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‘We are deliberately raising standard of education’

By Gbenga Salau
19 December 2021   |   4:01 am
The Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Education, Adetokunbo Wahab, in this interview with GBENGA SALAU, spoke on efforts to raise standard of education in the state. What measures has your office taken to improve the education sector? There is a fund under Office of Special Adviser on Education (OSAE) called Education Trust Fund.…

Wahab

The Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Education, Adetokunbo Wahab, in this interview with GBENGA SALAU, spoke on efforts to raise standard of education in the state.

What measures has your office taken to improve the education sector?
There is a fund under Office of Special Adviser on Education (OSAE) called Education Trust Fund. The trust fund is an intervention to bridge gaps in infrastructure in our public schools. It is not something we do in isolation, as it requires going to the executive council to seek approval with respect to infrastructure in some of our schools. We carry along the Lagos State Infrastructure Asset Management Agency (LASIAMA). This is to augment what the ministry and Special Committee on Rehabilitation of Public Schools (SCRPS) are doing.

Interestingly, we also intervened in the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB). This means we touched the technical colleges, which has to do with equipment and creating more physical infrastructure for them. I know that is almost completed, as it is supposed to last for 18 months. The SCRPS is supposed to be for 11 or 12 schools, while for LASIAMA, it is about nine. In total, we covered about 25. SCRPS is a special agency for the rehabilitation of public schools, while LASIAMA is for upgrading and maintenance of schools. So, we had to get the three involved through OSAE, using the education trust fund to intervene.

We are very deliberate in our approach. The governor wants Lagos to be a 21st century economy, and he is laying the fibre optic across the state, which means there will be Internet infrastructure. OSAE has the mandate with respect to the library. We have done our study and discovered that over time, the reading culture has dropped drastically, and if we don’t create an enabling environment, we will not have any moral justification to blame the children for not having a reading culture. So, we decided on two options. The first is to have 11 libraries, which we have increased to 12 across the state. Are they enough? No.

There are over 700 public secondary schools in Lagos State. We decided to go directly to the public secondary schools to revamp the library infrastructure by giving them new ones and equipping them with books and IT infrastructure to complement the books, as well as make it conducive for them. That is why you see us installing air conditioners and generators. The governor has increased the maintenance for each principal to N250, 000 a month from the paltry N25, 000 we met. We have not been able to cover all the schools. In two and a half years, we have covered 198 schools across the state.

Hopefully, before the end of the year, we are going to add about 45 more. This is still a far cry from the total number of schools we have to do, but a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, and we are very clear in our minds. The second leg of it is the Eko Digital Skills. This is to prepare students and pupils for the fourth revolution, which is IT. COVID-19 has shown us that it is here already. That will give you the skills set you need for that revolution. The language of the revolution is Cloud, Coding, Python and digital skills language. We were targeting a million pupils, students and residents.

Under the Eko Digital, a total of 194,161 youths, students/pupils have benefitted in the last two years, but it is still a far cry. As it were, we are ploughing back the space and preparing the students for that. We are giving them a library intervention with computer infrastructure. We are also giving them the know-how with Eko Digital, where we are covering the 700 public schools. We ramp them up, even with private schools, and we don’t want that gap to be too wide.

We have very young students who are ready for the future. To complement that, we have our Job Initiative Lagos (JIL) for those in tertiary institutions. The skills set is also being taught in our JIL. It used to be called ‘Ready Set Work’. We rebranded it and put it in the proper contest. We now added penultimate year for the final year students because we have a large number in our school. So far, over 60,202 undergraduates in their final year and penultimate classes have benefitted. The earlier you start putting them into the system, the better for all of us. That is where we are so far.

How do you intend to match the digital skills initiative with the high unemployment rate in the country?
Ordinarily, the government should not be the employer of labour. The government should just set the enabling environment for the private sector to take off. So, what we are doing is giving them the requisite skills and knowledge that will enable them to be employable in that market. Don’t also forget that thousands of people come to Lagos to chase their dreams. Each day they come, they add to the numbers. Most of them that come have nothing to do. So for us, the idea is to keep ramping up the infrastructure in terms of human capital and giving them the platform to enjoy it.

What can students learn under the Eko Digital skills programme?
We have two streams. We have the e-school for our pupils in public and private secondary schools. We also have the hybrid. The hybrid is for those that are out of school and who need a skill set. They can register for that. They do clouding, Phyton, coding and digital analytics, among others.

The CBN recently came up with an intervention on schools and students. Are participants in the Eko Job Initiative tapping into it?
When the information came out, I ensured that I sent it to our tertiary institutions and e that the mandate was there. But if you look at the publication, it’s limiting it to certain institutions. It is not generic. It is not all our schools that can benefit from it, but those that are allowed to take benefit of it are fully involved, and that is where our Job Initiative Lagos (JIL) comes in. You can’t go outside your school. That is why we are using the school, and they are fully involved in the JIL. So, we are on top of it.

Students trained to be entrepreneurs, what system support do you provide for them?
We are using the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) to create a platform, where they can access loan facility at single digit. We refer those that are ready to the LSETF. Though we have issues with the number of defaults, the governor believes that it will be remedied as time goes on. You can’t say because they are defaulting, then you will not empower the citizens.