The plan by the Federal Government to audit pupils and teaching personnel in public and private schools nationwide in order to collate data for policy planning and implementation is laudable. The comprehensive exercise, which should be carried out by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), was said to have started in the Southern states on April 29, while that of the Northern states would commence on June 3.
According to the UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, the audit was aimed at collating reliable data for the national databank in line with Nigeria’s Education Management Information System policy. To ensure a hitch-free exercise, the commission deployed about 725 officials to work with the state Universal Basic Education Boards and the Local Government Education Authorities.
Accordingly, UBEC would also collaborate with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the National Population Commission (NPC) and the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC). We can recall that the audit of all public basic education schools in the country was carried out in 2006 and 2010 respectively.
The audit of all pupils and teaching personnel in public and private schools is a good move on the part of the government. The import of the exercise is underscored by the fact that there would not be effective planning without adequate and reliable data.
Such exercise should be done periodically. It is even not so good that the last one was conducted in 2010. Government needs up-to-date data of pupils and teachers in the public and private schools in order to plan for them.
It must ensure that UBEC and all the collaborating agencies are adequately equipped in terms of manpower and logistics for the exercise to be successful. We believe that the audit will help the government to address the myriad of problems in our basic education system, such as manpower shortage, lack of infrastructure and dearth of teaching materials.
The provision of adequate infrastructure and funding will go a long way in addressing the shortcomings of our basic education. Government should also make adequate plan to ensure that unqualified teachers are exposed to further training while fresh graduate teachers must be recruited.
The data from the exercise can be used to measure the efficacy of instruction in schools as well as the pupil/teacher ratio. It can be used to determine how many pupils can be in a classroom for effective teaching and learning to take place.
Beyond the audit, government should even go a step further to ensure that teachers at the basic education level have a teaching qualification. The era of teaching being an all comers affair is no longer acceptable. Only highly qualified teachers with education background are suitable to teach in our schools, especially at the basic education level.
Government must professionalise teaching and bring back its lost glory and respect. For this to happen, teachers must be adequately remunerated. Teachers should be made to earn competitive and attractive salaries. This is one of the best ways to retain the bright ones in the teaching profession.
UBEC should be assisted by all the stakeholders in the education sector to conduct this exercise. We urge that government should use the data generated to rectify the problems affecting the basic education system across the country. Without preempting the outcome of the audit, it is worth highlighting some noticeable problems facing our basic education system.
The state of most public and private primary schools across the country is deplorable. In some of the public primary schools, the school buildings are dilapidated while others have leaking roofs. The situation is not remarkably different in most public secondary schools in the country.
These schools suffer from lack of teaching/learning materials to lack of suitably qualified teachers. The pupil/teacher ratio in these schools is nothing to write home about. In sub-Saharan Africa, the pupil/teacher ratio is 42 pupils per teacher.
The recent report that Nigeria will require additional 400,000 teachers between 2012 and 2030 underscores the enormity of the problem. Government should use the outcome of the audit to address all the problems plaguing our basic education system.