Wednesday, May 06, 2015

"My Father's Generation Failed My Generation" (II)

My father’s generation suffered a disastrous war, and saw death of loved ones and friends. Wars have deep psychological effects on the people. While most of them participated in the war either as adults or child-soldiers, others were too young, or, even, babies, and bore the brunt of the war as its unfortunate victims.
This bloody war affected mostly people of the South Eastern Nigeria. I must respect their courage at that time and how they were able to pick up after that and, indeed, recover within an impressively short time, especially, after their wealth was decimated and they were handed a paltry twenty pounds by the Government of the Federation of Nigeria no matter the amount standing to the credit of the Igbo holder of the account. The story of a typical South-Easterner is a story of inspiration and courage in the midst of adverse circumstances. One of my grouses with my father’s generation is that they have failed, either by default or design, to teach my generation about the Nigerian Civil War sufficiently. No effort has been made to incorporate the War in educational curriculums so that my generation can learn what actually happened, its remote and immediate causes, the effects of the war; and how to prevent same from recurring. Instead, the War is covered with a blanket. A recent example of the authoritarian muting of the lessons of the War is the initial refusal of the Nigerian Film and Video Censor Board to approve the viewing of the screen adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” in Nigeria. In Europe, people still visit major sites of WWI to lay wreaths etc. Remembrance Days are still observed. But, in Nigeria, my father’s generation made no such plans.

They did well, though, in the evolution of meaningful highlife music which is still the best form of music that Nigeria can offer. Their generation saw dedicated and responsible highlife musicians. They had a lot of great souls that the country might never have again who sang about a wide range of issues: Rex Jim Lawson. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Dr. Victor Olaiya, King Sunny Ade, Sunny Okosun etc.

My father’s generation went to the universities in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. They got education of a superlative quality. They were educated when Nigeria’s value system and set of morals had not gone to the dogs or thrown out of the window. Those were the days when you dare not bribe a Headmaster. Most of them went to the universities with scholarships, with every single thing paid for. My generation is regaled by my father’s generation to the point of ennui of how their daily meals in the hostels were all of eggs and chicken parts and how their laundries were done by members of staff specially appointed for that particular assignment. It is an indictment on my father’s generation’s lack of foresight that the first students’ riot in the history of Nigerian university system was in the 1970s over a matter as mundane as the reduction of chicken ration in their meals. My father’s generation never sorted any lecturer; and they were taught by qualified, sometimes expatriate, other times foreign-trained Nigerian lecturers who were passionate about lecturing. My father’s peers had options of where to work immediately after their studies. Most of them were besieged by companies on their graduation days, wooing them to come and work for them. Most had up to five choices of where to work.

Most of the universities then were of new facilities; they had good classrooms, hostels; and the graduates faced little or no competitions after the university. Nigerian educational institutions were so strong then, you dare not cheat in exams etc. Today, Nigerian Universities are suffering from a reversal of fortunes. University of Ibadan, for instance, then, was amongst the best ten in Africa. The same university today is the 35th in Africa according to the current Webometrics ranking of African universities. My father’s generation never cared to sustain the quality of education they enjoyed for my generation. Today, they are the big professors of today, vice-chancellors, principals, headmasters etc. They are in charge of all sectors of our national polity. They never thought of maintaining the standard of education in these universities, secondary schools, primary schools, all of them. They never paused to wonder if my generation will enjoy the privilege of being accosted by prospective employers for jobs the same way they all got jobs the next day after graduation. Most of them today are Principals, and have their schools being used as special centres during WASSCE, NECO and JAMB exams. Most of them that work in senior positions at the bodies that administer these exams are the ones that release these question-papers through the backdoor to my own generation for financial gratification. They are the professors and lecturers that my generation sorts today to get better grades. Worst of all, they never thought of population explosion and so have no safety net to cushion its dire consequences.

They saw our value system die. They saw our set of morals die. They saw integrity got deleted from our polity. They saw the facilities they enjoyed in the universities depreciating, never to be sustained. While they went to the universities with scholarships in their days, today, we have nothing like that anymore. They saw everything got worse. They are the ones EFCC chases today. They are the ones that instituted corruption; practically taught us corruption; and saw most of our institutions die. They fuelled the decay of a lot of social services. They saw the military got corrupted. They saw the police got corrupted. They have been managing the affairs of the country for decades now. They rig elections, and ask my generation to help them carry ballot boxes. They are the ones that give my generation moneys that we share to voters at polling booths. They are the governors that do not perform today. They are the ones that now send their children who are part of my generation abroad to enjoy education of global quality, because education institutions here are pretty dead. They are the ones that boast of how many of their children they have sent abroad for quality education. They are the ones that widened the inequality gap in the country to a large degree. They are the ones that have fuelled the establishment of private universities as they watched the public ones die. Today, these public schools are so dead, that they are basically for the poor people, and one cannot rely on the low quality of education that Nigerians get in most of them. Even with the enormous school fees paid in those private schools, the quality of education delivered there cannot be compared to what my father’s generation obtained at the public schools of their days.

Missed Part 1 of this article?
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"Chambers Umezulike is a Nigerian Secular Humanist, Revolutionary, and Novelist. He is a co-author of the 1000 paged Nigerian centenary compendium: “The Metamorphoses of Nigeria (1914 – 2014),” a thorough work that chronicles stages of economic, political and social developments of Nigeria since 1914 that the British amalgamated her Northern and Southern protectorates. Follow on twitter: @ClueXxxRdh; Facebook_page: https://www.facebook.com/chambers.umezulike "

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