By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Professor Ademola Onifade of Lagos State University counsels the new education minister, Prof Ruqayyat Rufaâ€™i: â€œWith due respect to theminister, she is a Professor of Education and I want to believe that she should be aware of the environment where she will be working.
So, she must have her own idea but that is not to say she wonâ€™t listen to officials of the Federal Ministry of Education. She should listen to them, listen to some stakeholders outside the ministry. With her own ideas, she should be able to come up with what exactly she wants to do.
â€œWe have been talking about the challenges in tertiary institutions like physical facilities, lack of enough teaching and learning equipment, teachersâ€™ welfare and non-academic staff welfare. All these people must be happy to do their work efficiently. So, at the tertiary educational level, the new minister should focus on quality control. But we cannot be talking of good standard if the basic things are not there.
â€œI understand that the government has implemented part of the agreement reached with federal institutions last year, especially the salary increase. That is good enough. So the new minister should ensure that nobody tampers with this agreement. Let her go back to the agreement and ensure that it is well taken care of. The second step is for her to carry these workers along, dialogue with them and let them give an idea of what the challenges are and how to solve them.â€
On his own part, Prof Anetekhai Agenuma, who is the Director, Foundation Programme at LASU also assesses the tenure of Dr. Sam Egwu from which he wants the new minister to take one or two lessons.
He says: â€œI do believe that Sam Egwu is well informed enough to understand the educational needs of the country. But somewhere along the line, he went into politics and once they find themselves in politics, they sing a different tune which should not necessarily be the case.
Having said that, I donâ€™t think Sam Egwu performed very well. Somebody who will sit down and will not look at things objectively and allowed universities staff to go on strike for over six months because of the implementation of an agreement made earlier with workers. And eventually, this agreement was signed. Why did he allow such time wasting strategy?
â€œThe new minister should build a mechanism whereby you donâ€™t necessarily have to wait for strike to occur before you begin to look at the system. Wages of staff should be reviewed in tandem with inflation automatically without doing any negotiation.
It could be through a monitoring team or a think tank, particularly the Committees of Vice Chancellors who can always advise the minister, and who will say the truth. So, I rate Sam Egwu 40%.
â€œI believe the new minister should not just jump in because she doesnâ€™t have much time. When you have some problems to tackle , you find out your critical areas which you will tackle that will lead you to success. I will advise her to sit down and draw up a strategic plan that would, at least, ensure the survival of our educational system.
â€œIn drawing up this plan she must put into consideration the unique situation of each of the geo-political zones in the country.
If you go to the north, the incentive to go to school is what they will appreciate. She should recognise that the South West is much more advanced in terms of education. What she needs to do here is to encourage them to go for functional education that will make school graduates self-reliant. The new minister should know that the South East is more interested in trading.
So that area needs entrepreneurial education, the type that will make them investors, rather than petty traders and that should start from the primary school level to secondary and to tertiary level. Thus, she should articulate these peculiarities and come up with a very good plan that will take care of all these people.
â€œNot only this, she must also put into consideration infrastructural development. The staff in the universities who are to train the trainers also need some training. In this respect, we must be encouraged to actually go out and interact with other people. She must also subject some courses to re-orientation like entreprenuership courses. There should be a way of introducing primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to this entrepreneurship.
There is also the need to train the school teachers who will be training primary and secondary school pupils and students respectively not just in academic alone but also in morals. And these teachers should be well remunerated.
The task of doing this should not be that of the education minister alone. The entire Federal Executive Council must realise that if the nation is not functionally educated we cannot develop technologically, and they should join hands together to advance the cause of education.