SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS (STEM) EDUCATION; AN INSTRUMENT FOR PEACE AND SECURITY IN NIGERIA
(Achievements, challenges over 100 years of existence and way-forward)
A PAPER PRESENTED BY
ONWUKEME, IJEOMA ANTONIA
M.Sc. STUDENT, DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE EDUCATION (BIOLOGY),
FACULTY OF EDUCATION,
NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA, ANAMBRA STATE, NIGERIA
This paper presents the concepts and importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education to a Nation. The objective of this paper is to create awareness that STEM Education can go beyond equipping students academically; by inculcating and harnessing their innate capabilities so as to contribute effectively to the National Development; a peaceful and security conscious citizen (graduate) promotes National Development. The paper critically analyses the many peace and security challenges of our Centenary Country, Nigeria, as well as the achievements so far. STEM was identified as a viable and indispensable instrument for National Security and Peace in the long run. Suggestions are made of practical and feasible ways STEM education majorly can promote peace and security in Nigeria. It is recommended that the Government and stakeholders in Education sector should form a more lasting synergy to guarantee adequate funding of the system. Job creation for youths should be made realistic.
Keywords: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Education, Peace, Security, and Nigeria.
Anniversaries are usually times for celebration, sober reflection on the past and planning for the future. Celebrating Education in Nigeria’s 100 years of existence is time to take stock of our achievements, challenges over the years and determine what we need to do in the upcoming years in order to realize the dreams of our founding fathers.
The importance of education to human beings cannot be over emphasized. At the outset, it is important to point out that education goes beyond schooling. But schooling at all levels help to achieve the purpose of education. Education is a human right that should be accorded to all human beings solely by reason of being human. There are a lot of international human rights instruments that provide for education as a fundamental human right. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981) and the Child Rights Act. The relationship between education and development is well established such that education is a key index of development. It has been documented that schooling improves productivity, health and reduces negative features of life such as child labour as well as bringing about empowerment (EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2002).
It has been shown that education opens the door for all citizens to participate in development activities and when citizens are denied education; they are excluded from the development process, which in turn puts them at a disadvantage in comparison with their compatriots with the benefit of education (Action Aid International Nigeria, 2005). This is why there has been a lot of emphasis particularly in recent times for all citizens of the world to have access to basic education of good quality. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are very important aspect in the development of any nation. STEM education has a lot to offer; that is why many nations, Nigeria inclusive, are working towards improving STEM education in order to inculcate and harness the creative capacity these disciplines can bring about in individuals.
Before Thursday January 1st, 1914, the entity called Nigeria did not exist. The “Niger Area” referred to as Nigeria today is a creation of the British colonialists. It was on this day that Sir Frederick Lugard (Governor-General of Nigeria 1914-1919) amalgamated the Northern protectorate, the Southern protectorate and the Lagos Colony, to make up our present day Nigeria. The utmost reasons for this amalgamation are not far-fetched; it was mainly for easy administration of the vast colonial territories and also for economic reasons. For the weakness of some regions may be covered up by the strong ones. Lord Lugard failed to understand that no two or three people can co-exist unless they agree to share common values like religion, history, culture, language, beliefs, aspirations, ethics etc. (Daily Independent, 2014).
The teaching of science in Nigeria schools dated back to the era of Christian missionaries, who brought the western education into the country. With the establishment of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School, Lagos in 1859 some rudiments of science education were injected into the school’s curriculum including arithmetic, algebra, geometry and physiology. The curriculum consisted of 4RS namely reading, writing, arithmetic and religion (Okpala, 2011).
Peace and security was listed as the sixth major challenges of Nigeria among areas of power sharing, federalism, elections, governance, corruption, poverty and development planning (Ojameruaye, 2011). Ojameruaye had this to say: “Nigeria’s founding fathers also dreamt of a country where peace and justice reign, and where no man will be oppressed and where our banner will not be stained (by blood of fellow Nigerians)”.
There is need to re-examine the approach to peace and security in the country. Investment in Smart technology for security agencies (such as CCTV, three digit emergency numbers, security emergency control centers, helicopter patrol of highways, water ways, etc) above all, STEM Education stands to be an indispensable tool for promoting Peace and Security in Nigeria.
STEM EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education in recent times have become powerful tools for resolving problems in the society. STEM education offers students the best opportunities to be useful to the world holistically, rather than in pieces/ parts. It removes the traditional barriers between the four disciplines, by integrating them into one enriched teaching and learning standard. Okpala (2011) stated that the principal role of Education has been the development of a whole individual and the minimal level of Education that was necessary to achieve this goal in the society was basic or primary and in the industrial age, secondary. In the present borderless information dominated society, education needs to be able to respond to additional demands of a rapidly globalizing world by raising awareness of environment, peace, security, cultural and social diversity, increased competitiveness and the concept of global village.
Education can be said to be a process through which individuals are assisted formally through proper direction and guidance to develop their capabilities for their own benefits and that of the society. Education prepares the individual to connect and live in harmony with the environment around him. Peace and security have changed the size, nature and quality of that environment. To understand STEM in Nigeria, we must understand, the components of STEM and their individual contributions to the Nation’s Development, they are: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Mbajiorgu (2014) perceived “Science as a process of understanding natural occurrences or phenomena through a systematic investigation of same”. Thus, emphasis is on the process of investigation that yields scientific knowledge. Science can be said to be the way of life. Remember, it was the urge to give explanation to happenings in the environment that led to the emergence of science. Science should be seen as part of everyday life by everyday people in their interactions to the natural world. If we should take the authorization to ask ourselves what we did since morning. We will find out that we must have engaged in some natural investigation like: trying to determine what the weather would be like in order to decide on what clothes to put on and so on. The difference between this natural investigation and the scientists (professional) is that; these scientists use a set of instruments/ theories extend to the range of the human senses. They also work in line with the central commitments of the field for any particular period, rather than from the point of everyday life. Be it in our science laboratory, rooms, kitchen or our garden, natural phenomena remain the starting point as well as focus of scientific activity.
Science majorly, reduces natural phenomena to wide generalizations by constructing broad models to characterize by uniformity and predictions. Hence, the greatest power of science is the use of its claims to make predictions (Mbajiorgu, (2003) in Mbajiorgu, 2014). However, there is need to correct erroneous perceptions of science by the average Nigerian so as to promote peace and security.
The core science subjects include; Biology, Physics and Chemistry. Many of the physics graduates have some knowledge of electronics that is enough for them to be able to have a little period of training as apprentices and then stand alone as electronic technician. For instant, Semiconductor is very important in the modern technology that if properly learnt it is enough for one to stand upon for a living; semiconductor physics is part of what any graduate in physics will learn and should learn. Semiconductor is very important in a growing economy like ours in Nigeria; it is useful in ceramic industry with this knowledge a well trained physics education graduate can be well established in ceramic industry.
Biology education is very important to any growing economy like Nigeria. Many graduates of biology education are self employed and employers of labour; many owned schools for themselves where people works and earn their living while some are in to fish business, they also contribute effectively in environmental or laboratory firms.
Students of chemistry department are taught how to make dye and chalk; graduates of these departments can establish their own chalk business as soon as they graduate. If supported with fund many schools do not need to buy chalk outside anymore and they can equally produce for other schools. Without STEM education Information and Communication Technology would be impossible. Science and technology will not be possible without science education; for instance engineering, medicine, architecture etc will not be possible if there is no one to teach the students the core subjects needed for these courses.
The early man was a wanderer in search for food; suddenly they discovered that their fallow land has grown, they imagined that their plant too can grow. With this development they began to settle at a place. In satisfying these needs (food, shelter, clothing), he employed novel measures developed in the course of his interaction with his environment by so doing he solved his problem. This is technology.
Mbajiorgu (2014) defined Technology as “ideas, procedures and techniques employed in the production of goods and services in order to improve the society”. Mbajiorgu further stated that Technology starts with the innovation phase, when a problem is identified. It goes through the phases of diffusion, when the technology is passed to the end users, a more or less testing period; and the adoption phase, when the end users accept or reject the developed technology. While Technology seeks to improve Science; Science in turn seeks to explain the how and why of natural phenomena. Technology manipulates it and makes it work better for humans.
Engineering have been defined as “the work involved in designing and building roads, bridges, machines etc like civil engineering, genetic engineering”. An engineer is said to be “one whose job is to design or build roads, bridges, machines, take care of engines on a ship or aircraft, someone whose job is to repair electrical equipment or machines” (Pearson Education Limited, 2009 Eds.). Engineering graduates learn to integrate scientific and engineering principles to develop products and process that contribute to economic growth, advances in medical care, enhanced National security systems, ecologically sound resource management, and many other beneficial areas (Wormley, 2003).
Every Nation of our admiration has benefitted from the resourcefulness of its engineers. Whether we are talking about the recent marvels of the United States of America, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirate or transformation of Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, even as the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktown has announced a multi-billion dollar expansion of the city’s second airport’ the world’s biggest airport project (Cable News Network, 2014). It is the Engineers that elaborated the blueprints and supervised the numerous constructions of those countries from the labyrinths of poverty, violence, insecurity, ignorance and squalor convenience of industrialized societies all within a few years.
Mathematics has been defined by Pearson Education Limited as “the science of numbers and of shapes, including Algebra, Geometry and Arithmetic. Mathematics is a core skill for all adults in life generally. A mathematically well-educated population will contribute to the country’s economic prosperity. Without statistical understanding citizens, voters and consumers cannot play a full part. To call politicians, media and business to account, we need the skills to know when spurious arguments are being advanced. Mathematical thinking is important for all members of a modern society as a habit of mind for its use in the workplace, business and finance; and for personal decision-making (British Academy, 2012). Mathematics is fundamental to national prosperity in providing tools for understanding science, engineering, technology and economics. It equips students with uniquely powerful ways to describe, analyze and change the world. It can stimulate moments of pleasure and wonder for all pupils when they solve a problem for the first time, discover a more elegant solution, or notice hidden connections. Students who are functional in mathematics and financially capable are able to think independently in applied and abstract ways, and can reason, solve problems and assess risk.
Having presented the individual components of STEM Education and the harmonious way they aid in National Development one can appreciate how viable an instrument it can be in promoting Peace and Security in Nigeria. The challenge of STEM Education therefore is to reform/ create, develop and live in a peaceful and secured society. Thus, STEM Education needs to produce peaceful and security conscious citizens.
However, Morrison (2006) suggested that STEM students should be:
- Problem-solvers: able to define questions and problems, design, investigations to gather data, collect and organize, data, draw conclusions and they apply understanding to new and novel situations.
- Innovators: creatively use science, mathematics, and technology concepts and principles by applying them to the engineering design process.
- Inventors: recognize the needs of the world and creatively design, test, redesign and then implement solutions.
- Self-reliant: able to use initiative and self-motivation to set agendas, develop and gain self- confidence, work within specified time frames.
- Logical thinkers: able to apply rational and logical thought processes of science, mathematics and engineering design to innovation and invention.
- Technologically literate: understand and explain the nature of technology, develop the skills needed and apply technology appropriately.
NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
Human security and peace are intertwined. According to President Jonathan, “We must emphasize that Peace is not just the absence of violence or war, peace encompasses every aspect of social tranquility and wellbeing. The peace we strive for is a state marked by the absence of severe human want and avoidable fear. In our lifetime, this peace is attainable, in our nations and our continent (Ndujihe & Agande, 2014).
Iredia (2011) defined National Security as the ability of a State to overcome any form of its challenges no matter what the challenge is. He stressed that National Security is wider than military might, defense or law enforcement and pointed out other basic dimensions like job, food, water and food security. The American President, Barrack Obama in 2010 canvassed an all-encompassing world view in his own definition of America’s National Security interests which include, “a strong, innovative and growing U.S Economy in an open international system that promotes opportunity and prosperity”. Insecurity entails bombings in some parts of the country, election-related crisis, kidnapping, human trafficking, militancy, assassination, hunger, armed robbery, environmental degradation and untoward acts now being experienced in the country. These have thrown up the need for all and sundry to be proactive on issues of National security hence, the need to inculcate and uphold STEM Education as a viable instrument for forestalling National Security and Peace as well (Orikpe, 2013).
Notably, Orikpe stated that it is meaningless to talk of development in the absence of National security and peace. Hence, National insecurity and violence are threats to development. There is therefore a link between national security and development. In a state of insecurity and violence, development is as elusive as a mirage.
Challenges of National Security and Peace
This is a top issue today. It is of National importance that all stakeholders in the Nigerian States and one that requires comprehensive and committed contribution of all groups and interests that might alone; are concerned.
- The Spate of target bombings by the Boko Haram sect is a big security challenge to the Federal Government, the affected states and the entire nation. Major of them include:
- Suicide bombing, the 25th December, 2011 bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Abuja
- The 2012 Easter bombing in Kaduna
- The massacre of innocent students at College of Agriculture Yobe State and so many other target bombings and shootings in Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Plateau and Gombe (Iredia, 2011).
- The April 2014 Chibok Kidnapping of 234 female students in Chibok in Bornu state; yet to be released.
- The Nyanya motor park bomb blast in Abuja (April and May, 2014).
Analysts have blamed the Boko Haram catastrophe on unemployment, hunger and deprivation. Specifically, the US Government submitted that illiteracy, unemployment and inevitable demands of survival from the effects of poverty make the youths vulnerable and ready for recruitment into crime and social vices including terrorism of the Boko Haram genre (Iredia, 2011).
- The incessant health challenges: these have become a menace in the overall well being of the country over the years, ranging from Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Bird Flu, Lasser fever, and obviously the reoccurred deadly killer, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
- Akpan (2012) have regrettably printed out serious problems militating the advancement of STEM education in Nigeria as :
- Series of strike actions affecting the time scheduled for adequate coverage of scheme of work
- Teachers offering STEM education to learners are not fully empowered to carry out effective teaching and learning in education system of the nation- quite pathetic!
In addition to the views of Akpan, STEM education is faced with other challenges thus;
- Due to the neglect given to STEM graduates qualified to take of the mantle of teaching, teaching has become a thing of the “less privilege/ connected”. The qualified STEM graduates goes for the “well-paid” and “well regarded” job opportunities whereas d half- baked graduates are left to contribute the little they can offer to the younger generation. This poses a greater risk to the academic achievements, performance and interest of the STEM students.
- Lack of practical experiences in STEM teaching. This could be attributed to lack of laboratory equipments, fear of damaging the equipments or insufficiency. These possible challenges are as a result of poor funding of the STEM education.
- Violence in the Niger Delta: The catalyst for violence in the Niger Delta, where the Country’s energy sector is concentrated could be grouped into two:
- The indigenous population’s dissatisfaction with their impoverished condition despite the wealth generated by the areas resources.
- The environmental degradation caused by energy-related development.
Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) is seeking for a more equitable distribution of Nigeria’s Oil wealth so that it benefits the local population, particularly the indigenous Ijaw tribe (Iredia, 2011).
- Sectarian violence: it has been estimated that this alone has wasted over 10,000 lives since 1999. Every little event triggers off suspicion, hatred and killing between the Muslims and Christians in the Northern part of the country and among the various ethnic nationalities example; the recent communal clashes in Nasarawa and Plateau states (Iredia, 2011).
- Unemployment: Iredia (2011), citing the National Bureau of Statistics, stated that there are about 35 million unemployed youths in the country who are forced to resort to anything that can serve as a means of livelihood. Job security is important so that citizens can live meaningful lives and secure their homes, children, wives, ageing parents and dependent relatives.
ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR
It is evident that, Nigeria has put in place numerous approaches to forestall peace and security in the following ways:
- Government Policies with respect to STEM
In the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004), the Federal Government of Nigeria came up with some policies that were meant to develop and promote the teaching and learning of STEM at various levels.
- Government prescribes that the Curriculum of Primary Education shall include among others: Mathematics, Science, Agricultural Science, Physical and Health Education etc. Specialist teachers shall be employed to teach subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, Home Economics, etc. The policy maintained that teaching at the primary school shall be by practical, exploratory and experimental methods.
- At the secondary school level, the government policy is that secondary education shall be for six years duration at two stages: basic and post-basic secondary schools. At the basic level (former JSS), the students are expected to be taught among others: Mathematics, Basic Science, Basic Technology, Computer Education, Agricultural Science, etc. Similarly at the post-basic level, students are expected to study Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Agricultural Science, Applied Electricity, Auto Mechanics, Building Construction, Electronics, Computer Education, Metal Work, Wood Work, Technical Drawing, etc.
At the tertiary education level, the policy specified the following:
- A greater proportion of expenditure on university education shall be devoted to science and technology.
- Not less than 60% of places shall be allocated to science and science-oriented courses in the conventional universities and not less than 80% in the universities of technology.
- Admission into the technology and business courses shall be weighed in the ratio of 70:30.
- Establishment of STEM-based institutions such as the polytechnic, monotechnic and trade centers.
- . A body known as the Federal Character Commission has been established by the Federal Government to promote, enforce and monitor compliance with provisions of the Federal Character Clauses of the Nigerian Constitution. Section 277, sub-section 1 of the 1979 Constitution defined “federal character of Nigeria” as “the distinctive desire of the people of Nigeria to promote national unity, foster national unity and give every Nigerian a sense of belonging to the nation as expressed in Section 14(3) and 4 of this Constitution” (Okpala, 2011).
- STEP-B Project
STEP-B Project is an acronym for Science and Technology Education Post-Basic Project and is purely a Nigerian project in Science and Technology at the post-Basic level. It is a World Bank assisted Project in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education (Abuja) with the following specific objectives that relate to education and research in Nigeria:
- for Nigerian education and research institutions and their partners to produce more and better qualified science and technology graduates at the post-basic level; and
- For the same institutions to produce higher quality and more relevant research.
As a way forward strategy, the STEP-B project was expected to deliver the following benefits to the educational system:
- Increase in the number of students trained in science and technology (S&T) related areas.
- Improvements in quality (e.g. more publication, more collaborations between researchers in the public and private sectors, and between institutions in education and research, and between Nigerian institutions and their partners internationally.
- improvements in teaching and learning of S&T (e.g. opportunities for better teacher training or improvements to technical and vocational education and training, or perhaps better use of computers and the internet as tools for teaching and learning).
- Improved relevance of S&T education and relevance to the needs of Nigeria.
The Federal Ministry of Education (FME) is the main STEP-B Project implementation agency in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST). However, FME has the overall responsibility for project co-ordination and implementation. At present the first phase of STEP-B Project in Nigeria has kick started and about to be completed (Okpala, 2011).
- Fairer spread of Tertiary Institutions and its facilities: Additionally, the Revised National Policy on Education which came into effect in 1981 specified that the growth and development of the university system in the country should ensure
(a) “a more even geographical distribution (of universities) to provide a fairer spread of higher education facilities” in the country and that
(b) “Admission of students and recruitment of staff into universities and other institutions of higher learning should be on a broad national basis” (FRN, 2004).
- Contribution of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination Board (UTME) and West African Examination Council (WAEC): There is the need to throw light on its admission criteria. “Merit” as used by each candidate’s score in the competitive examination conducted by the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination Board (UTME) (formerly, Joint Admissions Matriculation Board, JAMB) or the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, and other related examination bodies. Under this criterion, the higher the score of a candidate, the higher the chances of his/her is being admitted.
- Teaching Peace and Conflict Resolution as a General Studies (GST) Course: With a view to making Nigerian universities a location for the promotion of dialogue, understanding and tolerance, there is now a standing policy in the country for all universities to teach “Peace and Conflict Resolution” to all first and/or second year students. All students must take and pass the course. The goal of this project (which started in 2004 and is enforced by the National Universities Commission (NUC) is to make all Nigerian university graduates to be grounded in the knowledge of how to handle non-violently all forms of conflict they might encounter with other Nigerians thereby contribute positively to the Nation (Oloyede, 2009).
- Peace Studies Programme in Nigeria: The first peace studies programme to be established in any Nigerian university was at the University of Ibadan. The project started in 1994 in reaction to the political crisis generated by the administration of General Sani Abacha who ruled Nigeria with iron fists from 1994 to 1997. The Ibadan Peace Studies programme was aimed at promoting dialogue and understanding amongst Nigerians at a time when the military dictators were actually tearing the country apart in terms of assassination of key political actors in the country, arrest of military officers and their civilian counterparts on account of phantom coups d’état, and other forms of state terrorism. The goal was to produce well trained Nigerians that could engage in community work aimed at peacemaking, peace building and preventive diplomacy. The project started in the form of a British Council supported academic link programme between the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) and the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland (Oloyede, 2009).
- The Society for Peace Studies and Practice: As part of its agenda to foster dialogue and understanding at the grassroots level, the Peace and Conflict Studies Programme of the University of Ibadan championed the establishment of a professional body known as the “Society for Peace Studies and Practice” (SPSP) consisting of conflict management scholars and practitioners brought together from different parts of Nigeria. The main aim of the Society is to promote synergic relationship between peace studies scholars and conflict management practitioners who have hitherto worked on issues relating to dialogue and cultural understanding at different levels (Oloyede, 2009).
- The Ilorin Peace and Strategic Studies Programme: Following the example set by the University of Ibadan, and with the technical support of the Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP), the University of Ilorin decided to establish a Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies in 2008 to award MA and Ph.D degrees in Peace and Development Studies (Oloyede, 2009).
- Establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC): The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is an organization set up by the Nigerian government to involve the country’s graduates in the development of the country. Since 1973 graduates of universities and later polytechnics have been required to take part in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program for one year. This is known as national service year.
- National Conference. The National Conference was inaugurated on the 17th day of March, 2014 to address the fears, disappointments, aspirations and hopes which have accumulated over 100 years. The conference came to an end on the 21st day of August 2014 under the distinguished chairmanship of Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, GCON FNIALS FCIrb FNTI (former chief Justice of Nigeria); presenting 21 volumes of the 2014 National Conference Report. Since independence, there have been four conferences including this 2014 National Conference:
- 1978 Constituent Assembly with membership of 230 people and lasted for nine months.
- 1995 National Constitutional Conferences had a membership of 371 people and lasted for 12 months.
- 2005 National Political Reform Conference made up of 400 delegates. It lasted for five months.
- 2014 National Conference made up of 494 delegates. It lasted for four and half a month.
Presidential Advisory Committee on the Conference is undergoing urgent review and the approved structure, guidelines and modalities for the conference will soon be published as a prelude to its commencement and expeditious conclusion. It remains our sincere expectation that the success of the national conference will further enhance national unity and peace (Ndujihe & Agande, 2014).
FG Launches E-Curriculum Portal: President Goodluck Jonathan launched an e-curriculum portal to help raise Nigerian’s educational system to global standards. This will also aid teaching and learning in senior secondary schools across the country. The portal is an initiative of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and SIDMACH Technologies Nigeria Limited. The NERDC e-curriculum portal is a web-based, efficient and effective curriculum management solution for primary and secondary schools. “This solution will provide digital access to school curricula, provision of sample teaching resources for teachers do prepare lesson notes, provision of sample learning materials for the learners”, said the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike (Ndujihe & Agande, 2014).
STEM EDUCATION; AN INSTRUMENT TO PROMOTE NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
STEM Education is set to groom dependable and self employable graduates in the Nation and helps to create informed citizenry which is vital to our democratic society. No doubt, STEM Education is the vehicle any nation needs to journey with; to create the right direction to get to the right destination. The curricula of every nation provides navigation or compass; while STEM Education would be supplying the lubricants (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics teachers and learners) needed by the engines in the engine rooms (average Nigerian; youth or non- youth) to move the vehicle (peace and security in Nigeria) toward the right destination for safe landing. In other words, with effective and quality STEM Education in a nation people can enjoy peace and security amongst others. It increases the potential for individuals to perform as citizens. There are many examples of the public being misinformed and making bad decisions. However, without education, the situation would be vastly worse. It gives one the ability to critically examine an issue and articulate a reasoned position about it. Nurturing critical thinking is a key component of STEM education. Graduates should actually be found worthy first in character and then in learning. Education has earlier been defined as a process by which individuals are assisted formally through proper direction and guidance to develop their capacities for their own benefits and that of the society. It therefore follows, by a simple logic, that if a nation gives the right type of education to its citizens, the citizens will not turn against their father- land. Every youth should see himself / herself as a stakeholder in the Nigerian project, by exercising all requisite citizenship roles and responsibilities. It should be inculcated in our children at the early age the respect for human life and the dignity of labour. Civic education will place youth on a sound pedestal to defend our nascent democracy instead of being destructive agents. A poor knowledge of our national history will hinder informed citizenry which is required for rapid development of the nation. A citizen who does not know his country cannot really situate himself within the effort to build a better nation (Daily Sun, 2011).
Feasible way forwards
- Policy Implementation with respect to STEM
The Federal Government of Nigeria should endeavour to support the implementation of these stated policies, having provided these various modalities or strategies for implementing the policies at the various levels of education with respect to STEM.
Specifically at the primary level, the government indicated that efforts will be made to provide the following educational services: school library, basic health scheme, counseling, educational resource centers and provision of specialist teachers in schools. It also maintained that teaching shall be practical, exploratory and experimental in nature with the medium of instruction being in English Language and the language of the immediate environment (Okpala, 2011).
At the secondary level, government promised that education shall be tuition free, universal and compulsory. Basic subjects like Biology, Chemistry and Physics shall be taught to enable them acquire further knowledge and skills. Youth clubs (e.g. JETS club), organizations and school societies shall be encouraged as important instruments for character training and mental development.
- Having a functional Power Intelligence and Competent Operations (PICO) STEM Safety, Health, Environment, Empowerment and Peace, Security, Standards and Scholarships (SHEEPS3 ) network
According to Ibifiri (2014) this is a network that would promote the uniqueness and dignity in every child in a society for the sake of developing their intelligences (innate abilities) through effective STEM education. The vision of this network is “bringing education to the doorstep of every child to be properly adapted to his /her environment for the benefit of the present society and posterity in future. Considering the caliber of graduates produced of recent into our nation, PICO STEM SHEEPS3
Networking has been developed to promote STEM Education and grooming of dependable and self employable graduates in the nation. More people can develop their intellects through this network and drive sustainable development agenda in a nation. Making students to understand the functioning of a nation and sensitizing them to work toward nation building through effective STEM Education is the major reason why PICO STEM SHEEPS3 network should be given every support to exist in a nation by all and sundry.
In this network, every learner can be made to work or learn actively and meaningfully to gain scholarship and become seasoned artisan or professional depending on the level where he or she stops formal education. By the time the learning of learners are properly guided, and their intelligences properly developed through STEM education and PICO STEM SHEEPS3 networking, educational challenges would appear to become stepping stones for learners to step on to greater heights in their learning, they can also graduate with that mind set to move their nation forward in developing it.
- Technology Transfer in Nigeria
One of the ways forward of STEM education in Nigeria as suggested by Okongwu (2008) in Okpala (2011) is through Technology Transfer. Technology transfer is the tendency of technology acquisition from one nation to another simply for the purpose of national development. Transfer of technology is a very complex process involving a myriad of cultural, socio-economic, environmental, intellectual, infrastructural, political and other related factors.
The state of Nigeria’s technological development so far seems to look like that of the movement of an individual staggering about in the manner of a Brownian motion or more correctly a sleepwalker on a platform that is moving rapidly in the opposite direction, such that the net motion of the sleepwalker is really backwards. It appears that there is technology transfer problem in Nigeria. This demands that transfer of technology must effectively start by improving the quality of teaching and learning of STEM subjects at all levels of the educational system. It requires a culture that encourages spirit of enquiry, freedom of thought, sound academic/work ethics, discipline, high regard for truth and integrity, reward for hard-work/accomplishment, public spiritedness, justice and the like which will generate a technology-promoting culture. In a society where the above exist, innovation will sprout and abound, technology will develop and blossom, entrepreneurialism will flourish and thus rapid development (Okpala, 2011).
For a vibrant technology transfer through STEM education in Nigeria, we must ensure that the following are put in place:
- upgrading technological governance;
- enthroning a culture of innovation;
- strengthening intellectual property system;
- developing human capital with strong entrepreneurial base;
- establishing strong technology support structures;
- creating technology transfer receptor programs;
- Infusing a technological culture and a new mindset.
- Indigenization of Technology
Indigenization of technology is the adaptation of borrowed technological know-how to suit your immediate local needs. Since education makes an individual person to realize his/her full potentials to contribute to the well being of the community/society and lead a personally fulfilling life, there is the need to advocate for a functional traditional education system which will transmit the local culture, ideas, knowledge and technology into the lives of the educated populace.
For Nigeria to attain a successful indigenization of technology, we must have to concentrate on the provision of basic education for all. There must be a high supply of STEM teachers both at the basic and senior secondary school levels. The use of learner-centered methodology should be recommended and practiced while appraisal of schools should be focused more on process oriented activities than learning outcomes (Okpala, 2011).
- Weimann (2004) stated that there is need to foster the culture of dialogue and understanding. Dialogue is said to be a social science that is understood to mean a free flow of information or meaning between people. In a multi-cultural society like Nigeria, refers to organic exchange information between and amongst people of diverse ethnic or religious orientations in such a way that helps to breakdown stereotypes and how others perceive the world around them.
Having stated the above feasible way-forwards, the following recommendations become imperative:
- There is need for Education stakeholders to form a more lasting synergy to guarantee adequate funding of the system; since all aspects of the curriculum from time to time need some innovations which the introduction is always cost intensive. For instance; there is urgent need to ensure good sanitation and hygienic practices in our schools to fight the deadly Ebola Virus Disease. It is a new innovation that requires funding.
- Job creation for youths should become realistic. It should not be a thing for public speech political declaration. Government should become real and pragmatic with respect to providing job opportunities for her citizens (youths). Starting with creating vacancies for them, reviewing the elderly workers that are due for retirement, most of them forged their ages to retain those positions forever!
- Again the synergy of Government and Education stakeholders should fight every form of examination malpractice (for example; miracle centers, impersonation in examination and upgrading of scores) at all levels; as this forms a high risk to achieving quality education and well educated citizens expected to contribute to National Development. So that a graduate of a particular field can always defend it within and outside Nigeria.
- There is need to neutralize the threat coming from the Boko Haram insurgency by ensuring: Justice, good governance at all levels, good international co-operation and collaboration.
- There is need to organize peace and security summit, seminar, roundtable meetings and conferences regularly to educate, re-educate, orientate, re-orientate citizens on the need to promote peace and security. Possible way- forward should be implemented.
This paper has identified different forms of insecurity and violence in our centenary country, Nigeria. All these threaten the very existence of the country. In response, the government has continued to allocate a reasonable quantity of our national budget to ensure adequate security and peace. There are security problems ranging from those caused by natural disasters: flooding, erosion, etc. youth unemployment, those caused by hunger, health challenges; malaria, diarrhea, typhoid and Lassa fever, HIV AIDS, of course the reoccurred deadly Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) etc.
The extra budgetary expense on “security” has not and will not singly handle the situation at hand. Therefore, there is need to employ viable measures to combat it. The STEM education option stands at the hemp of the desired reforms. Years may come and go with huge resources in order to achieve these goals but the end will definitely justify the means. Nigerians as a whole not just the youths, government or stakeholders in the education sector; everybody should be involved to conceive and accept STEM education as a viable and dispensable instrument to militate if not eradicating the tremendous/ endemic rate of crimes, social, health, education factors threatening National Peace and Security.
One thing is evident, “the Vulnerability of the youths”. They are the key targets in this movement, thus, the leaders of tomorrow. This does not exclude the parents or little kids. Everyone is involved in the drive to mitigate and eradicate insecurity and violence in the country. It is the basic orientation given to the primary school kid that he/she takes to the secondary and of course the university levels then, graduates.
This clarion call goes to the Government, Stakeholders in the Education system are not left out, the Parents, Children etc every citizen of the country. President Goodluck enjoins Nigerians thus, “Fellow Compatriots, I have always believed that the single greatest thing we can do to ensure all Nigerians realize their potential and play a full part in our nation’s future, is to invest in education. The education of our young people is a key priority for this Government. We take this responsibility very seriously and I urge all other stakeholders in the sector to recognize the national importance of their work, and to help advance the cause of education in our nation” (Ndujihe & Agande, 2014).
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Onwukeme Ijeoma is a passionate Science Educator, Researcher, Academic Counselor and Consultant.