■  What the Fed. Min of Education can, and should do with the N142 billion allocated to it on capital expenditure

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By Chika Abanobi and Gabriel Dike

When Prof. Anthony Anwukah, the Minister of State for Education, at a stakeholders’ meeting comprising directors and senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Education, Chairs and members of Education Committees at the National Assembly, their counterparts from State Houses of Assembly, State Ministries of Education, State Universal Basic Education Commission Boards, international development partners, civil society organisations, national associations and labour organisations as well as journalists, and held at NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja, on August 29, 2016, unveiled “Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan, 2016-2019”, he showed a keen appreciation of the issues at stake as far as education in Nigeria is concerned.
In his address, he talked about the ministry’s intention to provide “inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” as declared in our global education agenda, the Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG 4).”
He talked about their desire to strengthen the education sector by replacing dilapidated structures with befitting infrastructure that promote learner-friendly environment for all learners, including girls, the vulnerable and those with special needs; to recruit new and re-train existing teachers for quality education delivery; to enroll every child, girl or boy, and to ensure that they complete the full cycle of basic education. “Our tertiary institutions must be citadels of learning that foster innovation to meet the needs of the workforce, strengthen research capacities; and advance knowledge by increasing higher education opportunities for young people,” he said.
Good ideas and commendable goals/dream. But the only thing he didn’t say was that the ministry was waiting for money to implement these lofty ideas. Now, that the President has allocated a whopping sum of N142 billon for capital expenditure, barring any hitch from the National Assembly legislators who must need ratify the budget, education stakeholders who spoke to The Sun Education have come up with areas they feel the ministry should focus its attention this year and the years ahead. Excerpts:
•    Build befitting school structures conducive for learning as indicated by Prof. Anwukah in his address.
•    Reduce the size of classes to check overcrowding that many times hinder learning and frustrate the classroom teachers from doing effective supervision and class control. The President, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr. Michael Olukoya, said the union wants the government to abide by UNESCO recommendation of one teacher for 26 students /pupils.
•    Employ and retrain teachers
•    Provide educational facilities such as smart boards, library, laboratories, furniture like chairs and tables and current textbooks.
•    Implement the NEEDS assessment – the systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants” – for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, so as to stop the rot in the sector, thus said Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, Secretary General, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).
•    Enact laws that will end the dichotomy that exists between holders of Higher National Diploma (HND) and Bachelors degree. Comrade Ogirima Nuhu General Secretary of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), would want constitution of governing councils for federal colleges of education (FCEs), review of the obsolete laws establishing the FCEs and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), release of funds for academic staff training and development and implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 inter-ministerial committee on dual mode.
•    Accord attention to teachers’ welfare through prompt payment of their salaries and organising for them refresher courses and regular training programmes. Olukoya would want some teachers’ names to be included in this year’s national merit awards list.
•    Two students in SS1 class, Abiola Orire and Alli Gift would want the President to reduce school fees in both public and private schools, equip schools with ICT facilities, check corrupt lecturers who collect money from students, provide medical facilities in schools, set up regular grants to schools including private owned ones and build sports facilities.
•    Alhaji Idris Akanbi, an Estate Surveyor, would like government not only to approve more private schools, colleges and universities, but to also support them with special grants.