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When is state of emergency on education?

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Martins Oloja

That devastating enemy called procrastination appears to have taken permanent residence in Abuja where the dreams of the most important black nation on earth face threat of abortion every day.

Yes, procrastination, that deadly spirit so many experts have called ‘time robber’, ‘destiny killer’, ‘virtue waster’, ‘trouble magnifier’ ‘manifesto destroyer’, ‘promotion limiter’, ‘polluter of majesty’, ‘expeller of glory’ is actually one of the most callous enemies the federal government should fight to finish in Abuja – to fulfil mandate.

I am a born-gain procrastinator. So, I know how that spirit works against efficiency and effectiveness. I am talking about procrastination, that demon in the mirror whose reflection looks just like each one of us.

If you are still wondering about the profile of devil I am complaining about, let’s examine this: when sentences like “I will do it tomorrow”, “I’ll start working on it later”, “I still have a lot of time to finish” have all become a part of complex logistic of everyday life, the (procrastination) spirit is active in us. And we then all keep pushing our stuff for tomorrow, which never seems to come. But what comes handy with this kind of attitude is stress, frustration, anxiety, depression, lot of workload and a feeling of “I can’t accomplish anything.” Yes, we are talking about that sinister demon – procrastination!

Yes, doing things at our pace is good but when it becomes a habit, it is a disease that should be treated.

Procrastinators are people who never pay their bills on time or who miss opportunities for applying to a better position in a new job. They never gather data for documentation in time. They don’t take even crucial decisions on time and when they do, they delay execution, yes, execution, the discipline of getting things done. Procrastinators don’t fulfill promises. They give excuses and most times blame others after placing more importance on something else.

I had thought that, that evil spirit, (procrastination) had been expelled until I confirmed that it struck again last month in the nation’s capital where it had been hibernating. This was how it dealt a blow.

It will be recalled that on November 13, last year, the Buhari administration organised a remarkable Retreat on education tagged “Federal Executive Council Retreat on Education”, which was widely reported in this column as “Lesson Notes on Buhari’s Retreat on Education” (November 19, 2017).

As I had reported then, the well-organised event reinforced faith in the capacity of the administration to get to the roots of lack of progress in all spheres and indeed mediocrity in all our ways.

In fact, the Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu in a well delivered speech suggested that the president should declare a state of emergency on education at the end of the Retreat attended by the President and the Vice President.
But at the end of the Retreat, among other action points, it was agreed hinted that the declaration of emergency would be made in April this year.

The deliverables at the Retreat as reported:
I was fortunate to be at the Retreat at the State House Banquet Hall in Abuja when President Buhari’s unwritten concluding remarks, which artfully endorsed Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s noisy policy on mediocre teachers in Kaduna state almost took the steam out of the significance of the one-day Retreat.

It was an unusual event as even the chief host, the Education Minister remained quiet in the presentation processes. The resource persons, notably professors Peter Okebukola, former LASU Vice Chancellor and former Executive Secretary NUC and Emeritus Professor Michael Omolewa, former Nigeria’s envoy at the UNESCO who are quite significant in education management, were the visible experts throughout the event.
Remarkably, the resilient spirit of “implementation, implementation and implementation” as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, later reiterated was the silent bogeyman there.

Incidentally, in one of his presentations on the strategic plan, Professor Okebukola called for, “generous political will” to implement the ministerial strategic plan.

The president’s keynote was artfully used to kill two birds with a stone: One, he made his point remarkable to the extent that he identified what to do to invest in education. President Buhari hinted at a covenant with the people when he said:

“…The significance of this summit is obvious. We cannot progress beyond the level and standard of our education. Today, it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical knowhow that are leading the rest.

“We cannot afford to continue lagging behind. Education is our launchpad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. This administration is committed to revitalizing our education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive.

But more important to him was an opportunity to endorse Malam el-Rufai’s controversial policy and then clarify his relationship with the fiery governor some forces within the presidency had portrayed as disloyal through a leaked memo to the president.
When the president rounded off his keynote, he unusually waited to speak to a key aspect of the content when he noted off-hand that he and a friend actually noticed the trouble with teaching quality that el-Rufai was trying to solve “ten years ago”. It was a front pager the following day!

‘Change Begins with Education’
That was the title of the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu’s address at the Retreat. He too set the tone for revival in education (before the president’s keynote) when he told a story about the Chinese. He recalled that the Chinese build a Great Wall to keep the invaders at bay because they thought it would be impossible for anyone to scale it given its insurmountable height. According to the tale, unfortunately within the first century of the construction of the wall, the Chinese were invaded three times. Reason: every time the invaders came, they did not need to climb over the wall because each time they came, they were able to bribe the guards on duty at the gate and the gate was opened for them. The significant lesson, which only good education delivers being that the Chinese reportedly took the pains to build the wall but they forgot to build the character of the guards who were supposed to secure the walls.

Adamu who noted too that, “character is everything”, also recalled another anecdote from an Orientalist who once said: “if you want to destroy the civilization of a nation, there are three ways of doing so: (a) destroy the family structure (b) destroy education and (c) lower role models. According to the ancient strategy for destruction, to destroy the family, all you need to do is undermine the role of the mother.

As the story goes, to destroy education, you should give no importance to the teacher so that the students can despise him…Then to demean the role models, you should undermine the scholars, cast doubt on them until no one listens to them or follows their teachings.
And the consequences are summarised thus: when a conscious mother disappears, and when a dedicated teacher cannot be found, and when role models are ignored, who is there to teach the young ones values? That was how the role of teachers was re-established before the president’s strategic rejection of mediocrity in teaching.

On his part, the Vice President, Professor YermiOsinbajo who was there throughout the sessions was upbeat that the stakeholders and technocrats there were not cynical but uncharacteristically optimistic about revival of education in the country. The law professor would, however, like the focal point of the ministerial strategic plan (MSP), to ensure that implementation would not suffer reverses. He would also like the final document to include some clarity on the strategic objectives of Nigeria’s education- short-term and long-term. He said, “our education terms at this juncture, should address our challenges. Our education plans should be able to solve problems of the soon-to-be fourth largest population on earth, Nigeria. Our strategic objectives should be able to identify what kinds of problems we should address in the next few decades…”

Professor Osinbajo said the implementation document should also reflect elements that developed economies now leverage on, notably the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) “even as we note that the humanities are as important”.

The vice president also noted that in addressing today’s education challenges, the strategy document should not ignore how technology can assist in producing employable graduates too “as classrooms alone cannot help anymore”. He advised the technocrats and regulators to de-emphasise hectares of plots of land in approving universities as disruptive technologies can now take care of hectares of land in the virtual learning environment.

He added that in planning the e-learning platforms now, “you should invite the technology giants such as Google to the room… we must not be stuck in the way we think about education at this time. A lot of things go on in the virtual space…”

But in the main, the vice president would like the men at the centre of implementation to ensure that we, “properly identify what we want to teach, what sort of learning will be important now and how to teach them”.

Professor Osinbajo would also like the strategic plan to address specifically girl-child education and other out-of-school children all over the place. Besides, he would like the final document to include the all-important issue of “education for citizenship” as most children today lack knowledge of history, civic education and how to be good citizens.

To, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, modern curriculum should produce graduates that have employable skills for 21st century challenges. He also suggested that the first generation universities such as the University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Nigeria, Nsukka should be designated immediately as PG Schools, “Centres of Excellence and Research” only.

Mr. Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and Planning who disclosed that the 2018 budget proposals contained up to half a trillion of Naira on education through various streams of education agreed with Dr. Fayemi that, “there be proper investment, not just funding of education”.

The Communications and Sports Ministers also spoke on the strategy to revive education. To Mr. Adebayo Shittu, the National Assembly and the state governors should be included in consensus building to develop education because the federal legislature has a constitutional responsibility to approve funds and the 36 states have more schools that the federal government.

Meanwhile,Mr. Solomon Dalong would like revival of sports integration into the learning modules so that there would be an all-round development of the learners.

Meanwhile, Education Minister, Malam Adamu who had wanted the emergency on education declared at the Abuja Retreat reiterated the April date when he received Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello and some members of his cabinet at the Education Ministry headquarters in Abuja that on January 29, 2018. Adamu who reportedly requested the support of all states governors to do so said: “By the end of April, we are proposing there will be a declaration of state of emergency in the education sector all over the country”.

But today is May 6, 2018, and there has been no declaration of emergency on education. Hold it, the spirit of procrastination is the culprit. Oh, procrastination spirit, when will you relocate from Abuja and our 36 state capitals? Certainly, even Abuja should declare a state of emergency on the bogeyman called procrastination. It is the power behind the throne of laziness and resultant poverty everywhere we go in the most populous black nation on earth.


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