Fred Ezeh, Abuja
As the nation awaits the composition of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by President Muhammed Buhari, key education stakeholders have set an agenda for the incoming minister of education. They have tasked President Buhari to appoint someone that will move the education sector to the next level by tackling issues confronting the sector. Specifically, they urged Mr. President to pick an experience person that has passion for the sector and also who will add value to the education sector.
Former Bursar of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Peter Aghi, insisted that technocrats should be appointed as ministers, to assist the president drive his #Nextlevel agenda.
Aghi said technocrats have management and administrative capacity, and they don’t come into office to learn the job, rather they bring in wealth of knowledge and experience that drives efficiency and unprecedented productivity.
He advised that incoming education minister should be someone that appreciates the importance and role of human to national development, and not a politician who barely understands the workings of the system.
“The practice of appointing a professor as minister of education or to head education agency or parastatal should be revisited. From my experience as former Bursar of UNICAL, I can confidently confirm that most of the professors being appointed to head the institutions lack the necessary capacity for management and administration.
“Majority of them have spent most of their career life in the classroom, managing the teaching aspect of the university administration, without necessarily managing the people. Administration is totally different from being a professor and expert in a particular field. Most of them have had a stereotype lifestyle and knowledge. They are only conversant with the courses they teach.
“For instance, most of them that are appointed vice chancellors, regrettably use the first year of their tenure on the learning curve. They use it to understand the dynamics of administration or management. That is a waste of precious time that would have been used to revolutionise the system for good.”
He is also not in favour of appointment of politicians who are driven by different things other than quality educational legacies. He suggested that people who had own and managed schools efficiently and effectively should be considered.
“In to addition to that, they must have had proven records of managerial and administrative capacity, in addition to intellectual capacity before being considered,” he submitted.
Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said the nation’s education system is currently “bleeding” and need urgent attention from government to avoid national collapse. He is particularly concerned about the poor funding of education in Nigeria.
He recalled that former minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, had in November 2018, confessed that Nigeria was the only country among the D-8 Nations, that allocate less than 20 percent of its annual budget to education. The D–8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, also known as Developing-8, is an organisation for development co-operation among the following countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.
He recommended that a new minister of education should be someone that commands respect and audience among policy makers, so they could listen when he speaks
“In addition, he must have a proven record of competence. I am not referring to paper qualifications even though it’s important. The person being considered must be grounded in history and philosophy of education in Nigeria.”
The ASUU leader said Nigeria is yet to get it right in terms of education managers, but he is hopeful that the president will be careful this time to pick someone with requisite knowledge and capacity to drive the needed changes in the education sector.
Founder of Brickhall School, Abuja, Senator Joy Emodi, wants the president to appoint an educationist rather than politician who can tackle the problem of ineffective curriculum.
“Curriculum being used in our schools are not designed for problem solving. It is more of reading and passing examination, and not to equip the students with skills and abilities to solve different human problems.
Senator Emodi said well developed and efficient curriculum should be able to minimise unemployment.
“I suggest that we adopt the Scandinavian model of education where, at the end of the basic education stage, the academically inclined students would go further with their academic while the skilled inclined will fine-tune their skills and be self and gainfully employed.
“This will significantly decongest the labour market and provide the required skills in various sectors of economy. Regrettably, Nigerian schools are unequipped to offer such educational services. So, It’s time our curriculum is redesigned to give students practical knowledge that would sustain them after school.”
The educationist also said that Nigerian education system is poorly funded. She expected the incoming administration to liaise with stakeholders to push for increased budgetary allocation to education.
“UNESCO had recommended 26 percent of annual budgetary allocation to education. But Nigeria is still struggling with lower level single digit budgetary allocation. The effect is obvious for all to see.
“Another serious problem is ill-equipped teachers. The minister should support opportunities for training and retraining of teachers, otherwise Nigeria will end up with educated posterity.
She wants education Inspectors trained in the modern trend in education system. The minister should also reposition the National Teachers Institute (NTI) to produce well-equipped teachers and not overnight teachers who acquire their certificate just to answer professional teachers.
“A lot to say but let me end by pointing out the proliferation of substandard schools, at all levels. It’s a breeding ground for educated illiterates and its adverse effects are far reaching. The incoming minister and his management team need strong political will to close down these schools. He should work closely with National Council on Education (NCE) to achieve that since education is on concurrent list. Motivation of teachers and lecturers is important. Modern working tools and friendly working environment should be provided for them.”
Cecelia Ibru, co-founder, Michael and Cecelia Ibru University, want a minister who can engender good policies that would help improve the standard of education. She also called for the amendment of the Act establishing the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to accommodate the interest of private universities.
Said she: “The bulk of the education tax comes from private sector. So, it is expected that some of it is passed to the private universities. But at the moment, it has not been done. However, it’s an ongoing discussion and I am sure that someday, some kind of arrangement will come into play for private institutions to benefit.”
National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chairperson, Olusola Bankole, said that quality and functional education is the foundation for growth and development of a nation.
Said she: “A round peg in a round hole, or if we like, a square peg in the square hole will mean appointing an educationist who has sufficient understanding of current realities, and had also made definite impact in the functional education sector.
“We cannot afford to keep toying with our future by appointing someone that knows next to nothing about functional education as education minister. That would be a huge threat to our collective security and development.”
The NAPPS chairperson advised the new minister of education to champion a campaign for functional education that would promote “sabificate” rather than certificate.
She added: “He should also set out a roadmap to deal with examination malpractice, underaged admissions, update of the National Policy on Education (NPE) to cover the current realities and make Nigeria education system unambiguous and definite for all to operate.”
Bankole also suggested that the new minister should put up clear guidance to identify and support innovative and creative prodigies, discourage brain drain in terms of going to school abroad without a definite plan to repatriate the knowledge back home.
She highlighted the importance of giving indigenous schools a desired lift through promotion of scholastic activities, showcase of impactful researches, and make public schools more competitive and standard enough to attract patronage.
The educationist was seriously concerned about the poor level of intervention and impact being made by the National Mathematical Centre. She appealed that the centre be adequately funded, so it can assume its purpose through training of teachers and students in outstanding Mathematics skills of international standards.
She equally advised that NAPPS and other relevant professional bodies should be involved in educational plan. “They are on the field and can bring great input and solutions to the current challenges,” she said.