Where best to take a gargantuan problem than to Oxford University the "fount of all knowledge".
Updated: Jan 18
There is a wise saying, a problem shared is a problem halved. So where best to take a gargantuan problem than to Oxford University, regarded in some quarters as ,the "fount of all knowledge". The University has for many years, ranked, highly and consistently as one of the top universities on the planet. It is made up of 39 constituent colleges and a range of academic departments all of which are independently governed. So on Wednesday 27th November 2019, NSF (UK) officers boarded a train and took the Nigerian education system challenge to post graduate students of St Anne’s College, Oxford University. The college was Founded in 1879 and It has approximately 450 undergraduate and 200 graduate students.
Dr Remi Kayode (Education project) and Wole Sanwo (Director) met at the Paddington Station, London, to take a direct train to Oxford town to honour an invitation from St Anne's College students’ MCR Academic Affairs Officer to lead a seminar on the interesting topic, “My experience of leading a self-help group in the UK to improve education in Africa.”
The train took off from Paddington, a station in its early days that was the grand terminus for the Great Western Railway and was conceived by one of the greatest British Engineers of his generation, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. An extensive refurbishment from 1990 onwards has further transformed the iconic station into the 21st century. You can read more about the history of the station here.
Though the seminar slot was at 12:30 pm and for approximately one hour and half hours, both decided to take the earlier 9:50 train so as to arrive well before the scheduled seminar time. Journey from London, a distance of 50 miles, was just under an hour. On board the train Remi and Wole seized the opportunity to discuss the thrust of the seminar topic, trying to ensure enough content to engage the students and give them a perspective of the complexity/enormity of the challenge facing the giant of Africa. Before they both knew it, they had arrived at Oxford station. As with ample time, they took a twenty minutes leisurely stroll from the station to the meeting point at St Anne's College Lodge, Woodstock Rd, where they announced their early arrival at the reception. Instead of hanging around, both popped down Woodstock road for a quick coffee at this quaint restaurant, Browns Oxford, before returning back to the reception to await their host.
Host was running a bit late from an earlier engagement and there was an initial panic on how best to make direct contact as the visitors only had the host's email address. Ten minutes after the appointed slot the host arrived and ushered the officers into the seminar room 3.
How appropriate that displayed in this room and it seemed as a subliminal backdrop to the seminar was the above piece of art work donated by Tsuzuki Gakuen Group, a major supplier of higher education in Japan. It was founded in 1956 to provide an education centered upon the development of the individual. It has since 1996 provided recent graduates of St Anne's College (Oxford) with scholarship support.
Seminar room 3, was neatly laid out for the presentation and with a good spread of sandwich buffet and drinks for all attendees. A few students were already in the room and pleasantries were exchanged whilst awaiting the arrival of more.
Session then kicked off. From the outside looking in, it seemed a daft challenge that NSF(UK) had taken on, to support the education system of a nation with a population of 200 million. Who in their right minds will take on what after all is the responsibility of a sovereign state? So context was key to NSF(UK)'s vision of "quality education for all Nigerians" which it had embarked upon since 2012 and well before the United Nations 2015 sustainability development goal (SDG 4-Quality education). Success in education has since been widely recognised as an enabler of wider society goals.
So Wole, with Remi chipping in , went on to explain to the students the reasons he led the transformation of an existing private event into a successful not-for-profit organisation, leveraging much needed resources into the education system in Nigeria and by using the power of community networking. A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here.
The students seemed very enthralled and engaged with the presentation. Perhaps in recognition of how privileged they were, they understood the urgency and responsibilities of the few beneficiaries of quality education in Nigeria, to give back and be a part of the solution.
Issues raised and discussed included:
Were the current challenges the result of economic mismanagement of the Nigerian leaders since independence?
Was it true that Nigeria is a legacy of an economic transaction between businesses and the then British government?
Can the deterioration of the quality of the Nigerian education system be attributed to misplaced priorities of leaders?
A student from Spain enquired whether Nigeria had solved the brain drain problem? She had hoped the shared solutions can be applied to Italy and Spain who are facing similar issues now, although their economies were not completely deteriorated as that of Nigeria.
Another asked if the curriculum was in the mother tongues/ tribal languages ? If not perhaps the reason for the adverse effect on the ability to impart knowledge to the students?
Some students took photos of the PowerPoint presentation. Some promised to review "the history of Nigeria explained in 6 minutes" video shared in the presentation. Watch here.
A few were fascinated with the tribal and linguistic complexity of Nigeria.
Attention then switched fully from the problems to the solutions.
They were curious on the future plans for the implementation of NSF(UK) Excellence in Education Development project (N.E.E.D)? For more information on N.E.E.D visit our website.
One student probed on how an organisation based in the UK can influence local policies remotely?
Overall from NSF(UK) perspective, it was simply an interesting experience to have its plans comprehensively scrutinised by the post graduate students. The day ended with a tour by the officers around Oxford town under a light rainfall and before they caught the evening train back to London.
For further information on Nigerian History watch the documentary below:
REAL STORY OF NIGERIA by Jide Olanrewaju - Copy: