By Ebele Orakpo
- Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance
- -Lyndon Johnson
- WORRIED by the deplorable state of Nigeria’s educational institutions at all levels, especially at the early years and primary levels, and the dwindling fortunes of the sector, unarguably the bedrock of any development, Edumark Consult in conjunction with Concerned Parents and Educators Network (CPEN) organised a one day conference tagged The Gathering, aimed at birthing a new generation of education reformers.
In her opening remark, Mrs Yinka Ogunde, CEO of Edumark Consult said the need to find answers to the questions of why primary education in Nigeria is one of the worst in the world, why the children cheat in examinations, why things are going wrong and how to get them right, prompted them to convene the meeting.
“Edumark works with a lot of educational institutions and that has exposed us to a lot of the challenges facing the sector. This is a programme of Concerned Parents and Educators Network (CPEN), a group of key stakeholders in the Education sector passionate about driving reforms in education.
- CPEN started last year with the main aim/desire of bringing about reforms in the country’s education sector. The group is a mix of everybody concerned about what is going on within our educational system,” said Ogunde.
145th in primary education
“Last week, a report came out that rated Nigeria one of the worst in primary education. If that does not grieve your heart, then nothing will. I was pained because by the time you are the worst in the world in primary education, then you need to become very afraid.
- We are concerned about the state of education in our country and we believe we need to get it right in order to move forward. Nigeria is filled with very talented, creative and visionary people. There is no reason why we cannot get it right in education,” said Ogunde.
Speaking on the topic, Where we are today – General Overview, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, Principal Consultant/CEO at Leading Learning Ltd, painted a very gloomy picture of the present state of Nigeria’s educational system, noting that if nothing is done fast, the nation may be heading for total disaster. “Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children and it is growing everyday due to terrorism.
- The North-East alone has over 1.4 billion internally displaced persons, many are children of school age. That should frighten us; it means we are raising a generation of illiterates.
Poor quality: “Poor quality of education is another issue. 58.3 per cent of children in school are not learning. Many secondary school graduates cannot read. We must get the right teachers and build the system to develop the teachers. A school is as good as the weakest teacher in the school. The children are Nigeria’s treasures and teachers are the nurturers,” she said. She regretted that the education budget benefits adults and not the children,” she said.
“We have talked a lot, we need to sit down and ask ourselves why things are not working. This is aprivate sector-driven initiative. It started as an online group and we have grown to over 19,000 members and Nigerians in the Diaspora. All we are doing is deliberating on ideas to move the sector forward. No matter what they are saying outside or online, if we are not engaging the government and stakeholders, we will not get it right.
“Finland developed a model built on getting the best of their best to be teachers and pay them very well. We don’t want to import the Finland model; we need to deliberate on the one that is right for us. Funding is important but it is not all about money, it is more about ideas, vision, planning, strategy and implementation. We can spend billions of naira in education without achieving results,” said Ogunde.
Mrs Debola Atoyebi, Executive Director, Heritage House Montessori who spoke on The Crucial Early Years (0-6 years), noted that without proper work at the early stage, nothing done at other levels will stand.
“A new born baby has 100 billion brain cells. By age one, a child has developed 50% of adult brain functions; age 3 – 80% and at age 5 , it is 90% so it is a very crucial period for a child. A good early years teacher must have sound knowledge of child development,” she said.
A parent, Mrs Helen Essien while sharing the desires of parents stated that teachers have a great influence on children, hence the need for quality teachers. “Nigeria needs a knowledge-based and knowledge-driven economy and that can only be achieved through quality education.”
She harped on the need for proper government policies on education and stable curriculum. She complained of the excessive commercialisation of education and exorbitant school fees not matching the quality received sometimes, and said merit should be placed above federal character.
Mrs Bolaji Osime, CEO at Global International Schools, noted that education in Nigeria must be qualitative and relevant to the needs of society.
The group said there is need for collaboration amongst stakeholders and need to build low cost schools for the poor, raise entry point into colleges of education to get the best, advocacy, policy formulation by stakeholders, curriculum design by educators and formiation of pressure group.