By Ikenna Asomba
Barely 14 days to the assumption of office of the President-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, several experts and stakeholders in the education sector have continued to propose meaningful suggestions that will guide the incoming administration to salvage the age-long rot bedeviling the nation’s education sector.
Joining eminent Nigerians who had earlier given cogent suggestions on the way forward for the sector are former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II; Vice Chancellor, Bell University of Technology (BELLSTECH), Ota, Ogun State, Professor Isaac Adeyemi and the President, Sharon University of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bishop Charles Ighele.
Worried by the apparent poor quality of education acquired by youths from the nation’s tertiary institutions, they both urged the Federal Government to pay priority attention to the nation’s education sector if Nigeria is to compete favourably among comity of nations.
While Emir Sanusi stressed the need for the government to ensure that quality education is given to the youths to enable them contribute their quota towards the development of the country, Bishop Ighele whose university is still in the pipeline, expressed worry that the nation’s public universities of agriculture set up by government to offer agricultural related courses had lost track in their operations from the onset. He however, advised government to revisit the foundation of the nation’s universities of agriculture, if any meaningful development is to be recorded in the critical education sector.
On his part, Professor Adeyemi among other things, advised the incoming administration to formulate a well and thought-out national working plan that will span between 10 and 20 years, for all the nation’s tiers of education which include; the primary, secondary, trade centres, vocational centres and tertiary institutions. He however particularly opined that interest must be focused on the nation’s basic educational system, pointing that if the foundation is faulty, there will be little or no meaningful development in the sector.
Quality of education
The Emir of Kano, had during the formal presentation of a letter of appointment to him by the Minister of Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekaurau, as the new Chancellor of the University of Benin on Monday, in his palace in Kano, urged the Federal Government to pay priority attention to the quality of education acquired by the Nigerian youths.
Sanusi stressed the need for the government to ensure that quality education is given to the youth to enable them to contribute their quota towards the development of the country. Sanusi, who commended the Federal Government for finding him worthy of the appointment, promised to contribute his quota towards the development of the university.
Going back to drawing board
Similarly, Bishop Ighele, who is also the General Superintendent of Holy Spirit Mission Church, the Happy Family Chapel, decried the fact that agricultural science is least applied for at various universities. He opined that there is urgent need for government to go back to the drawing board, as the nation must survive food-wise. The cleric added that the new danger lies ahead in agriculture, pointing that if there is famine in the country, it will be disastrous.
His words: “These universities of agriculture set up by government right from the day one of their operations lost track. Let’s take a look at the yearly JAMB admission exercise into tertiary institutions, you will discover that agricultural science is least applied for. Unfortunately, people are now forced to pick it as their course of choice. “This nation must survive food-wise, because that is where a new danger lies ahead. If there is famine in Nigeria, it will be disastrous. We have the capacity to feed so many other nations,” he affirmed.
The big mistake
Speaking further, Ighele said: “Recently, I traveled to one of the European countries, and I saw a private sector project, a big place helping to educate people and give a second chance to people who didn’t do well in their secondary school days. Government should as a matter of policy give grants; let government identify groups that are genuine and are taking care of the needy in the different parts of the Nigerian life. Genuine groups that are taking care of the orphans, elderly. Let them be given grants.
“The big mistake government is making is that it thinks it’s only the Federal or State governments alone bring development to Nigeria. So, there are genuine people who are interested in developing their nation, government can extend a hand of fellowship to these people, not those who will abuse the system. Constant checks can also be done on these people, if they are given grants. By the time grants are given to about 3, 000 of such organizations, government must have created over 3, 000 new jobs.
“If the incoming government can give grants to these private sector investors, especially in the area of agriculture, Nigeria will be good for it. I expect the new government to think right into this area. If you take a critical look at the private universities in Nigeria, I don’t think many of them are enjoying the business. Government can give grants to their owners, so that more jobs will be created,” he advised.
In the same vein, the BELLSTECH VC said: “First and foremost, the incoming administration must place emphasis on all the tiers of the nation’s educational system. However, emphasis must be placed on the foundation- the primary and secondary tiers because as the Bible says in Psalms 11:3, If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The infrastructural base, quality of teachers, training and retraining of teachers must also be looked into.
“Secondly, the infrastructural system plays a key role, because in the world over, education is now ICT driven, but with an efficient power stability. So, the incoming administration should look into this area of ensuring the sector fully embraces an ICT-driven system. “Thirdly, the inspectorate section of regulators must be strengthened at all tiers of our educational system.
They must be focused and continue to send inspectors to monitor the educational institutions. Policy somersaults and inconsistencies among the federal and state governments must be avoided. There must be collaboration between the federal government and the state governments irrespective of the political party. Partisanship must be eschewed in addressing cogent issues affecting the nation’s education sector. Rather, how to improve the quality of the sector should be uppermost for the incoming Federal and state governments.”
Speaking further, Adeyemi urged the incoming administration to revisit technical/vocational education in the country, stating that the infrastructure and certificates awarded by them must be revisited, in order to encourage candidates to attend them. He argued that candidates who are not university products now flock the universities, because the nation’s technical/vocational education system had been neglected over the years.
“Education is multi-dimensional. Some individuals are not university products, but they are good with their hands. This is why the nation’s technical education sector must be re-organized, to enable us produce the needed manpower for economic development and nation building.”
Revisit Gowon’s strategy
According to the don, who also expressed worry that there is huge dearth of capable manpower needed to teach in the nation’s tertiary institutions, advised the incoming government to re-introduce the strategy employed by former President, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, while he was head of state. His words: “We have over 150 universities in Nigeria, aside the polytechnics and colleges of education, but apparently the needed teaching manpower are not there.
It is worse for the private universities as its manpower are now moving to the federal universities over lack of grants. To solve this problem, we must go down the memory lane of what happened during the administration of Gen. Yakubu Gowon. “During Gowon’s time as head of state, he introduced a massive scholarship scheme for graduates with first class and second class upper to forge ahead for their post-graduate studies in our indigenous and foreign universities.
This singular act, helped a lot of us back then to embark on our post-graduate studies. If Gowon could achieve this at that time when there was no oil boom, I don’t see why it can’t be replicated today.” However, making a case for private universities in the country, Professor Adeyemi decried that at the moment, private universities in Nigeria are not benefiting anything from government through its agencies such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
“As it stands, private universities in Nigeria are not benefiting anything from TETFUND. This has led our staff to be moving to Federal universities. If not for anything, the TETFUND must support private universities through grants and single digit loans, just to develop manpower that will be beneficial to the whole country.”