Virtually everyone agrees that the rich nations of today enjoy their enviable status because they have millions of knowledgeable and skilled citizens. Most people also agree that the great scientific and technological feats being achieved in the West and in the rich Asian nations since the beginning of the twentieth century are traceable to the explosion in scientific knowledge and its applications. Gamarello (1982), observed that in the first 80 years of the twentieth century alone, the world was transformed more thoroughly than in the 70,000 years earlier since mankind learned to use tools and light fires. Scientists and technologists were responsible and there were more scientists and technologists in the 80 years than in the previous 70,000 years combined.
Harbison (1973), observed that a nation that is unable to develop the knowledge and skills of its people and utilize them effectively in the national economy will correspondingly be unable to develop anything else. Drucker(1992), observed : “We know that the source of wealth is something specifically human… Only improved knowledge enables us to improve productivity and innovations.” Maddison (1995) found out that in the United States and Japan, the years of schooling for the average citizen increased tremendously during the period 1820-1992, suggesting that the more the education for the people, the more rapidly the nation develops. Maddison also found out similar trends for France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Ojo, Oladunni and Bamidele(1997) in the same context observed that of all the contributory factors to economic growth and development, human resource stands out as the major force that determines the manner in which all other factors can be combined to spur development. Onwioduokit and Tule (2002), also remarked that human resources typify the most essential variable in a country’s development mix; human resources determine the nature and pace of economic growth and development. What is the experience of mankind? The European modern industrialization first manifested in Britain occurred in the period 1770-1850, transforming, first, the textile industry. It was characterized by eight textile-related major inventions and innovations, six of them were developed in England, one each was developed in the United States and France (Amrine, et al., 1982). Textile manufacture involves three major activities: spinning of fibres into yarns(s), weaving of yarns into cloth(w) and bleaching/dyeing of fabric(b/d). The eight major inventions and innovations which input theoretical science and technology into textile manufacture and improved productivity dramatically were: 1) Watt’s steam engine(1769/ws); 2) Hargreaves spinning jenny, invented 1770 to automate spinning(1770/s); 3) Arkwright water frame(1771/s); 4) Crompton’s mule (1799/sw); 5) Cartwright’s power loom (1785/w); 6) Berthollet’s/Tennant’s chlorine bleaching activity (1785/bd); 7) Maudlay’s screw-cutting lathe(1797); and 8) Eli Whitney’s interchangeable manufacturing practice (1798). Thus, in the period tenth century to 1768, the economic activities of the English and Britons were mainly subsistence agriculture/artisan-industry devoid of theoretical science and marked by very low productivity. But the situation changed as from 1769 when Britons achieved scientific/technological maturity or technological puberty. The great scientific/technological developments occurred in the short period 1769-1799, about 30 years, after a very long time of preparation. Apparently, Britain was scientifically most ready hence the Western industrial revolution started in the nation.
The human experience shows clearly that central to the human development process is the knowledge, skills and competences the people possess. This glaring evidence notwithstanding, education, the most important institution that mankind has established for equipping youths with knowledge and skills, is usually neglected by most governments. There is probably no nation in the world where education enjoys topmost-priority. The question answered in this article therefore is, why is education usually neglected? Our research in Obafemi Awolowo University , Ile-Ife, Nigeria, revealed that five factors are principally responsible for the neglect of education in the world today, about three and a half centuries after the beginning of the modern Industrial Revolution(IR) which started in Britain. The factors are: 1) Wicked and mediocre leadership, 2) Greed and desire for immediate wealth, 3) Deceit, 4) Lack of understanding of the real benefits of education and 5) Indoctrination being promoted by Europeans and Americans. We shall now discuss these factors very briefly. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines a wicked person as one who is morally bad, evil. The dictionary also defines something wicked as one intended to harm or capable of harming; a mediocre person is someone or something not very good; something of fairly low quality. Eghagha (2002), writing on the power of mediocrity, observed that the state of low quality, low capabilities, is dangerous in any organization or nation. Eghagha also said that the mediocre leader may not realize his deficiencies and he would not accept the reality that he has little or no intelligence. The mediocre leadership lacks vision and attempts to tie everyone to the smallness of his mind. A mediocre leader, Eghagha, also observed, does not know how to utilize the resources around him. In many instances, the mediocre person gets into leadership position either because he possesses money, or because those around him know he can be manipulated. The mediocre leader depends on hangers-on, sycophants and praise-singers to forge ahead in office.
History shows, that Europe had wicked and mediocre leadership for about 2000years. Consequently, the leadership did not encourage public education. That was why the modern industrialization took Europe almost 2000 years to achieve. When Britain achieved the first modern IR, there were no public educational systems in the nation (Dent, 1975). The Asian nations had similar or worse experience, hence the modern industrialization took them more than 2000 years. China is over 3000years old as a nation.
The African leadership (the intelligentsia/intellectuals, politicians and business men and women) must be a mediocre one. It is a leadership that does not know the place of the African in the world. The encounter between Europeans and Africans has gone through many phases. During the period approximately 1470s-1870s, Europeans through warfare, trickery, banditry and kidnapping, forcefully shipped many millions of Africans to Europe, the Americas and the Atlantic Islands where they lived and worked as the properties of Europeans and Americans (Rodney, 1972).