The Igbo Network





























 1991 Ahiajoku Lecture




The Centrality of Education in Igbo Culture





B.Sc (Illinois, U.S.A.), M.Sc., Ph.D. (Iowa State), M.N.A.E.

Professor of Education and Director,

Institute of Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka




 I have been preceded on this platform by eleven scholars who have in their differing but complementary approaches provided enormous insights into the ways of life of our people, the Igbo: of Eastern Nigeria and their relations to the West of the Niger. I thank these creative thinkers and catalysts for their contributions to the understanding of the intellectual and cultural experiences of our people. I am grateful in a special way to Ambassador Gaius Anoka and all others who helped to initiate this intellectual and cultural celebration. My gratitude goes to the 1991 Ahiajoku Lecture Committee for nominating me to the old Imo State Government and the people of Imo State for endorsing my nomination as the twelfth lecturer in this series. Finally, I thank my colleague and former principal, Professor N.E. Obioha for the very fine picture he painted of me.


I have come to perform as an effective teacher, to speak for teachers and for all of education, to speak to Igbo and to others in Nigeria and beyond. But before I do, I wish to refer specifically to two previous lecturers for the message that they delivered because I shall harp on a similar message from the viewpoint of an educationist.


There was professor M. J. C. Echeruo, who started it all .in 1979, with "Aha mu efule" or a matter of identity. He stressed the industry and liberty of Igbo of yesteryears and looked forward to a return to cherished traditions. This call for a return to endearing traditions was taken up by professor A. Afigbo in the third lecture in 1981 titled "The Age of Innocence". He recalled how peacefully and harmoniously the Igbo used to live with their neighbours and indicated that the said peace is now being threatened by our new ways of doing things.


Ten years later in this lecture titled”Ibu anyị Ndanda “ or "the centrality of Education in Igbo Culture", I shall ask the Igbo to return to industry and co-operation in order to contribute maximally' to individual well-being and Nigeria's development. The five principal parts of this lecture are:


(a) Education in traditional Africa;

(b) Main Development in primary, secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria;

(c) "Ibu anyị Ndanda" case studies;

(d) Some current problems and challenges of Nigerian education;

(e) "Ndanda" and Nigerian education into the 21st century.


I now invite you to share my thoughts and ideas.




The concept and process of traditional education. Education is a life experience. In the words of professor O. Akinkugbe, it should take place from womb to tomb.


Agreeing with this I say that education should start at home, be formalized at school and continue during the. individual's experience after school.


The basic unit of traditional Africa is the extended family or family group. This family group expands into the clan or village putting together in one group a collection of families. The village extends to the most comprehensive single unit in the structure of African societies – the ethnic group. The latter puts together sets of individuals who are not necessarily related but who function, as it were, under common cultural and linguistic ties.


In his outstanding 1984 Ahiajoku Lecture titled "The Focus of Igbo World View”, the late Professor Ibeakwadalam Nwoga painted a similar picture using concentric circles while discussing the ideals of Igbo communal life. Individual achievement is to be encouraged and admired because it contributes to the upliftment of the existential status of the community.


The traditional education of African youngsters is based on the social structure described as well as on certain unifying ideals which spring from the polytheistic beliefs of the peoples of Africa. Both nature and the universe are held in awe and revered.

The latter is perceived as peopled with spirits, some great and others small, some benevolent but all needing periodic appeasement through the offering of sacrifices. There is in addition a set of ancestral spirits made up of the dead members of the community. Events in the world are explained in terms that are not always in agreement with explanations proffered by modern science.


A Sierra Leonean educationist, the Late Professor V. E. King (1967:2) had stated the basic philosophy of West African education:


The individual is a member of a family and of a community whose continuity is essential for the survival of the tribe. This community consists of the living and the dead, the interdependence of both being recognized by the important places in society held by medicine-men and intermediaries. The land is the principal bond of unity, it being ... the begetter of the unborn, the upholder of the living, the custodian of dead ... It is imperative, therefore, that youth should learn all this and, especially how he fits into the pattern of life.


Many Nigerian educationists, notably Fafunwa, Ukeje and Ohuche, have observed that, given the basic philosophy articulated above, the education of the youth was in the past guided by functionalism. It was a means to an end and not an end in itself. It served both as a means of preparing each youth for adulthood as well as a means of inducting him into society. It stressed job orientation, political participation, social responsibility and spiritual and moral values.


Children were expected to learn correct speech, proper behaviour and the traditions of the ethnic group from mothers and other relatives. They thus learnt how to cope with their environment. Through observation, imitation and participation, they learnt to farm, hunt, cook, fish, play, wrestle, deliver messages, run homes and build houses. Teachers included all members of the extended family as well as secret societies for those who benefited from the traditional form of higher education. Clearly, this type of education was, for the most part, practical, utilitarian, non-formal and non verbal.




In 1966 the Institute of Education of the University of Ibadan released its Number Six occasional publication titled ”Growing Up in Nigerian Culture" which was the result of field research undertaken for the Ford Foundation by Dr. N. Uka. The sample included 360 rural and 360 .urban IIgbo children in the age range of between 51/2 and 151/2 years. It confirmed that among the Igbo people the basic tenets of traditional African education are practiced. The study also investigated such other factors as socio-economic variables and growth and development patterns including emotional, intellectual, motor, physical and social development.


The study took comparative data on Ibibio, Igbo and Yoruba samples and found no significant differences in intellectual, motor and physical development in spite of differences in language and traditions. This led to the conclusion that "culturally the people of Nigeria share a good deal in common". On the average, the Nigerian child would sit up at about six months of age, crawl at about eight to nine months and start walking at about the age of one year. Teething, which the Igbo ethnic group associates with a ritual ceremony, takes place at about the age of six months.


While learning to perform motor activities, the child receives help from the mother, other adults or older siblings and while learning to talk, stimulation is also provided by these various groups. By the age of four years each child is expected to be able to feed himself. Tests of intelligence indicated no significant difference in performance due to sex while revealing differences in favour of children from higher socio-economic backgrounds. The Uka study also showed that in physical measurements boys and girls were about the same up till the age of seven years when girls would begin to grow taller and weigh slightly heavier.




During life long personal investigations which lasted more than 60 years and which are continuing all over the world today in spite of the death of the apostle some years ago, Piaget sparked off and sustained studies on the growth of logical thinking. He began with the basic position that all organisms, animals and humans alike, adapt to their environment. But there is a difference. In simple animals such as the amoeba, adaptation means striving to satisfy basic needs while in the human being, adaptation involves adjustment to a succession of environments. What is more, there is a type of organisation which makes adaptation possible. That organisation is rudimentary in simple organism and increases in complexity in human beings.


Adaptation is viewed as involving two complementary processes, assimilation and accommodation. The term assimilation represents the inner organisation of the organism which enables it to absorb something from the environment and incorporate same into its internal structures. A simple illustration is that sometime after dinner those components of the dinner which have been digested become a part of the dinner. The assimilation of experiences from the environment is similar. On the other hand the complementary process, accommodation, allows the organism to adjust to the experiences it is striving to assimilate. Thus, different experiences will demand the development of different tools for this purpose.


This theoretical formulation of two compensating and Complementary processes coupled with a detailed observation of his own children enabled Piaget to conclude that there is a fixed and invariable sequence of stages in the development of thinking through which each person moves as he grows from childhood to adulthood. Moreover, the various stages in this sequence are marked by qualitative differences in the manner of thought. I had discussed these stages in many earlier papers, especially in Ohuche (1986).

Earlier, African studies using Piagetian and neo-Piagetian techniques had been summarized by Ohuche and Pearson (1974) as well as in the African Child and his Environment edited by Ohuche and Otaala and published in 1981 by Pergamon Press as one of African's contributions to the activities of the 1979 International Year of the Child. Among the studies included were three by Dr M. O. Okonji on the effect of training of the ability of Igbo children to classify materials and the effects of familiarity on classificatory behaviour.


Taken along with some of my work among the Mende of Sierra Leone, the work of Dr Nancy Ohuche on developing the horizontal vertical co-ordinate reference system by some Igbo children, the investigations of Gay and Cole in Liberia and Jahoda in Southern Africa, the studies of Dr Omari in East Africa and the studies of Dr Dasen in French speaking Africa, it was now possible to establish an African perspective on cognitive development. The lesson learnt on the cultural context of thinking and learning is that children are different, one from another, and that although intellectual development takes place in stages, these stages appear at different ages in different children and in different cultural environments. Environment, heredity and previous learning experiences are variables which affect times of appearance.


Other studies have also been carried out on Igbo and other children. A major work on Igbo subjects was undertaken by T. Ama Nwachukwu who in 1979 tested 500 six to ten-year-old school children on Piaget's concrete operation tasks of classification, number serration, space and time. He discovered that the norms were about the same as elsewhere but that urban children had significantly better results than rural children. Some researchers in other settings have discovered the converse and there is now reason to believe that the urban/rural dichotomy may in this instance be attributed to some intervening variables.


Ohuche (1973:4) noted that


In Sierra Leone, as in many other parts of Africa, some of the forces which should help shape the nature and content of school curriculum have not received adequate attention. One of the forces is the background of the students in the sense of the role that the African environment should play in curriculum development and adaptation. Both the content and methods of mathematics education should arise from past and present experiences and beyond.


This sparked off a 1986 study in which Edwin Obiano was interested, among other things, in finding out to what extent Igbo children can estimate distance, height, time, and other measures. He found that non-schooled children performed poorly and were worse than school children in all the tasks performed.


In concluding this section it may be said that in its original form traditional education among the Igbo people was in the main out-of-school education. There were no formal schools but the homes served as congenial "schools" where children did not have to travel to be educated. Teaching was informal, practical, and utilitarian and geared to the needs of society. The curriculum was undocumented and unwritten, but it had to do with the welfare of the individual, the overall needs of the society and the roles which young persons were to be trained to fulfill.


In the words of the late Professor D. I. Nwoga (1984: 44)


Within this contest, there is a balance between the claims of community and the claims of individualism. The individual is s member of the community that sets the goals that have acceptability 'within that 'community. It is the community that sets up reward and punishment systems. To a large extent, the individual in Igboland is subsumed within the requirements of the community.


It would certainly have been nice if the results of the studies on Igbo children referred to in the preceding were available to traditional African education. But that was not to be because the studies themselves were part of the transition from traditional to Western education.






Nigeria has had nearly 150 years of primary education, which period may be classified into five eras as follows:


(i) the missionary/colonial administration era beginning with the arrival of Thomas Birch Freeman in 1842 and ending in 1954;

(ii) the era of regional autonomy from 1954 to 1960;

(iii) the immediate post-independence and Pan-African era of the 1960’s;

(iv) the policy and programme reform era of the late 1960's to mid 1970's specifically 1966 – 1975;

(v) the present era from UPE to now.


This classification system has been made here mainly to call it to the attention of the interested scholar. However, for our discussion the main threads of developments in primary and secondary education before political independence in 1960, that is a period of about 120 years covering (i, ii and iii above), will be given.


Serious Christian Missionary educational activities started in Nigeria with the arrival in Badagry in 1842 of Thomas Birch Freeman. Then followed the establishment of primary schools of variable quality with curricula in the form of 4R's (arithmetic, Reading, Religion, writing) and. not 3'Rs as popularly propagated. Those who had written about 3’Rs had tended to take religion, the most important of all of them, for granted.


The C.M.S. Grammar school, Lagos was founded as the first secondary school in 1859 while the C.M.S. Girls Grammar School was founded in 1872 as the first girls secondary school. East of the Niger, it was another twenty-four years before the Hope Waddel Training Institution was founded in 1896, that's ninety-five years ago. Various colonial administrations were then responsible for regulating the offering of education. By 1952 there was an Education Act which reflected the political changes of the 1951 constitution and also regulated grants-in-aid  (of schools) which were then transferred to Eastern, Northern and Western Regions of Nigeria for distribution according to prescriptions from the Central Government. The grants received by Regional Governments were proportional to their grants-in-aid commitment.


When regional autonomy was achieved in 1950 grants-in-aid by the Central Government were discontinued and the financing of pre-tertiary education became the responsibility of each Regional Government. Also Revenue Allocation Formula of 1954 included the principle of derivation. With this formula, the Central Government and Eastern and Northern Regionals lost some funds to the Western Region which was buoyant because of the sizeable revenue derived from cocoa.


The most striking point about education during this period was the high status of the teacher in the society. Whether he was in a one-room school or in a relatively larger school, in a Primary school or in a secondary school, he was respected, admired, cherished, revered and feared. He was a "magister", an adviser to parents and guardians, a counselor to elders, a disciplinarian, an authoritative member of the society. He was invariably the chairman at important local functions, the local aristocrat and a model to be emulated. Some parents kept their children in check by threatening to report unruly ones to their teachers. In those days, it would appear that Nigerians knew that persons who supervised the mental development of their children deserved respect, honour.


The teacher, in turn, carried himself with dignity for the most part. He was responsible, he was disciplined. Even when he had only little formal education as was the case with the grade three teacher, he tried to be effective. He was a symbol of what was good in our society. This was the case until the Nigerian civil war.


At independence in 1960 Nigeria had 2,912,618 pupils and 135, 364 students enrolled in primary and secondary schools, respectively. It was also in the same year that the Ashby Report on post-secondary education in Nigeria made very useful recommendations on primary and secondary schools as well as teacher training institutions. Nevertheless, what dominated primary and secondary education in the 1960's in Nigeria and other independent African states was the spirit of the 1961 Addis Ababa Conference of African Ministers of Education. The spirit was to provide primary education to as many children as possible and to use secondary education as a vehicle for producing skilled manpower for national development.


Then the 1968 Nairobi Conference of African Ministers of Education noted that qualitative important should be an integral part of educational expansion in all African countries and made recommendations towards achieving this objective. For Nigeria the - period between this Nairobi Conference and the 1976 Lagos Conference of Ministers of Education of African member states of UNESCO fell in our Second National Development Plan period (1970-74) and the beginning of the Third National Development Plan period (1976-80). Much more success was achieved with quantitative expansion than with qualitative improvement, especially at the primary school level.


The national UPE School was launched in 1976. At that time it was projected that by 1980 it would be compulsory. Enrollment exploded. The primary school population nearly doubled from 8. 3 million in 1976 to 16.5 million in 1983. Human and material resources fell short and the crash programme for primary teacher education with attendant lowering of standards was introduced. This coincided with the introduction in 1977 of the National policy on Education. The policy introduced primary education of six year duration beginning at age six, junior secondary school of three years, followed by a diversified senior secondary school of three years. Undergraduate education was programmed for four years and the system was christened the 6-3-3-4 system.


The UPE was initiated under conditions which indicated that the Federal Government had lots of money. The Government's commitment to education alone, was put at N2.5 billion, with Naira considered at par with the dollar. Yet, it was in the same year that the Third National Development Plan (1976-80) was launched. In that plan, even with the recognition given to equal educational opportunities for all Nigerians, emphasis was shifted from education to defense and agriculture.


Then the Okigbo Revenue Allocation Formula of 1979 reduced the Federal Government's share of the Federation Account from seventy-one per cent to fifty-five percent (55%) on the grounds that State and Local Governments which received increased shares would spend part of their increased shares on primary education. Specifically, Section twenty-nine of the 1979 Constitution was translated to mean that the burden of the provision and maintenance of primary education was that of the States with the proviso that Local Governments would play a participatory role. Thus, the Federal Government stopped funding primary education. To make matters worse, the State Governments also withdrew from the funding of primary education on the grounds that the responsibility was that of the Local Government.


The outcome was chaos as both funding and management of primary education were grossly inadequate. The system was on the br1nk of collapse. There was gross shortage of everything except children. Buildings were in short supply and those that were available were ill-maintained. Teachers were poorly trained and ill-equipped to teach. In many parts of the country teachers were owed arrears of salary up to six months. To save cost in some states, experienced and effective teachers whose salaries were high were laid off. Standards varied considerably as some local governments spent as much as eighty per cent (80%) of their budget on primary education while others diverted even the little money that was available to other projects. But clearly, there was overall lowering of standards.


At the same time, there was the global economic recession of the late 1970's leading to a decline in Nigeria's oil revenue and Gross Domestic Product in the 1980's. Tight monetary and fiscal measures had to be taken by the Federal Government and these measures adversely affected the Education sector as well as other sectors of development. In many parts of the country school levies and tuition fees were reintroduced in the early 1980's.


It should also be noted that the National Policy on Education introduced far-reaching reforms at the secondary level of education. Among other things, introductory technology equipment and teachers were required at the junior secondary school. Yet, less than fifty per cent of the states made the transition to the junior secondary school when it was first due in 1982 and an even smaller percentage made the transition to the senior secondary school when it was due in 1985.


The major issues in relation to primary education have been summarized on page three of an undated paper to the thirty-four meeting of the National Council on Education in the following language:


The recurrent key issue in all the reports is the necessity and extent of Federal Government involvement in funding primary education (irrespective of constitutional provision), the modalities of raising adequate fund, and the channels of routing to appropriate authorities at local government level, such that the target beneficiary primary schools will be service without the funds being diverted.


Many professionals are of the opinion that the Babangida Administration found a creative solution in 1989 with the birth of the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC). Its pre-mature death in 1991 is seen as a blow to the development of sound primary education. Many professionals also see the N1 million promised to each of our older secondary schools as likely to have a catalytic effect, especially if the schools are allowed to invest the capital and spend only the accruing interest judiciously.




In December, 1990 the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria inaugurated a Commission on Review of Higher Education in Nigeria which submitted its report ten and half 10 1/2 months later. I was privileged to serve on that Commission. The Commission was, lucky to have hired Dr C. C. Modu who did an excellent job of summarizing in 110 pages twenty-four documents, including the "Ashby Report" and several not widely circulated documents. This summary has added to the useful literature on higher education in Nigeria, especially since some of the documents would not normally be available to the ordinary researcher in the field of higher education.


Historically, the first polytechnic, Yaba College, was established in 1932 and the University College, Ibadan was founded in 1948 following the Eliott Commission of 1945. The Ashby recommendations of 1960 were comprehensive and far-reaching but higher education in Nigeria developed at a rate much faster than the members of that Commission could have imagined, resulting in imbalances here and there. One such imbalances which has persevered over time is that there are more students registered in our Universities than in our polytechnics.


The polytechnics grew rather slowly from one in 1932 to eight in 1975 through twenty-two during the Third National Development Plan period to thirty at the moment. On the part of the Universities, in 1960 the University of Nigeria, founded as the first autonomous university, joined the University College, Ibadan. By 1970 there were seven Nigerian universities. Within the next decade the number increased to twenty. The 1979 constitution placed university education on the concurrent list and several states and private universities sprang up. However, Federal Government action phased out private universities, given the questionable quality of some of those that were established.


By the time the Nigerian Defense Academy was upgraded to a University in 1984 there were twenty-nine universities in the country. In 1988 the Federal Government created a conventional university at Abuja bringing the total to thirty. Then, with the creation of Oyo state University at Ogbomoso, Nigeria attained, as the Minister of Education, professor A. Babs Fafunwa told the Nigerian Academy of Education in the fourth week of September this year, "the singular and, perhaps unique, distinction of having thirty-one universities in its thirty-one years of independence at an average of one per year"


The advanced teacher training colleges recommended by the Ashby Commission were initiated in 1962 with five colleges to cater for much needed middle level manpower for secondary schools. As they grew in number, they also became transformed to advanced teachers colleges/colleges of education, and acquired additional responsibility for the training of primary school teachers. As at August 1991, there were fifty-four such institut0ions, nineteen there were fifty-four such institutions, nineteen of which were established and are funded by the Federal Government.


These three categories of tertiary institutions have, by and large, achieved their mission which for all of them is to teach, provide appropriate public service and execute research in different degrees. However, it would appear that the polytechnics suffer from an identity crisis which tends to indicate that their products would rather be university products and their staff university staff.




Igbo embraced formal education with unparalleled zeal. As the information given earlier indicates there was a period of nearly seventy years between the introduction of secondary school education in Lagos and Igboland. Perhaps, part of the impetus was to catch up with our neighbours to the West. Schools were established, some by communities, some as joint ventures between communities and missions, some by missions and others by individuals. Schools, such as Aggrey Memorial College, Africa College (Now Our Lady's High School), Merchant of Light, Egbu Comprehensive Secondary School and Basden Memorial Secondary School were founded by leading Igbo educationists to "show the light" so that "the people will find the way."


It should also be stated for the records that these pioneers of education in Igboland were among the foremost nationalists that Nigeria had. They believed in education as a major instrument for national development and wanted education to be practical, functional and oriented to the culture of the people. They wanted such practical subjects as agriculture, business studies and home economics in the secondary school curriculum. They also wanted the secondary school curriculum to create a sound base for the development of scientists and technologists so that the technological development of the nation could be assured. I shall shortly take up specifically one of the joint venture schools for the lesson it teaches.


The guiding motto was "ibu anyị danda.“ Some communities contributed cash and land to sponsor some persons, who performed meritoriously in secondary schools, in higher educational institutions at home and abroad. The Igbo wanted education for the knowledge and power it provided. They also saw the education of young people as a communal activity to which different people contributed according to their resources. It would appear that it was from the Igbo that Sir Eric Ashby (now Lord Ashby) obtained the title Investment in Education for Nigeria's first comprehensive report on higher education. The Igbo considered education a most fruitful and useful investment. No sacrifice was too much for an Igbo to make to secure education not only for his own children and immediate relatives but also for other intelligent children in the community.


In this section I shall take up specifically three case studies. But before I do, let me state that aspects of the lgbo attitude to formal education in its early years in Igboland seem to have been shown in the creation of the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH). In the establishment of the multi-campus ASUTECHI, communities donated land and individuals donated cash and other resources. Furthermore, the spirit of ”ibu anyị danda" 'still exists in many parts of Igboland. For l stance on October 16, 1991 the Commissioner for Education, Imo State commissioned a school built by a community and given to Government.




You may recall that in 1954, there was a new revenue allocation formula which made the Eastern and Northern Regions of Nigeria poorer end the Western Region richer than before its introduction. This situation as well as well planning which started in 1952, enabled the Western Region to Implement successfully an ambitious programme of Free Primary Education which was launched in January, 1955. Given the rivalry between Eastern and Western, Nigeria and change from Professor Eyo Ita to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the leadership of the N.C.N.C. Government of Eastern Nigeria, that Government abandoned a gradualist approach to Free Primary Education formulated by the Eyo Ita Government and instead introduced in February, 1957, a comprehensive programme of Free Primary Education.


Simply put, within one year the "ibu" became too heavy for "danda" because the primary school population increased nearly by sixty per cent (60%) from seven hundred and seventy-five thousand to one million two hundred and nine thousand one hundred and seventy-seven. Also, the Catholic Church which was a strong educational agency in Eastern Nigeria was opposed to the type of free education introduced. In the circumstances, "danda" had to modify its load. We can, therefore, conclude that "ibu anyịghị danda ma na danda gbanwọlụ ibu o bu."


Another attempt at free primary education was made by the Nigeria nation in the form of Universal primary education (UPE) nearly 20 years later. Following nearly three years of preparation between General Gowon's announcement in January, 1974, and the actual implementation in September, 1976, the programme became operative in all of Igboland as well as in other parts of this country. What I have observed elsewhere about this national attempt at UPE is that there was shortage of teachers, facilities and in fact everything except children. In Igboland the schools were bursting with children. Once again "danda" had to modify its techniques and find an appropriate way to carry its load,




The spirit of "ibu anyị danda" dominated education in Igboland during the 1940s and 1950s. It was that spirit which in 1948, encouraged the people of Nkwerre Opiegbe to team up with the Anglican Mission to found a secondary school called St. Augustine's College. While the community in the true spirit of ”ibu anyị danda" made available fifty acres of land, about three kilometers from the mission and provided structures and other facilities, the Mission recruited teachers. With Latin in vogue at the time, the motto of the school was coined as "par adua ad astra" meaning through difficulty to the stars. This was translated by the late Mazi F.C. Ogbalu into the more popular motto of the school which is "ibu anyị danda".


Nkwerre Opiegbe people took on the building and development of St. Augustine's Secondary School as a challenge. Even as their neighbours refused to help because the sites which they provided were rejected in favour of the Opiegbe site, that community took the decision that the school would serve all and sundry. The building of the school was indeed a school/community effort. The principal, the students, towns people, all participated. Students helped with carpentry work and with the painting of the school building and so earned free tuition. In those years there were only thirty students in each stream and the teacher and even the principal knew them all.


The construction of the football field for the school was again an ”ibu anyị danda" story involving the students, the staff, and the towns people. In the process of this work, there were plenty of stones collected from the grounds. These stones were used to build the first library of the school. Everybody connected with the school showed the dogged determination of the "danda" to overcome all obstacles.


Then, St. Augustine's Secondary School adopted a policy of recruiting two teachers every year. At the end of five years it was suggested that the school should become a double-stream school. This suggestion was rejected by the Diocesan Education Secretary who complained that such an increase would significantly expand the burden which the school had placed on the mission. In spite of this the "ibu anyị danda" spirit was in operation and the principal went ahead and carved out more classrooms. His efforts were encouraged by Archdeacon Nwosu who lent the school two thousand pounds.


This eventually attracted what was called a "double stream levy” which meant that every communicant paid six pence and every student paid three pence toward the expansion. Before long, a total of four thousand pounds was collected and the two thousand pounds left after the Archdeacon was paid back went into further expansion. The “double stream levy” started at Nkwerre was to become an important instrument of school expansion in Igboland. The spirit of St. Augustine’s Secondary School was infectious. Together, all elements (the principal, teachers, students and the community) were involved in the same objective of providing qualitative secondary education.


The curriculum in St. Augustine's Secondary School included both the arts and the sciences but science was stressed. The Science Laboratories were well equipped-In fact there is the story of a young boy who did not have the money to pay his 'school fees and who was employed by the school as a laboratory attendant, instead of being sent away. While working as an attendant he was constantly encouraged by the principal and others to use the facilities and study privately. The ”ibu anyị danda" story of this young man is that he passed the G.C.E. as ah external candidate in the same year that his ‘would-be-classmates graduated from secondary school and is today a t professor of Microbiology in one- of Nigeria' First Generation Universities.




As has been pointed out earlier, nationalists, foremost among who were Igbo pushed in the 1950s in the direction of modifying school curriculum. They also pushed in another direction. Led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, they attacked the University College, Ibadan. "the million Dollar Baby", as academic, classical, expensive and utopian. They observed that while programmes existed in the, College for training Nigerians in Greek and Latin, no serious programmes existed for training Nigerians as engineers, science teachers and technologists. They were anxious to establish a national University with practically oriented curricula. In fact, in "the origin and philosophy of the University" Professor B.I.C. Ijomah, in Obiechina et al, (1986), has said of Dr Azikiwe that the main point that was made in his 1937 book Renascent Africa was that there was no indigenous University in Africa which could reflect the culture, values and aspirations of Africans. This was an idea advocated in 1920, by a group led by Ghana’s Casley Hayford. Thus, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe was determined to found an African University in which Africans would study in an African environment. Then States Professor Ijomah (1986:5):


The 1937, lamentation was to form the current that gathered sentiments and ideas of like-minded people. Until in the 1950s' Dr Azikiwe as the leader of a Regional Government was able to set up a machinery for translating the ideas into reality.  The blossoming University of Nigeria was a synthesis of the i5eas, the words (discussions at various levels) and the actions of Zik and the Government of Eastern Region of Nigeria, and other bodies.


In effect what happened was that Dr Azikiwe was in an excellent position as Leader of the Government of Eastern Nigeria to exploit for the good of everybody the "ibu anyị danda" spirit of the Igbo. The idea of establishing an autonomous University had strong opposition from the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Teachers as well as many British educated Nigerians who felt that standards would be lowered. Their opposition was aided and abetted by the British Director of Information Services who ensured that views of the opposition and not those of the supporters of the move were always publicized.


However, the idea of the University had its own strong support. There were such American-trained academics as the present Minister of Education, Professor Aliyu Babatunde Fafunwa and the current president of the Nigerian Academy of Education, Professor B.O. Okeje, yet, the biggest support came from the people of Eastern Nigeria where Igbo were in the majority. The 1958 joint recommendation of the delegations from the Inter-University Council of the united Kingdom and the International Co-operation Agency of the United States that a University be established in Eastern Nigeria was “influenced by the burning desire of the Eastern Nigerians for more educational opportunities".


Here was another case of "ibu anyị danda" which has given Nigeria a great University. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe galvanized the support of the Igbo and other Eastern Nigerians and together through Government action, the Eastern Nigeria Marketing, Michigan State University and British Universities rallied round to the course of the University of Nigeria.


Thus, in spite of criticisms, the University of Nigeria had its foundation stone laid by Her Royal highness, Princess Alexandria of Kent on October 7, 1960. On that date there were two hundred and twenty students and a grand total of thirteen academic staff in the University. Figures apart, the University's philosophy was and still is:


To seek the Truth

To teach the Truth

To preserve the Truth and thereby

To restore the dignity of man.


The University of Nigeria started on a path which led her to outstanding contributions to the development of Africa, in general and Nigeria, in particular. At the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the University, the Vice-chancellor Professor Chimere Ikoku, provided the statistics that there are now more than thirteen thousand students and about one thousand academic staff in the University of Nigeria. In the Presentation, Professor C. Ikoku gave an excellent account of the achievements of the University.


At the said convocation, the President of this country, General lbrahim Babangida, paid .growing tributes both to the University of Nigeria and to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Igbo in general and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, in particular. It was an emotional moment for many of us present when he turned to the Owelle of Onitsha and stated:


To you Sir, the entire nation owes a debt of gratitude for bequeathing to us this legacy of innovation, pragmatism and dedication to a noble cause, in order to raise the standard of education in Nigeria and to provide opportunities for higher education in multifarious disciplines which have become crucial to the socio-economic development of the nation. You have proved that novelty and sub-standardisation are not synonymous. By your examples and precepts, you have educated the Nigerian public that new ideas, new institutions, novel but constructive philosophies, should be given ample chance to flourish and not derailed mid-stream to the detriment of the potential beneficiaries.




Between the Nairobi Conference of 1968 and the Lagos Conference of 1976 African government had talked much about using education to bring about a new world economic order as well as rapid transformation of the African continent. Thus, the Nigerian National Policy on Education, introduced in 1977 and revised in 1981 was received with fanfare. In fact, all of our English-speaking West African neighbours have modified their educational systems along lines parallel to ours.


The policy standardized primary education at six years beginning at the age of six for the whole country. It also introduced the two-tier secondary school featuring the initiation of introductory technology during the first three years called the junior secondary school and the diversification of the second three years known as the senior secondary school. The former become operable in 1982 and the latter was introduced in nine states in 1985, in some other States in 1986 and in the rest of the states in 1987. However, even with the immense efforts of the National Policy on Education Implementation Committee, the implementation problems of the Policy remain many and varied. Among them is inadequacy of teachers of introductory technology and the slow rate of diversification of the senior secondary school.


Nevertheless, the most pervasive problem of Nigerian education at all levels is poor funding. It would appear that for many years now the best funding that the system has produced is to manage to find enough money to pay the poorly paid personnel who service it. Thug, we find that system-wide about eighty per cent (80%') of the recurrent expenditure is used for salaries, leaving very little for producing the goods and materials which th6 personnel need for providing the services for which they are paid. Then, there is the confounding factor that capital budget has been minimal. This has meant that we have been, for the most part, unable to provide new buildings or new desks and chairs or new laboratory equipment or even maintain existing structures and equipment.


The poor state of funding leads to some other problems. One problem that is in many ways directly associated with it is the unhealthy and unattractive environment of our educational institutions. In many of these, the buildings need to be painted; there are several uncompleted structures; chairs in the classrooms are dilapidated; the grounds are unkempt and the lawns are not mowed regularly. Toilet facilities, where they exist, are poor. Primary and secondary school teachers do not have comfortable teachers' rooms and headmasters and principals do not have comfortable offices. Where libraries exist, most are like stores with some old books and a few chairs and tables in them.


A third problem of the Nigerian educational system and one that is threatening the purpose of education is indiscipline. Ours is not a perfect society since no such society exists. Naturally, some degree of indiscipline is expected in all non-perfect societies. However, it would appear that in our society the degree of indiscipline at the moment is out of proportion with our level of development. Some have tried to explain the problem in various ways. Among other things, some hold that some traditional values that have been abandoned have not been replaced. The transitional stage between the abandonment of traditional values and the replacement of these displaced values has witnessed an unenviable toll on our society. It has now become easier for some Nigerians to murder others for money or to be hired to murder persons they don't even know. It has become easier for some Nigerians to cheat and defraud others or institutions. It has become easier for some Nigerians to tell the "white lie" or to "whitemail others".


Within this type of society, the educational institutions have suffered. Some students have demonstrated different and varied incidents of indiscipline. Among these are truancy, frequent lateness, inattention in class, purposeful disruption of class activities, reckless use of money, examination malpractice and insults and assaults on teachers and other older persons. Some of the teachers have not behaved better. In some cases, some teachers have been caught aiding and abetting their wards in acts of indiscipline. In some cases, some teachers have been known to report in the school, sign the school register and, with or without the connivance of higher authorities, go off for other pursuits. In some cases, some teachers have been known to stay and chat in the staff room when they are supposed to be teaching and that after reminders from the class prefects. Amazingly, many times these incidences are not reported and the culprits are not disciplined. Sometimes, there has been the question of who will "bell the cat" because some who have attempted to do so have suffered for same.


A fourth problem that is widespread in our primary, junior and senior secondary schools is poor management and supervision. The standard practice now in our country is that local governments have ultimate responsibility for primary education. In various states, schools boards or teaching service commissions or the like have been created to manage secondary schools on behalf of the ministries of education. Even with this clearly spelt out responsibility at the secondary level, supervision has been improperly executed, most times neglected. On management, many principal and headmasters would appear to lack leadership effectiveness.


Yet, as Professor B.O. Ukeje (1991:24) has said:


In Nigeria, we need leadership effectiveness not only in education but in all spheres of our national life. To be sure, Nigerian society today is littered with ambiguities, inconsistencies, inequities and paradoxes We must admit that Nigeria today faces serious, if not unprecedented social, religious ' geo-political and economic arises. This is perhaps, part of growing up. But it is with effective leadership, not only in education, but in all spheres of our national life, that these negative trends in our society could be halted, eliminated and possibly reversed.


The fifth problem has also persisted over the years at both the primary and secondary levels. This is the fast rate of growth of the school population. The primary school population grew from 2,912,618 in January 1960 through 3,515,827 in 1970 and 9,867,961 in 1977/78 to 13,996,518 in December 1989. That is, the population increased nearly fivefold during the period of thirty (30) years. Similarly, the secondary school population increased from 135, 364 in January 1960 through 310,054 in 1970 and 913,648 in 1977/78 to 2,901,993 in December 1989. This shows more than a ninefold increase in the thirty year period. These growths have had an immense impact on the entire educational system.


The sixth problem is associated with the fifth. It is the problem of out of school youth. This problem exists at different levels. The first is that there is a small proportion of children who do not begin school at all, even given the programme on nomadic education and the migrant fishermen programme. Second, there is a slightly higher percentage of children who drop out of the system at the end of primary school. Third, there is a slightly higher percentage who drop out at the end of junior secondary. Fourth, there are the large numbers who complete senior secondary schools and have no where to go or anything to pursue. Fifth, there are diplomates from our colleges of agriculture, colleges of education and polytechnics and graduates from our various universities who are unemployed.


I shall now take up four challenges to the Nigerian educational system. One of these is the challenge of effective teaching which exists throughout the system. Ineffective teaching manifests itself in many forms. In the primary school mathematics is poorly taught because most teachers dislike the subject and are poorly trained in it. Primary science and social studies are poorly taught because most teachers are unfamiliar with both the content and methodology of these subjects. In the junior secondary school such subjects as mathematics, integrated science, introductory technology and Nigerian languages lack competent teachers.


In the senior secondary school such subjects as physics, chemistry and geography have become unpopular mostly because of lack of effective teachers. Mathematics is so poorly taught that a significant proportion of each class considers it a punishment sitting in the mathematics class since the subject is compulsory in the senior secondary certificate examination. While a teacher is supposed to be a catalyst, facilitator, it can be claimed with a high degree of accuracy that many Nigerian teachers are unexciting and uninspiring in the classroom. Professor Pai Obanya has called them ”cheaters" where the word "cheater" has the same seven letters with the word teacher. At the university, the story is not very different. The cheat appears in the form of a person who reads outdated notes.


A second challenge is what I have called the challenge of the "indigene" phenomenon, merit, standards, quality and quota. A's we strive in Nigeria to build in the words of the National Policy on Education (NPE; 1981:8).


a free, just and democratic society, a land full of opportunities for all citizens, able to generate a great and dynamic economy, and growing into a united, strong and self reliant nation.


no term can be more anomalous than the word indigene as used in our context. Thus, in our educational practice, we have a quota for indigenes. Merit, standards and quality are, thereby, necessarily modified by quota.


The third challenge that would like to take up here is the challenge of culture, development and technology. This challenge is real because in Nigeria and other African countries there is a preponderance of industries based on research in the developed world. Such industries which are rooted in other culture5 are not likely to aid development. As put by Obasanjo and Mabogunje (1991:96).


In examining the nexus between development and technology, the Dialogue took their view that the strategic imperative is to anchor / both concepts on what is endogenous to' a people. In essence, participants believe that as a propelling force, technology must be internally induced if the goal of improving the quality of life of the people is to be realized and sustained over the long run.


Technology is culture dependent and culture bound and for it to transform the lives of a people and therefore result in national development, it must be an integral part of the people to be transformed. This is not an argument against transfer of vital experience from other countries but it is certainly an argument against transfer of obsolete equipment.


The fourth and final challenge is the challenge of relevance. Nigeria education has to be relevant to the Nigerian society and to the development needs of Nigeria. This is possible, as has been observed by the Dialogue, only if the individual can be trained to appreciate the cultural traditions of the country better and at the same time absorb the tools with which to transform these traditions as necessary.


Also, education must promote "the culture of productivity" and encourage individuals to be creative, industrious, enterprising, hardworking, honest, tolerant and selfless. Personal integrity and ability to relate well with and interact positively with other should also be stressed.






In section 4 of this presentation 'danda' is painted as industrious, resourceful, self-reliant and creative. Above all, it was indicated that ”danda" is a co-operative worker, for what one "danda" cannot do, many “danda" working together can. This buttresses the Igbo saying "igwe bụ ike" or the equivalent saying "ehinne nyụọ amịrị ọgbọọ ụfụfụ. My thesis is that as we move toward the 21st century, Nigerian education has a lot to learn from the spirit of ‘ibu danda'. Creativity is needed; industry le needed; resourcefulness is needed; self-reliance is needed. But most important of all is ”danda's" co-operative and determined approach to facing problems.


Earlier, I had indicated some of the burning problems of and challenges to Nigeria education. Consider funding. Perhaps, the first issue to deal with on funding is the issue of free education. While thinking about this, I was reminded of a slogan that was common with the Governments of the former Anambra and Imo States. That slogan was that education was the most important industry in each of them. They should also have added that education was the most expensive industry in each of them because quality education is expensive, pure and simple and there is no getting around it. In fact, this is what makes the concept of free education misleading. Quality education may be free to the parent in the sense that he/she may not have to pay school fees but then someone – the community, local government, State government, federal government, private industry, foundation or some combination of these – has to pay for the service. Another point that should be stressed is that at our present developmental level government alone cannot provide quality education. Clearly, one big problem with funding education in Nigeria at the moment is that in most parts of the country, the funding of education is considered an exclusive preserve of government.


Yet, education is a co-operative venture. Before the civil war, our people in Igboland built and cared for their schools which were community landmarks. They had an 'ibu anyị danda' approach to the funding of education. Then at the end of the civil war, Government took over the schools which then became government property and not community property. Since in this day and age in the thinking of the man in the street, Government property is nobody's property and does not have to be cared for, the neglect of the schools became inevitable.


Government action was not limited to the schools. Those universities catered for by the Federal Government became tuition free universities and Government also pegged, rather unrealistically the cost of boarding and accommodation and undertook on its own to subsidize feeding. Feeding subsidy collapsed some years ago just as Government's insistence on tuition-free status is now pushing many Federal universities in the direction of collapsing. May I stress again that quality education cannot be free. If government cannot pay for it, it should allow those who can to do so. Government’s proper concern about brilliant youngsters from poor families can be taken care of through properly organized bursaries, loan schemes and scholarships. We had a good record on these before the civil war.




Poor funding is obviously associated with poor environment but aspects of the latter are also related to values, indiscipline and unhealthy attitudes. It does not require much money to clean the cobwebs and other untidiness in and outside some of our school buildings. What is required is a recognition, which only the proper value system can inspire, of the fact that the coweb is not a part of the building. l would imagine that "danda's" solution to the problem of unhealthy environment is that "danda" does not want to be associated with anything that is unwholesome.


Nigeria should imitate 'danda' and not be associated with anything that is unwholesome. It is in this context that I wish to discuss the negative role which the concept of indigene plays in the educational life of young Nigerians. Many of us have read in the print media or have heard in the electronic media of the agony of one young Nigerian or another seeking explanation for why his classmate of six years who had a lower aggregate score in the competitive examination into the Federal Government Colleges would gain admission and he would not. Although both children were born in the same State and attended the same school, they are indigenes of different States because .their parents were born in different States. "Ndanda's" simple solution would be to do what many other countries have done, namely, to define what qualifies an individual to become a resident of a State. By such standards, the two youngsters, referred to, would be residents of the same State.




Nigeria has serious problems with out-of-school youth. A significant proportion of these is made up pf persons who have completed senior secondary school or one form of tertiary education or another without employment. The country's correct stance is that self-reliance through self-employment is the answer. "Ndanda" would add a dimension because it understands Nigeria's banks and their stress on collateral. "Ndanda" also understands that if these youngsters are fresh graduates, they wouldn't have the necessary collateral. Given ”danda's" experience with co-operative ventures, what "danda” would do will be to set up a system that enables those in the society who have money to fund these self-employment schemes.




Many knowledgeable Nigerians have made useful contributions regarding the role that technology should play in our national development. They include the present Minister of Science and Technology, Professor G. Ezekwe and such other persons as Professors A.O. Anya, M. Chijioke, S. Eze-Uzoamaka, C. Ikoku, and E. Odigbo. Among other positions, these in their various ways found the concept of 'transfer of technology' as Nigeria tried to practice it in the 1970’s unacceptable. As I prepared for this lecture, l read a lovely book, Elements of Development, edited by General O. Obasanjo and Professor A. Mobogunje. In it was a brilliant input by Professor Chimere Ikoku as the chairman of the Dialogue on Technology and Development which led the group to observe that:


Specifically, our drive towards advancement in technology ought to move in three inter-related directions, viz


1. The improvement of indigenous technology in all fields of economic endeavours such as health, manufacturing, farming and construction;


2. an understanding of imported technology and its adaptation to fit our resources and need; and


3. the development of new technologies based on our needs and material resources.


Reading this took me back to my March, 1986 articles “Technological development in Nigeria: orientation and relevance", otherwise called by some of those who read it "the Ochanja market technology paper". I had stated a philosophical position in that paper (1986:2-3) as follows:


It may then be said that ochanja market technology is that approach to technological development which enables us to rely on our technology and develop same to serve our society. Obviously, in the process it may be necessary to transfer experience from other countries. This is welcome. What is not, is the transfer of the products of other nation's technologies, under conditions in which we cannot cope with such technologies. Our main objective is to use technology as a vehicle of national development. We want technology to help us grow more and better crops, to make water available to our rural, semi-urban and crowded urban populations, and in general lo enable us to live a better quality of life.


My point was, and still is, that in that place called "Ochanja” market in Onitsha, as indeed in several other parts of lgboland, the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Igbo is on display. The paper further observes that our panel beaters are first class and that our mechanics can handle the most complicated of diagnosis without sophisticated equipment. It also reminds us that during the Nigerian civil war there was an ample demonstration of technological know-how in Igboland. If technology is to be harnessed for the development of Nigeria and if it is to play an important role in the thinking, reasoning and living of Nigerians, then we have to start early to provi6e appropriate aid to young Nigerians. Children must be allowed to investigate and ask questions of their environments.


I am reminded of a lovely unit on the "danda“ done by the African Primary Science Programme (APSP) titled “Ask the antlion”. When a five year old girl turns to the mother and asks ”mummy, what does the antlion eat“? The mother just as coolly turns to the daughter and answers "ask the antlion". Yes, indeed, if you want answers from the ”danda", your problem will be how to frame your questions in ways that the "danda" will understand.




In Nigeria as in other Third World countries, the needs are many and varied. Two that stand out in relation to education are the ever increasing demand for education and the need to provide more relevant education related to the world of work.


Properly conceived and executed, education is an important instrument that can create; that can ennoble; that can reform and revitalize society. Part of the Igbo dream since the beginning of formal education in our land has been for the son to reach higher heights educationally than the father. We must keep that dream alive.


In this lecture, I have looked at Nigerian education from the perspective of the centrality of education in Igbo culture. I have used as case studies the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and St. Augustine's College, Nkwerre. As I conclude, I should draw your attention to an important historical novel on the University of Nigeria by an American couple. In the 1971 If I should die before I wake: the Nsukka dream published by Michigan State University, Zerby and Zerby give a moving first hand account of the growth and development of the University of Nigeria before the civil war. This stressed the quest of the Igbo people for knowledge.


I have one final story to tell. Forty-two years, four months and nine days ago on July 20, 1949 at the young age of 22 years the legendary Mazi F.C. Ogbalu (May God have mercy on his gentle soul), at St. Augustine's College, Nkwerre composed the Igbo Language And Culture Anthem. I t goes thus:


1. Chukwu gọzie asụsụ Igbo

Mee k'ọ na-agawanye n’iru

Wepụta ndi ga-ede akwụkwọ

Ndi g'ede ihe gat'ụtọ

Mee k' anyị si otu a mụta

Ihụ asụsụ anyị n'anya


2. Chukwu mee k'omenal Igbo

Guzosie ike mgbe dum

Mee k'ayị kpofue ndi jọrọ njọ

Ma jidesie ndi mara mma ike

Mee k'ayị si otua na-agbalị

Wee rue ndu ebighi ebi


Ndi Igbo ibem, ebe nwata n'ebe akwa n’atụ aka ma nne ya anọghi ya nna ya anọrọ ya. Unu ga echeta n' anyị arụtụla aka n'otu Mazi ọka mmụta Mike Echeruo si tie nkpu k'anyị laghachi n'ihe ahụ eji mara ndi Igbo. N'otu aka ahụ ọka 'nmụta ọzọ bụ Mazi Adiele Afigbo etiekwala nkpu n'ekwu kwa otu ihe ahụ bụ ilaghachi n’ihe ahụ mere ndi Igbo ji asi Igbo mụrụm, ma ha enyela m nri' N'iganiru Mazi Ogbalu rịọ si k' anyị jidesie omenala anyị mara mma ike.


lbe anyị nu, omenala anyị mara nma kwesikwa ijigidesi ike ọbụ gịnị? A nam asị n’ ọbụ otu ahu ndi Igbo si agbakọ aka ebu ibu ha ka danda – onye para, ibe ye para, ọdi nfe – ibu adighi anyị danda.


Ọchịagha nine no ebea eke ne m ụnụ

Ọha na eze eke ne m ụnụ


Ndi Nsụkka anyị na ekene dejenu, alua nu.






Abani, M.S.C. (1977) Emotional Stability and Social Adjustment of Products of two types of Secondary Schools in Nigeria, Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Afigbo, A. E. (1981). The Age of Innocence, (Ahiajoku Lecture), Owerri: Cultural Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Amajirionwu, A.A. (1979). Affective Correlates of Cognitive Ability, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Anya, A.O. (1982), The Environment of Isolation, (Ahiajoku Lecture), Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Babangida, I.B. (1991), An address delivered by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces  at  the  25th  Convocation  and 30th anniversary of the University of Nigeria on Saturday, April 6, Nsukka: University of Nigeria Information Bulletin (Special Edition), July 17.


Bond, J. and Williams J. (eds) (1987) Eyes on the Prize; America's Civil Rights Years, 1950-1965. New York, N.Y: Viking Penguin Inc. Publications.


Chijioke, M.O. (1989) Ugwumba. (Ahiajoku Lecture), Owerri: Ministry of Information and Culture.


Du Bois; W.E.B., (1987) The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Port which Africa has played in World History. New York: International Publishers.


Ebenebe, R.C. (1986) The Effect of Training on the Cognitive Ability of some Ibo Primary School Children. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Echeruo, M. J. C. (1979) A Matter of Identity. (Ahiajoku Lecture). Owerri: Cultural Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Essien, F.S. (1987) The Influence of School Environment on Academic Achievement of Secondary School Students in Cross River State. Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, University of Calabar Library.


Fafunwa, A. Baba (1974) History of Nigerian Education, London: Allen Unwin.


Fafunwa, A. Baba.  (1991), An address by the Honourable Minister of Education to the Sixth Congress of the Nigerian Academy of Education holding at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on Monday, September 22


Holt, J. (1972) How Children Learn. New York: Dell Publications.


Ibeanu, M.E. (1986), Evaluation of the Academic Achievement of Secondary School Students in Home Management in the Eastern States of Nigeria. Unpublished PH.D Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Ikebude, U. (1987). The Impact of Teachers' Qualification and School Facilities on Students Performance in Physics in Imo State. Unpublished M.Ed.  Thesis, University of Calabar Library.


Ikejiani, O., et. al (1971). Nigerian Education, Ikeja: Longman Publications.


Ikoku, C.(1989). "Education in the 1990's" keynote address presented at the First Annual Conference of the Nigerian Association of Professional Educators.


Kamii, C.K., and Declark G. (1985). Young Children Reinvent Arithematic; New York: N.Y.: Teachers College Press Publications.


Lovell, K., and Elkind, D. (eds) (1971). An Introduction to Human Development: England: Scott, Foresman and Company Publications.


Modu, C.C. (1991). Summaries of some Relevant Background Documents and Literature: Prepared for the Commission, Review of Higher Education in Nigeria.


Muogilim, E. S. (1981). Nigera Education: A Classified Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations. Calabar Centaur Press Publication.


National Board for Technical Education, (1991), A Memorandum Presented To the Commission on Review of Higher Education in Nigeria.


National Universities Commission. (1987), Bulletin of the National Universities Commission, Lagos: National Universities Commission,


National Universities Commission, (1986) . Bulletin of the National Universities Commission, Lagos: National Universities Commission.


Nwabueze, B.O. (1985), The Igbos in the Context of Modern Government and Politics in Nigeria: A call for self-Examination and self-Correction. (Ahiajoku Lecture), Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Nwachukwu, T.A.  (1978)  Cognitive Development among six-to-ten year-old Children of Anambra and Imo States  of  Nigeria,  Unpublished  Ph.D.  Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Nwoga, D.I. (1984), Igbo Cosmology: Nka na Nzere. (Ahiajoku Lecture), Owerri: Culture  Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Obiano, D.E. (1986) Ability to Estimate in Important Mathematics Skills. Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, University of Nigeria library.


Obasango, O. and Mabogunje, A. (eds). (1991). Elements of Development, Abeokuta: Alf Publications.


Obidoa, M.A. (1985). Group Counseling, Self-Concept and Academic Achievement of Anambra State Secondary School Students. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Obiechina, E.  et. al (1986). The University of Nigeria, 1960-1985: An Experiment in Higher Education. Nsukka: University of Nigeria Press Ltd.


Obioha, N.E. (1982). Cognitive Readiness for Science among Nigerian Primary School Children. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Ibadan Library.


Ogomaka, P.M.C. (1989). Projects in Junior Secondary School Mathematics: Implications for Teaching, Learning and Continuous Assessment. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Uni0ersity of Nigeria Library.


Ohuche, N.M. (1982). The Development of the Horizontal-Vertical  Co-ordinate Reference System by some Nigerian (Igbo) Children and Young Adults, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Nigeria Library.


Ohuche, R. 0, (1974), "Some Implications of Research in Concept Development for Mathematics Education in Liberia". Paper delivered at the semi-annual Conference of the Liberian Research Association on April 20.


Ohuche, R.O. and Otaala, B. (eds), (1981). The African Child and his Environment. England: Pergamon

Press Ltdi


Ohuche, R. 0. (1990) Explore Mathematics with Your Children. Onitsha: Summer Educational Publishers Ltd


Ohuche, R. O. and Ndu, A. H. (eds) (1991). Nathan Ejiogu: a case Study of Leadership in Education Ibadan Wisdom Publishers Ltd


Okafor, F. C. (1988) Nigeria Teacher Education: A Search for New Direction. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publication.


Okigbo, B. N. (1980) Plants and Food in lgbo Culture and Civilization. (Ahiajoku Lecture) Owerri: Culture Division, ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Okigbo, P. N. C. (1986)."Towards a Reconstruction of the Political Economy of Igbo Civilization". (Ahiajoku Lecture) Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Information, Youth and Sports.


Okoro, A. N. (1988). Chukwu Ka Dibia, (A look into Igbo Traditional Medicine). (Ahiagoku Lecture) Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Information and Culture.


Onwujeogwu, M.A. (1987) Evolutionary Trends in the History of the Development of the Igbo Civilization in the Culture Theatre of Igboland in Southern Nigeria. (Ahiajoku Lecture), Owerri:  Culture  Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Paulu, Nancy. (1989). Improving Schools and Empowering Parents: Choice in American Education, Washington, D. C.: Whitehouse Report.


Uka, N. (1966). Growing up in Nigerian Culture, Ibadan: Occasional Publication.


Umezurike, G. M. (ed). (1986). Igbo Jurisprudence: Law and Order in Traditional Igbo Society, Papers Presented at the 1986 Ahiajoku Lecture, (Onugaotu Colloquium) Owerri: The Ministry of Information and Culture.


Umezegike, G. M. (ed). (1987). Igbo Traditional Education, Papers presented at  the  1987  Ahiajoku  Lecture (Onugaotu Colloquium), Owerri: The Ministry of Information and Culture.


Umezurike, G. M. (ed), (1988).  The  lgbo  Concept of the Sacred (Papers presented at the  1988 Ahiagoku Lecture (Onugaotu Colloquium), Owerri: Ministry of Information and Culture.


Umezurike, G. M. (ed). (1989). Igbo Economics, (Papers Presented at the 1989 Ahiajoku Lecture (Onugaotu Colloquium), Owerri: ministry of Information and Culture.


Umezurike, G. M. (ed). (1985). The Igbo Socio-Political System, (Papers presented at the 1985 Ahiajoku Lecture  Colloquium),  Owerri:  The Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.


Zaslavsky, C. (1973), Africa Counts, Number and Pattern in African Culture. Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt Publications.


Zerby, W., Zerby, J. (1971). If I should Die Before I Wake: the Nsukka Dreams East Lansing: Michigan State University.








It is the traditional duty of my office to write the foreword to the Ahiajoku Lecture and I do this with a humbling awareness that the Ahiajoku Lecture has grown into an intimidating institution, an institution in which both the academia and the grassroots are equally keen.  One had thought that the start of Ozuruimo would have reduced the interest o f the masses from the Ahiajoku Lecture Series but, on the contrary, Ahiajoku remains a great expectation in the people’s calendar of festivities.  For the academia and the populace alike, who climbs the Ahiajoku rostrum is of paramount interest.


For these reasons, we the organizers have taken the importance of Ahiajoku into our stride and make all efforts to represent the best intentions and grandeur of this intellectual festival.


This year, we wish to draw attention to the premier position which education takes in Igbo culture.  We find ourselves in the torrent of education whether in the teaching or in the deployment, we find ourselves facing the vicious cruel choice of education, the tide of education seekers, the consuming budget for education, the clamour for befitting exhibition, expression or utilization of the hard earned education.  Government gets caught up in this whirlwind.


Against this harassing background, one notes the utmost and urgent relevance of IBU ANYỊ NDANDA – The Centrality of Education in Igbo Culture which is Prof. Romanus Ohuche’s topic for the 1991 Ahiajoku Lecture.  We are all ears to hear this intellectual giant in order to pick possible explanations to our educational predicament and solutions to the problems and one hopes for a bold step into the future.  One also hopes for a generic continuity.  The leopard should not beget a sheep nor a tortoise, a serpent.


N.O. Adigwe, (ESQ.)

Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice, Information and Culture






Professor G. N. Uzoigwe



1991 Ahiajoku Lecture Planning Committee


In May, 1991, an article entitled "The price of arrogance" appeared in one of the nation's periodicals. It was essentially an extraordinary attack on the concept of the Ahiajoku Lectures as well as on the Igbo character generally. Having repeated the familiar stereo-types associated with the Igbo character and the well-worn epithets attributed to the Igbo by fellow Nigerians, the writer avers that the Igbo ”fought the civil war out of arrogance" and concludes: "Pride without arrogance is virtuous and does nobody any harm, but once it steps into the boundaries of arrogance it creates problems. With a little modesty the question of Igbo identity would not be bugging their minds today."


This astonishingly bold and irreverent piece frankly startled members of the Ahiajoku Planning Committee. It was as unprovoked as it was unwarranted. Some, there were who counseled that the article should be ignored as the lugubrious, certainly ludicrous, outpourings of someone who, in reality, knows very little about the Ahiajoku lectures and understands the Igbo even less. It was, nevertheless, decided that some of the issues raised by the writer were sufficiently important – even if in our view, wrong-headed and inaccurate – to warrant our entering into some sort of dialogue with him. Accordingly, the Chairman of the Ahiajoku Lecture Planning Committee was mandated to write to the author of the article clarifying our position (but with no apologies whatsoever), pointing out some of his misconceptions about the Igbo and the Ahiajoku Lectures, and inviting him, as a show of goodwill and Nigerian fraternity, to be our guest at the 1991 Ahiajoku Lecture. The chairman did so in an erudite and mature piece.


It would have been easy to forget the writer and the article, to sweep everything, as it were, under the carpet and proceed with business as usual. To do so would mean that we have failed to understand a major significance of the article, namely, that after more than a decade of explaining to the world what the Ahiajoku Lectures stand for, our message is still lost on some Nigerians. Let it be stated clearly once more that Ahiajoku is not a celebration of arrogance, not even a celebration of pride. There is nothing arrogant about a people attempting not only to understand themselves but also to explore the richness and beauty of their culture. I dare say, on the contrary, that it is their responsibility to do so. The United Nations Organisation had this in mind when it proclaimed the 1990s the decade of cultural development and invited all peoples to affirm the uniqueness of their cultures as well as their similarities to other cultures.


Ahiajoku is for Igbo self-knowledge. There is nothing wrong for a people to attempt to know themselves. To do so means understanding where the people had been, where they are presently, and where they are heading to in future. Such a knowledge requires as the citation for the 1990 Ahiajoku Lecture put it painstaking equerries, diligence and thoroughness, all of which are the virtues which attend to the pursuit of knowledge". There is nothing trivial, nothing frivolous, about the pursuit of knowledge. The Ahiajoku Lecture laureates are individuals who have distinguished themselves in their various fields of specialisation. Far from being arrogant, they are individuals into whom learning and long experience have inculcated sobriety and humility.


This is the thirteenth year of the Ahiajoku Lectures. In all, eleven lectures (there was no lecture in 1983) have been delivered as follows:


Professor M. J. C. Echeruo, A Matter of Identity      (1979)


Professor B. N. Okigbo, Plants and Food in Igbo Culture (1980)


Professor A. E. Afigbo, The Age of Innocence: The Igbo and their neighbours in precolonial times (1981)


Professor A. O. Anya, The Environment of Isolation (1982)


Chief D. I. Nwoga, Professor Emeritus Nka Na Nzere: The Focus on Igbo World View (1984)


Professor B. O. Nwabueze, The Igbo in the Context of Modern – Government and Politics in Nigeria: A Call for Self-Examination and Self-Correction (1985)


Dr. P. N. C. Okigbo, Towards a Reconstruction of the Political Economy of Igbo Civilization (1986)


Professor M. A. Onwuejeogwu, Evolutionary Trends in the History of Development of the Igbo Civilization in the Culture Theatre of Igboland in Southern Nigeria. (1987)


Professor A. N. Okoro, Chukwu ka Dibia (1988)


Professor M. A. Chijioke, Ugwumba: The Greatness of a people (1989)


Professor A. O. Animalu, Ucheakonam (A way of Life in the Modern Scientific Age), 1990


Today’s lecture, Ibu Anyị Ndanda: The centrality of Education in Igbo Culture is the twelfth in the series.


It deals with a theme which is dear to all our hearts. The surprise is that we waited for so long before exploring the role of education in our culture. After you have listened to our distinguished lecturer, you will agree with me that the long wait has been worth it.


I have resisted the temptation, indeed a very strong temptation, to anticipate the lecture. How dare I unmask the masquerade! It is simply not done in our culture. So distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let us relax and listen to our throaty singer and his song.


Thank you.






Being a Citation on the 1991 Ahiajoku Lecturer:

Professor Romanus Ogbonnaya Ohuche

B.Sc. (Illinois, U.S.A.), M.Sc., Ph.D. (Iowa State), M.N.A.E.

Professor of Education and Director,

Institute of Education. University of Nigeria, Nsukka.




Professor Nwene E. Obioha, Ph. D., F.S.T.A.N., M.N.A.E.



Ọha na eze, mma mma !!


Today is another Ahiajoku day! By every indication the flavour of the celebration is higher than ever before. It is both a cultural celebration and an academic occasion in which our quest for progressively richer harvest of thought is further illuminated by a renowned son of this great land. The 'Ikoro' dancer of the day, the big 'masquerade', the chief priest, Professor R. O. Ohuche (Omeziriọha of Arọndizuọgụ), is a true academic giant, and a worthy teacher in the best sense of the word. I am proud and privileged to be part of his discipline and indeed honoured to be asked to announce his appearance today.


Permit me, Mr. Chairman, to digress a little, and thank the Imo State Government and the organisers of the Ahiajoku Lectures for this wonderful institution. I have followed with interest the selection of the worthy sons of our land to play the chief priest at these festivals. I find ample evidence of mature judgment in the choice of their lecture themes which are unassailable in terms of their contribution to our cultural and academic heritage. Indeed I salute all the past lecturers and rejoice in their eminence. Today, Education and its chief operator, the TEACHER, are making a majestic entry into the arena. We can only see this scenario as the big masquerade appearing on the scene when the ovation is loudest.


My second digression relates to the TEACHER. In our present time and age, the word is derogatory. It has lost its charm and authority of old. Here TEACHER, is used with the greatest respect. To capture the sense in which the teacher assumes his true dignity, I would like to refer to Emmanuel Obiechina's article titled "In praise of the Teacher: A tribute to Chinua Achebe" and published in the Alumnus Vol. 5 No. 1, 1990/91, pp. 8 – 9. In this beautiful exposition, Obiechina assiduously reminded us of the past glories of the teacher when he was "a particularly valued member of the community" and the people called him "Onyenkuzi” with utmost respect. We are talking of "Onyenkuzi” the philosopher who ”enlightens,... who reveals knowledge, and puts people in the path of knowing ...” and who has ”the drive to improve the world, to perfect human conduct and to straighten the individual and the society". In these times, even the best and brightest stars in the Teaching Profession remain unsung. It is precisely TO RESTORE THE DIGNITY OF THE TEACHER that I present to you the Ahiajoku lecturer of today; for Romanus Ohuche is a teacher in the true sense of the word. He is the shining star of the profession that the society has unwittingly put under a bushel. He has devoted his life ”straightening" the minds and spirits of many inside and outside Nigeria. He is appearing today to do Education and the Teaching Profession proud. We shall surely reap "the harvest of a quiet eye that broods and sleeps on his own heart" (Wordsworth).


Born in the woodlands of Imo river basin in a farm settlement (Ikpaocha) of Amazu kindred in Arondizuogu, Okigwe Local Government Area. Ogbonnaya (christened Romanus) grew up under the strong influence of two devout christian parents – Alfred Nwankwo Ohuche and Madam Angela Mgbafocha Ohuche (nee Nwosu). Their devotion to their acquired Roman Catholic faith was almost proverbial, for they literally lived their lives to the letters of the ”catechism" and the "Life and Teaching of Christ" – the two standard textbooks of the Roman Catholic laity of their time. It is therefore understandable why Late Alfred Ohuche (a carpenter by professionl) emulated the biblical Joseph the carpenter and brought up his children with unusual zeal and dedication. Thus Romanus knew and grew up in a rural agricultural village under very strict discipline – an experience he is very proud of.


The young Ogbonnaya had, his early education at St Theresa's Primary School,. Okigwe and St Patrick's College, Calabar. These educational opportunities (away from home) were made possible first by the commitment of his parents to give him a good education, and secondly, by the conspicuous brilliance he showed at the primary school where he had two "double promotions" to complete his primary education in record time. It is worthy of note that after "A Levels” at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Enugu in 1958, he returned to his home town to teach Science and Mathematics in a community school (Iheme Memorial Grammar School, Arondizuogu). Then, he was awarded a Federal Government Scholarship to study in the United States of America. By 1962 he had earned a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Illinois University and quickly registered for the Masters programme in Mathematics – to satisfy his yearning for higher goals and more challenging disciplines. By the time he secured the M. Sc. in Mathematics from Iowa State University in 1965, he had fully perceived his vocation to lie in education – hence he again switched to Ph. D. in education of the same University.


I want to return to the short teaching spell at Iheme Memorial Grammar School, Arondizuogu (1958, 59) because it represents the period that best illustrates the Personality we are talking about today. We ask: Why did this young bright boy make the break in his educational pursuit? Why did he take to teaching so early in his life, and why did this young man return to the rural school that lacked all the trappings of urban life? Simply put, Romanus was attracted to do missionary work. Mathematics and Science teachers were in very short supply in those days and he had to answer the call of his people to help. He responded in keeping with his up-bringing. More than that, Romanus belonged to the pre-independence cohort of youths who defied all odds to achieve their educational ambitions and to do so carrying all other young persons along. I saw then this enthusiasm for others as well as the sterling teaching qualities in him. It was too apparent that he is a born teacher and a humanist. It is against this background that we can understand his quick academic progression, his switches from Engineering to Mathematics and to Education in which he has made his career.


The exigencies of the Nigerian civil war prevented Dr Ohuche from returning home to continue his missionary work. So he was content to accept a position as lecturer and later senior lecturer at Njala University College, Sierra Leone from 1968 to 1972. From there he moved to the University of Liberia as Associate Professor of Mathematics education and Head, Department of Secondary Education (1972 - 1975). All this while, the urge to return home was quite compelling, and in 1975 he could not resist the invitation to come to Alvan Ikoku College of Education as Principal lecturer and Head of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching.


The epoch of Professor Ohuche's career as an academic has been in the University of Nigeria Nsukka which he joined in 1977. As professor of Mathematics Education, he headed the Department of Education for four years and served as the Dean of the Faculty of Education for another two years. During these years of leadership, he introduced a host of innovations some of which have given the Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria a pride of place among the Faculties of Education in the Country. As Director of the Institute of Education (1986 to date) he has literally worked wonders for the University of Nigeria. He has transformed the Institute into a bee-hive of activities so much so that today the Institute is termed a University within the University of Nigeria. It registers over 10,000 students during the long vocation for courses ranging from diplomas to doctorates in education.


While carrying these onerous tasks of leadership, Prof. Ohuche remains conspicuously prominent in the University administration. He has served as a member of the Governing Council of his University – representing UNN Senate. He is to be found in several University Committees. He is a member of the Governing Councils of the Alvan Ikoku College of Education Owerri, College of Education Eha-Amufu, College of Education, Awka and College of Education, Nsugbe.


In academics he finds time to teach and supervise a large number of higher degree students. Over a period he had as many as 12 doctoral and 30 masters degree students under his tutelage. He does more than average in his research undertakings. It is on record that he scored a hat trick in winning three times (1984, 1985 and 1991) the University of Nigeria Vice-Chancellor's Research Leadership Price. Nobody has equaled this performance, and nothing can speak more eloquently for his research capability.


Professor Ohuche is an outstanding international scholar who is very well published. He has authored or co-authored more than 20 books and 40 scholarly articles. The publications are characteristically of two kinds – purely academic research publications in which he has significantly contributed to knowledge, teaching oriented works. The recently launched publication “Explore Mathematics with your Children”, for example, is typical of his efforts to teach and even reach the wider population outside the classroom.


Internationally, Prof. Ohuche is well known. For nearly ten years (1976 – 86) he was the Vice-President of the African Mathematics Union. He has at various times been Consultant to the African Regional Mathematics Programme, Science Education Programme for Africa, U. S. Peace Corps. UNESCO & UNDP. Since 1980 he has been a member of the Commonwealth Association of Science, Technology and Maths Education. He is listed in Who’s Who in Africa 1979 and in "Men of Distinction‘ 1981. During the academic year 1989/90 he took leave of the University of Nigeria to serve as the Director of Elementary school Mathematics and Science Education Programme for some U.S. Community School Districts in New York under a contract awarded to City College, New York by the United States Department of Education.


At home he is equally widely connected in the academic and Professional circles. He is an executive member of the Nigerian Academy of Education of which he was the first editor-in-chief of its journals; member of Maths Association of Nigeria and its editor-in chief for five years; member of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, Curriculum Organisation of Nigeria, Nigerian Educational Research Association. He is on the editorial boards of several government and professional institutions such as NTI, WAEC, and NERDC. Prof. Ohuche has just completed a unique assignment as a member of the Presidential Commission on the Review of Higher Education in Nigeria.


Professor Ohuche as a, father is going to leave mankind a worthy legacy in offspring. He is married with three children all of whom are showing exceptional potentials. One of them in the U. S. has been declared mentally gifted.


Mr. Chairman, Professor Ohuche is clearly a thorough breed academic and teacher who has experienced and practised education in all its facets. He has devoted his life's energy to education that his fellow men may not only be emancipated from Ignorance but also that they may make positive contributions to the society. That is the spirit of the true teacher. He is here with one clear objective – to restore the dignity of the teacher.


I believe that a worthy education is that which enables a people to constantly appraise their circumstances with a view to adopting new and appropriate strategies to survive. If the Igbo survived certain periods in history, some educational heritage must have made that survival possible. Today s Lecture titled ”Ibu Anyị Ndanda" should not only inform us of our educational exploits, it should show us the way into the 21st century.


Professor Romanus Ogbonnaya Ohuche (Omezirioha), the 'Ikoro' is calling you loud and clear. Please step into the arena!! Mezie anyị!!!



Powered by ACENetwork

Igbo Foundation | Igbo Heritage Foundation | Ikenga Think Tank