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Funding, policy implementation top wishes for 2018

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Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu

On yearly basis, key stakeholders share their knowledge on what they believe can steer the Nigerian education sector out of troubled waters, yet there seems to be little or no improvement. In this New Year, they said government should effectively act on the ten pillars of the Ministerial Strategic Plan, as well as fund the sector appropriately. Ujunwa Atueyi writes.

Going by the New Year message of President Muhammadu Buhari, in which he said “year 2018 promises to be pivotal in his administration’s quest for change,” it still appears as if education plays a second fiddle in the nation’s affairs.

President Buhari in the over 2000 words New Year speech rolled out his administration’s achievement in the agricultural, power, works and housing sectors. He disclosed his administration’s plan to address the country’s infrastructural deficit in the New Year. He also made comments on political development. Nothing at all was said about education.

But stakeholders say until government matches words with action, then will it begin to reap the benefits of education and reckon with the sector. They said funding the sector adequately and focusing on the “ten pillars” as indicated in the 2016-2019 Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) would help rejuvenate the ailing sector.

The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu had during the launch of the MSP, hinged the roadmap for education on what he described as “ten pillars,” saying the pillars are the most important areas the ministry will work on.

Stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian on how to rejuvenate the education sector in the New Year, said while it is important to effectively act on the pillars as proposed, funding the sector appropriately is still also imperative.

Former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Distinguished Professor of Science and Computer Education, at Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Peter Okebukola said acting on those ten pillars and implementing other recommendations of the ministerial summit on education “with a high degree of fidelity is the way to go in 2018.”

According to him, “the Federal Government (FG) working with state and local government actors should vigorously implement and sustainably act on the ten pillars of the MSP by addressing the out-of-school children phenomenon; strengthening basic and secondary school education; prioritising teacher education, capacity building and professional development; promoting adult literacy and special needs education.

“Others are reviving technical and vocational education and training; driving Basic and Secondary Education Curriculum and Policy Matters; ensuring quality and access in higher education; institutionalising education data and planning; promoting Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Education and boosting Library Services in Education.”

Additionally, “The FG should henceforth commit not less than 15 per cent of budget to education and encourage other levels of government to do so,” he said.

If government at all levels could improve the budgetary allocation to education as well as look into the highlighted issues and vigorously address them, Okebukola who is also the Chairman of Council, Crawford University, said they will be able to delete “the dark spots that blighted the education firmament in 2017.”

Highlighting the dark spots he said, “At the state level, in at least 16 states, teachers were owed upward of five months’ salaries. Universities were shut for at least six weeks by “aluta” action at different times by different categories of staff unions. Closure of polytechnics was for longer duration induced by strikes by polytechnic staff.

“Also in many states, strikes by teachers led to pupils staying at home for months. Corruption in education in all its forms is yet to abate including those perpetrated by parents, teachers, students and government officials. Teacher quality still remains a vexed issue and the large number of out-school-children is still a national and global embarrassment.”

Despite these challenges Okebukola asserted that from analysis education in 2017 recorded some good marks, urging the federal and state governments to rise to the call and implement the action plan on education and also consolidate on the gains of 2017.

For the former Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, a way forward for education in 2018 cannot be charted without considering the present situation and the limitations that currently exist.

The limitations according to him include poor planning of curricula of institutions, misconceptions of what the mission of various levels and types of educational institutions should be even by owners of such institutions. Others he said are attitude of workers/staff, which may in part be due to poor remuneration, thereby leading the workers to seek alternative sources of income, which may be legal or illegal, ethical or unethical.

Decrying government/proprietors’ inability to pay monthly salaries and allowances of staff and their workers at when due, he said it is counterproductive not to pay staff their salaries and allowances as at when due.

He said, “There is also the major issue of incessant strikes. Strikes due to many of the reasons already mentioned above. In order to get better and effective results for products of our institutions, there must be reorientation to provide insight or a way forward for government, unions and staff, students and other stakeholders.

“It is not the quantity of universities in any area, state, nation that matters but the quality. There must be political will on the part of the government to focussed on quality. Universities for example are centres, which thrive on the passion in knowledge gaining and transfer, and societal development.

“Our universities have to work hard with the right and eminently qualified staff with passion for education, excellence and break-through to impact the society positively. Many universities are not fulfilling their mandates of teaching, research and community development. My experience is that local communities see universities sited in their domains as local community institutions for employing all their community members at any time without recourse to the needs of the universities or budgetary allocations and societal relevance.”

Odugbemi who recalled that in the past, Nigerian universities recruited top scholars and administrators from the United States, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Egypt, Ghana other Commonwealth countries, regretted that the story is no longer the same for the nation’s ivory towers.

“Even students from these other countries come to our tertiary institutions to study those days. Today, our students move to other countries where they pay heavily to attend institutions ‘abroad ‘ to cover accommodation and tuitions. Honestly Nigerian universities are supposed to be international, and contributions should not be of mean value. There is an urgent need for reorientation of various communities to note that universities located in their communities will certainly influence their communities one way one or other by outstanding research output making the outlook of university towns better.

“Appropriate criteria for appointments and promotions of principal officers, staff and administrators are often bent by ill-qualified university leaders. We must make our universities truly universal, and of highest standards to make the so-called universities solve societal problems. Universities need to be properly funded to make institutions have solid infrastructure, and attract and retain good and great staff and push out meaningful research findings,” he said.

And so to advance the sector in New Year, Odugbemi charged government at all levels to address these abnormalities in the nation’s ivory towers by creating orientation programmes to re-educate communities about the existence of universities.

“Communities should be educated on how to raise funds to offer scholarships to their needy indigenes, to donate in cash and in kind to achieve desired positive results,” he added.

Asserting that funding remains a big challenge in Nigerian education system, even in developed countries like Canada, USA, UK with great institutions, Odugbemi said universities and schools should explore other sources to yield funding to make their institutions viable and optimal.

“Apart from government subventions, other potential sources of funding which are not fully explored are government grants and interventions, school fees, levies, PTA support, donations, internally generated revenues, partnerships, contributions from alumni and alumnae, taxes and research findings.

“Generally we need to determine what suits us economically and socially, and be prepared to fund those ideas or actions relevant to our societal needs. Individual institutions should carefully consider their funding needs and the governing boards/councils should apply what suits their own context so far the end-products will be relevant in making the society better,” he said.

Furthermore the “principles of teamwork, transparency, courage, sincerity and welfarism are required to move our educational sector forward,” he said.

Among those who believed that the education sector is poorly funded is the education minister Adamu. He had during the ministerial summit on education called on President Buhari to pay adequate attention to education the way he is doing to insecurity and the economy.

He lamented that the education sector is under-funded compared to other sub-Saharan African countries’ budgets for the same sector.

To achieve desired result in the sector, he said, the President needs to spend at least, one trillion naira yearly on the sector.

Adamu stated, “Mr. President, to achieve the desired change that education needs, there is the need for improved funding and a measure of political will in national governance. Such is the weight of the problems that beset our education and the deleterious effect it has had on our national development efforts that I believe that this retreat should end with a declaration of a state of emergency in education so that we can face the challenges frontally and squarely.”

Now that the minister has joined forces with other stakeholders to lament poor funding in the sector, will the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government rethink adequate funding of the sector in the New Year?


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