Lagos, Feb. 10, 2018 (TNE) At a recent interview, a pupil in Lafia, Nasarawa State, gave her reason why she would not want to be a teacher: “No teacher in our school has a car, they trek and sweat to classrooms. And another colleague of hers noted that “they always complain of ”no money, no money, because government is owing them salaries.”
Such is part of public perception of the average teacher in Nigeria where s/he is considered as the scum of the earth, and treated with disdain. And once the educational foundation is laid on a shaky ground at the primary level, it is almost impossible to get it right at the secondary and tertiary levels, as it has practically manifested in Nigeria’s education system.
A 2013 UNESCO report notes that Nigeria has some of the worst education indicators globally with primary net-enrolment ratio falling from 61 percent in 1999 to 58 percent in 2010 and the number of out-of-school children increasing from 7.4 million in 1999 to 10.5million in 2010.
In what then appears a radical policy thrust to tackle the rot in education, the Federal Government has resolved to declare a state of emergency in the sector come April this year, a measure seen as long overdue.
Indication to this effect was made public a fortnight ago by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, while receiving Gov. Abubakar Sani-Bello of Niger and some members of his cabinet at the Federal Ministry of Education headquarters.
“By the end of April, we are proposing there will be a declaration of state of emergency in the education sector all over the country. We request all the state governors to do same in their states and we hope that once this is done, our education sector will improve. I will also meet with the governors to appeal to them to give special emphasis to address the problem of low standard of education, especially at primary level,” the minister had said.
Many experts as well as stakeholders in the sector are unanimous that the move to declare the state of emergency may well be the ultimate elixir to the ills plaguing the beleaguered sector.
The Registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Olusegun Ajiboye, said the minister was only restating a position that was taken at the last Presidential Retreat on Education for members of the Federal Executive Council.
“After a careful and thorough x-ray of the situation of education at all levels in the country, including teacher education, it was decided that to give the sector maximum attention it requires including funding, it is imperative to declare a state of emergency in the sector,” he said.
Describing the initiative as a welcome development, the don said: ”There is the need for a total overhaul of the system to meet the current 21st challenges from primary to tertiary level. There is no gainsaying the fact that all is not well with the system. We need to look at the curricula demands of this century.
”Our teacher education programme needs a new focus and direction. Apart from certification from their training institutions, prospective teachers need to undergo a compulsory internship programme to get them grounded in pedagogical skills.
“Professionalism in teaching is the right way to go and that is the current move worldwide. Teachers must be qualified, registered and licensed to practise while unqualified teachers have to be weeded out of the system.’’
The TRCN boss says, “appropriate or right funding’’ for education in Nigeria will be the cornerstone for the desired changes to take place.
“Government at all levels have to commit a substantial part of their annual budgets to education. And private investment in education must be galvanised because government alone can no longer fund education. The emergency call by the Honourable Minister is the right way to go now.’’
Oladimeji Olateju, a former President of the Students Union Government at the University of Ibadan, notes that the sector is long overdue for overhaul. He says the failure of leadership in the country to pay adequate attention to the education sector has impacted negatively on youth development in the country.
According to him, inadequate funding of the sector in line with UNESCO standard, inadequate monitoring and dilapidated facilities have “ dragged the sector in the mud.’’
Olateju, who notes the challenges faced by primary, secondary and tertiary institution students, says many of them now spend more time at home than in school because of the crisis in the sector.
“Declaring a state of emergency in the sector is a welcome development and I will say it is long overdue. The Federal Government should engage all relevant stakeholders and come up with an implementable blueprint on how to solve the myriads of problem facing the sector,” the former student union leader says.
For Mr David Jegede, a public policy analyst in Ibadan, the development, if properly handled, will check the falling standard of education in the country.
“The education sector has been totally bastardised for almost 40 years now, so the present government must be sincere and do the needful in order to restore the lost glory of the sector,” he said.
A Professor of Educational Evaluation at the University of Ilorin, Olumuyiwa Owolabi, applauds the state of emergency declaration in the education sector, saying it will engender fundamental improvement that will transform the nation into a scientific, economic and technological giant that can be reckoned with by the rest of the world.
Owolabi, who is of the Department of Adult and Primary Education at the institution, says the weaknesses observed in the sector makes it imperative for the declaration of state of emergency.
According to him, this will help to translate the country from its “present giant size only in terms of population and landmass into a scientific, economic and technological giant the world will have to reckon with.” He notes that schools have failed to create the necessary environment to produce critical thinkers as classroom interaction and instructional processes are still teacher-dominated.
“Rather than engage the thought processes, learners carry on with unthinking memorisation of facts, law, principles or formulae. Therefore, they find themselves deficient in the world that requires problem solvers. This is a major deviation from the value emphasised in the nation’s policy,” he said.
Given the late advent of technology education in the nation’s educational development, the don observes that many Nigerians operate under the erroneous impression that “those whose heads or minds are weak should be allowed to learn via handwork.”
The educationist says wherever the wrongly held impression that weaker persons should attend technical and vocational institutions came from, it has sowed the seed of negative values into the education system.
“Currently, few secondary school graduates want to proceed to a polytechnic, monotechnic, college of education or other such institutions to acquire the much-needed life skills that can generate quality livelihood and add value to both the beneficiaries and the society,” he remarks.
Beyond the state of emergency, Prof. Adekunlee Olorundare, the Dean of the Faculty of Education, University of Ilorin, on his part, calls for the establishment of a National Institute for Science Education Research.
He says that the institute should relate directly with university scientists, science educators and other scholars whose activities are relevant to improvement of the teaching and learning of sciences at all levels of education system. He stresses that teachers are still poorly remunerated and generally not given respect by the society, and this needs urgent redress.
Another don, Prof. Alice Jekayinfa, believes Nigeria needs a new crop of citizens who can effectively address its development challenges. He, therefore, recommends that government should return to the spirit and letters of the Nigerian Social Studies Project, describing the philosophical and historical sustainability of the subject as agent of citizenship education that will assist Nigeria in nation building.
His colleague at the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Prof. Sunday Omirin, is emphatic that declaration of state of emergency offers the pathway to redeeming the education sector.
“As a major stakeholder, I support the plan and only pray that government will have the political will to be able to follow up on its resolve,” he said.
Another don, Prof. Taiwo Chris, says the long years of decay in the education sector can be redressed only through an emergency declaration. He, however, calls on the Federal Government to make the exercise all-encompassing such that no section of the country or tier of education will be left out.
For a member of the Osun House House of Assembly, Mr Adedoyin Bamisayemi, the proposal by the Federal Government is a welcome development. Bamisayemi, the Chairman of the House Committee on Education, said if government fails to declare the state of emergency in the education sector now, the nation will be left behind.
“I believe declaring state of emergency in education is the right thing to do because what we are applying now in education in terms of resources is not sufficient. I think state of emergency is the way forward because we need an educated population to be able to sustain the kind of development we need to keep up with our counterparts all over the world,” he says.
“There is no doubt that we are already lagging behind in our education sector and the only way to catch up with the rest of the world is by declaring a state of emergency in education,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr Kolawole Omotunde-Young, Osun Commissioner for Education, says such proposal will enable government to understand what the issues are and what problem needed to be resolved. It will also assist government to do a proper analysis of what the problem of education in the country are and the possible way forward.
“Education is the bedrock of development for any nation and the quality of education that you get determines the future of the country.
“The problem of our education is much more than the problem of literacy, that is ability to read or write or passing examinations but rather it is the problem of philosophy that is backing our education. I believe declaring state of emergency in education will help us redefine our education system and also help our students to be a critical thinkers in the society,” he said.
Mr Wakeel Amuda, the Osun Chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), notes that the education sector in the country is bedevilled with many anomalies, causing sharp drop in the standard of education. He says if the government is really serious and sincere about fixing the rot in the education sector, the poor standard of education can still be rectified and improved.
Amuda says that the first major step the government should take after declaring a state of emergency was to increase budgetary allocation for education. Teachers’ welfare and infrastructure development, which will promote conducive learning, should also be put in place during the state of emergency.
According to Amuda, the establishment of a Secondary School Commission to take care of secondary school teachers just like SUBEB does for primary schools, should be considered. The declaration should be adopted by all the state governments.
For Dr Ayo Ojediran, a lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the state of emergency will bring positive changes to the system, if declared and sincerely and faithfully implemented.
Ojediran states that the state of emergency will help to flush out incompetence in schools, foster good performance, change students’ attitude positively and motivate students and teachers for effective teaching and learning. It will also give teachers recognition as well as reduce inferiority complex and negative individual perspectives about education, he says.
“Majority of the teachers we have in Nigerian classrooms are only content based. They do not have teaching methods and techniques of teaching. Some of these teachers are not developing a creative mind neither do they have insightful minds.
“The society has wrong impression of teachers, while they have forgotten that the National Policy on Education states that no education system can rise above the quality of its teachers. But if education can be appreciated in Nigeria like that of Finland whereby 80 percent of its budget is on education, people will be so interested in being a teacher and there will be improved standard of education.
Mr Peter Fidudusola , a lecturer at the College of Education, Ila-Orangun, says declaring a state of emergency in the sector will help to checkmate racketeering and other issues bedevilling the sector. The proposal will also assist government to “put the round peg in the round hole.’’
Mr Oladoye Josiah, a parent, says such declaration will help government to checkmate the strike syndrome in tertiary institutions and education racketeering.
A parent and secondary school teacher, Mrs Modupe Akosile, says: “As we speak, many of our graduates are either half-baked or unemployable due to long years of neglect and under-funding of education. We need to really look at how we can assist the teachers to be more dedicated through commensurable salary and other incentives.
Another university teacher, Dr Tolani Hassan, believes that every Nigerian must support the emergency declaration initiative in order to tackle the rot in the sector. Hassan is an economist and senior lecturer at the College of Management and Social Sciences, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijebu-Ode.
He notes: “In the recent world rankings for universities globally, no Nigerian university is among the first one thousand in the world. That’s to tell you that our educational system is in shambles that needs urgent revitalisation.
“Financing of education, quality control in terms of quality of recruitment of teachers, the content of what teachers are teaching should be assessed to ascertain where updates are necessary. The pedagogy should also be considered so that we are able to bridge the gap in quality between teachers and graduates alike so that we can have employable graduates.
“I also want to add that it is not just the theory that we should be teaching, let’s teach these children what is applicable in the labour market. At the end of the day, they merit their employment where they will not necessarily cost employers extra resources for retraining. Teaching now should go pari passu with the needs of the employer.”
Content review with regard to the curriculum, he notes, is not as important as quality control to check mediocrity in the teaching profession.
“Curriculum is not actually the problem right now but rather the quality of those who are saddled with teaching this curriculum. If those who are to relay the curriculum lack the knowledge thereof, that means there is a lacuna. First and foremost, let’s look at the quality of those who are teaching before we analyse the content because, what you don’t have you can’t give.”
While the nation earnestly wait for April, its citizens believe that depending on the content and mode of implementation, the holistic declaration will single out the present administration in history as one that has been able to revolutionise the sector for sustainable development. It will also be addition of another feather to its feathers in the onerous task of nation-building. Citizens are in support and pray for its success.