By Dayo Adesulu
Former Minister of Information and Communication, Mr Frank Nweke has urged the Federal Government to make deliberate plans that will be sustained over a period of time on developing the education sector.
He said; “Government cannot pay lip service to the issue of education reform and get it right in our education sector. We cannot ignore doing the right thing and expect the right result. It does not work that way.’’
He noted that the role of a responsible, disciplined government is to reform education, ensure that the society and the continent obtain the right platform.
Nweke who spoke in Lagos during Greensprings School 30th anniversary lecture titled, “The Future of Education in an Uncertain World: Re- defining Education in Africa” said that government and the private sector have the greatest roles to play in reforming the education sector.
He posited that the bulk of the responsibility to revamp education falls on the government and that only a responsible and disciplined government can make this work. He pointed out that if Mrs Lai Koiki, the Director of Greensprings School had spent all her time visioning without planning or if she had planned and did not invest or if she had invested and did not sustain, she would not have recorded the academic success of 30 years.
“If you have Nigeria for instance investing one percent of her GDP in education, how can you positively see change. You cannot see a change. It cannot be by accident. Nigeria cannot develop by accident. It can only be through conscious,deliberate planning to sustain with the clear outcome anticipated upon over a period of time. There is no magic about it. It does not take being genius but discipline and sustainable development.
According to him, “Nigeria can join other progressive countries in area of education if only it has the right people in position doing the right thing in government. “Government in Germany, Finland, Malaysia and Singapore have done it and they are still doing it constantly. The notion that Nigeria is that because it is a public sector therefore, it cannot work. If education will be repositioned, we need right thinking serious minded people in education to be on the driver’s seat.”
Meanwhile, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative, Mr Daouda Toure, while speaking on The Future of Education in an Uncertain World said: “Fifty years after independence, 50 per cent of children in most developing countries who enter secondary school do not graduate, and many may not even go beyond primary school.’’
Making allusion to UNESCO report, he said in some African countries, only 50 per cent of children complete Grade 5. Out of this, less than half can comprehend a simple paragraph.
He added that even for programmes that have encouraged school enrolment through free universal access to primary schooling, Education for All reports show that many children drop out of school. According to him, studies show that schooling provides neither the financial literacy students will need to manage their own meagre resources, nor the requisite guidance to create opportunities for securing a livelihood or create wealth.
Toure explained that the people are not interested in formal education because to them, schooling provides little assistance in promoting the physical health needed for economic stability and quality of life.
The UN Resident Coordinator submits that if education for over 50 years has not served Africa, how can we re-define it to give the best to our children, the gift of quality education that translates to better quality of life and improved life expectancy?
He said what is needed is a robust educational model that combines traditional content with critically important financial, health and administrative skills, which can be delivered via existing school systems. He advised that those who cannot go beyond the basic education level should engage in vocational training to fill the ever increasing demand in that technical area.
He said: “We cannot solve 21st Century problems with 20th Century curriculum! Our unreformed education system has served the colonial era and the immediate post-independence period. We must overhaul it completely to serve us in the 21st Century.
“Changes can also be made to the existing system through training and continuing education for teachers, review of the methodology, use of up-to-date learning materials and adoption of pedagogical approaches, which allow students to work in self-directed teams to learn, discuss, and actively practice, using the basic content of standard governmental curricula instead of oral/abstract teaching.’’
Toure who maintained that through unique combination of relevant content, practical implementation, and student empowerment; our children will develop a body of knowledge, skills, and attitudes, added that it will avail them the opportunity to succeed after leaving school regardless of whether they go on to tertiary institutions or not.
“This requires the participation of all stakeholders in education, including the private sector,’’ he said.
The private sector, he pointed out, constitutes an important partner in the provision of quality education in sub-Saharan Africa. To him, government which remains the principal provider and the overall regulator of education rely heavily on the private sector to fill gaps where they exist in terms of both access and quality.
His words: “Unlike most developed economies where private education offers ‘exclusive’ options for the wealthier classes; in Africa, private education flourishes because governments are unable to meet the growing demand of their populations in quality basic education. Budgetary shortfalls of the education sector remains one of the main reasons for poor quality. Furthermore, inefficient use of the limited resources is also cited as another key challenge.”
Private schools such as Greensprings have some advantages. They are flexible, dynamic, and quick to recognise and fulfill market demands compared to their inflexible and often bureaucratic public sector counterparts.
In Africa’s emergent economies, new private schools spring up just as quickly as the burgeoning communities they serve. But private education is now offered by a multiplicity of providers, most of them calling themselves ‘’International Schools” with varying qualities. They range from state-of-the-art institutions to teacher and blackboard under a tree in villages where alternatives are scarce or non-existent. In order not to allow them to continue to flood the market with inefficient and ineffective private schools, some of them not better than the public schools they claim to complement in terms of access and quality; Government should reinforce its regulatory role of such schools.
This phenomenon of mushrooming of schools transcends basic schools to universities. The easy prey in such universities is Business Administration. In reality, some of the graduates of these institutions cannot analyse a business problem beyond SWOT Analysis. I only wish they knew that they represent a real threat to the future of Africa. Private schools are often accused of earning fat profits for their proprietors and directors.
This may be true in some cases particularly for higher-end providers targeting the elite. However, what is less often noted is the significant role of those providing education to deprived communities at very little or no profit.
Some of these schools I call ‘good intention’ providers, struggle to keep operating on meagre budgets, yet closing them would have negative impact on the communities they serve. All providers of education in Africa should equip our younger generation to not only think ahead, but also embark on projects which will meet the dynamics of the future of Africa; and at the same time put us closer or at par with other continents.”