BY DAYO ADESULU
Having observed the manner in which good policies made by the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) have, on several occasions, been thrown into the dustbin each time a new Education Minister assumed office, Mr. Rufus Egunyomi, the Proprietor of Rufus International College, Lagos has canvassed for consistency of policy formulation and implementation by the FME.
In this exclusive interview, Egunyomi, who is also a legal practitioner, talks about the qualities and skills which the nation’s Education Minister must possess and deploy for the betterment of the sector.
He also talks about the need for school to organize multi-purpose cooperative and credit society for schools and the state of education in the country. Excerpts:
On qualities required of the Minister of Education
The Minister must be an educationist who is also a technocrat. Most of the past Education Ministers we have had in this country are not technocrats. They are just political appointees. The fact that some of them are lecturers from our tertiary institutions does not mean that they are technocrats. Some of them have not even managed human beings and material resources prior to their appointment as Minister. Many of them theorize what is not practical and this deficiency on their part leads to the formulation of policies that are not implementable.
Theory is different from practice. But a technocrat will know how to manage human and material resources and will be able to implement policies. One of the problems which the nation’s education system has been contending with over the years is policy somersault.
When you don’t appoint a technocrat to man the education sector, you are not likely to get policies that can meet the test of time. Another defect is lack of proper attention to our youths which manifests in inadequate infrastructure at various levels of our educational institutions.
Today, the number of students most public schools can take is limited because the infrastructure and facilities in these schools are not expanded. They don’t have good laboratories and many of them don’t have library.
On problem of mass failure is SSCE
Many public schools are recording mass failure in Senior Secondary Certificate Examination every year because teaching aids are not available in these schools and teachers are not well remunerated. So how do you want them to give their best? Most of the schools do not have the required number of teachers for mathematics, English Language and all the science subjects.
This results in the inability of teachers handling these subjects to cover the syllabus. So, these students jump to the next class with arrears of important untaught topics.
They miss these topics from JSS one to SS3 and their poor outing in SSCE is the cumulative effect of this neglect. It will be difficult for both the students and the teachers to cover the syllabus at SS3 having missed crucial topics in SS1 and SS2.
Examination bodies like WAEC and NECO also contribute to the problem. How prepared are these bodies for these exams? If they are well prepared, there won’t be leakages most of the time. They are fond of using ad-hoc staff which leads to logistics problem.
They should have enough regular staff for strategic positions; especially the logistics are like movement and distribution of question papers from one place to another. So the logistics must be properly managed so that question papers and scripts will get to their destinations without being tampered with.
There is also the issue of indiscipline in schools like lateness to school and truancy on the part of students. The level of indiscipline is so high to the extent that students seek registration for G.C.E O/L at special centres where they can be assisted in the examination hall.
On the need for multi-purpose cooperative and credit society in schools.
It is important that schools across this country should take a cue from what we are doing here concerning the multi-purpose cooperative and credit Society.
Having secured the approval of the state government, we set it up and organize seminars for parents on a regular basis on what they can do with their money when they are still working, by saving part of it in the society. It is meant to add value to the lives of the parents. A parent who subscribes to it can take loan.
They also benefit from household materials and commodity which we buy and they pay for them instalmentally. We also organize an insurance policy for our students. We take care of the medical expenses of our students and any student involved in an accident also benefits from our insurance policy.
This covers the medical disability of the child. We are also planning to extend the insurance policy to parents so that if there is a sudden death of a parent, it won’t truncate the education of his or her child. We are doing this because most of the parents are very poor.
Government as the problem of private schools
One of the problems facing private schools in Nigeria is government. Government is supposed to be complementing the efforts of school owners but instead both local and state governments add more to our burden through the imposition of multiple taxes on private schools like tenement rate, land charge, annual dues.
Yet, these are imposed irrespective of the number of students you have. Last year, we paid well over N75,000 on taxes alone. The number of students in my school, for example, is limited and teacher’s salary keep on increasing. To me, education is a social service, a non-profit venture in most of the cases.
The multiple taxation system hinders the quality of service provided by private school. So, government should give a helping hand to private schools.
The operating cost is high. Loan from banks would have been helpful but the interest on such loan is always high, very prohibitive and it is difficult to service it because many students do not pay school fees on time, even some defaulting parents end up taking their wards away without paying, So, funding is a major problem in Nigeria whereas in overseas, school owners have access to funds from Foundation through which they get money to run the schools.
That is why I said that the establishment of school is a social responsibility, to assist people to receive education. For instance, we give uniforms free of charge to new students and give full scholarship in form of tuition to orphans. We have in our school two or three of them presently.