By Emmanuel Edukugho
New Minster of State for Eduction, Barrister Esenwo Nyesom Wike has decried the falling standard of education in the country and seeks collaboration with partners to push education forward in line with the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said that the standard of education is not what it used to be in the last twenty years judging from the graduates coming out of tertiary institutions, secondary and primary schools.
“People have mentioned so many problems afflicting our education system and I believe the education media (print and electronic) have a role to play, including the children, parents relations and teachers in restoring the past glory.”
He wondered why a student with eight credits in WAEC cannot write a simple sentence.
Speaking at an interactive session with education editors in Abuja on Monday, Wike stated he called the meeting to know and find out, “if what we are doing so far in the education sector is right, make valuable contributions and interact with education writers in various media and chart ways on how to move education forward.”
The following are responses of the minister to various issues and problems confronting education raised at the parley.
Assessment of schools that produced top grade students
It has been acknowledged that corruption thrives everywhere so some schools aid examination malpractice. There should be inspection of schools so as to have independent results.
Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) can do this and also others, but corruption has eaten deep into other sectors of the economy. Even NGOs write organised reports, not independent. A lot of NGOs compromised. So much sentiments are brought in.
On UTME choice for admission into tertiary institutions in which nobody considers second choices, making many parents to be worried
I know there is first choice, Second choice of universities and if you don’t meet the score of your first choice, but such scores fall within the second choice , then you can go to the second choice . That is how it should be .
Again it all boils down to corruption . How do we resolve the problem of corruption which has eaten deep? Seminars, retreats , conferences have been held on corruption and so much funds spent, yet corruption persists . When will this stop? Organising conferences on corruption is the easiest way to divert public funds.
Like when WAEC released two conflicting results. I called the head of WAEC, I said he should tell the nation what has happened. The problem was lack of communication. There was no deliberate attempt to circumvent anything; but lack of communication is the problem. People will have the impression that something wrong is going on.
I n the past, there used to be cancellation of results and so on. Nigerian is a difficult place. We must learn to take certain actions. Offending schools can be blacklisted for say 10 years and students for 5 years . By such action, everybody will sit up . But people will not like it . We must take action to show that government is serious.
On lack of implementation of government policies by Federal Ministry of Education since long time from the time of professors Adeniran and Aborishade, nothing done. Ministers come and go , while the education sector suffers. You can go to the cupboards, bring out the files and implement these policies.
On my own part, now I will try within the best of my ability, to make my own contribution so that people will know you did something. But there is frequent change of leadership which make new policies and tend to abandon existing ones. Civil servants are the drivers, implementers of policies.
Civil servants can make you not to move an inch. Look at the budgets. Ask what will be the vote – most are on frivolous things which cannot impact on the sector. Permanent secretaries, directors, vote billion of naira for recurrent expenses but for capital project, little or nothing.
Take the 2011 budget . Are we sincere to ourselves? We should have committed civil servants. No matter how you shout, a lot of things are hidden from the minister. Up till now, still find things hidden from me. Committed civil servants are lacking.
I will make sure , policies will be implemented. The professors are saying the same thing all the time . If you see what is happening in unity schools even the president will weep.
We want to take the unity schools in phases – take two or three federal schools in the zone – say 18 schools in a year. If this is done we will solve the infrastructure problem . The president will want to improve the infrastructure.
On funding, accountability management
When it is said that funding is not enough, what is happening to the little one available ? Management of school can be done by the old students, the community , etc it will take a little framework . Without education , nothing can work in the whole nation. It’s the rock.
In respect of UBEC funds not been accessed , Wike said it was due to inability of states provide their counterpart funding.
Primary school is basic. With good products, they will affect secondary and tertiary education. Things are going well in Rivers State – where a committee was set up . There is no primary school without library or without computers. If you get it right from the basic, you will get it right in the secondary.
People are now leaving private school to public schools. Education in Rivers State is now a model for others. It is through education that poverty, insecurity, can be solved.
He disclosed that schools for the Almajiris have been built in 15 states, while 10 states have schools for girls.
On teachers motivation
Houses have been built for teachers, given different motivations to attract them into the classrooms. President Jonathan is committed to the welfare of teachers, been a teacher himself and he is ready to commit funds into education.
Teaching is a passion; one must have interest and be delight to want to be a teacher. Being a teacher is like a curse, but it should not be so. Need for them to have mobility, housing, earn fat salaries like Chemical Engineers, etc. teachers will be given a different package entirely.
If education is in crisis, there is need to radically deal with it. As regards tertiary admission with so many people unable to be admitted, the minister said establishing more universities be encouraged so as to enhance the carrying capacity which is too small.
He asked: Does it mean that anyone that passed JAMB should enter the university? Establish more universities and provide infrastructure.
Conversion of Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic into degree awarding institutions is not our problem. Our problem is low standard of education.
Some HND or B.sc holders can not defend their qualifications. “Poor quality, low standard, lack of infrastructure, malpractice that has eaten deep into the education system.”
On Unity Schools, he said some recommendations have been made to the president. “ But I won’t let the cat out of the bag.” A secondary school commission will tackle the UBEC problem.
The UBEC Act may be amended. This will cushion the effects on Unity Schools. He blamed parents for some unethical conducts like giving money to their children to sort themselves out with lecturers and cheat in exams.