that each member in USA should fund the education of a Wakirike child back in Nigeria. It was proposed that for as little as $60 annually, a member can supplement the education of a Wakirike child in a public school in Nigeria. Indeed, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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