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Reformative Role of Skill Acquisition and Careers in Visual Arts towards Poverty Reduction in Nigeria


Omuaru, C. G.T. PhD

Department of Fine and Applied Arts

Ignatius Ajuru University of Education,

Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.


Peter Uduak, PhD

Department of Fine and Applied Arts,

University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria



Several policies and programmes have been put up by successive administrations in Nigeria with all aiming at reducing the level of poverty in the country. In spite of these attempts, the problem of poverty is on the increase because the prescribed solutions have failed as a result of using the wrong tools, instruments and channels to reduce poverty in Nigeria. This paper takes a look at the key concepts, Dreyfus’ Model of Skill Acquisition and outlines the relevant careers in the Visual Arts as outlets for self-reliant, gainful employment and the reduction of poverty in our nation. It recommends that Visual Arts have the capacity of generating more jobs for gainful employments to the Nigeria citizens which will in turn reduce the high level of poverty in Nigeria


Keywords: Visual Arts, Skill Acquisition, Reformative, Poverty, Careers in the Visual Arts



Nigeria has been confronted with the challenge of high level of poverty among her citizens and has become a subject of national concern and ridicule in the last three decades. According to the millennium summit (2000) Nigeria is one of the leading third world nations in which a good proportion of the world’s poorest citizens in Nigeria are beset with conditions such as high child molality, malnutrition, sickness, inadequate food, poor physical health, high death rate, illiteracy and poor access to sustainable water.

The 1998 UNDP Human Development Report ranked Nigeria among the 25th poorest countries in the world and also rated her as the poorest among the twelve-member countries of the organization of petroleum exporting countries (OPEC). Akintayo (2017) affirms that Nigeria has been ranked 7th on the organization of petroleum exporting countries OPEC’s Oil demand list for 2016. Then, in the list of countries by oil production as compiled from the U.S. Energy information Administration database for calendar year 2016 ranked Nigeria as 13th out of 98th countries of the world in the production of crude oil including lease condensate. In spite of these facts about Nigeria’s wealth, poverty is still seen stirring on the faces of her citizens. Omoniyi (2013) asserts that poverty is recognized by all and seen as a major threat to the very existence of Nigeria as a country.

The prevalence of mass poverty in Nigeria that claims to be the giant of Africa is a true reflection of the poor management, wrong policies and poor performance of the economics of various states and stakeholders in Nigeria. Obadan (2002) opines that the primary goal of economic planning in Nigeria is the attainment of rapid planning in Nigeria is the attainment of rapid increase in the nation’s productive capacity with the view to improving the living standards of the people

Poverty is the world’s current greatest threat to peace and stability which can in turn impact negatively than other forms of highly publicized struggles. More than eight million people around the world die each year because they are poor to stay alive (Sachs, 2009). Kehinde (2012) asserts that each successive government since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 pledged to better the lives of the citizenry and put smiles on the faces of the governed through provision of better and improved infrastructures, implementation of poverty alleviation policies and strategies that will put perpetual smiles on the faces of the governed.  Several poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria, initiated by both the government and non – governmental organization (NGOs) aimed at combating and alleviating poverty have been found not to be successful (Taiwo and Agwu, 2016). Ibbih (2012) has equally affirmed that poverty eradication in developing nations especially Nigeria has been an issue of great policy concern to Nigerians, the world bank and other development donors and non- governmental agencies. In the light of the present government’s deep concern and her strategies such as the poverty eradication campaigns, national development plans and seasonal papers, poverty remain a major challenge. In spite of all these strategies, this paper is of the view that various resources and efforts exerted on poverty – related programmes and schemes in the country are ineffective and ineffectual. It is in this instance, that this paper calls for the attention of both government and non-governmental agencies towards skills acquisition in the Visual Arts as an alternative measure and avenue for alleviating and reducing the level of poverty in Nigeria

The number one out of the eight (8) prominent goals agreed on at the international conferences and world summit during the 1990’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. In meeting this demand of the UN, Nigeria has embarked on many programs to ascertain the task of reducing poverty in our country, but neglecting a vital arm of productivity such as the Visual Arts. This paper is certain that the national policy on Education supports the teaching of Visual Arts in the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria, but in practice, Visual Arts is often neglected during budgeting. The system must come to an understanding that Visual Arts is pivotal in promoting functional education for skills acquisition, job creation, and wealth generation. It is capable of engendering positive outcomes and performance within individuals and equally serve as an instrument for national development and poverty reduction in Nigeria.


Definition of Concepts

Skill Acquisition:  Skill acquisition can be defined as the form of training by individuals or group of individuals that can lead to acquisition of knowledge for self-sustenance. Usman (2014) posits that it involves the training of people in different fields of trade under a legal agreement between the trainers and the trainees for certain duration and under certain conditions. Douli (2002) defines skill acquisition as the manifestation of ideas and knowledge through training which is geared towards instilling in individuals, the spirit of entrepreneurship needed for meaningful development. Skill acquisition is the ability to learn or acquire skills. It involves the development of a new skill, practice of a way of doing things usually gained through training or experience (Ekong and Ekong, 2016). Skill acquisition is a specific form of learning. Skill acquisition refers to a form of prolonged learning about a family of events (Anonymous, 2005). Similarly, Magbagbeola (2004) posits that skills acquisition requires the accumulation of different skills that enhances task performance through the integration of both theoretical and practical forms of knowledge.


Skill acquisition is defined as the process of demonstrating the habit of active thinking or behavior in a specific activity (Ochiagha, 1995). Deducing from all the definitions offered above, this paper views skills acquisition as a specific form of learning that will transform the learner to become proficient at a given task in a specific trade of learning. For skills acquisition in the Visual Arts to be successful and effective at reaching the expected goals and objectives, the following guidelines must be considered:

  • There must be provision of training that will give the trainees the opportunities to acquire skills that are appropriate for preparation in a field of trade for gainful employment or self-employment.
  • The training must be carried out by competent, experienced and qualified instructors. Nepotism, favouratism (god-fatherism) and sentiments must be removed.
  • A definite skills provision that relates to each specialty of trade that makes one a professional or competent in a particular field instead of the others. The issue of Jack of all trades and master of none not considered.
  • Adequate time must be given to skills in the Visual Arts as it requires much practice, interest, ability, patience, aptitude and personality traits.
  • There must be adequate tools and equipment, and of course, conducive environment should not be ruled out.

The above stated approaches must be embraced holistically in the realization of creative ideas, as they will enhance efficiency in the transformation of knowledge, experience and skills into creative ventures.

Visual Arts:  Visual Arts is a modern but imprecise umbrella term for a broad category of art which includes a number of artistic disciplines from various sub categories. Its wide ambit renders meaningless any attempt at definition, so rather than define or compose some diluted meaning for it, this paper presents a list of its constituent disciplines which include:

  1. Fine Arts: All Fine Art belongs to the general category of visual arts. These include activities such as drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture, along with associated activities like graphic art, manuscript illumination, book illustration, calligraphy and architecture.
  2.  Contemporary Arts:  The visual arts also include a number of modern art forms such as Assemblage, collage, mixed media, conceptual art, installation, happenings and performance art, along with film-based disciplines such as photography, video art and animation or any combination thereof. This group of activities also includes high tech disciplines like computer graphics and Giclee prints. Another modern visual art, is the new environment or land art, which also include transitory forms like ice /snow, sculpture and presumably graffiti art.
  3. Decorative Arts and Crafts: In addition, the general category of visual arts encompasses a number of decorative art disciplines and crafts including ceramics and studio pottery, mosaic art, tapestry, glass art including stained glass.
  4. Others: Wider definition of visual arts sometime include applied arts areas such as graphic designs, fashion design, and interior design (centre for arts and design in Toronto, 2011). In addition, new types of body art may also fall under the general heading of visual arts, which include tattoo art, face painting and boding painting. Anonymous (2013) affirms that visual arts include the traditional fine arts such as drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture; media arts, including film, graphic communications, animation, and emerging technologies; architectural, environmental, and industrial arts, such as urban, interior, products and landscape design; folk arts; and works of art such as ceramics, fibres, jewelry, works in wood, paper and other materials. Visual arts represent those expressions from the artist which can be perceived through human optical activities such as touch, emotion and others which tend to affect aesthetic judgment (Ikwuegbu, 2012). In summary to all the analogies, the visual arts are art forms intended to be appreciated or perceived primarily by sight, and it covers a wide range of activities.


Poverty:  A concise and universally accepted definition of poverty is elusive largely because it affects many aspects of the human conditions, including physical, moral, and psychological. Most analyses follow the conventional view of poverty as a result of insufficient income for securing basic goods and services. Other experts view poverty in very broad term, such as being unable to meet “basic needs”- physical; food, healthcare, education and shelter; and non-physical; participation and identity requirements for a meaningful life (World bank, 1996). Olowa (2012) agrees that in conceptualizing poverty, low income or low consumption is its symptom. According to World Development Report (1998), a poor man in Kenya responded to the definition of poverty and said “Don’t ask me what poverty is because you have met it outside my house. Look at the house and count the number of holes. Look at my utensils and the clothes that I am wearing. Look at everything and write what you see. What you see is poverty”.


Latvia (1998) posits that poverty is humiliation, the sense of being dependent on others, and being forced to accept unwholesome treatment; rudeness, insults, and indifference when in need and seeking for help. Poverty, according to Ewetan (2005) is a situation of low income or low consumption, however, this could be in the midst of plenty. Evidently, it refers to lack of physical necessities, assets and income (Adeyemo and Alayande, 2001). Considering all the assertions from various scholars, poverty in this paper is considered to be a measure of deprivation of the basic needs that a person, household or community requires to having a basic standard of living. Deprivation can be viewed in terms of lack of resources, e.g. income and assets or capabilities such as skills, knowledge, technology or both.

Dreyfus’ Model of Skill Acquisition




The Novice:  This is where we are basically told what to do and we do it. We don’t even know why we do it. We just do it. This can be called the push button mentality. As a novice, your focus should be on learning your skills and start to recognize the bigger picture.


The Advanced Beginner:  The advanced beginner is someone who has been around for a while. They have become competent in their basic role and are starting to develop some understanding of the business. However, that knowledge is limited. At this moment, there is still no real understanding of what is important and what is not.


Competent:  A competent staff member will be able to cope with multiple activities at once. They know what needs to be done when, and why. They will start to plan their day and week. They begin to formulate routines they can follow which helps them meet the objectives of the business. A person in this category can work autonomously. At this level, you can decide if you want to work for yourself or stay working for another business. Freelancing is a viable avenue for you to earn a living.


Proficient:   This is the bigger picture. Finally, someone in this category learned how to be proficient in their job. They can appreciate a holistic view of the role he/she plays in the business plus the role of others. This is the stage where one can now work in a higher state of mind. The decision becomes more intuitive instead of reactionary or solely based on data. Your skill at this level means you have the widest range of choices. You can switch businesses, switch industries or identify and launch your own business.


Master/ Expert:  This is where one becomes less reliant on rules, guidelines and maxims. Instead, one becomes more visionary. One can see what is possible and how to implement it.  In minutes, one can use analytical mind to dissect a problem or situation and come up with a suitable solution. Mastery is the stage where one can truly begin to mentor others. They understand the complexities of the different facets of the industry.

Taken together, these studies demonstrate the usefulness of the Dreyfus model for understanding the learning needs and styles of learning at different levels of skill acquisition.


Statement of the Problem

The major social issue every approachable and accountable government should concern itself with is to make life better and more meaningful to her citizens. Several poverty alleviation or reduction programmes in Nigeria aimed at combating poverty, have been found not to be successful; and every successive government in Nigeria has approached this problem in the way they thought the problem could be handled but to no avail. The intention of this paper, therefore, is to fill that intellectual gap created by the managers of the Nigerian economy in reducing the poverty level in the country.


Objectives of the paper:

The objectives of this paper include to:

    1. explore the definition of concepts
    2. analytically state Dreyfus’ Model of skills Acquisition; and
    3. draw up policy recommendations to both the government and non-governmental organizations towards solving the problem of poverty in Nigeria.

Lack of access to skill facilities and opportunities has compelled the World Bank Organization to call on special attention to the causes of mass poverty in the sub-Saharan Africa with Nigeria inclusive. Nigeria is handicapped with the situation of mass poverty. Poverty has become the lot of the generality of the people rather the misfortune of the few; and the major reason for poverty must be sought after with genuine intentions at curbing or reducing its effects on the masses. Nigeria is richly endowed in natural resources which are gifts of nature, yet poverty still looms in the face of her citizens as a result of wrong policies, poor management system and lack of political will to alleviate the suffering of masses from poverty. According to Jaji (2015), Nigeria is rated the most viable economy in Africa, yet it has over 50% of its citizens living in abject poverty.  This situation will continue to bedevil the dream of a viable economy if new approaches are not embraced. Training Nigerians in any of the arts as a vocation and entrepreneurship is one of the effective ways of reducing not only the rate of unemployment but also the poverty level in the country.


Skill Acquisition and Careers in Visual Arts: An Instrument for Poverty Reduction in Nigeria

The reformative role of skills acquisition in the visual Arts is geared towards the development of practical skills and knowledge relating to occupations and careers in the various sectors of visual arts aimed at reducing poverty in Nigeria. Skill acquisition generally enhances the development of occupational competence for self-employment and for obtaining a job in the larger related business world. Skilled performance is crucial for all human activities (Proctor and Dutta, 1995). In today’s era of fast paced technological change, the rapid acquisition of skills transferable to the workplace is becoming even more vital (Langan-Fox, 2001; Langan-Fox, Waycott, and Galna, 1997). Uloko and Ejinkoye (2010) remarked that when youths are empowered through the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills, there is the possibility that they will use the skills to create new avenues for wealth. The major goal of vocational education is the development of occupational competence in obtaining a job with business career or be self-employed (Oyebalu, 2011) and (FRN, 2004). Vocational education is any kind of training that aims primarily at preparing individuals for a job. Skill acquisition generally makes the citizens competent participants in the economic life and development of their country (Yusuff & Soyemi, 2012).    In view of the above assertions, there is much to indicate that skills in the visual arts are vital to both the individual and the economic development of Nigeria.  Part of this resides in the fact that art is so wide open in terms of career offers. The expansive nature and scope afford it the opportunity and outlets for citizens to be integrated into the paradigm of economic development.

Skill acquisition as a means of empowerment has caught the attention of government in Nigeria and this paper believes that exposing her citizens to the numerous skills in the visual arts will not only reduce poverty through self-sustenance but contribute to the economic development of individuals, communities and the nation at large. The skills learnt in visual arts are a unique mix. It is important to understand these skills that are valuable in a wide range of jobs which are not only limited to Art. The modern creative industries today employ people in visual based fields such as television, film, marketing, gaming and web development to mention but few. There are well over two hundred (200) careers embedded in the arts.

Skill acquisition in the visual arts is a potent instrument of empowerment that provides the people with skills, vocation and entrepreneurial abilities which is pivotal to reducing the abject poverty condition of Nigerians if they are trained in the available diverse outlets of the visual arts. The United Nation Development Report (1990) posits that enhancing the human factor is the real wealth of a nation. It is through human creativity, initiative, capability and commitment that true development can be achieved.  Summarily, this paper supports the view of Konkwo (2017) that a nation that is weak in arts and creativity lack organization for development, hence, will be weak and dependent on developed cultures for developmental strategies. In the fight to scale the fence of poverty in Nigeria, government, non-governmental agencies and individuals should turn to the promotion of skills in the Visual Arts.



There is now worldwide agreement on poverty reduction as an overriding goal of development policy. Seeing the flood of development rhetoric on poverty, the primacy accorded by lenders and donours to the Millennium Development Goals of which the reduction of extreme poverty is the first and usually considered the most important, and the frequency with which reducing, alleviating or eliminating poverty is seen as a prime goal and measure of development; these factors make is matter more than ever to know what poverty is, which in turns make this paper apt and timely. This paper is lending its total support in the pursuit of the objective of poverty reduction and its eventual elimination in collaboration with the bold statement issued by the international community and the Millennium Development Goal (2000) that we will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women, and children from the abject poverty and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are subjected.

Poverty is rampant in Nigeria and its incidence has been on the increase. In fact, it has become a natural phenomenon in Nigeria. It is the view of this paper that policy formulators, decision makers in government should look to the direction of Visual Arts as almost every effort put in the place from other sectors for the sake of reducing or alleviating poverty in Nigeria have probably failed or yield little or no result at all. A balanced education system is a major tool in facilitating not only economic development, but productivity and the generation of individual income per-capita. All sectors and careers in the visual arts are capable of influencing the micro level of an individual family whose combination makes up the nation devoid of poverty.



This paper has observed that if the worsening poverty situation is not checked, the future of our nation would be doomed. In the light of this, it is imperative to take a look at the reformative role of skill acquisition and the abundant career outlets available in the visual arts as a measure aimed at not only making a dent on poverty, but certain that the embarrassing wave of poverty in the society would be drastically reduced through these measures:

    1. The continued fashioning and implementation of policies and programmes aimed at empowering the population and reducing poverty must be holistic and encompassing with the visual arts sector not left out in the scheme of things as it is one of the major instruments for alleviating poverty because of its multiplicated dominant skills and careers.
    2. The concentration, support and the value of government given to the science and science related courses tend to make both teachers and students concentrate more on other disciplines rather than the visual arts which is a potent wheel for development. This paper calls for a change in mindset and approach towards the visual arts.
    3. Awareness and sensitization programs on the significance of the visual arts to the mental, physical, cultural, economic and educational development of the individual and the society should be sponsored by the government, both federal and state, to be carried out by practicing artists, art educators, and performing artistes in every part of the country so that visual arts can be regarded as an instrument for national development and poverty reduction in Nigeria.
    4. Equal attention, motivation and opportunities from the government as provided to the sciences, laws and engineering should be given to the visual arts sector and pupils and students at all categories who are willing to develop their skills and entrepreneurship
    5. The national orientation agency (NOA) and the government should organize programmes to change the mind-set and negative attitude of the youths, parents and the entire citizens from job seeking to skills acquisition, not only in the visual arts but in the arts generally.
    6. Evaluation, timely reforms and redirection of the present poverty reduction programmes and policies should be undertaken to readdress the present challenges facing youths. Such exercise should examine the impact and process of programme as well as the skills and human capacity development, if realistic results in poverty reduction in Nigeria will ever be made.
    7. Nigeria must embark on policies and programmes that will be realized, leaving out politics, ethnicity and corruption; structuring, management and implementation must address the current policies and its inconsistencies. The nation must be ready to do away with the general approach which lacks continuity and sustainability.
    8. Sector specific programmes targeted at the visual arts not the usual specific multi-sector programmes (water, sanitation, environment, agriculture and so on), should be put in place to avoid resultant duplication of efforts and inefficient use of limited resources.



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