By Jet Stanley Madu

The Regional Director at EF Academy, Dubai UAE (United Arab Emirate), Mr. Ayo Olatoye has called on Buhari administration to forget about free school feeding for now and give Nigerian students STEM. But he is not totally against the free school feeding if the government can afford both.

But where it cannot, he would prefer that his administration went into massive STEM sensitization as that would, in the long run, help the students more than free feeding.

“For the President to have promised that, he had good intentions,” he said. “But maybe it isn’t a very practical thing to execute at this time. Basically, students need a lot of things. Of course they need food. They also need to learn. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other. It could be both. The world we live in is not an either-or world. If government feels it is able to invest in education and also feed kids who may be coming from homes which don’t have any meals, then it’s fine.

“But, the one thing that I would say is this; Nigeria is filled with brilliant people – both young and old. And what I truly believe is that we all need to start looking beyond ourselves to see the kind of value we can add to the country. If we invest in developing our young people, getting them ready to start businesses, getting them ready to become entrepreneurs, and help to transform the society in which they live, I think we all will be better for it, at the end of the day.”

To this end, he prescribed STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as a model that can help students to study and understand better.

The Director was among other heads of overseas institutions who led their schools to attend the last UK (United Kingdom) Boarding School Education Fair in Lagos, Nigeria. The exhibition put together by NUBI Education Consulting Limited is an annual convergence of primary and post-primary education providers from the UK, Canada and United States of America (USA).

In a chat with The Sun Education, the regional director held that the most obvious response to reviving the country’s ailing education sector is STEM. It’s a programme that unifies all the four disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and looks for similarities from which students can draw knowledge and learning, he said. This can be run as an independent programme, he explained.

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“It stands aside from what is currently being taught in schools,” he insists. “But, you could have people coming once a week to facilitate the programmes, from JS 1 to SS 3; from primary one to primary six.  And it would accelerate learning in a lot of schools for a lot of students. STEM is not the only one. There many other programmes – Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Innovation, IT – little supplementary programmes that can be run alongside what we’re currently running in our schools. So, even if facilities in our schools are not as great as they should be, at least, the learning the children would have will be much better. And they would graduate with much better grades.”

Apart from introducing the STEM model, Olatoye advised the government to leverage on technology to facilitate teaching. “There are so many online resources and so many ways that students can be supported remotely or directly.” Education authorities should look at things that can be explored-that may not even be so expensive in order to deliver learning and knowledge”.

He applauded the Director, NUBI, Mrs. Rose Omonubi, for creating the platform for Nigerian parents and their children to interface with foreign education providers to guide them in the choice of schools for their kids. Although he is miles away from home, Olatoye says to share some concerns over the steady decline in the standard of education in his country.

He contends that education requires sufficient investment to thrive. His words: “From my knowledge as a Nigerian who has lived here for many years, one of the things that I’ve seen by visiting many schools around is insufficient investment in the school itself. And that includes teaching materials, classroom facilities, teacher training. The amount of investments that need to be done to bring the schools up to par, obviously, has not been sufficient so far.”

To strengthen the education base, aside STEM, he prescribed other supplementary forms of learning that could open up the students learning horizon. They include early introduction of students to skills and entrepreneurial studies.

“I have mentioned the STEM. But, there are also programmes that teach kids to become entrepreneurs, to encourage and foster that,” he noted. “To give you an example, in the United Arab Emirate, in the United Kingdom, in the United States, we have 13-/14-year-old students that are starting online businesses on their own. They know what it is to design a logo, to create a website on their own, to set up a CRM system.

“Those are the kind of things that our young people need to begin to learn. It’s not just enough to say you want to start a business. How do you go about starting that business? As graduating students, what are the basic elements that you need to incorporate in your business plan? How do you write a business plan? These are the kind of things I think our kids and our young people need to start getting exposed to. And once that happens, you would see the big effect on our economy and on the society.”