By Philip Agbese
According to the great Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” I cannot agree less with Madiba. If Nigeria must witness change in the real sense the most potent weapon to be deployed is education.
There is no doubt that the current government was bequeathed a decayed education sector. Graduates from our universities are considered not employable by many multinational companies working in the country, not their fault though, I have been privileged to sit in an interview session once and I was shocked at the quality of graduates produced by our universities, I saw graduates who could hardly write or speak a complete sentence correctly in English.
We should not be surprised that we are here already, several years of neglect, nepotism, and corruption couldn’t have produced a different result. Today we have many certified uneducated graduates roaming the country. Nigerians not only send their children to Europe and America to study, they were sending them to Ghana and Togo as well. This was happening in a country whose once upon a time our premier universities were great citadels of learning that could compare with any in the world. Foreign students trooped into our universities because of the quality of learning they offered.
All of that became history; our citadels of learning became the den for all sorts of vices, such as cultism, hooliganism, prostitution, exam malpractices, plagiarism, sexual harassment etc.
Lectures no longer serve as the eggheads of society, many now engage in sex for grades and selling of handouts to students. I cannot recall lately any research innovation from our Ivory towers that helped solve a national problem the nation was faced with. Rather than research Lecturers are now more of businessmen.
The secondary and primary levels are not any better save that the private sector is heavily involved at those levels. Government over the years has simply adopted a very mediocre approach to the provision of quality education at all levels.
The Buhari administration has promised to fix the decay in the education sector. The government in its first budget sent in a 403.16 billion naira for the education sector. This amount is only lesser than that of three ministries namely the ministries of Interior, Power, Works and Housing and the Ministry of Defense. The government through the Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu has promised to ensure that all funds allocated to the Ministry of Education will be judiciously used unlike what obtained in the past.
This is quite reassuring , for those who know, they will tell you that some of the biggest frauds that was done in the last government was carried out in the ministry of education and agencies under it, many funds that could have gone into providing infrastructure in our various institutions were simply diverted to private pockets. Fortunately, the close watch Mallam
Adamu has kept at the ministry has given effect to President Buhari’s zero tolerance for corruption as the ministry is now a trailblazer in how to make government transparent.
Nonetheless, the government must further intensify efforts at stamping out corruption in our education sector. Quality educational standards can never be achieved in a corrupt environment. The government must act to sanitize the processes of appointing heads of agencies of parastatals and agencies under the ministry of education. Since the minister is already on the right track in this regards, I can only urge him to do more.
The government has promised to build six new universities of technology in the six geo political zones of the country. This is in furtherance of its commitment to promote the growth of science and technology in the country. This is a welcome development and it is quite commendable. I am however amazed when some people criticize the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) in its efforts to introduce computer based examination systems.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu must see to it that this progress is not rolled back and it is commendable that he has already thrown his weight behind the innovation. Government cannot be seen as claiming to encourage science and technology on the one hand and then on the other hand withholding support for innovative technological processes within its agencies. The government should support the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB), in its effort to improve the quality and processes of its exam.
Anyone who chooses to study at the tertiary level in the year 2016 must at the least be able to operate a computer to take a test.
I am constantly impressed by the rate of computerization of the processes at JAMB. From the purchase of forms, to registration, the unification of admission processes, to checking of results all these processes are computer based. For this reason I believe the government should back the recently introduced computer based examination system. The computer based system will reduce exam malpractices drastically and further improve the quality of students being admitted into our higher institutions.
I want to commend the Dibu Ojerinde led JAMB for being innovative and leading in deploying technology appropriately to solve our educational challenges. Prof Ojerinde will definitely be leaving behind a visible mark of excellence and innovation like no other in this organization that he has led for close to a decade now. If other agencies of government are as pragmatic and as innovative as JAMB has been in the last decade, I am sure our education sector will not be where it is today. I singled out JAMB to proof that transforming out education sector is not impossible; it however requires men of vision and character to lead such transformations.
Also now that the budget has been passed the government should begin work on its plans to recruit 500,000 graduates to help with teaching at the primary school level. This will go a long way in improving the quality of education at the foundation level, which is the most important part of any building.
Training and remunerations of teachers is also key. If teachers are not happy with their working conditions they may teach but just halfheartedly, if any job requires full dedication it is that of teachers. They have the enormous task of impacting knowledge on the future leaders of the country. To that extent, teachers’ wages must be seen to be commensurate with the task they have. This one write up cannot proffer solution to all the challenges our educational sector faces
But at least opens up the space for more discussion on the way forward for this critical sector that has been neglected for so long.
One thing that seems to be in abundance at the moment though are promises, promises everywhere, we now wait to see the sustained fulfillment of this promises by the APC government as already being demonstrated in the education sector.
Agbese is the National Coordinator of the United Kingdom based Civil Rights Coalition known as Stand Up Nigeria and contributed this piece from Watford Way, London.