King Solomon, in one of his documented sayings of wisdom, says: “The glory of the youth is their strength and the beauty of the old men is their grey head” – Proverbs20:29. When I take a survey at N-I-G-E-R-I-A, I ask myself questions about the meaning of the saying. How well are the youth channelling their strength to good use thereby shining forth in their glory? Do the older and more experienced outsmart the youth in the regular daily contest for survival? These are questions to be addressed going forward.
Education has been said to be the liberation of the mind.
Perhaps, this is why most of our youth have seen it a necessity to go a step further after their secondary education to seek tertiary education. The widely accepted route for this aspiration is of course writing UTME, Universal Tertiary Matriculation Exam. We have seen instances where candidates’ application to some of our institutions are generally meddled with. On one hand, the failure of the candidate to secure admission is sometimes of their own.
They insincerely select their courses of study because they are influenced by society’s perception of certain courses as potentially unlucrative. Sometimes, this influence is from the pressure from parents. On the other hand, the selection criteria of our institutions are even beyond merit consideration. I was aggrieved upon discovering that the admission list of one of the nation’s most priced institutions, after the summer post-UTME exams, was tampered with. A combination of some of the successful candidates’ surnames with their UTME registration number revealed their results and some did not even scale the set cut-off marks published on the school’s website for their chosen course yet, they were on themerit list. In this same institution was a massive omission of names that were supposed to have been included on the merit list. What hypocrisy!
Apart from a dearth of facilities in our institutions, there is also a deliberate sieving of intellectual candidates in the corrupted admission process of most of our universities. For most people, the notion is you must have an internal contact that will push your admission for you else, your admission process is weak. This accounts for why selection based on merit is an act attended more by lip-service than practiced in reality.
Until our selection process is strictly based on merit and not interrupted by bribery and favoritism, we will never be properly represented on the international scale. We cannot continue to produce whacks yearly and expect our institutions to have high fliers in their alumni. Another way to allow the glory of the youth, which is their strength to shine forth, is by encouraging the sincerity of career selection, that is, the absence of criticism
of some career as not lucrative or prestigious. There is already an existing competition for enrolment for certain courses based on society’s perception of them as the ultimate source of rescue in the nation’s economic turmoil.
What we should target is a depopulation of these ‘lucrative’ career paths so that the opportunities that abound in the unpopulated sectors can be tapped into for economic growth. Hence, the gifting and passion of young people seeking further education into tertiary institutions should guide them in course selection. By so doing,
the tendency to fail the entrance exams into these institutions will be reduced if not eliminated. Another long- term investment to be made into our education nationwide is the provision of teachers and infrastructure for special courses such as art and design. Candidates with the innate talent for this field are either trained inadequately or bullied into taking on other courses for study-since a and design is traditionally perceived as an unprofitable venture meant for unserious persons. On their own paths, such candidates with unprofessional ambitions should do a good research on their course so as to articulate its advantage to their parents whose support they need.
Institutions in developed countries admit foreign students without employing favouritism or bribery to dictate for them. They even offer scholarships to support the study ambition of foreign students. Yet, our very own process in admitting our own youths to study has been tainted. The earlier our tertiary institutions begin to admit candidates strictly on merit, the sooner their names and intellectual output will become attractive to those who recognize quality. The best time to take a paradigm shift in our values as a nation is now so that the glory of our youths which is their strength can begin to shine accordingly.
Oguntade can be reached via [email protected], @MercyOguntade on twitter.


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