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By Emma Okocha
Nigeria’s education leaders met with scores of U.S.-Based Nigerian Educators and other stakeholders on the campus of American University in Washington, DC, for a Summit on “Closing the Education Gaps in Nigeria”, in May, 2009.

The Nigerian education establishment was led by  Prof. Julius Okojie, Executive Secretary of Nigeria’s National Universities Commission (who represented Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu); Prof. Mohammed I. Junaid, Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE); and Prof. Michael Omolewa, Ambassador/Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO.

The Summit was sponsored by the Coalition of Concerned Nigerian Educators, USA (CCNE-USA), with co-sponsoring support from American University’s School of International Service, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), and The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (The NESG), a private think tank based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Held against the backdrop of the decline in the Nigerian education sector and the stated commitment of the Nigerian government to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), President Umaru Yar’Adua’s Vision 20-2020, and the Government’s 7-point Agenda, the Summit was convened to identify ways in which Nigerian born educators in the United States can collaborate with all levels of government in Nigeria, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders to work toward reversing the decline in the education system.

Participants included representatives from the Federal Ministry of Education and its agencies, a technical adviser to the Roadmap Planning Committee, technical advisers to the Senate Committee on Education, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (The NESG), United States Department of Education, The World Bank, civil society organizations, and Nigerian born educators from Elementary, Secondary and Higher Education institutions in the United States of America.

“The deliberations came at an opportune time since they followed the release of The Roadmap for the Nigerian Education Sector by Dr. Egwu”, stated Prof. Kenoye K. Eke, Chairman of the Coalition of Concerned Nigerian Educators – USA. The participants examined “The Roadmap” for opportunities for engagement as well as gaps that may exist and suggested a plan of action for sustainable diaspora engagement efforts.

The summiteers also examined issues of access and equity, standards and quality assurance, infrastructure development, and partnerships with American institutions, among others.

“The Summit served as a platform for the discussion of a research agenda that will inform education policy making in Nigeria”, this, according to CCNE’s Co-Chairman, Prof. Reginald Nnazor.

Additionally, the participants discussed efforts by The Senate of Nigeria’s National Assembly to address the educational decline during a summit organized by its Education Committee, with two Technical Advisers to the Senate’s Education Committee: Prof. Placid Njoku, formerly of the National Universities Commission; and Prof. Olu Aina, former Registrar/CEO of the Nigerian Board for Technical Education, will present the Senate’s actions.

Representing civil society, Dr. Sonny Kuku, Chairman of the Human Development Commission of The NESG and Joint Chief Medical Director, Eko Hospitals Plc., gave a presentation on the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector in education reform.

The three-day summit ended with the Summiteers noting the following:

(1) the readiness of Nigerians in the Diaspora to participate in the transformation of the Nigerian education sector; (2) the inadequate attention paid to the related issues of governance and leadership in the Roadmap and the Senate Education Committee’s Communiqué and Framework for Priority Action; and (3) the need to involve all stakeholders in the implementation of the Roadmap and Framework.

The summiteers adopted a Communiqué resolving, among other things, to:

(1) organize resources to assist schools and other educational institutions in Nigeria; (2) collaborate with appropriate agencies on curriculum development, review, implementation, and assessment;

(3) collaborate with educational institutions to provide institutional development and leadership and faculty professional development; (4) collaborate with educational institutions on assessment, research, and development;

(5) promote the development of Model Schools and Universities among Nigerians in the Diaspora; (6) urge the Federal Ministry of Education and the Senate Committee on Education to work toward harmonizing the resolutions and prescriptions of both the Roadmap and the Senate Framework for Priority Action; (7) urge the Federal Ministry of Education and the Senate Committee on Education to provide a special intervention fund over the next ten years for the implementation of the harmonized document/policy;

(8) urge the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as the state and local governments to include Nigerian educators in the Diaspora on the various commissions/boards/task forces associated with the implementation of the Roadmap.

The Chairman of CCNE-USA was most pleased with the outcome of the Summit. According to Prof. Eke, “the Summit exceeded our expectations in many ways; we plan to make it an on-going dialogue with Nigeria’s education leaders”.


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