Philippines is well known as a hub for some of the best artisans in the world, this was not achieved by accident. Their government set up special training schools to meet specific international standards, this way their graduates become a pipeline for supplying skilled labour to developed countries where they can fetch over far higher wages than they would have earned in Phillipines.
While Nigerian’s biggest foreign exchange earner is Oil, a very close second is remittances from Nigerians living and working in other countries.
President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking on 2019 remittances, said “$25 billion annual remittance by Nigerians in the Diaspora was more than 80 percent of the country’s annual budget and formed about 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)”.
In contrast Philippines earned $30 billion in the same period. Phillipines has a population that is about half of that of Nigeria and a landmass of 300,000sqm (less than half of Nigeria).
Phillipines has nursing schools that are exactly modeled to meet United States of American standards, so immediately they graduate they are ready to work in the health sector in America, while a Nigerian nursing graduate must retrain at a cost that is usually so exorbitant and often takes years of working 3 jobs to qualify. Just imagine if with our very talented people we can train them to world class standards here and export them to countries where they can fetch better wages, Nigeria will triple our current remittances.
This has also been replicated by Phillipines in the Oil and gas industry worldwide.
India, Pakistan, Mexico and China have also done very well in foreign remittances. So, what is keeping us from systematically developing and harnessing this potentially high revenue earner?
The foremost advantage of having a skilled and educated population is to drive development of the country. The state of any nation is the direct reflection of the capacity of her population. Various classes of skilled manpower are relevant from the highly skilled professionals, artisans and technical or semi-skilled manpower are critical to the development of any nation. Sadly, there is a massive deficit in all sectors. The construction industry has had to reach out to neighbouring countries for artisans (tilers, plumbers, and POP installers), the skilled segment is dominated by Lebanese and Pakistani. The information technology sector is dominated by the Indians. In every challenge lies opportunities. A skilled manpower is the single largest determinant of any country’s quest for industrialization.
Government and the private sector must work to develop our specialized institutions, upgrade them to world class standards, ensure the most talented are admitted and nurtured. The Petroleum Training Institute, our Marine Schools and select technical schools can become the hub to develop talents.
It can be in form of investment if they are unable to pay the fees required to sustain the high quality required for such an institution to truly thrive. For those unable to pay the fees they could sign a bond and payback when they become successful.
Interestingly, funding of these specialized schools can also be gotten from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF. An agency that is already spending millions in sending our citizens on scholarship to other countries. A portion of their revenue should be used to heavily invest in our local schools.
Do you know Nigeria currently has about 15 million children out of school? According to UNICEF, ‘1 in every 5 of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria’. This is the highest in the world. This shows that our biggest asset as a nation is not being given the needed attention. With the right education and investment in infrastructure, Nigeria can quickly move people out of poverty, grow our economy and be one of the world’s biggest production hub.
While the role of government is primarily the welfare and security of its citizens, not much can be done if we spend over 70% of our earnings on salaries and overheads. While some think restructuring is a silver bullet to resolve this serious impediment to our development, I believe investing in education and infrastructure will lead to an increase in our production capacity and make us more efficient and competitive. This way the economy opens, taxes are increased and getting into government employment will become unattractive.
We must find a way to make government lean and invest in quality education.
At this critical point in our nation’s history with so much agitation for human capital development, especially among the younger generation, there is no better time to rethink our educational system by moving it from theory to providing solutions to everyday challenges. If this is done, I have no doubt that the ticking time bomb which our unemployed youths represents will not only be defused, but unleashed into productive use in building the Nigeria of our dream.
The best time to start was probably thirty years ago, the next best time is now!
Momoh Omokhigho writes from Kaduna
Aledeh News is not liable for opinions expressed in this article, they’re strictly the writer’s