We join the United Kingdom in celebrating the world’s oldest asset for soft power and democracy with the rest of the world, the British Council, at 75. It is also encouraging that Nigeria has been one of the partners of the council this past 75 years, including when Nigeria was a colony of Britain.
It is gratifying that the council remains faithful to its founding mission: ‘to create in a country overseas a basis of friendly knowledge and understanding of the people of this country, of their philosophy and way of life, which will lead to a sympathetic appreciation of British foreign policy… and that Nigeria too has remained a consistent partner in many of the council’s programmes, despite Nigeria’s own many challenges.
In truth, the observation of the council’s director in Nigeria, Lucy Pearson, that: “We are 75 years in Nigeria and have impacted millions of lives of Nigerians, institutions and organisations across education, society, examination and even industries. This gives a broad picture of our work over the years. It is a long-standing deep and mutually beneficial friendship between Nigeria and the UK. So, it makes our job working in the British Council easier because of that long-standing relationship” is certainly on the mark.
We acknowledge that the council has over the years had significant impact on Nigeria in many sectors: Education and the Arts, with emphasis on increasing capacity of young artists; the Cambridge Assessment International Education and the opportunities provided for young learners; etc. Equally memorable are the council’s engagement in other sectors: skills development and entrepreneurship mentoring of young people; Justice4all initiative that includes building of model police stations in Kano, and capacity-building and re-organisation of 12 existing Nigeria Police Force stations and their officers; Premier Skills Initiatives that connect sports with empowerment of youths; and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research, to increase the capacity of African universities and researchers.
It is, therefore, instructive that the council’s director has also identified some of the challenges in Nigeria: “The challenge so far is where the British Council focuses in Nigeria, in such a large country with diversity, of nearly 200 million people, is how to make an impact in many communities. So, where to focus and have the most impact, how do we respond to the needs of the country across many states and across many communities we are working with are the basic challenges we are having.”
These challenges are part of the uniqueness of Nigeria and they call for special attention for the mutual benefit of the two countries with a long tradition of cultural and economic relations. Many communities in several regions of the country deserve to benefit from the council’s programmes, especially from implementation of its strategic priorities for 2020 and beyond. Boosting the presence of the council in rural Nigeria will be significant to millions of people, especially young people resident in semi-urban or rural areas.
Further, Nigeria is in a good position to benefit from the council’s Science and Beyond Lecture Series, such as exists in India. A time that Nigeria is committing increasingly to improvement of teaching and research in science, technology and mathematics (STEM) in its secondary and tertiary institutions is a good time for the council to encourage growth of scientific imagination through additional exposure to ideas from some of the best British scientists and to bring insights from rigorous scientific research to Nigerian academics. Given the track record of the council in capacity building in Nigeria’s first-generation universities, we urge it to give more attention to capacity enhancement and quality assurance in Nigeria’s state and private universities.
We wish the council more successes not only in Nigeria but elsewhere, as it works towards peace and justice across the globe.
This has been re-posted from https://thenationonlineng.net/british-council-at-75/