For Education Summit, eggheads gather in Lagos
• FG can no longer fund Tertiary Education, eays Salami
• Education is allotted 8.2% in Nigeria’s 2023 budget
• Book policy will bring sanity in ecosystem
With ‘Fresh Ideas for Overhauling Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Complex’ as theme of its maiden tertiary education summit, the yearly Nigeria International Book Fair (NIBF) announced it was going to be a different event in 2023.
Organisers of the book feast had sent a notice to stakeholders in book and educational value chain that it was no longer business as usual in book management in the country. The fair, which aimed at promoting inclusivity and setting of a new agenda for the book industry in line with the recent copyright laws, provided a platform and opportunity to network and legwork with foreign investors in the book business, and very important too.
Apart from the educational summit that debuted this year, the regular international conference and opening ceremony of the 22nd Nigeria International Book Fair, which held on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, had as theme, ‘The Role of a Functional National Book Policy in the African Book Ecosystem.’
Guest speaker was the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, Professor Ismail Junaidu. Other speakers are the Director General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Dr. John Asein, former Dean of Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Professor Olasupo Jegede, and President of PEN Nigeria, Mr. Folu Agoi.
Junaidu said, “the critical importance of books and the book industry in national development calls for appropriate regulatory system to be put in place to ensure that the book industry functions optimally for the production and distribution of quality and good books in Africa, and Nigeria in particular.”
He said, “given the proliferation of substandard books in our educational space and society, generally. Nigeria has continued to be confronted by the existence of books that do not meet the quality standards put in place for book production and distribution.
“Furthermore, the present scenario in Nigeria reflects the problems of scarcity of locally sourced books, the burden of importation of books, the rising cost of production, short supply of materials and inadequate infrastructural facilities for book production, supply, distribution, and use.
“The combined effect of these constraints is the present low level of literacy and readership in general and inadequate support for effective learning in schools at all levels. Let us proceed by first developing common understanding of the book ecosystem.”
He said a dysfunctional book ecosystem, on the other hand, is characterised by limited access to quality books, inadequate funding for the book industry, and low literacy rates. “This can lead to a lack of local content and a reliance on imported books, which may not reflect the local languages, cultures, and traditions,” he explained.
According to the NERDC boss, “the book industry, like every other area of human activities, requires functional policies to guide the activities and roless of those in the book ecosystem- authors, publishers/printers, distributors/wholesalers, booksellers, libraries/archives, users/consumers and, at the centre, the government.”
He said Nigeria now shares with other developing countries a variety of problems bedevilling the book publishing industry. These include inability to provide adequate numbers of high-quality books, book piracy, proliferation of unqualified author-publishers, lack of capital, among others. Nigeria is also witnessing the proliferation of school books with obscene contents that are inimical to our culture, our social values and our religious beliefs. These manifestations are indicators of an unhealthy book ecosystem. They also indicate the preponderance of sharp practices by actors in the system. A weak system that must be strengthened through the functionality of a National Book Policy.
The policy is a national guideline on the provision and effective management of books and other relevant resources geared towards the implementation of education at all levels in Nigeria. It is, therefore, a statement of intents and purposes, as well as prescriptions, requirements and indeed a bench mark for quality education in Nigeria through the provision of adequate and relevant books and other educational resources.
Eggheads from across the tiers of tertiary education in Nigeria were invited to discuss this year’s chosen theme for the Summit, which has as lead speaker, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Benin City, and Chair, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigeria (CVC), Professor Lilian Salami.
In her keynote, the university teacher and administrator of repute had said Nigeria’s tertiary education needed a holistic overhaul, a combination of old and new ideas to make it work to meet the development needs of the country.
She pointed out outdated curriculum, low-quality staff, corruption, decline in student reading culture, government agencies operating outside mandate and in confusion, quota system, internal politics within institutions, low quality of students we bring in as some of the challenges facing tertiary education in Nigeria.
Salami said, “there’s confusion in the system in doing same things and returning to the same place. New ideas are therefore needed to overhaul the system that has been long overdue. I believe what we need is a holistic approach whereby attention is given to these challenges. We need to redirect the system and to walk the talk. When there’s a way, there’s a way.”
She said everyone involved was to share in the blame for the rot in the educational system, but with determination, the problems in the sector could be solved.
Perhaps, Salami’s definitive declaration that the “Federal Government can no longer solely fund tertiary education in Nigeria” will reverberate around the country as the new direction that has not been given much thought.
She pointed at the dismal budgetary allocation to education in Nigeria’s education budget as stark indication of government’s inability or unwillingness to fund education. She disclosed that her university receives a monthly budget of N11m whereas she spends N77m for electricity alone, but that she has to find creative ways to augment to run her university.
According to her, “TETFund and ETF have been there, but they are grossly inadequate. Education is allotted 8.2% in Nigeria’s 2023 budget. Ghana allotted 12.8 in 2023 and South Africa allotted 18.4.
“At UNIBEN, we’ve undertaken the cost of training a student in each of the departments. Whereas it takes N3m to train a medical student per session, but such student pays only N240 over the course of six years. Interestingly, this amount is far less than what is paid in a private secondary school; some of us pay as much as N380,000 for our children in creches per term. Commensurate fees must be paid by students for their courses of study. We must pay for services rendered.”
Salami said avenues of financial help students should receive should be in form of bursaries, loans schemes for indigent but brilliant students, alumni associations annual levies, scholarships, and others, adding, “Good funding can redress dilapidated equipment, and other infrastructure, improved remuneration to motivate teachers and attract global scholars.”
She tasked ASUU to rethink its strike options, saying, “The union must jettison its obsolete ideas and embrace new ideas on how to seek better working conditions. Union must hold education summit on how to sustain education. The Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC) is working on ways to make tertiary education meet international standards to make universities competitive. Curricula must be updated and must imbibe new teaching methods. E-learning must be adopted. Most courses should be on e-learning.”
Salami condemned the proliferation of universities as currently accredited by National Universities Commission (NUC), saying most of them were glorified nursery schools.
“The current system as approved by NUC is unproductive, wasteful and unsustainable. Institutions do not have to run all programmes. The mandate of a University of Agriculture should be on agriculture. Similarly, a polytechnic should be recognised for a certain area of technology. Medical university should be for medical sciences. A situation where a university undertakes courses it is ill-prepared for should be over. We must courageously do away with amorphous, ameobic, and shapeless programmes in tertiary institutions.”
NIBF Chairman, Mr. Michael Oluwadare Oluwatuyi, said, “the negative impact of the incessant industrial imbroglio between the government and tertiary institutions’ staff on the present and future of Nigerian students. The search for a lasting solution to this perennial problem and other challenges of tertiary education in Nigeria brought the inclusion of the Tertiary Education Summit to the list of programmes for the annual Nigeria International Book Fair.”
Oluwatuyi, who is also the National President of Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN), Chairman, Revival Task Force of Pan African Booksellers Association (PABA), Management Committee member of UN SDG Book Club African Chapter, and Managing Director of the 154-year-old CSS Bookshops Limited, reiterated the benefits of book fair and why it should be a must event for the reading public.
According to him, the international conference of the book fair created opportunity for attendees to meet with the book industry leaders, break new markets, network, and learn about the innovations and strategies to promote their products and services. Huge discounts on books and other learning and teaching materials, facilitating sales opportunities, generating placement of orders, and negotiating contracts.
Programmes by constituent bodies included, workshops and seminars; a panel discussion by UN SDG Book Club African Chapter, readers parley by the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Culture Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP), Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) workshop on ‘Collective Management Rights on Text and Image-Based Works,’ Nigerian Copyright Commission unveiling the new Copyright Act, and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) also held a session.