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Cultural Ethics and Education in Nigeria

My first few days as a graduate student in America were torrid ones. I found that it was expected of me a graduate student to have knowledge of quite a number of things that’ll enable me join in chorusing responses with my colleagues in class. However, to my dismay, I was soon to discover that I hardly knew well enough of the things I needed to have known, so I’d just sit there clueless, feeling sorry for myself as the minutes trickled by and tangible learning went on.

You see I like to believe that the educational background I had prior to my arrival in the states was largely nonsensical. I mean, it ensured that I really couldn’t stand toe to toe with my classmates, as I didn’t know a fraction of what they knew.

I came across a full-blown rant about Nigeria’s flawed educational system by a guy on twitter a couple of days ago. The fellow shared a personal experience on how he went to obtain his certificate 10 years after leaving school only to find that there was hardly any upgrade in the learning standards of the said institution — one of the best universities in Nigeria. He went further to state his displeasure at an incident that happened during his short return to his Alma matter; it involved a lecturer who jumped a queue well populated with students in order to get ahead in the line.

Before the allure of my own rant about jumping queues and cutting corners gets too strong, I’d like to at this time state that my major reason for this article is to give my two cents about the role our cultural ethics have played in the backwardness of our educational sector, as seen in the lack of equipment, poor educational standards, exploitation, overcrowding in classrooms, inadequate funding, poor parenting, examination malpractices and so on.

Cultural ethics refers to the moral principles guiding our culture. In layman language, it refers to our ideas about the rightness and wrongness of certain things in our culture. Cultural ethics is one of the banana peels in our educational sector, as it has consistently dragged us back as far as quality education is concerned. For example, quite a number of educators/instructors have slowly robbed their students of confidence all in the name of cultural respect; challenging a professor or a lecturer in Nigeria would mean an automatic F in most cases. An educational system that discourages boldness, confidence and a questioning spirit in a student just because the teacher’s ego feels threatened cannot be good in any way. Students cannot get to build a decent relationship with their teachers because of the fear of being knocked down. Some of us bury our ideas and can’t speak up in an innovative environment because we have been robbed of our confidence.

A university is supposed to be a universal environment where teachers and students converse with no barriers between them. It should be an environment where students are free to express their thoughts without the fear of being trampled upon. The job of the teacher is to create an atmosphere where students with diverse backgrounds and personalities can express themselves freely and learn from each other, including the teachers. Teachers are not supposed to be unapproachable and hubris laden all in the name of cultural ethics. Most of our teachers have failed in this area, they have treated the school like a one-way street, where students are supposed to just listen and not contribute, disagree or challenge them. Some of our teachers have used the same notes for 30years or more without updating them; thereby passing down obsolete knowledge to subsequent generations.

I’m someone who is big on cultural ethics but I believe it shouldn’t have such negative effects on our educational standard. Our teachers should not mix their profession with cultural ethics. They should give students the freedom to express themselves, and also show them love. Sometimes, when a Nobel Prize winner is being honored with an accolade of a job well done, there’s always a student beside him or her who has also contributed to the job. That is the kind of relationship a student and a teacher should have.

Anytime I think about our educational system, I feel it would be okay if it were even stagnant, but we’re faced with the harsh reality that it has taken a nosedive due to the aforementioned factors. Sometimes we wonder why some people send their kids abroad to study. It’s not just because of bragging rights, it’s because they know how backward our educational system is and so of course, why not send your kids abroad if you can afford it? For someone like me, community loan had to be acquired to study abroad too, and it’s because we want the best in contrary to what others might think. I’ve seen people throw tantrums at politicians who send their kids abroad to study. How dare you question a parent for wanting the best for their kids? However, some of these politicians know they have destroyed the standard well enough for their kids to be in it. They go into politics to make money, not to better the lot of anyone

Education is supposed to be the major force that drives societal reform or upgrade but that’s not the case in Nigeria, it has caused more harm than good. I can’t help but arrive at a conclusion that the stagnancy or even backwardness in our country can be traced to our failure to improve our educational sector.

Author | Olusegun Tinubu

Segun Tinubu is from Nigeria. He blogs at He woke up one morning at his apartment in Texas on the 2nd of March 2015 with an epiphany; whipped out his laptop and started writing and he hasn’t stopped since then. He is a big fan of James Allen and the father of African Literature- Chinua Achebe. He can be reached at:

The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.

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