Stakeholders chart path to rejuvenate sector in 2017
When President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 “Budget of Recovery and Growth,” to a joint session of the National Assembly, he stated that his administration would prioritise investments in human capital development, particularly in the education and health sectors.
Even though the president did not dwell much on education in his lengthy speech, he, however, informed that part of the money saved from cost containment measures would be invested in the sector.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the country’s education sector needs total rejuvenation in view of mounting challenges that are besetting it, which also contribute to its stunted growth.
According to experts and key stakeholders in the sector, improved funding, regular training and retraining of teachers to improve their delivery of curriculum content, as well as, the adoption of improved teaching methodology, form the crux of what can steer the sector out of troubled waters.
These stakeholders are also of the belief that overhauling schools’ curricula, investment in Information and Communications Technology and the prudent management of human, material and financial resources also rank top among factors that are capable of provoking the much-needed repositioning.
According to the former Vice Chancellor, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, Prof. Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, increased funding, provision of enabling environment and policy consistency are some of the key areas that must be adequately addressed for the sector to move ahead.
Insisting that funding remains an essential component of qualitative education, he advised that governments at both the federal and state levels, in conjunction with representatives of parents and professionals groups should discuss, and determine the average cost of educating a pupil from primary school up to tertiary institution.
Upon the determination of this by the forum, Adeyemi said, government should thereafter decide the proportion of the cost it would bear, while the rest is passed to parents or bodies that provide scholarships and sundry sponsorship. Autonomy in tertiary institutions, he maintained, would thereafter be meaningful if and when governments provide regularly, the expected funds based on the students’ population.
“There is no better time for governments to get various institutions, especially universities involved in drawing up, and implementing policies other than this period of struggling for economic survival. This is because funding remains an essential component of qualitative education, “ Adeyemi stressed.
“Also government should engage professionals from within, rather than hiring foreign experts where such are available locally. The private sector should equally be compelled to engage the services of internal consultants.
This would not only encourage research, but also ensure commercialisation of research findings. Consequently, this would be a source of internally regenerated revenue for institutions, hence improved sources of funding. The advantage of all these to the country are enormous including forestalling capital flight.
“Furthermore, this will encourage the establishment of special research and policy centres, which will be affiliated to universities and would also act as ‘think tank’ for government and the private sector,” the former vice chancellor stated.
He pointed out that: “The current economic climate, nationally and globally, requires operators of the system to ensure prudence in the management of human, material and financial resources,” adding that, “This is the best time to look inwards and fashion out cost effective ways of running our various institutions while striving to improve the ratings of Nigerian institutions globally.”
Adeyemi who added that when these fundamental issues are adequately sorted out, improvement and development in the sector would be guaranteed, maintained that, “Improvement in quality of education at both public and private institutions will apart from reducing capital flight, also serve as a foreign exchange earner for the country.
“A case in point is South Africa, which is now the haven for Nigerian student, especially for postgraduate studies, teaching and research positions. So as a country, we must strive to improve our learning environment and ensure that we regularly update our teaching facilities.”
The university teacher also wants the Federal Government to avail private tertiary institutions financial support, through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), which he suggested should be done under clearly spelt out terms in order to ensure survival and improved service delivery.
While noting the importance of providing adequate funding for research, Adeyemi is also of the view that government and should spell out research interests and priorities, depending on its vision and thrusts in various spheres like technology, agriculture, economy, culture, health, among others.
“Each institution should consider its specific peculiarities and develop sustainable models that would stand the test of time. It is equally imperative for supervisory bodies and government agencies to respect such models, but ensure that quality and merit are not sacrificed,” he cautioned.
With the steady rise of knowledge economy across the world, Adeyemi therefore recommends that pupils, right from primary schools must be exposed to current trends in ICT.
He further called for the return of trade centres, technical colleges and agricultural settlements. The latter according to him, “should be attached to colleges of agriculture and perhaps, faculties of agriculture in relevant universities. This approach, I believe will reduce unemployment amongst the youths as they will be exposed to one form of trade or the other. It would also be possible for university graduates to take short time courses in such centers and colleges in order to improve their technical and entrepreneurial skills and opportunities.”
For the Director General, National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), Prof. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami, to move the sector forward, emphasis should be on regular training and retraining of teachers who will deliver the educational content to learners. In addition to that, research and information dissemination must be prioritised.
According to her “For us to witness educational advancement, research, training and information dissemination must be taken seriously as education remains the infallible process of human refinement by which characters are shaped, and societal values established. With it, skills as well as creative capacities are formed and nurtured for the general goal of mankind.
“There are problems and issues that hamper the development and achievement of the expected results of education. These hydra-headed problems emanate from students, parents, the society and administrators of institutions,” she explained.
“So, in order to have the best, the nation should align with global best practices by appointing qualified teachers into positions of headteachers and principals in our schools. To address issues like this, was why UNESCO/IIEP Paris and the Federal Ministry of Education established NIEPA,” Salami said.
“The mandate of NIEPA is to build the capacity of educational planners and managers, through training and retraining, research and information dissemination. And as everyone knows, research is very important in this wise because it will assist a lot in identifying areas that can be used to ameliorate Nigeria’s educational problems.”
Chief Executive Officer, ICON Training and Consultancy, Delta State, Dr. Pat Akumabor, is full of regrets that the training pattern adopted in most institutions in the country seems not to be equipping youths with skills and competencies that would enable them contribute meaningfully to the society.
Therefore, she is of the opinion that efforts should not be spared in ensuring that qualitative teaching and learning takes place at all levels of education, as a way of tackling the series of complaints from employers of labour.
She also emphasised that effort should be intensified in the adoption of a teaching methodology that works and produces desired results in the country.
She said, “The National Policy on Education (2013) section 1, sub section 7, emphasises functional education for skills acquisition, job creation and poverty reduction. It also states that there should be a review of the curriculum at all levels to ensure that it meets the needs of the society and the world of work. We have not been implementing these goals.
“Employers of labour and stakeholders in the education sector have complained that graduates of our tertiary institutions lack the skills to make them employable. This has led to high graduate unemployment estimated to be about 29.5 per cent. A large number of youths are turned out annually into the labour market for jobs that are either non-existent or that our graduates cannot fit into due to lack of skills.
“We need a total overhaul of our curriculum by finding out what employers need in order to bridge the gap. Employers need people who can learn on the job, be able to listen and communicate effectively, adaptable and creative, confident and motivated to work towards goals, have a sense of continuous development of one’s career, group and interpersonal effectiveness, teamwork and cooperation. This should be the focus of our education this year.”