How Buhari can lift education, by academics

Ibidapo Obe

Ibidapo Obe

Although President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to divulge a feasible plan of how his administration intends to revamp the ailing education sector in the country, hopes are high, and expectations are rising that the administration may address the neglect the sector has suffered.

Buhari had while reiterating his determination to tackle insecurity during his inaugural speech, stated that his government would in the long run improve the standard of education in the country. Specifically, the President said, “For the longer term, we have to improve the standards of our education.

We have to look at the whole field of Medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.” While the nation awaits the much-needed intervention, one of those that believes that in Buhari’s capacity to turn things around in the sector is Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Ndufe-Alike, Ebonyi State, Prof Oye Ibidapo-Obe, who said, “I am confident that the leadership of Buhari will reform positively, the education sector.

He suggested the “revamping of the sector with a synergy of all stakeholders at federal, state and local governments,” whom he said, should “come into an agreement to work together on quality and maintenance of standards at all levels.

“Science and Technology with Innovation (STI) must be emphasised in the curriculum and the erstwhile ratio of 60:40 for science and humanities should be increased to 70:30 at all levels. “There must be a compulsory and functional training for all teachers at all levels. Teachers’ emoluments should be paid promptly and comparable to the best.

A revisit must be made to all institutions especially private at all levels and there must be insistence on quality as a condition for licence retention,” the former vice chancellor of University of Lagos Stated.

Prof Samson Ayanlaja

Prof Samson Ayanlaja

For Vice Chancellor, Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State, Prof Samson Ayanlaja, “My candid admonition to Buhari is to confront headlong, the cabals and saboteurs militating against the functioning of the refineries. And the money that would be realised should be invested in the education sector.

Even if you have all the brilliant ideas and lack the funds to bring your ideas to reality, you have not achieved anything. For any idea to work in the education sector, funds must be available.

“For instance, infrastructures in most Nigerian public schools have all broken down, most of them do not have electricity, how would you conveniently run education without electricity, without refineries working and without petroleum products being available.

“Everything is related and interwove. All these sectors have to be working perfectly for the education sector to function optimally. So, the president must think of how to free the funds that can now be invested in the education sector. He must also create measures that would ensure adequate management of the fund, so they can be used profitably.

Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi

Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi

Public funds have been wasted, and the president must stop these leakages.” In the view of the Vice Chancellor, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State and Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities, Prof. Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, “There is no doubt, the Nigerian educator sector needs a critical evaluation without a radical departure from the existing system.

The main goal of such an evaluation is to ensure that the products of the sector can compete effectively in the global market.  “First and foremost, basic infrastructural facilities like electricity, water, buildings, roads must be in place.

Secondly, a conducive learning environment is a sine qua non, just as the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in all tiers of learning ranging from primary schools to universities.

The university chief who said that the country was operating within “a knowledge-based economy,” maintained that, “both staff and students must be abreast of developments in information technology.

“Thirdly, training and retraining of teaching staff must be a continuous project, which will enable them to be exposed to changes in knowledge impartation and mode of teaching at any level.

The vice chancellor, who regretted that there has been an upsurge in the number of universities (both public and private) in the last five to 10 years, without adequate planning for funding and academic staff,” stressed that “most, if not all our universities are understaffed. It is imperative to embark on massive manpower development both within and outside the country.”

Adeyemi, who cautioned against placing emphasis only on tertiary education, added that “federal and state governments must revive technical colleges, trade centres, farm settlements and similar institutions that would encourage graduates with relevant skills to fill the vacuum that has been created within the economy.

Such institutions would also assist in reducing employment rate, which is currently extremely high among the youths. “Our research institutes must be affiliated to universities to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas and remove the bureaucracy associated with research institutes as appendages of the relevant ministries,” he recommended.

He continued, “Private universities must be assisted to survive and contribute immensely to the desired change in our education sector.

Evidences abound that some private universities, though relatively young, have been making waves nationally and internationally.

They have also demonstrated that ‘sanity’ can prevail in universities by ensuring uninterrupted academic calendar and a measure of discipline.

“Some of these universities have introduced novel programmes like mechatronics and bio-medical engineering. They should be encouraged by ensuring that they benefit from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) through manpower development, research grants, attendance at conferences and possibly granting of loans at single digit interest rates for infrastructural development. “The modalities for these can be worked out.

This would save Nigeria capital flight to the West world and African countries, where it has been established that a lot of Nigerian students attend unapproved or underrated institutions.

The above propositions could only be achieved through proper funding and judicious use of such funds coupled with implementable strategic plans,” he concluded.

According to Vice Chancellor, Caleb University, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, “Priority areas and issues requiring federal government intervention in the Nigerian education sector includes, uneven enrolment by region, state, gender, social class and religious affiliation; deficiencies in basic education – low quality of school products at all levels in literacy and numeracy, leading to the phenomenon of “unemployable” graduates of tertiary institutions; low ranking of universities continentally and globally; policy somersaults, duplication of efforts, misapplication of resources; attitudes to work and output of teachers and education sector workers and poor working environment for teachers and students.”

He also fingered “undue emphasis on paper qualifications or empty certification; students’ poor attitude to learning, distraction by popular culture, drugs, negative foreign influences, national pursuit of easy wealth, ease, short cuts, impunity and reward for mediocrity,” as part of efforts plaguing the sector.

On how the president should set sail in the rejuvenation process, he said, “There should be a recognition that the content of our curriculum should emphasise the following- literacy in local and international languages; numeracy (competence in mathematics and basic sciences); skill acquisition (vocational, ICT, presentation and leadership) – for national and global competitiveness.

Apprenticeship and internship must be promoted as a key element of the curriculum to transfer and upgrade skills.

We need to learn from private institutions what and how they are getting it right in terms of teaching, discipline and quality control.

Olukoju

Olukoju

Insisting that stakeholders must be alert to their responsibilities he urged government to aim at creating 5-10 centres of excellence (universities) that can be upgraded to compete at least with the best in Africa, using South African top universities as the benchmark.

This will mean some degree of specialisation, with incentives to attract and retain the best researchers and authorities in the respective fields, and creating an oasis of world-class facilities and the right ambience for cutting-edge research and study.”

Olukoju added that, “A cluster of institutions should be created around each of those flagship schools, which will then mentor the others. This will create a continentally and globally competitive aristocracy of merit.

The implication of this is that tertiary institutions salary scale must be deregulated to ensure that professors and others are paid according to their worth. The best should earn the highest wages as in progressive countries of the world.

That will attract and retain the best talents and even induce our large pool of Diaspora experts to return home.

“The place of polytechnics and colleges of education should be preserved, and such schools should also be specially funded, equipped, ranked and clustered as in the case of universities.

The upgrade of those institutions into universities should be stopped, as they occupy a unique niche that should be preserved for our technological, technical and educational progress as a nation.”

“The Federal Government should work with State governments across political divides and other stakeholders (parents, the private sector, religious organizations and NGOs) to (a) boost literacy rates (b) drastically reduce drop-out rates (c) raise standards and improve quality, as measurable by the capacity of teachers, school/study environment and performance in common examinations – SSCE/NECO and (d) address gender and other social disabilities, in terms of access to education,” he concluded.

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