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Science academies, ERF advance SDG4

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor
27 July 2017   |   2:48 am
Determined to meet the Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG4) of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), the Education Relief Foundation...

Participants at the two-day regional stakeholders meeting on Balanced and Inclusive Education, organized by NAS and ERF, were drawn from the academia across Africa and Switzerland.

Determined to meet the Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG4) of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), the Education Relief Foundation (ERF) and the International Council of Science (ICSU) have proffered solutions.

Participants at the two-day regional stakeholders meeting on Balanced and Inclusive Education, organized by NAS and ERF, were drawn from the academia across Africa and Switzerland.

The participants include: President NAS, Prof. Mosto Onuoha; President ERF, Shaikh Manssour B. Mussallam; Executive Secretary NAS, Dr. M. Oladoyin Odubanjo; Secretary ERF Board, Mr. Peter Fell; Vice President ERF Board, Prof. Salim Al Hassani; Vice President NAS, Prof. Ekanem Ikpi Braide; President ICSU, South Africa, Prof. Daya Reddy; Ministry of Education, Namibia, Mrs. Leopoldine Nakashole; Director, National Curriculum Development Centre Abuja, Mrs. Baguma Grace; Director, Federal Ministry of Education (FMoE), Mr. Jonathan Mbaakaa; Director, ERF, Dr. Najia Musolino; and Mrs. Jackie Olang-Kado from Kenya.

They said the roadmap for achieving education for all by 2030 provides opportunity for challenges to be overcome; and endorses a holistic and humanistic vision of education facilitating intercultural dialogue and fostering respect for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity worldwide.

The participants said the outcome of the consultative meeting would surely be a big step forward in addressing the need for promoting, developing and embedding balanced and inclusive education worldwide.

They said discourse and research are ongoing on ways of adapting education to changing global environment. In line with this, the participants said, the United Nations Education Science Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) flags out the need for research on making school curricula, pedagogies and classrooms more inclusive by integrating indigenous knowledge.

According to the participants, ERF’s long term vision is to achieve embedding the local in the global, decentralizing an ethnocentric perspective through an in depth analysis of the contributions and appropriations between indigenous and non indigenous cultures and including the past and voices excluded from history; and contributing to further research on the implementation and impact such skills on education practices.

The meeting shared information across countries on situation on balanced and inclusive education as well as policies and implementing mechanisms for achieving balanced and Inclusive education based on the four pillars intraculturalism, transdisciplinarity, dialecticism and contextuality proposed by ERF.

The SDG4-Education 2030 constitutes the core of a single, renewed education agenda, which recognises the important role of education as a main driver of development, targets for education are also included under several other SDGs; notably on health, growth and employment, sustainable consumption and production, and climate change.

NAS is the foremost independent scientific body in Nigeria, which was established in 1977(but incorporated in 1986). NAS is uniquely positioned to bring scientific knowledge to bear on the policies/strategic direction of the country and is also dedicated to the development and advancement of science, technology, and innovation in Nigeria.

The ERF is a tax-exempt not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation (NGO). It serves to develop and promote a new approach to education that emphasises the importance of balance and inclusivity in the curriculum offered to young people.

The International Council for Science (ICSU, after its former name, International Council of Scientific Unions) is an international organization devoted to international cooperation in the advancement of science. Its members are national scientific bodies and international scientific unions.

Vice President NAS, Prof. Ekanem I. Braide, in a keynote address titled “The role of ERF in contributing to advancement of SDG4 through its four pillars of balanced and inclusive education” delivered at the NAS and ERF Consultative Meeting held Tuesday, in Lagos, said education is a sector that is so fundamental to development. “Unfortunately, as important as it is, the sector is yet to receive appropriate attention. This is not for lack of policies,” Braide said.

Braide was born in Cross River State in 1946. She studied zoology at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Osun State, before obtaining her Masters and Doctorate in Parasitology at Cornell University in New York, United States. She was the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Lafia.

She said it is obvious, therefore that though policies required achieving education goals exist, there seems to be a problem with effective implementation of policies.

The scientist queried: “Why has it been difficult to implement the policies? Could it be that appropriate needs assessment was not conducted before formulation of the policies? Could it be lack of political will? Could it be inadequate funding? Is it that implementation plans were not well defined?”

Braide said Ibanga (2015) in his discourse on Nigeria’s education policy: a programme of evaluation, attributes failure to effectively implement the 1977 6-3-3-4 education policy and the 1976 Universal Free Primary Education (UPE) to unclear policy goals, lack of political commitment, poor governance, corruption, centralization, inadequate resources and dependence on foreign aid.

The NAS Vice President said, “whatever the reasons are, we are now faced with what can best be described as an emergency in the education sector. In normal situation this challenge could be easily surmounted with intensified commitment and revitalization of intervention strategies.

“In present time, however, insecurity in conflict zones and recession in some countries through up new dimensions of challenges. How does one handle education in conflict situations? How does one handle education in Internally displaced People’s camps where the priority needs are food, shelter and health care…where the focus is on preventing death, emotional instability and need induced crime? How does one handle education in situations where populations are constantly moving away from dangerous conflict zones? Targeting such populations for attention is like targeting moving objects.

“The people in the situations I have described are populations at the end of the road…neglected people in neglected places. These populations constitute the poorest of global poor. It is for this group and other marginalized groups that the MDGs 2000, now SDGs 2015 were set.”

The zoologist said whatever the outcome of the meeting is; it would be necessary to promote interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration and coordination in addressing reforms in the education sector. More importantly, Braide said, it would be necessary to intensify advocacy to leaders at all levels for a change in mindset, which will make it easy for them to regard resources allocated to the education sector as an investment and not expenditure.

Braide said the key message to all stakeholders should be that the education sector holds the key to the achievement of SDGs and reduction of poverty.
President ERF, Shaikh Manssour B. Mussallam, believes that, in a globalised world with unprecedented movement of people across continents, evidence based research must be conducted to confirm that only a curriculum with a holistic view on the history of civilisations around the globe can, in the long term, be a sustainable solution to achieving inclusion, global collaborations, and non-discrimination reflecting the contribution of diverse cultures and civilisations to modern world.

President NAS, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, told The Guardian that the meeting hopes to among other things provide situation on balanced and inclusive education in African continent; and share policies and implement mechanism for achieving such.

Onuoha said the meeting would discuss key recommendations to promote balanced and inclusive education in the context of the ever-increasing complexity of the African economic, socio-cultural, and political environment, developing teacher imbued with African ideals.

President ICSU, South Africa, Prof. Daya Reddy, told participants that although South African universities and education sector is highly rated globally it has not been easy. Reddy said the major problem of the education sector in South Africa is access. He said 22 years after independence, there is growing inequality in education. “These are the kinds of issues that we have to grapple with,” Reddy said.

Reddy said the SDGs offer a “major improvement” over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, he said a report by the ICSU and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) finds that of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, just 29 per cent are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54 per cent need more work and 17 per cent are weak or non-essential.

Reddy said the assessment of the targets – which are intended to operationalise the 17 goals set to be approved by governments later in 2015 – is the first of its kind to be carried out by the scientific community, and represents the work of over 40 leading researchers covering a range of fields across the natural and social sciences.

However, he said, the report finds the targets suffer from a lack of integration, some repetition and rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets.

Reddy said the authors are also concerned the goals are presented in ‘silos.’ The goals address challenges such as climate, food security and health in isolation from one another. Without interlinking there is a danger of conflict between different goals, most notably trade-offs between overcoming poverty and moving towards sustainability. Action to meet one target could have unintended consequences on others if they are pursued separately.

Reddy said the report highlighted the need for an ‘end-goal’ to provide a big picture vision for the SDGs. “The ‘ultimate end’ of the SDGs in combination is not clear, nor is how the proposed goals and targets would contribute to achieve that ultimate end,” write the authors. They recommend that this meta-goal be “a prosperous, high quality of life that is equitably shared and sustained.”