Fred Ezeh, Abuja
2019 has been added to Nigerian history, particularly with the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 general elections. Surprisingly, he returned virtually all ex-cabinet ministers and other political appointees except for a few unlucky ones who could not make it for some unknown reasons.
In the 2019 fiscal year, education sector got N620 billion as budgetary allocation. This was a little rise from N605. 8 billion the sector got in 2018 fiscal year. Stakeholders were obviously unhappy with the poor budgetary allocation to the sector which, according to them, run short of 26 per cent recommendation of UNESCO.
Few of them, however, tasked managers of the sector to make good use of the available resources to revive the system and reverse the dwindling fortunes of the sector. Nevertheless, there were some ups and downs that contributed to the sector, positively or otherwise.
The cases of sexual harassment in universities in the year ending were unprecedented. In 2019, more female students spoke up and that triggered public reactions. Though the incident has been going on unreported for decades in schools, the report of BBC on sex-for-grades in University of Lagos (UNILAG) ignited national discourse.
The full video of the undercover investigation which was released in October resulted in the suspension of Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu, a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and the Sub-Dean and the head pastor of Four Square Church and Dr. Samuel Oladipo of the Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences, both were principal suspects in the crime. With several reactions that accompanied the report, lawmakers were forced to take legislative steps against it.
A senior lecturer with Osun State University in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Dr. Olabode Ajoniyi, was also caught on video in a hotel room with one of his female students identified as Mercy Ikwue.
In February 2019, the branch chairman of ASUU Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Dr. Monday Igbafen was suspended by the management over an alleged sex-for-marks scandal.
At Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, a senior lecturer, Dr. Olaleye Aduwo, was alleged to have been involved in a sex-for-grades scandal.
The Governing Council of the Lagos State University (LASU) sacked Dr. Sunkanmi Odubunmi of the Department of Economics, who was caught sexually assaulting a female undergraduate in the same department.
In the outgone year, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had a running battle with the Federal Government over several labour-related issues. But the major dispute was on the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement.
Another major one was the issue of compulsory enrolment of ASUU members into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) platform as directed by President Buhari. The union blatantly refused to mobilise its members for the enrolment, insisting that the move was against the university autonomy.
After several exchanges of words in the media, ASUU leadership insisted they won’t comply with the directive of the president for all workers to be enrolled by the end of 2019 or risk unfriendly actions. For fear of job loss, some ASUU members engaged in secret registration.
Also, university, polytechnic, and colleges of education, staff unions also had hard times with the Federal Government at some points, leading to the threat for industrial action. In one way or the other, the issue was resolved, and industrial harmony returned to the institutions for the good of the students.
A landmark achievement was made in 2019 when the Federal Ministry of Education secured the approval of the President for the establishment of the National Secondary Education Commission (NSEC)
The ministry has constituted a committee to draft the administrative template of the Commission, its required manpower and other things that would enable its smooth take off. Barring any major changes, the Commission may fully take off before the end of the first quarter of 2020.
While the achievements of few agencies and parastatals under the federal ministry of education was conspicuous and impactful, many others, obviously, went on “official slumber”, with little or no contribution to the overall growth and development of the education sector.
Federal Ministry of Education Headquarters
Official activities at the headquarters of the ministry witnessed a snail speed at the beginning of the year due to the 2019 general elections. Like other ministers and other political appointees of the president, ministers of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and Prof. Anthony Anwukah, were practically concerned with the re-election bid of their principal, President Buhari, and possibly, how they could retain their jobs.
Luckily, Adamu was reappointed by the president. Unlucky Prof. Anwukah was not reappointed for some unknown reasons. He was, however, replaced by his kinsman, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, as Minister of State for Education. Some workers at the ministry headquarters in Abuja were unhappy with the return of Adamu but they had no option but to accept the choice of the president.
There was mixed reactions in the ministry when Adamu, alongside Nwajiuba, resumed office in August 2019. Some workers who, obviously, were unhappy with his leadership style at the first call, were seen carrying long faces and murmuring, while he received cheers and pleasant responses from those who are pleased with leadership style.
However, when the minister and his management team hit the ground running, they were confronted with several pending challenges including the collapsed renegotiation of FG/ASUU agreement, petitions from schools and several others.
Amidst the huge workload, they successfully held the 2019 National Council on Education (NCE) meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Several decisions were taken as regards the education system in Nigeria. Another landmark achievement was the launch of three years ministerial strategic plan for the education sector, which is a document that would, expectedly, guide policies and operations of ministry as regards the administration of education system in Nigeria.
Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN)
TRCN was among the most active agency of the ministry in 2019. The reason was that the Federal Government had declared December 31st, 2019, as the deadline for unlicensed teachers to get certified or risk unfriendly actions from the government task team.
In response, thousands of “uncertified teachers” besieged TRCN headquarters in Abuja and their state offices, to get registered for the Professional Qualification Examination (PQE) which was conducted across the country simultaneously. Due to popular demand, an extra diet was conducted in December to give the last chance to unregistered teachers before the commencement of the eviction process.
The Registrar of TRCN, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, disclosed recently that over two million teachers have obtained its professional certificate, and have automatically escaped the eviction.
Universal Basic Education
UBEC made a significant contribution to the education sector in 2019. First, it found the solution to the problem of huge unaccessed fund. Many states, hitherto, had difficulty accessing UBEC funds due to their inability to pay counterpart funds, with a negative effect on basic education.
As a result, President Buhari approved that counterpart funds of defaulting states be deducted from the Paris Fund refund. That led to the clearing of years of unaccessed fund in UBEC, which was beneficial to the basic education of states affected.
Another major development at UBEC was the conclusion and launch of the National Personnel Audit (NPA), a document that provided a clearer picture of the state of basic education in the country. Nigeria has been ascribed huge figures, 12 to 13 million, as the number of out-of-school children across the country. But the NPA report was able to produce a clearer picture of the situation and put the figure at 10.1 million.
The report which was unveiled in Abuja, a few weeks ago by President Buhari revealed that Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Gombe and Yobe states have the highest number of unqualified teachers in its classrooms, while otherwise was the case in Ekiti, Benue, Oyo, Edo and Osun states that have impressive number of qualified teachers in their school system.
Precisely, it revealed that 48 per cent of teachers in Sokoto State is unqualified. Kebbi had 56 per cent, Jigawa had 59 per cent, while Gombe and Yobe states had 62 and 63 per cent unqualified teachers in its schools.
UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, in his remarks, said the objective of the personnel audit was to produce a credible or near credible data that would guide policymakers as regards administration of basic education system in Nigeria.
National Examinations Council (NECO)
NECO has been run by an Acting Registrar since May 2018, when the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu, announced the suspension of the former Registrar, Prof. Charles Uwakwe, for alleged misappropriation of funds and involvement in corruption-related cases. The most senior director in the council, Abubakar Gana, was asked to assume the position of acting registrar
However, NECO continued its statutory responsibility of conducting national examinations for thousands of candidates. Surprisingly, the number of candidates that sat for the 2019 common entrance examination dropped significantly, in spite of the fact that more time was allowed for candidates to register.
In November, the Council, shockingly, announced the dismissal of 70 of its staff for certificate forgery. It explained that the action was the sequel to a report submitted by a management committee constituted to verify certificates and other documents used by staff to secure employment.
West African Examinations Council (WAEC)
There was a slight improvement in performance in the May/June 2019 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) taken by 1, 590,173 candidates. 18-year-old Nigerian, Arotiba Seunara Peter, with a total score of 663. 3030 in eight best subjects including English Language and Mathematics, from Air Force Secondary School, Ikeja, Lagos, emerged as the best candidate in the sub-region and the country.
The Council also rewarded Adeagbo Michelle Oluwabukunmi, from Chrisland High School, VGC, Ajah, Lagos, who came second with total score of 650.8016, in the eight best subjects including English Language and Mathematics, while Obi-Obuoha Abiamamela Prince, with total score of 646.6936, in eight best subjects including English Language and Mathematics, came third.
National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB)
NABTEB intensified campaign to win the heart of more Nigerians, and make them understand the importance of technical education and certification, and that the certificate is equivalent to other O’level certificates. As usual, it successfully conducted examination for several thousands of candidates in various categories of its certification.
Its Registrar, Prof. Ifeoma Isiugo-Abanihe, has obviously recovered from the emotional, official and psychological devastation she received from the former governing board Chairman, Prof. Leonard Kashima Shilgba.
Shilgba had assumed responsibility beyond his powers, dishing out orders and taking steps outside his statutory roles. He was said to have exhibited high handedness, interference in the day-to-day running of the Board, illegal contract award and several others.
Shilgba was said to have gone as far as suspending the registrar and some senior directors without the knowledge and approval of the minister of education. The board was later dissolved by President Buhari.
National Commission for Nomadic
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Prof. Bashir Usman, continued his research for the best way to solve the issue of farmers/herders clashes which have claimed lives and destroyed properties worth billions of Naira.
He insisted that the solution lies on advocacy, sensitisation and enlightenment.
In May 2019, he exclusively disclosed to The Sun that Federal Government had acquired an Amplitude Modulation (AM) radio broadcast licence that would be used to reach out to herdsmen in different locations in Nigeria, as part of an effort to sensitise the herdsmen and bring solutions to farmers/herders crisis in Nigeria.
He said that government, perhaps, realised that radio was the chosen means of information for the herdsmen, hence the need to reach them through such platform, with a message of peace, unity, tolerance and education.
“Additionally, it will enhance our capacity to address crisis between herders and farmers which had led to the loss of lives, destruction of productive assets, nomadic schools, facilities teaching and learning resources,” he said.
He, however, announced that 617,518 pupils are currently enrolled in 3,582 various nomadic schools in Nigeria. This, he said, consists of 320,934 male and 296,584 female. It also includes the 202,050 pupils under ECCDE which also has 104,924 males and 97,126 females.
National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non Formal Education
The anger of workers of the commission was let loose in June, over some unjust treatment by the Executive Secretary of the NMEC, Prof. Abba Haladu. As a result, they shut down the headquarters of the commission in protest.
They accused the executive secretary of high handedness, unfair labour treatment and deliberate attempts to create unnecessary career stagnation for the workers.
The workers, in their large numbers, barricaded the entrance to the NMEC headquarters denying visitors and other officials entry and exit opportunity to the building.
The workers under the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), said the strike was to compel the management to attend to their demands to avoid further industrial disharmony.
Chairman of ASCSN, Ismail Oniyangi, who described the leadership of Abubakar Haladu as a “one-man management “ requested that he be to remove him with immediate effect.
Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)
Obviously, no “mysterious snake” visited any JAMB office in 2019 to tamper with its resources. However, JAMB was faced with several issues. It bordered on Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and admissions particularly the delay in the release of 2019 UTME result.
The delay triggered anxiety, suspicion, and created room for some fraudulent people to deceive desperate candidates with false information and unrealistic promises.
JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, who announced the release of the result at a briefing in Abuja, on May 11th, 2019 thanked Nigerians for understanding and patience throughout the period of delay.
He announced the release of the result of 1,792,719 candidates, while 34,120 results were withheld including the results of 15,145 candidates clarified as identical twins and siblings.”
Afterwards came the issue of admission and several complaints about JAMB withholding result of some candidates for unknown reasons. JAMB had a running battle with a 17 year Akachukwu Onyiuke, who obtained 9As in May/June 2019 WASSCE whose UTME result was withheld by Oloyede for alleged involvement in examination misconduct.
Onyiuke denied the allegation and challenged Prof Oloyede to review the CCTV at his examination centre, to ascertain claims of following due process before entering the hall to write the 2019 UTME.
He also challenged JAMB to prosecute him if they have evidence that he entered the examination hall illegally to write the UTME. “I am ready to be prosecuted by JAMB. They have arrested many candidates, why have they not come after me.
“The Registrar, Prof Oloyede, claimed I entered the exam hall illegally. If he has the proof that I did not follow due process in entering the exam hall, let him order my arrest. I am not scared because I did biometric and went through other formalities before proceeding to the third floor to write the UTME,” he said.
National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE)
NCCE completely went on “official slumber” in 2018. The Executive Secretary, Prof. Bappah Aliyu, chose to remain and operate from the comfort of his office, which, unarguably added nothing to the development of Colleges of Education, which are responsible for the training of basic education teachers.
National Library of Nigeria (NLN)
Its Executive Secretary, Prof. Lenrie Aina, continued his advocacy campaign to various states and stakeholders to promote reading culture using the platform of the National Readership Promotion Campaign.
The objective of the campaign was to expose Nigerians to the benefit of reading for self-discovery or recovery, and for national development.
He observed that over 70 per cent of publications by government agencies do not have International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).
Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)
TETFUND witnessed a change of leadership in January 2019. President Buhari, abruptly terminated the appointment of Dr. Bichi Baffa, as the Executive Secretary of TETFund and approved his immediate replacement with the Baffa’s immediate predecessor, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro.
Findings revealed that Baffa was having an unhealthy relationship with the minister of education, Malam Adamu, whom he was serving as an aide before his appointment as TETFund boss in August 2016. Additionally, there were allegations that his open involvement in Kano politics was an indication that he was interested in Kano governorship seat.
A source told our correspondent that Baffa single-handedly took the decision on the 2018 tertiary institutions intervention fund, as against the previous practice of the proposal passing through TETFund board of trustees, minister of education, and finally land at the table of the President for final approval.
However, private university operators continue its agitation for the amendment of TETFund Act that would allow private universities to benefit from several interventions.
National Universities Commission (NUC)
NUC seems to have been operating without the involvement of the media unlike the previous administration of Prof. Julius Okojie. Howbeit, the Commission continued its routine meeting with heads of universities, public and private, and other stakeholders with a view to strengthening relationships.
A few weeks ago, the Commission announced that it discovered over 100 fake professors in the Nigerian University System. The Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Rasheed Abubakar, disclosed that many of them are under trial at various courts.
He said the Commission has also unbundled some academic courses being offered in universities to, perhaps, allow for the production of more professionals. He said they had concluded the unbundling work on Architecture, Mass Communication, Agriculture, Creative Arts and several others, and the changes would be effective from next year.
Some of the courses, according to him, were split into seven different other degree courses. For instance, mass communication was unbundled into seven different programmes; Bachelors Degrees in public relations, marketing communications, media studies, film studies, cinematography or photography, strategic communications and so many others.
Agriculture was also unbundled. Instead of just one degree in Agriculture, there would be Bachelor Degree in forestry, soil science, plant science, agronomy, animal science. Creative Art had similar experiences.
National Educational Research and Development (NERDC)
NERDC was completely silent in 2019 unlike in the previous year when it came under serious public scrutiny over the merger of some basic education subjects.
National Teachers Institute (NTI)
NTI completely went on “official slumber” in 2019. The Registrar, Prof. Garba Dahuwa Azare, chose to remain and operate from the comfort of his office, which, unarguably added nothing to the quality of teachers training with a negative impact on basic education system in Nigeria.
National Mathematical Centre (NMC)
NMC is charged with the responsibility of promoting mathematics among students. But it seems to have made little or no progress over the years particularly in 2019.
Its Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Stephen Onah, was also not visible in the cause of the year in public education-related functions both at the level of the Ministry of Education or other lower level.
National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)
The board is charged with regulatory and oversight responsibility of polytechnics and monotecnics, but little of that was achieved in 2019, perhaps, due to constant threat to industrial peace and harmony in the polytechnics by the academic and non-academic workers in the institutions.
Howbeit, the major achievement of the Board for the year was the presentation of operational licences to 65 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, comprising 18 private Polytechnics, two private Monotechnics, four Colleges of Health Science and Technology, 33 Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) and eight Vocational Enterprise Institutions (VEIs) in April.
Education Minister, Mallam Adamu, who presented the operational licence to the institutions stated that shortage of manpower across all sectors of the Nigerian economy, coupled with the challenge of expanding access to accommodate the teeming Nigerian youths in the quest for tertiary education, necessitated the private sector participation in tertiary education management and administration.
NBTE Executive Secretary, Dr. Masa’udu Kazaure, who at the event, said the establishment of private polytechnics, IEIs and VEIs was part of government efforts aimed at addressing the problem of access to higher education by providing a veritable alternative route through the TVET sector.
He noted that NBTE has been encouraging the establishment of more private polytechnics and IEIs in order to diversify and expand access for prospective applicants. Total of 131 polytechnics, 33 colleges of agriculture, 50 colleges of health science and technology, 31 specialised institutions, 152 IEIs, 79 VEIs and 119 technical colleges.
Meanwhile, the Board came under serious criticism by some stakeholders over its perceived resistance to the establishment of Polytechnic Commission, to assist in the administration and regulation of polytechnic and monotecnic education in Nigeria.
The stakeholders said the fears of NBTE was that, perhaps, their responsibilities and functions might be taken away from them when the Polytechnic Commission is established, which they said, is not totally true.
National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA)
Many Nigerians are obviously unaware of the Federal Government agency called NIEPA. This was because they are neither visible in the media or by their activities, particularly as it concerns the education sector.