Zakari TataWednesday, April 19, 2006
Michigan, USA



here is currently an idea being developed to make it a prerequisite that Nigerians first obtain a degree in another field, before studying Law or Medicine.

We are a developing country by world standards. The United States and Europe still employ services of Doctors and Lawyers from other countries. If they do not have enough, why should we limit our numbers? Currently it takes four years post secondary to train a lawyer. If you add four years for a pre-degree, then it will take eight years to produce a lawyer with a first degree in law. This is too costly for the nation to bear, because with our current system, we could produce two lawyers in four years. I think two lawyers in four years are better than one lawyer in eight years.

The same applies to Medicine. Currently it takes ten to twelve years to become a doctor and complete residency after secondary school. If you add a pre-degree, it could take fourteen to eighteen years to become a doctor post secondary school. This is quite a prolonged time. It will impose financial, social, and other hardships on the individuals. It is not necessary at this time of our development to embark on this costly project.

One reason given for by the legal profession is the fact that some lawyers cannot express themselves in court. To correct this problem, we can introduce classes like Self Assertiveness, Public Speaking, Spoken English, Linguistics, and all the multiple possible courses available to improve the quality of current graduates. What makes anybody think that a poorly spoken graduate will improve after another four years in school? There is no scientific evidence to suggest that adding years to your university training would make you a better public speaker. The initial result of this flawed experiment would be to further reduce the number of lawyers from areas that are currently educationally disadvantaged.

I am still concerned about why a lawyer has to be able to speak elegant English, which is not his mother tongue. What should really be important is his ability to possess the legal training. Market Forces will determine who we pick as our lawyer. Even in English speaking countries, not all lawyers can express themselves properly. Such lawyers do not succeed in the Court room. They may however do very well as civil servants, corporate lawyers, and the like.

The basic problem with Nigerian Education today is poor quality. Prolonging education will further deny poor people and females from becoming doctors and lawyers. Currently only the US and possibly Canada possess such a system in the whole world. We cannot afford this and we have completely different issues from them. This proposal is like the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead of spending money to improve quality, we are using up valuable resources to prolong the process of educating our poor graduates.

A young girl who graduates from secondary school at seventeen today, can only hope of being a doctor by age twenty seven by this proposed system. She then spends another five to seven years in residency. She finally completes her training at thirty two to thirty four. This is totally incredible when Nigerian life expectancy by WHO standards is fourty five years. We stand to deny some of our best and brightest from achieving their potentials. The wealthy parents can of course bypass this and send their children abroad. This will then perpetuate an elitist system where only the wealthy can become doctors or lawyers.

There is an inherent problem in allowing too much elitism in Education. Conceivably Pilots, Accountants, School Teachers may demand two degrees to practice their professions. There is no need to embark on this process. Up until the late 1980?s, Nigeria produced excellent Lawyers and Doctors using the old educational values that we know best. Now that things have deteriorated we are better off going back to our time tested system instead of embarking on a new and costly system that will overtax the country.

I would like to add that I am not for lowering standards. I have the highest respect for the Legal profession in Nigeria. I am a doctor and I am committed to excellence in my profession. I am suggesting that we improve our standards at the front door right at the gates of University. This proposed system leaves all the front and side doors open and closes only the back door. The gates of University start at Primary and Secondary School. Doctors and lawyers alone cannot build a Country. If the Country is producing poor lawyers and doctors, it is also producing poor engineers, teachers, economists and historians. Maybe the most obvious failings show up in Law and Medicine where very high standards are needed at all times. Attending to these two professions only leaves two small bandages on a gaping wound.

I sincerely respect the desire of lawyers and doctors to preserve the integrity of their professions. They obviously cannot save the whole educational system in Nigeria and they are trying to save these two noble professions from decline. This new proposal at least prevents corruption from Medical or Law school entry because only the truly committed will embark on such a tedious process. However it is still a costly solution and it may be better to reduce the number of Law and Medical faculties or limit university admissions. Another option will be to appoint an external body from outside Nigeria with clear screening guidelines on regional interests unique to Nigeria to determine and interview potential lawyers or doctors before initial university admission. The final determination on admission will then be determined by Nigerian committees to ensure National balance.

The development of Human Capital should be our goal. One poor speaking lawyer will at least raise the intellectual standard of the poor village where he comes from. The fact that he is not eloquent in English is not important in his village. His education can only stimulate his immediate family and village members to try and emulate his educational success. The population of Nigeria is about to double in the next 50 to 100 years. We need all the educated people we can get. To regain our lost standards, we need to examine the rest of the developing world, like India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore that still have the four year system. They have maintained their standards through the years. Their success is more relevant to our situation than the American experience.