The Sun News

State of emergency in education: Stakeholders challenge FG: Teach us the full lesson

Gabriel Dike; Jet Stanley Madu; Fred Ezeh

The decision of the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector by the end of April has raised some fundamental questions which stakeholders want the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to clear the air before going ahead with its plans.

Education minister, Mallam Adamu shocked the nation when on Monday, January 29 he announced plans by the Buhari administration to declare a state of emergency in the sector. He demanded the support of all state governors to do the same in their states.

He said: “By the end of April, we are proposing that there will be a declaration of state of emergency in the education sector all over the country. We request all the state governors to do the same in their states and we hope that once this is done our educational sector will improve.

“I will also meet with the governors to appeal to them to give special emphasis to addressing the problem of low standard of education especially at the primary school level,” he said.

Prof N.W. Nwagwu, said the way Nigerian leaders perceive of education, its objectives and functions in socio-economic development has significantly influenced the management, planning and organization of the system.

Nwagwu admitted that Nigerian education system has witnessed tremendous growth and expansion since independence. He said stakeholders believe the system has undergone only quantitative improvement in terms of number of institutions and students enrolment, but no attempt to maintain standard.

A concerned stakeholder said a closer look at current trends over the last decade in quality and evaluation and control leads to some concern as to where the country is and where it must go in search of minimum standards compatible with qualitative education.   

  

WE ARE INVOLVED

Immediate past Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Calabar, Prof. Florence Obi, told The Education Report that the proposal to declare state of emergency in the education sector is welcome.

Prof Obi noted that: ‘’Nigerians and Nigeria will be better off if that is done. I just hope it’s not going to be one of government’s rhetoric that will end up in the print and electronic media. I agree that this is long overdue. Also this is not the first time we will be hearing of this proposal. I think one or two previous Ministers of Education had toyed with the idea of declaring state of emergency in the sector and nothing happened.

‘’Across the country many stakeholders have been calling for a declaration of state of emergency in the sector. If the declaration is made and government has the political will to back it up with action, then we expect to see an improved funding of the sector. Improved funding will translate to improved physical facilities and infrastructures in schools that will cater and provide for the diverse needs of learners. This will mean that the physical facilities will be more inclusive. There will be well equipped libraries and laboratories with accessible ICT facilities. 

‘’Teaching will be more practical than theoretical. Teachers who are the main drivers of the sector should be better motivated by the overhaul and implementation of a special salary scale as well as befitting work environment. This will attract and retain best the brains in the teaching profession. Motivating teachers will help to minimize or completely stop the break down of the sector through constant strikes.  

‘’With improved funding there should be the reintroduction of the federal and state bursary and scholarships. Students study loans scheme should be provided for with mechanisms for repayment properly worked out at completion of studies. If smaller African countries have such schemes for their students, Nigeria the giant of African should do more. The Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria will be better equipped to function effectively. The federal and state ministries of education will be alive to their monitoring and supervisory roles while other education departments and agencies will have the resources to function and achieve their organisational goals.’’

According to her, a state of emergency will also mean reviewing the nation’s educational policies, practices, and curricula along the demands of the 21st century stating that to effectively do these, there is need for government to get the right people to drive the sector.

‘’Education managers should be educationists with the right experience, passion and zeal not people who will be learning on the job. Managing the sector should not again be an all comers affairs if government is to be taken seriously even after the declaration of state of emergency.  I strongly believe that people who wear the shoes know and feel the pinch more and will be more prepared and positioned to take off the shoes to stop the pains than observers and those not directly affected. 

‘’The country should stop experimenting with the appointments of education managers and go for professionals to salvage the sector. Nigeria has not been able to achieve any of her set national education goals or live up to any global education treaty entered into such as Educational for All (EFA), Dakar 2000, Salamanca declaration, Nigeria vision 202020 MDGs among others beyond sensitisation of her populace and creating awareness of the issues involved I suggest that a decade be set aside for the state of emergency and it should be 2018-2028. Within 10 years of adequate funding, monitoring and supervision the country would raise her education standards close to globally acceptable levels,’’ she noted.

LET THERE BE NATIONAL

SUMMIT

The proprietor of Royal Academy, Ibadan, Chief Laide Oluwaseun tasked the federal government to carry along stakeholders before and after declaring the state of emergency in the sector. He suggested that government must follow it up with a national summit to discuss how to address knotty issues in the sector.

The educationist wondered if the Buhari administration will muster the political will to implement the outcome of the planned state of emergency in the education sector admitiing that the sector has been in shambles for some years now with the performance of students below average in public examinations.

‘’Stakeholders in the education sector are happy with the federal government proposed state of emergency. The minister must carry along everybody and take suggestions from experts on how to fix the rot. The effort must be holistic and must reflect all subsector of education including the role of private sector,” he pointed out.

Oluwaseun said some major areas government must address include concern on funding, standard, access, industrial action, teachers’ welfare and quality of service delivery stating that these are key issues that contribute to the rot and solutions must be found. He advised government to implement the white paper or outcome of the state of emergency.

Head, Customer Service, United Bank for Africa, Mr. Ramon Olanrewaju Nasir is concerned about the intention of the government whose wards school abroad and that the trend rank high among the ills that have led to the current state of affairs and revealed that the impending declaration by the federal government of a state of emergency in the education sector may not bear fruits.  

He opined that efforts at revamping the nation’s battered education system can only produce result if children of those who form and implement education policies are made to school in Nigeria. Nasir said if children of those who drive education policies have a taste of their own pudding that policymakers would work towards the survival of the country’s education. The only way put as he stated is that such kids should attend public schools. 

LAYING THE

FOUNDATION

Stating his views on the plan, Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, Prof Josiah Ajiboye noted that the proposed declaration of state of emergency is p art of the resolution of the Presidential Retreat convened by the Minister of Education last year. 

He explained that after an extensive review of the state of education in the country by eminent scholars, members of the Federal Executive Council and other stakeholders, it was resolved that a state of emergency be declared to address the  challenges in the sector. This is not to say that the federal ministry of education and its agencies have not been addressing some of the challenges. He however acceded to the fact that, to provide a holistic approach to the challenges, a state of emergency will be necessary. 

His words: “Nigerians with suggestions on way forward are free to make their submissions to the minister of education. However, the state of emergency will be guided by the communiqué of the Presidential Retreat. The communiqué details some recommendations of interventions that will turn around the fortunes of education in Nigeria. This does not foreclose suggestions from other Nigerians.

“On implementation, this is poised to implement the new agenda to the letter. The various agencies under the ministry of education are sufficiently mobilized to implement the resolutions. With regard to challenges with teachers, TRCN is planning a workshop as a follow up to that retreat to develop a roadmap of teacher professionalism and quality education in Nigeria within the frst quarter of 2018.

A postgraduate student of Lagos State University, Mr. Ben Nanaghan, advised that declaration of state of emergency in education is long overdue. He argued that for a country with high illiteracy level, government would have declared the emergency more than five decades ago.

He urged governments at all levels to embark on an awareness campaign to make education free and compulsory at all levels. Just as Chief Obafemi Awolowo declared a state of emergency in 1955 for which this respondent is a beneficiary.

‘’The federal government will never implement any suggestion on the improvement of education, how much less emergency in education sector. This is because the Fulani do not believe in education.  And this Buhari government will merely talk about it, but, will never implement it. This is because naturally, the most Fulani believe that Western education is poisonous to the teachings of their religion. That is why the government is fighting Boko Haram with an undeclared instruction to kill Boko Haram fighter only if it’s unavoidably necessary.”

JUST SOME GIMMICK

The National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Mr. Taiwo Hassan, said the plan to declare state of emergency in the sector is another political gimmick, designed to polish the image of the Buhari/APC regime in anticipation of the 2019 elections. The Jonathan regime equally blew a lot of hot air as far as resuscitation of Nigeria’s education sector was concerned, and even went as far as constituting the Suswan committee for NEEDS assessment. But when it came to realignment of government’s spending priority, education still received a pittance of the federal budget. The education sector is in dire need of upward funding by government, and democratic management to ensure those fund are properly utilised. A state of emergency is not even close to a commitment to funding, and nothing less than usual grandstanding typical of politicians.

ERC coordinator stressed that truly the education sector deserves a special attention due to its critical role in nation building and the level of degeneration in the sector. Radically improving on the 7-10 per cent annual budgetary allocation to education is long overdue; proactive commitment to implementing UNESCO’s recommendation of 26 per cent to education is also long overdue. But admitting politically that education is in shambles is not enough. It is typical of successive governments, and the Buhari regime is towing similar path – considering the fact that the plan to declare a state of emergency is coming few months after government submitted a budget proposal that gave less than enough to the education sector in the 2018 budget.

‘’We would continue to reiterate that any declaration that does not entail upward funding and democratic management of schools is insincere. Now that the Buhari/APC regime has admitted what ASUU, NASU and students’ unions have been saying concerning the rot in our schools, it should be matched with proactive steps of meeting the 26 per cent recommendation of UNESCO and a democratic system that would ensure funds are properly utilised,’’ the group noted.

According to ERC, with dry laboratories and libraries, congested classrooms and hostels, and pervasive lack of materials of instruction in schools; it would take years of consistent actions for the attainment of a vibrant education system, with a sound personnel and quality infrastructure. Years of consistent actions of funding especially is required to turn the system around, and not just moments of sloganeering or political grandstanding.

LONG OVERDUE

A former Vice Chancellor of a federal university, who pleaded anonymity, said the decision was long overdue due to the poor state of Nigerian education system, worsened by unending strike and demands of the university labour unions, particularly the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). 

He supports the move and suggested that the wings of the unions be weakened so that university managers could be free to implement transformational policies that would herald development of Nigeria’s education system. 

He said: “These union leaders exert undue influence on the vice chancellors and other management staff of the schools forcing the VCs to dance their way or face blackmail, physical and media attacks. 

“Unfortunately, their counterpart, the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU), has equally joined force to ridicule the university system. They always arm-twist the VCs and the government to do their bidding, which in most cases, are unfavorable to the schools. 

“But that would cease if the universities are granted full autonomy. They would be forced to be creative and serious in sourcing fund to finance their activities. Secondly, the era of uniform salary structure for university lecturers should be stopped. Let them be paid like their counterparts in developed countries where lecturers are paid based on their performance and not the way it is done in Nigeria.”

YOU HAVE OUR SUPPORT

ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, fully supports the federal government decision to declare state of emergency. But he is afraid that the political class might frustrate the effort or plans for their selfish reasons. 

He expressed the commitment of his union to support any sincere move by the government to correct the obvious anomalies in the education system, which he said, have been responsible for the poor human capital development in Nigeria. 

He said: “Our education system is in a pitiable state and needs urgent touch of restructuring. From basic to secondary and tertiary, they are all crying for intervention. 

“Dilapidated infrastructure, weak system and insincerity on the side of government, to rescue the public education system from the doldrums and the reason was that their children are not found in the public schools.”

He insisted that government must first identify and appreciate the enormity of the problem in all levels of education so they could comfortably design realistic strategies to tackle it. 

UNESCO recommendation of 26 percent annual budgetary allocation to education must be complied with. “Political will is very important for the implementation of whatever reform plans that would be proposed post declaration of the state of the emergency.” 

He suggested that government engages competent hands and professionals at the management cadre of the education system, and not the current practice of political compensation with the office of minister of education or other key education agencies. 

Meanwhile, the founder of Brickhall School Abuja, Senator Joy Emordi, is not only in support of the move but said that Nigeria education system is already in decay. 

Emordi who was the former Senate Committee Chairperson on Education, insisted that Nigeria education system must be overhauled for the sake of posterity. Otherwise, the future of Nigeria will be doomed.

She first recommended total overhaul of the education curricula to align with the demands of the 21st century world. “Some content of our curricula are obsolete and need to be rejigged or re-developed to suit the modern world.” 

She added: “Secondly, regular training of teachers must be prioritized. I was shocked recently when we couldn’t employ anyone from over 50 people shortlisted for teaching job in our school. It calls for serious concern. 

“Thirdly, is the infrastructure development challenge in the schools. It is an embarrassment and shame to see pictures of Nigerian children in some public schools studying under tree and open roof. The case is not different in the universities where students receive lectures in  crowded classrooms and lecture theaters with lots of distraction.”

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