The bi-annual conference of the ministers of education in the AU countries have come and gone like any other. The question is if there will be remarkable progress made by the time the ministers meet again in Cameroon by the year 2014 for another conference which will deal with thorough brainstorming as far as education and the continent is concerned. Kuni Tyessi takes a look at it.
The fifth ordinary session of the conference of ministers of education of the African union, COMEDAF ended last Friday in Nigeria which was the host country and modalities, recommendations and finally, a communiqué which was sealed with a press briefing by the minister of education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i was revealed to all stake holders of the sector.
A total of 54 AU countries were expected to be in attendance but only 29 was recorded, which is more than half of the total number as well as professional bodies and civil society organistions among others.
Prof Rufa’i during the briefing disclosed that the bi-annual conference was held in order to work on progress made in the implementation of plan of action and make additions for workable recommendations.
Others include teachers’ development as it serves as key priority for achieving education at all levels in the continent as well as achieving gender parity in the profession, progress on technical and vocational training, unemployment especially among youths who have basic qualifications and requirements, education management, information system, tertiary education, gender and culture as well as curriculum and teaching of learning materials and quality management.
Nigeria as giant of the continent and the most populous black nation is expected to lead member states in achieving the goals they have set out for themselves which is tagged with deadlines and the year 2015 has being put in focus.
Prof Rufa’i who was saddled with the mantle of leadership and is now the current chairman of COMEDAF had this to say as a catalyst for the plan of action.“Reducing illiteracy by 50 per cent is one of our greatest challenges.
To achieve the desired level of literacy, we need to reach out further to those living in remote rural areas and very difficult terrains to women, youth and the marginalized,”
During the conference, the Kenyan minister of education and the out-gone chairman, Mr Kalis Muwatala said gender parity by 2015 is not feasible as ‘none of sub-Saharan teachers has sufficiently achieved efficient teachers who are properly trained and supported’ and also advised that the way forward to get close to achieving the goals is for the enhancement of teacher development through training and improved remuneration to match other government workers.
He might have spoken for Kenya alone as it is the country he is most familiar with in terms of education and the progress made so far but like a writer, he seemed to have spoken even for other counties particularly Nigeria as the teaching profession is disregarded with some ascribing it to the profession where its benefits can be given only in heaven.
In terms of gaining gender parity, Nigerian women are yet to occupy their positions on the Nigerian educational set-up. The wide gap between the male and female has existed over the years and deliberate efforts have been made by the united nation to address it.
These efforts include declaration of a decade for women, which culminated in the Beijing conference of 1995, Education For All, EFA, Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, etc.
These all criticize the unequal treatment between sexes and the stereotyped way of teaching in the educational system, teaching staff and standards, the elimination of stereotyped concepts of the role of women and men, the same opportunity for scholarships, the same access for continuing education, sports and physical education.
Like their counterparts in other parts of Africa, available statistics indicate that Nigerian women are yet to occupy their rightful places in various sectors of the Nigerian education industry.
The level of female participation in Nigerian secondary school education is far lower than that at the primary education level. It appears that the higher the education ladder, the lower the level of female involvement.
For technical and vocational training, it is an established fact that it is a poor cousin compared to the other forms of education as no one voluntarily goes in search of the discipline except if there was no option.
But experts and stakeholders have revealed that so much lies in the field as it can be compared to a rough diamond that needs to be worked upon for its unavoidable glitter to come forth.
The minister in her speech revealed that ‘one of the major initiatives of the Nigerian government is making access to technical and vocational education and training through public-private partnerships is the establishment of vocational enterprise institutions and others to equip secondary school leavers and working adults with vocational skills to meet the increasing demands of technical manpower by the various sectors of our economy.
To achieve all of these and more, funding might pose a major challenge just as the permanent secretary to the ministry of education, Dr Ben Ibe had revealed even though it is not strange to hear such.
He said “Among the factors that led to the failure of the First Decade were poor funding, lack of political will on the part of our principals, little or no support from Africa’s development partners’ and then urged the senior officials to “be bold and courageous to impress it on our principals the imperative of adequately provision for education and developing strong political will to move the sector forward.”
After all said and done, which for sure is never ending, the united nations children education funf, UNICEF through its representative said ‘it’s a question of identifying which children, where geographically, whether it is a case of gender or other forms of deprivation that are not currently been reached by the education system and deliberately focusing all of our strategies in reaching these children with the best possible and available teaching/learning materials, teachers for these marginalized schools, improving the teaching and learning conditions as well as the social conditions of the teachers by improving their living conditions and also ensuring that there is participation from civil society and from parents themselves in school management. So we are looking at both equity and quality in terms of educational outcomes’.