By Chris Onuoha
…‘Out-of-school children, Almajiris need attention’
Rasheed Aderinoye, a Professor of Adult Education at University of Ibadan (UI), is one-time Deputy Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and National Secretary of Commission for Nomadic Education. He has consulted for UNESCO, UNICEF and also served at different levels at the World Bank. His areas of interest are basic education, long-distance learning and adult literacy (School). Within the space of his career, he has conducted research in various areas in education development, delivered the inaugural lecture of the University of Ibadan in July and made inputs in areas of human and infrastructural development in the education sector. Aderinoye speaks on the strategy to move education forward in the next four years of the Buhari administration.
I take a cursory look at the education sector in the country, what do you see at the various levels: Primary, secondary and tertiary?
Starting with the basics, I mean the primary education; one of the major challenges in that sector is human resources development. We got it wrong since 1981 when the government then said that the minimum qualification for primary school teachers will be the National Certificate of Education (NCE). As you know, NCE graduates major in two special subjects: English and Yoruba combined, Religious Study and Igbo, Computer or Home Economics as the case may be. Now, with just one combined course, a teacher is expected to handle all subjects in primary school. The system started failing from this and, unfortunately, we cannot revert back to those days of Teacher’s Training Colleges (TTC), where you have Grade II Teachers being masters of all subjects in primary schools. Reports say 2019 is the final year for all the Grade II teachers to retire. Unfortunately, what they are trying to do is to have a teacher’s development from the UBEC. But again, how do we go about a teacher’s professional development? You assemble some teachers and train them for a period. And the next year, you do the same thing. So, rather than having pockets of teachers’ training, let there be alleviation programmes for them to take something back home. Again, in the area of quality assurance, in the past, we had what we referred to as School Inspectors with inspectorate office in the ministry.
But since we have the idea of UBEC and SUBEC, we changed the nomenclature to Quality Assurance Officer, and the inspectorate in the Ministry of Education became redundant. The new group is picked at various levels as Quality Assurance Officers without professional qualifications. Teachers are on their own because nobody is coming to look at their performance unlike the days of School Inspectors. When you also look at the pupils leaving primary to secondary, you will notice that the performance is very low because they are not well equipped to face the secondary school curriculum. That is also the problem with secondary students going to university.
For example, teachers in some states in the country cannot sit and pass exams set for primary four pupils because they do not have the mastery of the subjects. It’s a problem. The government needs to take teachers professional development serious or think of how to get the school inspectors back to school. If the government can bring back retired principals and headmasters as Adhoc inspectors, send them to education districts to check what teachers are doing, they will sit up. The current day teachers are one leg in school, one leg in business. At the secondary school level, we have the junior and senior cadres. When we started the 6-3-3-4 system, there was a plan that at the JSS level, we will be able to have three categories of graduates: Those who will like to go to the university, technical colleges and those for NCE, but, unfortunately, the syllabus that was arranged for this was not implemented. The curriculum was planned without consideration for manpower development and, as a result, they couldn’t achieve it. The curriculum has to be reviewed, but we also need to empower teachers. Reading habit is also very important which brings to mind the nature of our libraries today. There’s no more literary society in our schools that promote how students speak good English.
Entrepreneurship programme was also designed such that students in secondary school will be able to acquire technical knowledge, in a way that by the time they leave school, they won’t be looking for white-collar jobs. Teachers need to be more serious. At the senior secondary level, you still see teachers performing woefully. The analysis of having English and mathematics to determine whether you will be admitted to the university depends on how teachers perform, and if you don’t have it, then it’s assumed you are a partial failure.
At the tertiary level, we have been shouting funding, funding, funding. We have Tetfund, a funding agency for tertiary education. Universities are accessing the fund but the question is whether projects are well monitored to ensure that they are actually executed according to standard. Also, if it is possible to fund the existing universities well, the education system can get better. In the last Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board exams (JAMB), out of 1.7million candidates that sat for the exam, not up to 500, 000 will be admitted into universities. Now you can see the gap. The same thing happens at the secondary level. When you have about 21 million pupils taking common entrance into secondary schools, about five million will succeed, and what do you think happens to the rest of the youths unengaged. I think the government needs to expand the universities, build more manpower and infrastructures to accommodate all these challenges.
Any need to reintroduce Teacher’s Training College?
No! They are not likely to go back to it. We have missed a lot in our educational system. What we can do is to review the curriculum at the NCE level, to suit teachers who will teach in primary schools. Candidates for NCE programme usually set their mind for direct entry into university where they switch courses and this does not help matters.
How did we get to this sorry state?
It started with the basics. Another is the implementation of policies by the government. It is sad to observe that in the judiciary, health and other sectors, you cannot bring anybody who is not a member of that sector to be a minister but anybody can become a minister or a commissioner for education. And also don’t forget that when candidates are filling forms for the university courses, they usually pick medicine, law, engineering, etc, but by the time the result is out and they find out they couldn’t meet the cut off marks for those courses, they switch to education as a last resort. About 50% of candidates studying education today are not passionate or interested in it in the first place. In other not to repeat the JAMB exam, they move into education or agriculture. There is no need to waste five years in the university studying agriculture and not go to the farm. When the non-passionate education students graduate as well, they would not want to teach, and if they manage to do so, their performance will be below standard because of lack of interest. I think the way out is to refashion our policies so that anyone taking education as a course will be a person who is passionate about the teaching profession. Government, stakeholders and other professional bodies in the educational sector should encourage such, just like we have professional bodies in the law and health sector speaking for the interest of their members.
United Nations has a threshold for education. To what extent have we fallen short of this?
United Nations initiated sustainable development goal and education-for-all programmes for 1990-2000 which Africa harped on. By 2000, we started education for all, and, by 2007, there was a meeting in Bamako which revealed that it was not achieved. When another conference was held in Dakar in 2015, they decided to set another goal. This shows that most African countries are not meeting up these set goals. And also, the African Union has its own agenda in education but implementation remains a challenge. When Nigeria’s delegates go to UN summits, they will file documents, same with African Union, but when they return, implementation becomes a big issue. During Obasanjo’s regime, we had already established UBEC which was welcomed at the Dakar summit. When we got home, there was no effective monitoring to actualise the goal. Even the UN does not have a monitoring group to check how initiatives fare. This year alone in Nigeria, we have about seven sustainable development targets on education but full implementation remains a problem due to no monitoring.
Strategy for Buhari
I know Miriam Katagum has been with UNESCO for some time as Nigerian permanent delegate while Adamu Adamu just finished as Minister of Education. If the President will be very sincere to the cause of education, he will put somebody who has a special interest in education. If the person is qualified, the task ahead of him is to see that he implements the policies on the ground. We have many out-of-school children, the Almajiris and others that need attention. Also, we must talk about professional skill acquisition in the area of technology; we need to ensure that the children get it right from the basics. Technology awareness should start from the foundation to progress to primary, secondary and university. We should ensure we expose them to the use of ICT gadgets to be part of them at a certain level. South Korea today relies much on ICT in whatever they want to do. Recently, I told my students that the cell phone they use for calls and games is another teacher for them. Inside the gadgets lie many applications that teach you virtually everything.
Can the children be taught in their local languages just like Benue State has set the pace with such programme? Do you see it working in this country even to teach technology?
It is easier said than done. When a former Minister of Education, Prof Babs Fafunwa, started the use of mother tongue for primary 1 to 3, it was not sustained. It will be difficult here because even most of the technology courses are written in a foreign language. In our own case, I don’t know how many homes of the elite who are encouraging the use of mother tongue speak to their children in local languages in their homes. But if we want to be realistic, let us start it from home before we now proceed to schools. Also, using it to teach technology in our schools, it is far from reality. Technology does not understand our local language because it is already fashioned in Arabic, China, Japan and others. We don’t have control of these languages but for now, we are far away from it. Then, the issue of history studies being scrapped and returned to our schools, I think we are beginning to go back to the basics. Authors are regrouping to write textbooks and teachers need to be trained again to handle the subject because, in the university, it is not popular. We have to produce the manpower and fund it properly and produce the materials that will aid the speedy appreciation. And, lastly, I think my take on the educational sector in the country is that the government should be more proactive in effecting its political will towards policy implementation. Let there be adequate funding, regular salary and allowances for teachers, just like it is obtainable abroad.