Gabriel Dike, Lagos and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, reassigned Mallam Adamu Adamu as the Minister of Education. Thus, this marked his second coming. The reappointment seems to have divided stakeholders.
His second coming should not be a learning curve for him. He has a second chance to address the rot and the challenges facing the nation’s education sector. His score card from 2015 to 2019 was not too impressive. He has a second chance to right the wrongs as it were.
In his first time out, he drew a road map and proposed to convoke an Education Summit, which did not see the light of the day. Former Minister of State, Prof Anthony Anwukah, who had a running battle with Adamu in their first few months in office could not make it back to the cabinet. He was replaced by his kinsman, Emeka Nwajiuba, who was until his appointment, a member of the House of Representatives.
The reappointment came as surprise to some people including ministry workers and stakeholders who never expected Adamu’s return. He had said at his valedictory press briefing in May that he would not lobby to come back because his return was based on performance.
There is also the belief that Adamu did not pass the test opportunity he had from 2015 to 2019. There were mixed feelings in the ministry when his name surfaced in the list of ministerial nominees.
He resumed duty last week alongside the minister of state. His resumption caused mixed feelings in the ministry. Expectedly, some officials were obviously unhappy with his return. There was little excitement as many of the staff in groups discussing the second coming of the minister.
The workers who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the minister has limited knowledge. They alleged that he is too slow and that his first coming yielded little result going by available records. They wanted the President to replace him with someone experience in education management.
The case was different for some who had worked closely with Adamu. Former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof Peter Okebukola said: ‘’It is a huge delight to celebrate the return of our Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu who is poised to take us to the ‘Next Level’ in the education sector. For those with some knack for electronic configuration of atoms, the next (energy) level will have to be either orbital ‘p’ or ‘d.’
‘’For persons who dodged chemistry in the secondary school, the primary orbitals, moving out from the nucleus are ‘s’, ‘p’, ‘d’ and ‘f.’ The ‘s’ orbital is innermost while ‘f’ is outermost.
My assumption is that the education sector was on the ‘s’ orbital and Mallam Adamu Adamu’s push will propel us to either ‘p’ or ‘d.’ All stakeholders will need to stand up to be counted to support him in attaining this ‘next level’.”
Vice-Chancellor, Christopher University, Prof Friday Ndubuisi, stated: “Education is a big industry in Nigeria as most Nigerians want to be educated. And the country is in dire need of development education, which is one area that must receive adequate attention.
‘’With 170 universities and 43 completely owned by the Federal Government, there is every reason to believe that education is a big industry in Nigeria. The universities are just a fraction of the horizon of influence of the education minister. His ministry is about the busiest with the greatest expectation from Nigerians.
‘’As the minister returns to the ministry he is familiar with expectations are high. What does he do with the dearth of infrastructural facilities in the tertiary institutions? What of the incessant strikes and the restiveness of academic and non- academic staff in the tertiary institutions?
‘’How does he create opportunities for more Nigerians that want to have access to private universities but don’t have the resources for this? What plans does he have to make TETfund accessible to the private universities? How does he want to achieve the much-touted education bank and students loans scheme?’’
He charged Adamu to work towards attracting more funds to the educational sector, which will invariably impact on the universal rating and ranking of our universities: “The minister has the capacity to do well in the ministry given his educational background, experience and exposure. He is back to a familiar terrain.”
Prof Uchenna Udeani of the University of Lagos said with Adamu’s return, every stakeholder expects him to renovate the entire education system, particularly at the primary level. She explained: “It will entail massive infrastructural upgrade to improve entire school classrooms and environment, the dilapidation in our schools is appalling.’’
The Professor of Science Education advised him to ensure massive in-service training of teachers at both the primary and secondary school level to update both pedagogy and content knowledge including ICT skills: ‹›Of course, Adamu has the capacity to move the education sector forward if he is able to put the right policy framework in place.’’
Former Rector, Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu, Olawunmi Gasper, observed: ‘’The education agenda of this administration under the stewardship of the minister of education, Adamu Adamu must be hinged on the review of the constitution to accommodate a free compulsory six years primary education for every Nigerian child under the exclusive legislative list and solely funded by the Federal Government with the refusal of enrolling and ensuring children are in schools be criminalised.
‘’The next four years of this administration must correct the neglect of the six years primary education, which is the hub of individual and societal development, the foundation meant to provide the Nigerian child with opportunities to acquire literacy, numeracy, creativity, communication skills, enjoying learning and continuing to develop the desire to learning.
‘’This initiative of strengthening our primary education will also bring out the best potentials of every child and identify early in the education cycle, exceptionally gifted, creative and innovative child. The immediate reform must include knowledge, life skills, and critical thinking to equip young people with the technological and innovative skills for the 21st-century economy.’’
Gasper, the pioneer Executive Secretary of Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board noted that this administration must adopt a new approach to the development of primary education with a review of the educational system to enhance and strengthen primary education by recognising it as the most important tier and the pivot upon which the entire education system rests.
The formerb rector advocated that the deployment by federal and state governments of meagre resources to fund all tiers of education in spite of the dwindling budget for the sector in the last administration must be reviewed. In this regard, the agenda must be strategic to ensure the federal government fully concentrates on the development and funding only of primary education and hands-off secondary and tertiary education.
He also suggested that the Federal Government hands-off secondary and tertiary education and fully concentrate on the development and funding only of primary education: “With this, the Federal Government will concentrate on the development of an effective primary education system, that will feed the junior, senior (including technical/vocational education) and tertiary institutions, with highly literate, numerate Nigerian child who can effectively communicate in most languages.”
Gasper advised the education minister to assert his political will to galvanise all key stakeholders to radically reform education most especially the six years of primary education.
National president, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Nasir Idris, said he was happy with the reappointment of Adamu. He challenged him to use the opportunity to consolidate on the achievements he made in the last administration. He specifically asked the minister to push for the extension of retirement age for teachers to 65 years as against what it is now among several other pressing issues.
He was seriously concerned about the menace of out-of-school children and the unchanging statistics in spite of several interventions from local and international partners. He asked the minister to change his approach to the issue of out-of-school children, particularly the issue of the Almajiri system of education in northern Nigeria.
He commended government for the introduction of home grown school feeding programme. He attested to the fact that the programme succeeded in pulling children of school age, particularly in northern Nigeria off the streets:
“We have recorded impressive increase in school enrolment because of the policy and we would like the states and local government authorities to adopt the measure to ensure that children are pulled off-street.”
President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Usman Dutse, said: “He has seen it all and obviously, he is coming back to the ministry, expectedly, more informed and prepared to tackle the challenges of the education sector.
“In his first term, we observed that his commitment was much and that affected his performance. This time, we want him to be more focus and put down strong mechanisms and engage sincere and competent hands to monitor progress in the ministry.”
President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Biodun Ogunyemi said: “Adamu’s advantage is that he already knows the challenges facing the education sector. He has been pushing it gradually and diligently, to the point that he admitted that there was need for state of emergency to be declared in education sector.
“We would only encourage him to continue from where he stopped. Our own area of interest is the public university system, which requires urgent attention from government. Our demands are yet to be attended to. The issue of revitalisation and several others are yet to be attended to.
“The worst case is that the renegotiation of 2009 FG/ASUU agreement has stopped because of some identified grey areas which must be sorted out before we continue the renegotiation. We have informed the government about it and we are waiting for their response. Until they respond to the letter, we won’t meet with Dr Wale Babalakin led Federal Government, a renegotiation team.”
President of Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Mr Emmanuel Orji, congratulated Adamu on his retention in the most important ministry: ‘’The association in our 2019 African Education Conference had extended invitation to his office thinking he would arrive office by that date. We hope therefore to forward the outcome of this great gathering that hosted national, international think-tank and astute professionals in education to him for his immediate action.
‘’One of the major highlights is the tested and proven means of reducing if not completely eradicating the growing number of out-of- school children in Nigeria. In this we hope to partner with the federal government.
‘’We want to see him address the issue of discriminatory approach to federal government schools feeding program as our school are the extension of public schools kind of learners.
‘’Due to our complementary role in the pursuit of education for all as captured in the SDG education target documents delivered to member nations, which Nigeria is one, we will be open for partnership to delivering on the 2030 target. He has to fast-rack this.
‘’We will like to see him convocate a gathering to discuss the decadence or what people call falling standard of education. This in my view is a myriad of problems as I don’t believe in the standard falling phenomenon.
‘’We like to see a minister who will quickly swing into action having gained a reasonable knowledge of the sector to cover for the lost ground in his first tenure, which was largely a path finding period for him. Teacher quality is also an area of importance.’’
Orji advocated a review of the curriculum to help it achieve a problem solving education system: “His capacity to deliver is high having understood this sector as he is not a green horn. He is an accountant who knows the need and work of money too well.’’