How systems are meant to work By Princewill Odido

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    Let me use secondary education to explain how systems are meant to work. My nephew had arrived from Nigeria to school here in the United States. While in Nigeria, he was in 9th grade, upon arriving the United States, the ministry of education evaluated him in English and Mathematics, he passed, upon which he was assigned a school in the County to register. Now, I want you to follow me and see how systems are designed to work.

    Upon the Ministry of Education evaluating him to determine his appropriate class to join, The ministry also processed all his documentation. Next, the ministry sent the young student to Ministry of Health. Here, they ensured the young man was uptodate with all his vaccines and health records. The health ministry made sure he took all his vaccines before they will allow him interact with other students in a class.

    In assigning him a school, they sent him to a school within the tax district of his legal guardian. At this point it is ministry of finance, or Internal revenue service as they are custodians of records of tenement and property taxes. Now what can you notice here? You notice that for just one child’s education, different ministries all have different roles to play.

    Now, look at this system, just for one child, before he could be assigned a school, Ministry of education, Health and Revenue have already played a role.

    As the child gets admission into school, during break, he needs snacks and school lunch programs, Another government department responsible for school lunch has been notified that a new student has started school, they place him on their budget and help subsidize his school lunch, if the child is from a low income home, then his school lunch is free, paid by the government.

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    Now, Early in the morning, a bus picks him up from home and takes him to school and back. The bus is managed by Ministry of Transportation, so as a new student is enrolled, automatically, the ministry of transportation is made aware, they create a budget for him, assign him a driver and covers his daily transportation needs.

    Thats not all, virtually all ministries play one role or the other in the childs school life. Now in the event the young boy does not attend school in a given day, before 5pm of that same day, a system alerts the parents by phone, to inform them the boy was not in school and some explanations would be required. If the telephone system is unable to reach the parents two to three days, and the young boy is absent from school, next you see a police officer at your door to confirm if all is well with the child. The problem we have in Nigeria is that we have a system that is totally disconnected from the people. Guess what, the Police or Sheriff department is also involved in the education and well being of a single child.

    Now, in the event school abstinence is too frequent, it automatically alerts the Child Safety and Welfare Administration,this is another department, they will send a social worker to your home to inspect the home and to make sure the child is safe at home. So when I argue that corruption thrives in our country because our system has failed this is what I mean.

    Our government ministries have little or no relationship with the existence of ordinary citizens in the street. In Political Science, this is what we mean when we say the bureaucracy is non developmental. The civil service in our clime has a disconnect with day to day development process of the Nigerian citizen.

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    Now, the Fire Department are not left out, they visit the schools quarterly to inspect the school buildings and to make sure in case of fire all the escape routes are working. With frequent inspections like these, you will not have situations where school buildings will collapse and kill children. That’s not all. Other ministries like” special education” will also send staff to schools to provide therapy support for children with special needs.

    So for a single child you send to school, The ministry of education, the ministry of health, the Police, The ministry of Transportation, The Child Protection office, The ministry of social welfare, The fire service department and the Internal Revenue service are all involved.
    So when you travel to developed countries and you see things working, it is not because the whiteman is smarter than the blackman, it is because the white lives in a country where the systems work.

    You can see that ministry of education knows exactly how many students they send to a school, so they know the number of teachers to send there, ministry of health knows how many kids got vaccines, so if there’s a national health epidemic, the health commissioner knows if his state has loopholes, the revenue department is involved and can calculate to know if the total number of students should necessitate an increase in property taxes to fund schools and feeding programs, it is like a network, governance made easy, this is where Nigeria missed it.

    This is how systems are meant to work, this is how developed countries are organized. There was a time in Nigeria, in the seventies when Nigeria was like these, there was a time when Health departments sent Sanitary officers to ensure villages are clean, there was a time local government health departments had local officers we call “Dispensers”, who treat local people and dispense medication and treat small wounds, there was a time, growing up, when Ministry of Information officers visit villages to shoot cinemas and update villagers of happenings of government, there was a time all children had vaccines in primary schools, the question today is, what has happened to Nigeria?

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    Why is everything failing? Gradually, politicians come into office with political appointees who take over the work of seasoned bureaucrats and gradually they have destroyed the civil service.

    As I have argued elsewhere, Nigeria can still be fixed, but we need seasoned technocrats who understand how systems are meant to work to fix Nigeria. Our current political elites they have no idea what the problem is, and even if they know, they have no desire to fix it. Development is no magic, it is simple planning. With the right leadership that knows what to do, we can fix Nigeria again. …………………to be continued ( excepts from my new book. Nigeria: the travails of a failing State)

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