By Amaka Abayomi
AS we all get ready to pop champagne to celebrate a remarkable year and count down to 2013, we at Vanguard Learning bring you a collection of stories that made 2012 outstanding.
The year started off with the suspension of strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which kept public universities under lock and key for two months.
The strike was in protest of the Federal Government’s refusal to honour an agreement it reached with the union in 2009 to arrest and reverse the decay in the university system and reposition it for greater responsibilities in national development; reverse the brain-drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff, but also by disengaging them from the encumbrances of a unified civil service wage structure; and restore universities through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention among others.
ASUU and FG finally reached a common stand on the following: funding; review of laws that impinge on university autonomy; separate salary structure for academic staff in the universities; earned allowances to entitled academic staff; and pension for university academics and compulsory retirement age.
Rainstorm kill students, teacher
On Monday, February 13, 2012, an early morning rainstorm wreaked havoc in several parts of Lagos, destroying houses, cars, electric poles, and uprooting many trees, thereby leaving 15 persons dead, teachers and students inclusive.
Among the dead were 10 children, who drowned at Shibiri Ekunpa area of Ojo when a passenger ferry taking them to school capsized. Also, two students of Goodness Comprehensive High School were killed when the storm destroyed their school building, while a teacher at St. Gregory College, Obalende, was killed when a mast collapsed on him.
Also, Jakande Low Cost Housing Estate Primary School, Oke Afa Junior and Senior Colleges had their roofs blown away by the rainstorm.
8.43% education budget
Concerned education stakeholders were shocked at the allocation of N400.15 billion (8.43 per cent) of the 2012 annual budget to the education sector, a far cry from the 26 per cent recommended by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.
A breakdown of the budget showed that N345.091bn (82 per cent) was allotted to recurrent expenditure while a meager N55.056bn (18 per cent) is for capital expenditure. N317.896bn was proposed for personnel cost and N27.192bn was for overheads.
Nigeria spends less than 9 per cent of her annual budget on education, far below what other African countries spend on education. Botswana spends 19.0 per cent; Swaziland, 24.6 per cent; Lesotho, 17 per cent; South Africa, 25.8 per cent; Cote d’Ivoire, 30 per cent; Burkina Faso, 16.8 per cent; Ghana, 31 per cent; Kenya, 23 per cent; Uganda, 27 per cent; Tunisia, 17 per cent; and, Morocco, 17.7 per cent.
Death of UNILAG VC
Just when things were getting normal, the Nigerian academic community was thrown into mourning following the death of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Adetokunbo Babatunde Sofeluwe.
Sofeluwe, 62, suffered a heart attack in his office and was rushed to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where he suffered another attack before giving up the ghost in the early hours of Saturday, May, 2012.
Sofoluwe, who was appointed on January 31, 2010 as the 10th VC, got his first degree from the University of Lagos in Computer Science.
Educating 9.5 million almajiris
Resolute in achieving Education for All by 2015, the Federal Government launched the Almajiri model school in Sokoto State, which has been replicated in other northern states, aimed at broadening the horizon of over 9.5 million almajiris on spiritual and moral values.
President Jonathan, at the inauguration of the first Almajiri Model Boarding School in Gagi, Sokoto State, said his administration believed that the time had come for the nation to build on the moral foundations of the traditional school system by providing the Almajiri with conventional knowledge and skills that would enable them to fully realise their creative and productive potentials.
Government had so far constructed 35 of such model schools, while states with large population of Almajiris would have both the boarding and day schools. The school comprises 15 blocks of classrooms, language laboratory, clinic, recitation room, vocational workshop, Mallams’ quarters and a dinning hall.
Mass failures in public examination
Public attention was, again, drawn to the rot in the education sector following the mass failure of students in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
In the May/June 2012 WAEC exams, only 38.81 per cent of the candidates or 649,156 of 1,695,878 candidates obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English language and Mathematics.
Of the 1,695,878 candidates, 6.70 per cent (112,000) were withheld for various report of alleged involvement in examination malpractice; 46.14 per cent (771,731) obtained six credits and above; 56.93 per cent (952,156) obtained five credits and above; 66.24 per cent (1,107,747) obtained credits and above in four subjects, while 74.55 per cent (1,246,729) obtained credits and above in three subjects.
The results were not any better in the UTME as, according to JAMB Registrar/Chief Executive, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, of the 1,503,931 candidates that sat for the exam, only 3 scored 300 and above; 901 scored between 270-299; 71,339 candidates scored between 250-269; 601,151 scored between 200-249; 374,920 candidates scored between 170-199; while 336,330 scored below 170.
27,266 results where withheld in 52 centres in eight states for exam malpractice, while number of invalid results was 5,161.
The National Universities Commission (NUC) threw some spanners in the wheel when it announced the suspension of the licences of seven private universities on July 4.
The affected universities – Madonna University, Lead City University, Tansian University, Caritas University, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Achievers University and Obong University – had their operational licences suspended for failing to live up to guidelines stipulated for running of universities in Nigeria by NUC.
According to the Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Julius Okojie, some of their offences were unwillingness to comply with regulations, inappropriate governance structure and poor management of academic activities. He added that the suspension would be lifted as soon as they comply.
Ban of part-time programmes
Then came the ban on part-time programmes in varsities by the NUC, which stakeholders say would deny millions of Nigerians whose only chances of acquiring higher education were through part-time programmes.
According to Okojie, the ban is aimed at rationalising the activities as well as ensuring that best practices and standards are maintained. He added that until the ban is lifted, admission into part-time programme will not exceed 20 per cent of a varsity’s total intake while lectures will be restricted to varsities campuses only.
PhD truck drivers
The value of our educational certificates was brought to question when Dangote Group announced that it received 13,000 applications from graduates for employment as truck drivers. Of this number, six PhD, 704 Masters and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders applied for the Graduate Executive Truck Driver positions.
According to the Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, most of the applicants are from reputable universities and our plan is to eventually make them self-dependent.
The drivers will get trip allowances on each trip along with their salaries, and will own the trucks at no interests or repayments after they must have reached 300,000km, (about 140 trips from Lagos to Kano) within two to four years.
The death of the four University of Port Harcourt students that were lynched in Aluu Community, Ikwerre LGA, Rivers State, for allegedly stealing phones and laptops would forever remain in the minds of many.
The students, Chiadika Lordson, Ugonna Kelechi Obusor, Mike Lloyd Toku, and Tekena Elkanah, were beaten and later set ablaze by members of the community.
According to an eye witness, Miss Ibisobia Elkanah, sister to Tekena, policemen who visited the scene when the students were being beaten encouraged the mob to ‘burn them alive’