By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Many dignitaries who came from different parts of the country for the 56th NCE meeting had thought that the Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu would not arrive on time to flag off the ministerial session of the meeting which kicked off on Thursday last week given his tight schedule and the state of the nation withÂ respect to Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s ill health.
But they were pleasantly surprised when he sauntered into Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, venue of the meeting, almost in the nick of time, presiding till about 6 p.m. when proceedings adjourned till 9a.m. the following day.
This reporter happened to be one of those very few participants who witnessed the arrival of Egwu at exactly 9.02 a.m for the continuation of the ministerial session the following day.
Infact, protocol was thrown to the dustbin that day as top officials of the FME came in to take their seats on the high table whenÂ the Minister was already seated! As they were coming one after the other, Egwu was passing a message of displeasure for their late arrival by merely looking straight into their eyes.
The previous day, Egwu had delivered a thought-provokingÂ keynote address, reiterating the need for improved partnerships and linkages among the governments at various levels, private sector, philanthropists and development partners in the areas of funding and provision of infrastructure to elevate the standard of the countryâ€™s education system.
Nigeria, according to the Education Minister, may not achieve Education For All goals by 2015 as a result of inadequate infrastructural facilities, teaching and learning materials as well as dearth of qualified teachers at the basic education level.
Egwu expressed disappointment at the failure of states to take full advantage of the FGN-UBE intervention fund by providing the required counterpart funds and accounting for the earlier disbursed funds, revealing that over N20 billion are lying at the bank unaccessed as only two states throughout the country were able to access the fund last year.
Enjoining council to take concrete and far-reaching steps in rescuing secondary education from the present decay, Dr Egwu lamented that while the enrolment figure in SSCE increased tremendously from 2005 to 2008, less than 25% of the candidates obtained five credits, including English and Mathematics, adding that their performance in 2009 was even worse.
As Technical and Vocational Education (TVE) holds the key to the industrial development of any nation, the two time Governor of Ebonyi State said his ministry, in realisation of the importance of TVE, has introduced Vocational Enterprise Institutions (VEIS) and Innovative Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) to widen access to TVE and offer a credible alternative to higher education through the provision of relevant industry – specific skills. He urged states and FCT which are yet to create awareness and establish VEIs and IEIs to do so.
On the newly introduced Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), Egwu explained that it offers various advantages like cost reduction to candidates, expansion of access to tertiary education as well as the opportunity of six choices for candidates placement into any of the universities, polytechnics, monotechnics, specialized institutions and Colleges of Education, reminding that the UTME will take-off in April this year.
The resuscitation of the Federal Government Scholarship Scheme for Nigerian students in higher institutions of learning was also mentioned by the Minister, assuring that the Federal Government would ensure that the scheme is sustained through the provision of annual budgetary allocation.
He also touched on the need for all key players to ensure an effective implementation of the Roadmap for the Nigerian Education Sector which he crafted.