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EDITORIAL

Awaiting The Declaration Of Emergency On Education

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In January this year, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, revealed that the federal government would declare a state of emergency in the education sector in April. In making the disclosure, he requested the 36 governors of the states of the federation to follow suit in their states.

In March, which was approximately a month to the emergency take off, Adamu reiterated in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital, that all was set for the emergency declaration, noting that the rate of out of school children, poor infrastructure, lack of regular teachers’ training, dearth of instructional materials have made the emergency imperative.

As the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, did not hear a word from Adamu or the Presidency as April drew to a close, the union challenged the Education Ministry to live up to its words and declare the emergency which ASUU observed raised the hopes of Nigerians for improved quality of education in the country. The chairman of ASUU, University of Ibadan, Dr Deji Omole who reminded the government of its words noted that if the minister’s promise was a political talk, it was an unfortunate one for the future of Nigerian youth and children.

The standard of education in Nigeria has been on an inexorable descent over the years, orchestrating a generic decadence in the education sector that have impacted everything that was good in the path that stretches from primary to tertiary institutions, including ensuring that about 11million Nigerian children are out of school, the highest the world over.

From the kindergartens to the ivory towers, private schools have completely displaced public schools in instruction and provision of environment, conducive for learning. In many states of the federation, teaching at primary level in public schools is still being conducted under trees, in structures without roofs and with pupils seated on bare floor, 58 years after independence.

It should be noted that while UNESCO’s recommended benchmark for budgetary allocations to education in developing countries is 26 per cent, budgetary allocations in Nigeria for education swing miserably between seven and eight per cent and often plunges to six per cent of which what may eventually be released could be just half the amount by the end of the fiscal year. It is no better in the states. Yearly, the total budgets of the Nigerian 36 states give no higher than a cumulative of 11 per cent to education.

For all these, no Nigerian university is among the 800, ranked in the world and even the 10 in Africa; some of our university graduates cannot read and write, while employers now exhibit obsession for foreign certificates, even ones from universities in lowly African countries. It must be stated that part of the foundational problems in the public school system is the obnoxious quota system of admission. So is corruption.

The Nigerian government’s disinterest in funding education or coming up with helpful policies in the education sector and ensuring their implementation have been understood to anchor on the fact that the children of the well-heeled and of those who run the system school overseas. What this means is that only the poor and all those whose voices cannot be heard truly have stakes in the Nigerian education sector.

Successive Nigerian governments have failed to do even the basic for the education sector, which is ensuring the proper training of teachers. Time was in our history when someone with a Standard Six Certificate, which is equivalent of today’s First School Leaving Certificate was eminently qualified to be primary school teacher. This didn’t just come down to dearth of trained teachers, rather anyone found worthy in learning and character at that time to earn the Standard Six Certificate was supremely equipped to superbly deliver as a primary school teacher. And they did.

Apart from better government’s attention to education, the other differences between then and now are that certificates were earned entirely by dint of hard work and within the strictures of scholarship and those who taught knew their onions. Today, with National Diploma, OND and National Certificate of Education, NCE as basic requirements in teaching at primary level in public schools, primary school teachers are regularly retrenched for not being able to differentiate their left from their right in the classrooms and even for failing a Primary Four-based competence test.

If the promised emergency in the education sector is not indeed a political talk the government should go ahead and declare it. A sector that is in suspended animation needs everything it can get for revival.

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