Why investment in human capital devt’s desirable now

That Nigeria needs to train her teeming population, especially the youth, for improved human capacity is no longer in doubt. SUNNY IDACHABA writes on the imperative of human capital development with a view to avoiding human capital flight in the form of education tourism and the search for greener pastures abroad.

There is a saying that, ‘whoever has humans has everything’. No wonder, the Holy Book says that blessed is the man whose quiver is full of children. These explain the essence of human beings. Those sayings become even more sacrosanct if adequate care is taken towards human development to handle challenges in the society. 

In Nigeria, there is no time that the imperativeness of developing human beings as a capital resource is a necessity than now. Gladly, it is part of the cornerstone of President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope agenda. 

Over the years, part of the nagging problems besetting Nigeria, especially employable youths, according to investigation, has been poor and tardy preparations to face the competition in the job market; no wonder, even when there is a teeming population of school leavers in the country who could be employed for certain technical and vocational positions, foreigners who pose as expatriates fill those slots most often. Many available, young Nigerians are like misfits who cannot compete with their counterparts from other climes.

Taking on the challenge

This trend, however, is about to be addressed because recently at the 38th convocation ceremony of Bayero University Kano (BUK), President Tinubu said his administration would continue to support education because of his strong belief that Nigeria’s survival can only be assured by the quality of human capital development.

The president who was represented by the minister of education, Professor Tahir Muhammad, noted that the administration accords top priority to education and human capital development, the reason for which he said the government took steps to provide constant electricity to universities via Compressed Natural Gas through the Ministries of Education and that of Gas.

“On its part, the government has taken steps to provide power to universities through Compressed Natural Gas. To this effect, the Ministry of Education together with the Ministry of Gas has been directed to work out this facility so that our higher institutions could have a continuous uninterrupted supply of power for their research and general services.

“We have worked out this facility so that those institutions could have a continuous uninterrupted supply of power for their research and general services. While supporting all aspects of education, this administration would focus on skills, technology and vocational education as core drivers of educational system that would prepare graduates for employment and employer of labour.

“For this purpose, the federal government is building 24 skills and vocational hubs in polytechnics as well as entrepreneurship centres in our universities. We are also reviving 970 Tsangaya centres for integrated learning and development of Almajiri in the country,” he said.

In addition to all of these, the president announced that the federal government was constructing 91 vocational schools in secondary schools across the country to ensure that all levels of education enjoy the impact of the policy.

“We are set to inaugurate Private Sector Innovation Enterprise Centres across the country to deliver on the skills acquisition programme of the government. Our universities are centres of learning that need to upscale and adjust to the modern day world by repositioning themselves as citadels of education that would bring about development.

“As a government, we are also determined in our effort to continue to support the upgrade of infrastructure, teaching materials and research equipment in our universities which the need assessment of Nigeria’s public universities is addressing.”

He, therefore, urged all the higher institutions to carve out a niche for themselves by designing programmes that would assist the government in poverty reduction, creation of employment opportunities and application of new technologies in the advancement of knowledge and prosperity, saying all of those would help in protecting the environment and sustain good governance. 

UN report about Nigeria

Over the years, despite claims of the usual rhetoric of ‘education for all’ the government never really gave utmost attention to human capital development with impressive growth rates, rather attention was focused more on upgrading political institutions.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), human capital is an active factor that drives economic growth in every nation, not political institutions. Therefore, the global body says that Nigeria’s poor investments in human capital development are largely linked to her poor economic growth rates.

Experts’ take

According to an economist at Western Delta University Oghara in Delta state, Dr. Felix Ashakah, no nation can develop without investment in human capital resources. He said, “Human capital development refers to the process of acquiring and increasing the number of persons who have the skills, education and experiences that are critical for the economic growth and development of a country.” 

According to him, it is crucial to economic growth because humans can think, analyse and solve problems to achieve a more efficient society that can yield the desired growth rates and development. 

“The ability of a country to seize the competitive advantage that technology offers depends on human capital development. Nigeria’s investment in human capital development is unimpressive. The Nigerian education sector has received poor budgetary allocations to run the education system over the years. For instance, in the 2022 budget, the education sector got an allocation of N1.29 trillion (7.9%) out of N16.39 trillion, in the 2021 budget, it got N 771.5 billion (5.68%) out of N13.58 trillion, and in the 2020 budget, it got N671.07 billion (6.7%) out of N10.33 trillion. There are little or no provisions for the training of young Nigerians in vocational trades.”

Public primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in the country, he noted, all lack the required facilities for learning due to poor funding. 

“The public schools are poorly staffed and lack the required classrooms for their student populations. The employment of teaching staff has been compromised and politicised to allow less qualified teaching academics in the education system.”

Following the poor funding of the education system, he said some lecturers in the higher institutions do not even have the required skills to impart knowledge due to the absence of training. 

“As a result, they impart obsolete information to students who become unemployable in the industries. The non-employability of some graduates has discredited the educational system in the global markets. This is why politicians and wealthy Nigerians send their children and wards overseas to acquire higher knowledge.”

The government, he said, must improve budgetary allocations to education and health sectors and should establish control systems to ensure budgetary allocations are well utilised, with recruitment of staff into the educational and health institutions effective and staff regularly trained to promote performances.

On a general note, he said, entrepreneurial studies should be taught at all levels in the school system to equip graduates with the relevant skills to own and manage their businesses even as he said the government should promote the firms set up by both young and older graduates. 

On her part, the vice-chancellor, University of Calabar, Prof. Florence Obi, who was guest speaker at the Bullion Lecture 2024 on the theme, ‘Human Capital Development as Catalyst for Nigeria’s Prosperity,’ said human capital development is about empowering people to reach their full potential, personally and professionally, thereby creating a workforce that is productive, innovative, and adaptable to changes.

She was of the opinion that human capital development enhances and improves the skills, knowledge, abilities and overall potentials of individuals within a society or organisation. 

“When a man is confronted with knowledge economy and technology economy, the most essential variable is the human capital,” she said.

According to her, Nigeria’s education is currently too rigid and conservative to influence the needed development drive; hence, there is a need to review the national policy on education to make it functional and re-evaluate the entire value-chain of the education system, especially the curriculum.

As Nigeria is aspiring to be among the leading economies in the world by the year 2030, the development of human capital development is sacrosanct. By this the country would escape from the pitfalls of churning out school leavers who cannot compete in the job market.

Also, the era of expatriates taking up technical jobs that Nigerians can handle would become a thing of the past and ultimately the mass migration to Western and Asian countries of employable Nigerian youths in what is known recently as ‘japa’ syndrome would automatically cease.