The Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu, Rt. Hon, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said with the present-day economy, Nigerian youths must receive an education that inspires them to innovate and empowers them with the skills and confidence to participate in the global economy.
According to Hon Gbajabiamila, it is also a must for all stakeholders to ensure that higher education institutions in the nation are citadels that produce graduates who have the desire and drive to change the world and who have the ability to do so.
He stated this while delivering the 35th convocation lecture of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, entitled: “Empowering Nigerian Youths in the Present Day Economy” on Tuesday.
“For the government, and indeed for our nation, there must be no higher aspiration than ensuring that the massive and growing population of Nigerian youths are engaged in productive endeavours, earning a good living, and competing favourably with their peers across the world.
He added that achieving this goal requires us to rethink all our assumptions and recognise that our current realities demand that we ask hard questions and provide answers that are as honest as they are considered.
The CoS explained further that the old certainties from which we derived assurance and built our expectations no longer exist.
“The value of the extractive industries that have powered our economic growth has deteriorated.
“It continues to do so rapidly as technological advances lead us toward a future where crude oil and coal are replaced by renewable solar, wind, and water alternatives.
“The illusion of national wealth, under which we have labored for too long, has been exposed by a rapidly growing population for whom there are too few jobs and limited opportunities for social and economic advancement”, he said.
To him, education in the twenty-first century is not merely about skills acquisition and specialisation but disruption and reinvention. Quality education in the 21st century knowledge economy must empower the individual to operate effectively in multiple fields, to ask hard questions and challenge the status quo.
“Essentially, the purpose of 21st-century education is not merely skills acquisition and specialisation but disruption and reinvention. How do we achieve this? We do this by reviewing our curricula and teaching methods to situate our practices in the context of global labour needs.
“We require a programme of aggressive and sustained investment in education. Not only in the physical infrastructure of classrooms and lecture halls but in technology hardware and software to facilitate information exchange and innovation.”
Gbajabiamila also added that in this new world we have found ourselves in, nothing has changed as drastically as the nature of work and how we measure productivity.
“Today, many skills that guaranteed employment and a healthy income for previous generations have been made redundant by technological advances.
“This generation will not only be competing with one another for opportunities, but they will also be competing in a global marketplace, against students from all over the world, and against technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, blockchain and financial technology tools that are increasingly replacing the human function in the workplace, therefore we must prepare them with these realities in mind, he said.
To do this effectively, he said there is the need to develop a new understanding of the changing nature of work and the future of employment “because the limits of our knowledge hinder us from effectively addressing the challenges of this new age and adapting to the changing realities we cannot escape.”
He also advised that collaboration between the nation’s higher institutions and the organised private sector is vital to carry out the essential work of engagement, research and review required to bridge the knowledge gaps.
“We need to do this as a necessary precursor to focusing national attention on these issues so that we can jointly rise to the demands of the moment. This is an objective that we cannot, for the sake of our future, leave to the government alone to pursue.
“In a perfect world, access to education will be a fundamental benefit afforded to every individual from basic through tertiary. And our learning centres will be majestic citadels of research and innovation, open to all who seek knowledge, regardless of means. But this is not a perfect world.
In this real world, education is a commodity and a quality education even more so. Therefore, the central public policy challenge is the conflict between the competing objectives of access and quality. How do we fund a quality tertiary education without imposing costs that make access to quality education impossible for most people?
“That is why earlier this year, His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR signed the Students’ Loan (Access to Higher Education) Act, establishing the Education Loan Fund and creating a new legal framework to provide education financing through interest-free loans to Nigerian students.
He disclosed that efforts are underway to ensure that by January 2024, Nigerian students can access these loans to fund their educational aspirations. The application system for the student loan programme is being designed so that there is no interface between the loan administrators and the beneficiaries.
He however said beyond the necessary improvements to the education sector, especially public tertiary education, government’s objective and aspiration are to make Nigeria once more, attractive to capital from all over the world.
“This is a critical objective because the private sector will always be the primary driver of economic growth.
“Addressing the prevailing challenges of national security is another government priority in our efforts to ensure that Nigeria is an attractive location for the investments we need to empower our youths and ensure the prosperity of all the people,” he disclosed.
Congratulating the graduating students, Gbajabiamila urged them to make use of the opportunity of the moment, because according to him, in this moment of transformation and transition, as the old rules are being rewritten, young ones are best placed to take advantage of the opportunities that will emerge from this transition.
The rector of the institution, Dr. Ibraheem Abdul thanked the distinguished speaker for accepting the invitation.
He said his presence at the institution is a testament to his dedication towards empowering the youths and his commitment to the advancement of the nation.
“Yabatech remains the nucleus of the national manpower development agenda and we are committed to make it the pride of the nation when it comes to development, technological advancement and youth empowerment,” he stated.