By Gabriel Dike
A major campaign is underway by the Concerned Parents of Educators Initiative (CPE) to draw the attention of federal, state and local governments as well as key stakeholders on the deplorable state of the nation’s education sector and the urgent need to tackle the rot. The four-week rescue campaign has been described by stakeholders as the first of its kind, which they acknowledged as a major push to get the government to intervene.
To work the talk, CPE declared February as Education Transformation Advocacy Month. Its founder, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, unveiled the advocacy in Lagos. The audacious campaign will take place in all states of the federation and started from February 1 to 28, 2020.
Standards and teachers’ training
Ogunde said CPE started four years ago as an online platform with the main objective of bringing together key stakeholders in the education sector to deliberate on ways to improve standards in schools, empower teachers with necessary information and skills, support parents, protect children and ensure better outcomes in schools and in the lives of the children:
‘’Today, CPE has grown in leaps and bounds, with 116, 000 members across Nigeria talking about issues that are critical to the development of the education sector and proffering solutions to the multiple challenges inherent there. Interestingly, this initiative has also led to discussions about teachers’ development and birthed another online platform exclusively for teachers’ training and capacity building. Much more, it has also birthed a social welfare group where we support indigent children through educational scholarship.’
“The gathering is to officially unveil our advocacy programme and engage stakeholders across the country on how to steer the wheel of sustainable development and holistic transformation in the education sector. Nigerians are complaining about graduates churned out by universities are unemployable asking, why are they unemployable? What are the processes required to make them employable? What things need to be done to ensure they compete favourably with others across the world?
‘’At this time, we can no longer ignore what is happening in our schools, be it public or private; be it low-cost or high-brow. All hands must be on deck to engage key stakeholders: corporate organisations, religious organisations, traditional rulers, community leaders, parents, teachers, civil society groups and let them know that it is time for us to transform the education sector in Nigeria.
‘’The reason is simple. If we don’t do anything, nothing is going to change. We need people who will be able to take ownership of the problems and not just talk about the problems. It is so easy to talk but it is more challenging to do.”
Nationwide mobilisation campaign
At the formal launch of the campaign, CPE members and stakeholders took turns to lament the deplorable condition of the sector, especially in the areas of quality teachers, poor students performance public exams, lack of teaching facilities, corruption in the sector, poor welfare package for teachers, inadequate funding and policy summersault.
Ogunde: ‘’It is a brand new year; a new decade and the long-awaited 2020, upon which many new innovations and visions are hinged. There is perhaps no better time than now to embark on this advocacy for change, considering the gross decay in our education sector and the danger it portends for our children now and in the near future.
‘’The former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, once said, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world.
“Mobilisation is going on in different states across the country and that CPE chapters have been inaugurated in 21 states, namely, Abia, Abuja, Anambra, Benue, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Niger, Kwara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kogi, and Lagos.”
She said CPE tagged the first week’s theme, “Speak Out.” The session will involve everybody to speak out in churches, mosques, offices, eateries and everywhere: ‘’It is a time for corporate organisations to tell us what they are doing to support the education sector. It is time for the government to tell us their plans for the sector. We want everyone to come out and give specific reports on what they are doing as regards education.’’
Video challenge is the topic for the second week: “People are expected to be online that week with short video clips on all social media platforms, suggesting ways to solve the problems they have identified in the education sector.”
For the third week, it is “Na Me” school help campaign. It will provide answers to debunk the ongoing negative campaign that school is a scam currently serving as a weapon to manipulate youths to jettison education and pursue success elsewhere.
“We need people with strong and convincing testimony as to how the school has helped. We need them to go back to schools and share their experiences with the students as to how education has helped them achieve success in life.’’
In week four, activities include the presentation of letters to state commissioners of education: “Many of the CPE state chapters would have met, drafted their letters, communiqué and send it to commissioners for education; chairmen of SUBEB, state houses of assembly and governors, stating in specific terms the reforms they want to see in the education sector.”
In her contribution, UK-based Dr. Grace Olugbodi said: “There is a difference between how education is handled in Nigeria and UK. There is accountability. When officials know people are monitoring things, they will be forced to do the right things.’’
She urged Nigerian teachers to make the teaching of subjects fun and entertaining in the classrooms, especially Mathematics and science subjects: ‘’CPE is covering a lot of areas in the school system and they need stakeholders support to ensure the success of the four-week campaign.’’
A member of the CPE Board of Trustees (BoT), Dr. Segun Oshin, said: “The group will leverage on the various chapters abroad to draw the attention of government on the state of affairs of the education sector. CPE will also help organisations and institutions to identify the problem of children with special needs and educate parents on how to handle such kids rather than lock them in the house.”
Chief Wemimo Ogunde (SAN), described the education campaign nationwide as welcome development: “Education is not about going to school, it makes one have a good vision of what to do. I call on stakeholders to support CPE in drawing the attention of the rot in the system to federal and state governments.’’
Another member of CPE, Mrs. Olayinka Ogunnusi, said CPE would use the campaign to draw the attention of the government to certain schools in a state of despair and would come up with a training programme for teachers.
The proprietor of Fountain Top Academy, Oshodi, Lagos, Mr. Remi Abayomi, said the campaign should not only be to draw the attention of the government on the sorry state of education in the country but to demand urgent action to be taken to address the situation:
‘’We can not continue like this, Nigerians must constantly remind chairmen of local government councils, state governors, lawmakers and the president to address issues bedeviling the education sector. Education is the bedrock of every nation but our government has neglected the sector.’’