By Elizabeth Uwandu
WORRIED by the poor standard of basic education, and the recent statistics by United Nations Educational, and Cultural Scientific Organisation, UNESCO, that Nigeria has about 8.7 million out of school children, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, WSCIJ, last week, organised a three day training for journalists to avail them with tools to effectively bring to the fore, issues of basic education to government and other stakeholders for a positive change.
The training with the title, ‘The Regulators Monitoring Programme, REMOP Basic Education Reporting Training’, revealed, among other things, the neglect in the coverage of basic education by the media as it ranked as the least covered, compared to secondary and tertiary tiers of education. Speaking at the training that had the Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, Mr. Gbile Oshadipe from NIJ, a consultant and a news anchor with Channels Television, Mrs. Bimbo Oloyede, the coordinator, WSCIJ, Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, noted that REMOP vision was to achieve the desired change in basic education by mounting pressure on the government to deliver its promise.
Her words: ”One of the central role of government, as stated in the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC Act is to provide uninterrupted access to nine-year formal education that is free and compulsory for every child under school age. So, the vision of REMOP lies in seeing that this promise is delivered by putting pressure on the government by all concerned.”
The training, sponsored by MacArthur Foundation, had guest speakers from Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Budgit, Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria, DEPEN, and Teachers Union Council of Nigeria, TUCN, who found, among other things, that issues on basic education was given least coverage by Nigerian media compared to other levels of education.
Other factors found responsible for the dwindling standard of basic education in Nigeria were corruption that continuesd to hinder the implementation of the the UBEC Act at the federal level and State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB Act, a move that occasioned inadequate structured primary and junior secondary schools resulting in the springing up of mushroom schools; poverty which is responsible for high illiteracy level among some parents and guardians that have forced children out of schools to take up the roles of breadwinners by either engaging in hawking or in petty business to earn a living; and the lack of active participation of stakeholders such as NGOs; and the media whose role lies on the watchdog of the government as contained in Section 22 of the constitution.
Proffering solutions to the above deficit in primary education, the resource persons unanimously agreed that the media have a key role to play in the restoration of the sector by availing themselves of basic laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA; UBEC Act, etc and by engaging in solution journalism and upholding the ethics of journalism.
On the FOIA, Mrs Alaka said “It is a pity that some journalists do not know the different laws that pertain to basic education in Nigeria. With your role stipulated in Section 22 of 1999 constitution and the provisions of the FOIA, you will be able to keep the government on their toes. “Questions on utilisation of matching grants, qualification and motivation of teachers, reasons for disparity in enrollment of basic education among states needs to be brought into sportlight. And when the above happens, positive changes will re recorded at the basic education level,”added the WSCIJ coordinator.
Speaking on investigative journalism and basic education reporting, Mr. Ogunleye explained that “Media role is crucial to the survival of democracy, and as such journalists monitoring government through investigative reporting and in depth interviews. Change can only occur when journalists show the qualities of investigative journalism. You must be resilient, resourceful, disciplined, bold and ready to take risks. However, while being committed to take risks, no story is worth a journalist’s life. ”
The onus lies on speaking out on issues of public interest like basic education.” intoned NIJ Provost.
On his part, Oshadipe said “ As journalists, you have to engage more on solution journalism that entails the rigorous covering of social issues, monitoring the trends and seeing that these issues are addressed.”
For Oloyede, “the press can play their part through exposition on media law comprising of code of conduct and ethics , which can go a long way in shaping the face of basic education in the country. “