Federal Education Agencies in Nigeria ought to work together in partnership, or improve on doing so for the harmonious improvement of the various elements of the education we offer our children and citizens. Furthermore, the three tiers of government in Nigeria should improve on their collaboration if the state of education in Nigeria will only get better.
And in doing all these, the Management and Governing Boards of Education Agencies in Nigeria should study and understand what the mandate of their respective agencies requires. We cannot afford any longer to have managers and governors of our education agencies get busy without adequate and practical knowledge of the mandate of their agencies.
The current active 19 agencies and parastatals of education under the Federal Ministry of Education collectively bear the responsibility of both the quality and integrity of education that Nigerians receive. And intelligent, selfless, and patriotic cooperation, consultation, and collaboration between them could leapfrog our education in both qualitative delivery and competitiveness in the twenty first century.
They say, Together Each Achieves More (TEAM). Accordingly, TEAM spirit should be built up among those agencies; and the chairmen and CEOs of those agencies should take deliberate steps to interact often and set achievable targets between them. Rather than acrimonious “competition” between them (which is needless and purposeless), those agencies of education must work together to achieve more for Nigerian education.
I have often pointed out that management, quality assurance, and funding remain focal issues that must be improved upon in Nigeria’s education sector. As the minister of education is set to declare a “state of emergency” in Nigeria’s education sector (although he is yet to openly communicate verifiable emergency steps he is looking at, and the expected outcomes within whatever set deadlines), those three focal points should engage his attention.
And in framing appropriate strategies, the honourable Minister, Mallam Adamu should hold an initial strategy meeting with the nineteen chairmen of the federal agencies of education and their nineteen CEOs (with whom he has been working on the state of education in Nigeria in the past nineteen months), and later on regular briefing sessions. Reforms in our education must not be carried out just for their sakes, but to achieve necessary improvements around management skills set, quality assurance in theory and practice, and targeted funding which achieves verifiable outcomes.
For example, the National Universities Commission (NUC) must demonstrate at such sessions their theory and practice of quality assurance or accreditation of university degree programs and universities (or their institutes), which successfully uncover and punish infamous ruinous frauds such as the hiring of mercenary lecturers and professors to pretend as genuine tenured faculty during NUC accreditation teams’ visitations in order to meet the requisite faculty mix; renting of research and teaching equipment for such visitations, after which they are returned to the vendors or genuine owners; and non- presentation of junior lecturers during NUC accreditation visits just to reduce the over-bloated lower ranks in order to achieve the appropriate faculty mix of 20% professors, 45% senior lecturers, and 35% Assistant Lecturer-Lecturer 1 for each degree program that is up for the accreditation.
The recurring deficiencies in university degree programs in any university in Nigeria should be blamed on the National Universities Commission (NUC), which sends out selected university professors to accredit degree programs in their friends’ academic departments, and in spite of the presence of NUC staffers on the visitation teams, corrupt tendencies are rife. It is time to compel the NUC to register without delay with the International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). Minister Adamu could instigate this during the “state of emergency”.
What I have said about NUC can be modified and applied to other accreditation, validation, and certification agencies such as National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB), and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Since the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education over two decades ago, can we say that it has achieved its desired purpose? Can we say that it is better than the 6-5-4 system that some of us went through?
I don’t think so, and this is why. It is hard to dispute that adequate equipment and infrastructure have not been provided to prepare students who are unable to proceed to SS1 for hands-on trades and technical occupations. And why insist that all our students spend six (6) years in secondary schools when the purpose of identifying the academically weak students after JSS 3, and then sending them to technical schools is not being successfully achieved?
Furthermore, very early in a child’s academic career, they are expected to “specialize”; thus, a student who proceeds to SS 1 as an “arts student” may not be taught necessary science courses such as chemistry, biology, or physics, and their colleagues who are called “science students” may not attend classes in English literature, history, or geography. When I went to secondary school in Benue State, from the beginning, which is in Form 1, I was taught subjects such as history, geography, mathematics, English language, Christian religious knowledge, integrated science (later on the hard core science subjects like Biology/health science, and Chemistry), English literature (we studied a broad collection of books, more than I can list all, such as Passport of Mallam Iliya, The rain maker, Tales out of school, More tales out of school, Chike and the river, The old man and the medal, The concubine, Akin the drummer boy, Shakespearean series, Poetry, Oliver twist, Gulliver’s travel, Things fall apart, No longer at ease, Ant hills of the savanna, Eze goes to school, etc.), commerce, economics, business methods, French, etc.
We studied some of these subjects until the final year, which was Form 5, but registered for only some in the West African School Certificate Examination. In Form 3, a state-wide examination was given to select the best to be transferred to the Government Technical College Makurdi, where they would start from Form 3, and continue until they graduated at Form 5, with both technical skills and other forms of academic knowledge.
I passed, and was admitted in 1983, but my father was advised to allow me to continue in the regular secondary school. The kind of education I received has stood me in good stead until now.
During the “state of emergency” in education, we must discuss the adequacy of, not only our curricula, but also the 6-3-3-4 system of education: should the system be allowed to remain, or we should implement the kind of system that Benue State did under Governor Aper Aku, who invested so much in technical education in his state? Should we allow a heavily constricted curriculum which allows a student to go to the university without the knowledge of their history or geography? When my first daughter, who had gone through the American-style education, went to SS 1 in a private Nigerian secondary school, I had to advise the school to allow her attend science classes, although she was in the “arts section”.
The request was granted, and that became a policy in that school, that every “arts student” must take at least one science subject. She is now a sophomore, studying for a degree in law, but is sound in science and mathematics. There are simple things we can achieve if there is cooperation, trust, mutual respect, and commitment. Minister Adamu should leverage on the array of talent at his disposal. Now is his time to make history. Nigeria’s education can improve, no doubt, if the will is present.
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