The Federal Government’s recent disclosure that it is planning to remodel at least 10,000 schools annually throughout the country is laudable. The new initiative coming at a time that most of the nations’ public primary schools are in their worst conditions is, indeed, welcome.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, revealed this recently in Abuja. The “Every Child Counts Education Programme,” which the Federal Government is undertaking in collaboration with the state governments, would enable school children acquire digital literacy and other functional skills. Under the programme, the schools will be provided modern school infrastructure while the teachers will be retrained to move the country to a knowledge-driven economy.
Available statistics showed that in 2013, Nigeria had 61,305 public primary schools and 62, 406 of such schools in 2014. It also had 11,561 public Junior Secondary Schools in 2013 and 11, 874 of such schools in 2014. In 2013, Nigeria had 24, 185, 027 pupils and 576, 665 teachers in its public primary schools. In 2014, it had 23,129, 927 pupils and 574,579 teachers in its primary schools. With the foregoing statistics, the government has a lot of work to do in terms of revamping the education sector.
We commend the new initiative on remodeling of schools. It would have come earlier than now. All the same, it is still in order. For too long, the government has relegated education to the background. The new plan to revamp the education sector by the Federal Government is a bold one.
It is the path which other developed and developing countries had trodden. India has through such moves transformed its educational system. Having prioritised basic, functional and digital education, India has made the giant leap from an underdeveloped economy to a modern economic power. India has reportedly moved over 700 million of its citizens from the extreme poverty level to prosperity in the last few decades. It has also become the new digital capital of the world.
Therefore, the Federal and State governments should show much commitment to the project. They should invest much money in the initiative to ensure that it succeeds. The project must not be allowed to suffer from policy shifts that affected such initiatives in the past.
We urge all the stakeholders in the education sector to support the plan. The Federal Government must ensure that all the 36 state governments are carried along in the project irrespective of party affiliations. The 774 local governments in the country should also be involved.
The remodeling programme should start with the primary schools and Junior Secondary Schools. Gradually, it will get to the Senior Secondary Schools. The government working with the state governments must carefully chose the benefiting schools to reflect areas of need and the nation’s diversity.
The selection must cover all the 36 states of the federation and substantial number of local governments across the country. However, we warn that the programme should not be politicised. There are probably thousands of public primary and junior secondary schools in the country that urgently need attention. Government must ensure that many of these public schools in the country are covered under the scheme.
We can recall that during the 60s and 80s, education was given special attention by the government through hefty budgetary allocations. Unfortunately, education is no longer prioritised in terms of allocation of resources. We must go back to the old template that really worked for us.
All tiers of government must increase its annual budget for education. We cannot achieve the vision of being among the developed countries of the world in the near future without providing adequate funding for the education sector. There is hardly any tier of government that devotes up to eight percent of its annual budget to education. Even the paltry allocations to the sector are not judiciously utilised.
That is why the Parent/Teachers Associations, international organisations, NGOs and donor partners are doing so much to aid the educational development of the country. Therefore, let the remodeling of the schools be expeditiously implemented.