By Festus Ahon
Professor Hope Eghagha is the Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education. He is a renowned educationist and was a lecturer in the English Department in the University of Lagos. In this exclusive interview with the Vanguard Learning, he spoke on variety of issues bordering on the educational system in Nigeria. Excerpts.
What is responsible for the decay in the Nigeria educational system?
When we talk about decay in an educational system, we should get some issues very right and define them clearly. There is indeed a drop in the level of teaching, in the level of appreciation of teaching, in general performance, in attitude to education, and there is a perception in the country that the knowledge level has perhaps not been very important particularly among the young people in the school.
They seem to believe that the important thing is to get a certificate not the knowledge itself. So all of these combined, with a long period of neglect in funding and developing infrastructure in the institutions contributed to the decay. What is happening in the educational system is a reflection of the general societal change of values. Sometimes negative values are stressed more than positive ones, and some of them have contributed to the challenges which we have in the sector.
These have resulted in poor performance because everybody wants to go to university when we know that not everybody has the capacity to go to tertiary institutions. It is tragic that, over the years, there has not been enough funding for this sector. School buildings across the country used to be the very best around, but that is not the case, except in some states like Delta, where massive renovation and construction of schools are on-going.
Going from the structures and focusing on the human beings, you”ll discover a significant drop in the level of commitment from the teachers. That desire to impart knowledge, to play a positive role in molding the younger generation is almost not there, and these have contributed to the challenges we face in the sector.
As an educationist, what do you think are the solutions?
There ought to be a state of emergency in the education sector which will attract the needed attention to the sector. We also need to set goals that would be achieved within the period of the state of emergency. When thinking of the solutions, we need to seek those things that can alter the fortunes of education in this country; we should start thinking of proper policy implementation. Talking about power supply to schools, rebuilding the school, let the classrooms be decent, then the environment of the school should be very good and the rebuilding of the teachers themselves.
The teachers themselves need to have a sense of self worth. Right now, teachers are not happy because they believe that their take home cannot take care of their needs. We don’t seem to value teachers anymore because the kind of respect we used to have for teachers is no more there. So there is the need to empower teachers and raise their capacity and standard of living, especially as we entrust our children to them very early.
There needs to be constant training and retraining of teachers on new teaching methods, classroom management, and being effective. There also has to be a process of evaluation and feedback from past students for us to know what they were taught and what they benefited from such methods. So it is a three-way thing. Government, teachers and parents all have roles to play to uplifting the education sector.
There should be consistency in policy implementation. There is nothing wrong with 6-3-3-4, and it is not compulsory that everybody must go to the university. The craze to acquire university education is responsible for the numerous universities we have today, and most of the graduates being churned out by some of them are incompetent, and this is a big challenge for us.
This is because when you produce a graduate from a defective educational system, these graduates become the manpower base of the country, and once the manpower base is defective intellectually, it would have a long term adverse effect which would take longer years to correct.
Do you see the minimum of 26% of total annual budget as recommendation by UNESCO the solution to the decay in the education system?
That is a well thought out plan because education is the key in terms of human resource development. The human resource as we know is the most important of all resources. It is believed that when 26% of a budget is committed to education most of the challenges will be met.
What is happening is that for some country for some states this a difficult task because they have a lot of challenges. So we recommend that every state, every government, national government should look into the possibility of annually increasing the budget for education.