‘Minimum budgetary vote for education should be 30%’
Director, The Vale College, Ibadan, Oyo State, Mrs. Funsho Adegbola, says the Federal Government must prioritise education by investing massively in it. The lawyer and educationist spoke to UJUNWA ATUEYI, on other issues, including how to advance the sector.
In your opinion, when did things start going wrong in the country’s education sector?
Well, the downward trend started during the military regime, when universities were closed down for months due to students’ unrest and lecturers’ strike. Since then, the sector has continued to decline. Issues like poor funding, policy somersaults, over-population and collapse of infrastructure in our institutions helped to worsen the scenario.
Present and successive governments did not really see education, as an important sector and so failed to deserved attention. This is evident in the percentage of allocation given to the sector, which in turn affects very negatively, our spending on infrastructure and human capital development programmes. Although as a private participant in the Nigerian education scene, I cannot actually speak generally on the issues because I am doing mine on a micro level. Though it is easy for me to manage what I have, I believe that every Nigerian child should have the very best of education.
How is this change of fortune affecting the nation?
The first law of nature is survival and self-preservation. People always want better prospects so as to maintain themselves and their families. Nigeria has some of the best brains on the continent; consequently they would go to other countries where education is given the pride of place; where teachers and lecturers are well paid, and where there is an educationally conducive environment.
So the inability of the government and people at the helm of affairs to create an enabling environment to attract and retain the best brains in Nigerian institutions is what the country is suffering now. Unfortunately, foreign countries are benefitting from failure/loss.
What major interventions do you think we critically need to restore the dignity of our educational system?
First, government should make education a top priority, because our children are our greatest assets and human resources. Money spent on education should not be regarded as expenditure, but as investments, which returns are long-term. Secondly, budgetary allocation to the sector should be a minimum of 30 per cent, and the money should be spent judiciously on training, retraining and equipping of the teachers.
Serious attention should also be paid to hiring and retaining the best teachers, who are completely devoted to raising the next generation of leaders. Infrastructural development and maintenance should be given due attention. Also, students must be exposed to 21st century learning, while schools should be equipped with modern learning facilities so that at the end, the output will be well-rounded individuals, who can practically use their knowledge to solve human and societal challenges.
Importantly also, the Nigerian school curriculum looks very robust on paper, but schools were inadequately prepared prior to its introduction. The necessary training of teachers, curriculum and textbook developments are not thoroughly implemented before these policies are rolled out. All these should be addressed.
Several solutions have been prescribed for the country’s ailing education sector, why are we still where we are?
This is because of all the solutions discussed, very few are actually implemented fully. Most times the sector suffers policy inconsistency and somersaults. Rather than witness progression with emerging policies, it suffers regression and disorderliness. Another factor is that of copying educational policies from other climes without adapting it to suit our environment. This leads to the policies failing ab initio, or at best, they are unsustainable.
So what is the way forward?
Everybody must be involved in the education of the Nigerian child. There is need for a healthy synergy between the private sector and governments at all levels. Parents also must be actively involved. Government is failing in its responsibilities, and parents are also failing in their responsibilities.
To move the sector forward, apart from funding and investing adequately, we all should take education more seriously. It is the government that is supposed to provide education for most of the children and those, who now want to go to private schools would be those who want icing on their cake. And so, government should provide all Nigerian children access to education because that is what will free them from poverty and would make our country better in the future.
How can we ensure that parents and guardians do not abandon the development of their children to schools alone?
Schools have to continuously involve parents in the joint venture of raising and nurturing children. That is what we do at The Vale College. We have parents’ forum, parents’ day, parenting talks and numerous school functions, where parents are integral partners in the students’ successful outcomes.
With thousands of high schools around the country, how has The Vale College managed to set an enviable pace for 22 years?
The Vale College has been able to set an enviable pace in the last 22years through our passionate commitment to our vision of raising lifelong learners and brilliant young minds with excellent character and outstanding learning. We recruit and retain the best teachers and partner with discerning parents who select us as their first choice because we are a coeducational boarding/ day school, and we offer a broad education with Nigerian and British curricula.
Our services are based on sound discipline, independence of mind and service to the community.
What is your advice to education managers on how to raise children?
Well, the main focus really is that learning should be child-centered and at the same time, children should be well groomed to be emotionally intelligent, empathic, disciplined and respectful. We offer scholarships to indigent but brilliant children and we partner with charity homes, these are some of the ways you raise children who are concerned about what goes on in the society.
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