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Education in retrospect, still business as usual for sector

By Ujunwa Atueyi
28 December 2017   |   4:20 am
A review of activities that played out in the outgoing year reveal that it is still business as usual for the Nigerian education system as the sector witnessed nothing uncommon than crisis, lamentation on poor funding, policy conflicts, among others.

Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education

It is still a disappointment for many who thought that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration would give the sector a Midas touch, going by the much-touted change mantra. UJUNWA ATUEYI recalls some of the major events in the outgoing year.

A review of activities that played out in the outgoing year reveal that it is still business as usual for the Nigerian education system as the sector witnessed nothing uncommon than crisis, lamentation on poor funding, policy conflicts, among others.

With the budgetary allocation of N448.01billion to education in 2017, representing about six per cent of the N7.30 trillion budget, the year started with parents, professionals, academics, captains of industries among others lamenting poor funding of the sector.

In the 2017 allocation, N398.01b is for recurrent expenditure and the balance of N50b is for capital projects, this many stakeholders believed will not bring about extensive improvements expected in the sector.Till date, insecurity in schools, policy backflips, lack of qualified manpower and teaching/learning aids, and decaying and decayed infrastructure, among others, are still top on the list of factors challenging the sector.

Learning under spectre of abduction, terrorism
One of the first incidents that shook the sector was the abduction of three pupils and five staff members of Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC), Ogun State, as well as the attack by Boko Haram insurgents, which led to the death of five persons at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID).

This development as summed by stakeholders displayed the price the country is paying for abandoning the very ambitious Safe School Initiative (SSI). It also re-enforces the need to prioritise security in Nigerian public and private institutions of learning.

Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan, Isaac Olawale Albert, who was worried over the terrorists’ new modus operandi, suggested that government and security agencies must scientifically device new means of tackling the menace.

Religious censorship at Katsina varsity stirs hornet’s nest
The decision of the management of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina, Katsina State, to single out the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), as the sole religious group to operate on campus brought a commotion in the sector, as many stakeholders described the act as a contravention of the Nigerian Constitution.

NUT cautions govt against planned return of primary schools
Following that was an outcry by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), cautioning the Federal Government against the planned return of primary schools to local councils. The group in kicking against the idea said no local council currently has the financial capability to fund education.

Odds against teaching sciences in local languages
Soon after that, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, announced that plans were afoot to commence the teaching of science subjects in the three major Nigerian languages as a way of helping pupils learn better.But stakeholders in reacting to that say that lack of adequate indigenous language teachers and science teachers who can speak their indigenous languages, among others are some of the factors that would guarantee the failure of the initiative. This brought so much debate in the sector.

Revisiting the mandate of polytechnic education for growth
While Nigerians were debating the prospects of the teaching science subjects in local languages, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) embarked on a one-week warning strike over issues of funding and welfare of the sector.

When DSS makes teachers’ discipline of pupils go wrong
Nigerians were jolted with the news of some DSS officials, who stormed a school in Calabar and beat up teachers for the offence of disciplining a pupil who flouted a teacher’s instruction. This act stirred comments and emotions from all and sundry, as many Nigerians started a social media campaign, condemning the action of the security agents.

Viability of Sanusi’s suggestion on conversion of mosques to schools
A call by the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, that mosques in the North should be converted to schools in order to stem the tide of terrorism, underdevelopment and poverty in the region, received reactions by many stakeholders who queried its feasibility.

When governors neglect UBE at pupils’ peril
The level of infrastructural decay in Nigerian public schools particularly at basic education worries many stakeholders who wondered why state governors fail to touch the Universal Basic Education (UBE) funds even with a long stick.

How govt, management imperil pupils’ health at Queens College
While concerned stakeholders are decrying state government’s attitude with the UBE fund, the death of three pupils of one of Nigeria’s prestigious schools, Queens College, again brought to the fore the level of neglect in some of the country’s public schools.

How tertiary institutions struggle despite TETFund
Despite availability of TETFUND, in Nigeria, research and development seems to be a mirage. With some lecturers saying the process of accessing the fund is difficult, “Is TETFund a help or hindrance?”

A nation weighed down by certificate scandals
Uncovering frauds in the nation’s ivory towers were some of the events that took place in the outgoing year. With Nigeria as a haven for corruption, a wave of academic frauds in the country may have further dented its already battered image.Fifty-one-year-old Daniel Ishola Owaodemi, who for years claimed to be a lecturer and had taught students in the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi was discovered to have forged certificates to teach in the ivory tower. For 12 years, Owaodemi had been an impostor in ATBU until the bubble burst.

Ivory tower in the throes of corruption scandals
Things are no longer at ease in the nation’s higher institutions of learning as corruption allegations mount and top management members of the country’s polytechnics and universities are fingered in financial impropriety and maladministration.

Buhari’s first two years and the fate of education
An appraisal of the president’s two years in office and the fate of education show a shortfall in people’s expectation. While it is generally accepted that education is power, the Federal Government’s allocations to the sector is considered by stakeholders to be too small to lift it and drive the needed development.

Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos chapter, Dr. Laja Odukoya, is least impressed with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and does not hide his disgust for the way he feels the FG under the APC is handling education matters in the country. But he is not alone. The Deputy Director, Distance Learning Centre (DLC) University of Ibadan, Prof. Oyesoji Aremu too is finding it difficult to figure out why the FG is not keen on giving the nation’s education sector the attention it requires.

Again, suspected militants kidnap six pupils in Lagos
While Nigerians were busy assessing President Muhammadu Buhari’s two years in office, gunmen suspected to be militants again invaded the Lagos State Model College, Igbo Nla, Epe, abducting two principals and six students.Earlier in the week, the kidnappers had written to the school, informing the authorities of their plan to strike. The school management promptly notified the police, which sent its men to take strategic positions around the school.

‘Immoral’ textbooks and battle for souls of schoolchildren
Then came the furore over some recommended “immoral” textbooks for schoolchildren. On June 9, the Head of Crescent Schools, Mrs. Fatima Mahmud Oyekan and Chairman, Parents-Teachers Association (PTA), Alhaji Aliyu Gudaji, petitioned the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, over what they called “immoral contents in our curricular.” This discovery agitated many parents.

ASUU begins indefinite strike
Soon after that, Nigerian students and their parents were again shocked with the news of the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) embarking on an indefinite nationwide industrial action. ASUU’s leadership declared the strike as total and indefinite, and threatened to sanction any defaulting institution, which holds lectures, examination or any nocturnal meeting while the action lasts.

FG lifts ban on post-UTME screening by varsities
Then came the season of policy flip-flops as the Federal Government lifts the ban on the controversial post- Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME).

JAMB cut-off marks: A policy lost in translation
After lifting the post-UTME ban, then came the controversial new cut-off marks by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which announced 120 as cut-off marks for universities and 100 for polytechnics/colleges of education. This generated a public outcry with many describing the announcement as a nation’s shame.

LASU sacks ASUU chairman, deputy, 15 others
Thereafter, it became a season of crisis for some tertiary institutions in the country, as the governing council of Lagos State University (LASU) terminated the appointment of 15 academic staff and two non-academic staff for various acts of misconduct, while two others — one academic staff and one non-academic staff were also demoted. The thick pall of fire the action generated still billows.

Criticisms, distrust trail selection of UNILAG vice chancellor
Then came a clamour by some members of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) community alleging that the committee saddled with the shortlisting of candidates for the Vice Chancellorship position was tilting towards a particular candidate. This development actually raised a dust in the university.

Fresh controversy trails rectorship position at YABATECH
As it is in UNILAG, so also it is Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), as the decision of the institution’s governing Council to shortlist and interview about three professors among other applicants for the rectorship position of the institution also caused a fuss at the college.

Controversy trails appointment of rector at Auchi Polytechnic
At Auchi Polytechnic, the story is also the same, as the appointment of a substantive rector also caused ripples at the institution as some concerned stakeholders accused the management of allegedly working to impose an unpopular candidate on the school.

Admission crisis and Nigeria’s education system
Then came admission crisis. The appetite for higher education in the world’s most populous black nation, Nigeria, is huge. But existing infrastructure, policies and political realities are becoming obstacles for the hundreds of thousands of the country’s youths.

Educational summits… motions without movement
Amidst all the crises in the sector, President Muhammadu Buhari, directed the Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu to convene a summit on education, a summit that would address and tackle the issues bedeviling the sector.

Much ado about non-academic staff’s earned allowance
The year came to an end with an agitation from the camp of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) over the N23billion earned allowance disbursement. University students may have more years to spend in school than necessary, according to stakeholders if the ongoing faceoff is not urgently resolved.

Colleges of education as third choice institutions
There was also an outcry from the National Officers, Council of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) faulting the current application process into the country’s Colleges of Education (CoE). They called for its review saying it is not beneficial to teacher education.