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EDUCATION

Echoes Of National Education Council’s 62nd Meeting

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The National Education on Council (NEC) is the highest decision making body in the education sector in the country. Every year, this body comprising, the minister of Education and the state Commissioners of Education, gather to discuss way forward in the sector. The NEC is serviced by the Joint Consultative Committee on Education (JCCE) which is made up of professional officers of the federal and state ministries of education and their parastatals. Rising from its just concluded meeting, with the Theme; ‘‘Funding of Education for the Achievement of Education 2030 Agenda’’ the body approved certain measures to be put in place to raise the standard of education and bring about more funding for the sector. Speaking at the end of the meeting, the minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu stated that for the nation to achieve the goal of education 2030 Agenda, funding should not be exclusively reserve for federal, state and local government but should involve a collaborative effort of all stakeholders, corporate and private organisations. Adamu stated that with a population of over 170 million, 45 per cent of which are below 15 years, the burden on education has become overwhelming on the three tiers of government, creating challenges in ensuring quality education in the country. “In achieving the goals of education 2030 Agenda, conscious efforts must made to increase funding of education. This, however raises some fundamental questions which stakeholders here must address.

‘‘Since the Federal Government has committed 6 per cent of its 2017 budget to education, which is far below the UN benchmark, what is the responsibility of states, parents, and multinational companies in their domains doing to bridge the gap and provide the education sector a much needed life?’’ He queried. He had urged members of the council to not only look into ways of creating fund for education but to look into necessary tracking mechanisms put in place to guarantee judicious and affective use of the fund. The meeting was attended by commissioners of education from states, FCT secretary for education, permanent secretaries from federal and state ministries of education, directors, and chief executives of paraltatals, the principal from Federal Unity Colleges and other stakeholders. In the communique that was released after the meeting, the council also approved the establishment of education bank and students’ loan boards by states at concessionary interest rates to allow students easy access to loans. The council also approved the reestablishment of State Education Development Fund (SEDFund) and other funds to create additional but sustainable funding source to improve education service delivery in post-basic schools for the achievement of 2030 Agenda. On the issue of religion curriculum, the council stated that the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) had completed the separation of Christian Religion Studies (CRS) and Islamic Studies (IS) from Religion and National Values Curriculum. It, therefore, approved the teaching, learning and assessment of CRS, IS and National Values as standalone subjects at the basic education level.

It noted that critical stakeholders like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, among others, were involved in the separation process. The council had also approved the draft of National Policy on Open Educational Resources (OER) for higher education in Nigeria for immediate Implementation. As the NCE is the highest policy making body aimed at addressing challenges and proffering solutions to problems confronting the education sector, many Nigerians wonder if decisions taken during the council are judiciously followed or if they are mere pronouncements made annually. Last year, the Council’s meeting was about Inclusive Education for All. The Ministerial session of the 62nd NCE meeting which was held in Kano with theme, ‘Inclusive Education Creating Quality Learning Opportunities for All: Implication for Concurrency in Education in Nigeria, came up with some resolutions on how to carry out inclusive education in the country. The Council agreed among other things, that governments at all level should make adequate funding for literacy projects, including mobilization and sensitization to enhance enrollment, recruitment of adult education facilitators and qualified teachers and sign language interest interpreters in schools. Other decision reached was that the government should acquire the Braille-Note Apex or other similar devices to for their institution to train teachers and candidates with visually impairment, bring about scholarship to learners with special needs and the establishment of at least one Gifted and Talented students’ Academy.

The council had also agreed for the separation of the History content from the Social Studies, the commencement of the separation of the Christian Religious Studies(CRS) and the Islamic Studies from the Religion and National Values Curriculum of the revised 9-year Basic Education Curriculum. The minister, during the 62nd Meeting, called on all the states to partner with the federal government in order to bring about quality and inclusive education in the country. He however stated, that inclusive education and quality learning opportunities for all could only be guaranteed through a skilled and motivated workforce. Apart from the complete separation of Christian Religion Studies (CRS) and Islamic Studies (IS) from Religion and National Values Curriculum, LEADERSHIP sought to know what the states government have done to reduce the number of out-of-school children and furthermore, bring about inclusive education. LEADERSHIP discovered that projects ranging from training of teachers, to establishment of special school for the disabled have been carried out by the states. But the question remains, how these projects have helped to promote inclusive education in the states? Inclusive education means different and diverse students learning side by side in the same classroom. It values diversity and the unique contributions each student brings to the classroom. Around the world, children are excluded from schools where they belong because of disability, race, language, religion, gender, and poverty but in an inclusive setting, every child feels safe and has a sense of belonging.

Some school of thoughts believe that children living with disability have many contribution to make and they can unlock their potential through inclusive education. The latest data from UNICEF revealed that Nigeria have over 10.5 million out-of school children, the highest in other country in the world. The data further showed that 60 per cent of this number comes from the northern part of the country, where education is continuously being threatened by insecurity and poverty. It further revealed that 50 per cent of girls in some northern states who attended primary schools are unable to transit to secondary school. Worried by this trend, the NCE came up with modalities to address these problems. But the question remains, have the states been able to achieve something within a year? For Plateau State, the Governor of the state, Simon Lalong, in his 2018 budget speech said his administration is fully committed to improving the fallen standard of education in the area. He added that included in the state’s budget was money for the payment of students’ scholarship allowances. According to him, this is another area of government’s support to students in Tertiary Institutions within and outside the country. Though LEADERSHIP was unable to speak to the Commissioner for Higher education in the state, Mrs. Elizabeth Wakmuk as she would not pick her calls as at the time of filling this report, the Chairman of the State Teachers’ Service Commission, Mr. Vonjen Lar, said arrangement has been concluded by the state government to recruit over 400 teachers in the state which he said he hopes will increase the number of children in school. According to him, the measure was part of the state government’s effort to also reduce the rate of unemployment in the state and to improve quality of education at those two critical levels.

The Lagos State Government on its part had stated that ever since it launched free adult education Programme in the state, it had ensured that the centers are functioning well. Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode at the launch of the Adult Education Programme tagged ‘Lagos is Learning (Èkó ńk kòó)’, said it was in line with his administration’s commitment to combat the illiteracy level in the state. Ambode said the target was to raise the literacy level in the state from 85 per cent to 100 per cent. To achieve this, the state government increased the centers from 522 to 1000, while additional 1000 teachers were engaged. To make it inclusive, the governor ab-initio made the programme to be free of charge for participants so as to accommodate more people. The state’s Deputy Governor, Dr. Mrs. Idiat Oluranti Adebule who supervises the education sector in the state said the number of illiterate persons in the state was not consistent with her vision to make Lagos Africa’s model mega city, hence the need to address the situation. “In Lagos, research also shows that 13 per cent of the population, meaning about three million persons, are illiterates. This level of illiteracy is unacceptable. The high population of illiterate people is not consistent with our vision to become Africa’s model mega city because illiterate person lack basic literacy, numeracy and essential skills which makes them more vulnerable to activities of criminals and they can easily be lured into anti-social groups. “Basic literacy is essential for economic empowerment and to understand and follow simple instruction in the areas of health, transportation, safety and others. The launching of this Eko Nke Ekoo project with the objectives of kicking illiteracy out of Lagos. Our goal is to achieve 100 percent literacy for all Lagosians. “Towards this end, we plan to increase the number of basic and post literacy centers from the current 532 to 1,000. We will also engage additional 1,000 facilitators who will be trained in basic skills and techniques in the teaching of adult education,” she said. The literacy centres, according to her offer courses including Education, Fashion designing, Soap making, Hair dressing and Bead making, among others. She said the state government would aggressively promote literacy initiatives through all media channels, while channels of literacy contents, radio literacy programmes, mobile literacy centres and other innovative channels would be multiplied and diversified across the State.

“To achieve this, the Ministry of Education, through the office of the Special Adviser on Education and Agency for Mass Education under the direction of the Deputy Governor, will strengthen relationship with various stakeholders including private organizations, international funding agencies, government agencies, religious organizations, community based and several NGOs running literacy and empowerment programmes. “I encourage residents of Lagos to take the opportunity to learn. It is never too late to learn; age is not barrier to acquire basic literacy. It will help the learners forge a better understanding between the government and the people and as well aid personal development,” she said. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Mr Obafela Bank-Olemoh, said the initiative was to improve the standard of living of adults without formal education while growing up and make them self-reliant and employable. LEADERSHIP check showed that over 50,000 adults have enrolled into its Adult Literacy Programme in the last three years. According to Bank-Olemoh 20,000 adults enrolled into the Adult Literacy class last year while 30,000 adults enrolled for this year’s programme. The Special Adviser at a recent public said the state government targeted to scale up its literacy rate by 95 per cent by 2019. He said currently, the state had achieved 85 percent and hoped to bridge the 13 percent shortfall by 2019. “We have a programme to promote adult literacy in Lagos State in a bid to enhance our mega city status. We have a target of 95 percent to achieve literacy rate, but presently, we have 87 percent. “We have a shortfall of 13 percent and more people are coming to the state every day and that makes it imperative for us to work harder to increase our achievement as far as adult literacy is concern in Lagos State,” he said. In Nassarawa, the state government has created vistas of opportunities for vulnerable citizens in the state as it formally inaugurated a comprehensive special school for the disabled. The school was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari during his official visit to the state. The state governor, Umaru Tanko Almakura explained that the special school is to provide individual care to children with learning difficulties. The governor had also stated that the aim of the school was also to ensure that children with disability are given equal opportunities to empower, broaden their vision, develop their talents, creativity and support their full potentials. He lamented that people with disabilities have been denied opportunities to favourably compete with others in all spheres of life. The Comprehensive Special School, according to the governor was equipped with modern facilities to ease teaching and learning of children with special needs, adding that his administration has recruited the desired manpower with requisite qualification and disposition to teach in the school. Also in Kaduna State, the government had reassured its commitment to bring about inclusive education in the state, adding that no one was left behind in the government efforts to provide inclusive and quality education to all. The state’s Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Malam Ja’afaru Sani, who gave the assurance when he visited Demonstration School for Deaf Children (DSDC), Kawo and the state’s Special Education School, said that the ministry was working tirelessly to ensure that no one was left behind and that all children in Kaduna are enrolled in school. In FCT, worried by this situation, the Education Secretariat of Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) recently launched an FCT draft policy on inclusive education. In a speech at the occasion, minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, noted that the disabled and physically challenged in the nation were discriminated against, even if not deliberately. “We have said often enough that education is the foundation of modern growth and development and several policies have been formulated and implemented over the years to ensure that our children are not only educated, but functionally educated so that they can in turn contribute their quota to the development of our nation.

Bello stated that if the Nigerian schools are indeed inclusive of all children, then the society would develop affection for one another and stimulate healthy competition that would ultimately lead to the discovery of talents and the development of talent potentials, needful for national growth and development. Also speaking at the launch, the secretary, FCTA Education Secretariat, Senator Isa Maina, called for the removal of all barriers that are likely to deny any child the right to pursue education. Maina noted that in spite of their physical challenges, some of these children are enormously endowed with talents and skills that must be harnessed for the overall development of our nation. Speaking at the launch, a representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mrs. Lilian Odey, explained that inclusive education is the global best educational practice and standard to ensure that no child is out of school, irrespective of their disabilities, gender and other social status. The federal government has also a lot to do to ensure that education in truly for all in the country. Speaking on what the federal government has done so far on the extension to the access and inclusive education, the minister of education, stated that the ministry has implemented the Pre-Primary education and the establishment of Community Based Early Childcare Centers in 16 States to enhance their transition to Basic Education as well as reduce the incidences of out-of-school children. The minister who decried the absence of reliable data in the country, stated that the federal government has also commenced the massive school census to ascertain the number of children attending schools across the federation. He further added that the federal government has also embarked on National Enrolment Drive Campaign to improve, retention and completion rates and address the huge number of out-of-school children . Education is a basic need and right for every child. It is supposed to be available to every child regardless of their physical or social limitations. Therefore, the introduction of inclusive learning in the classroom is a necessity and should be taken seriously. Also to be taken seriously, are decisions agreed upon in the NEC meeting, bespecially in the states so that education in Nigeria will be taken to the next level in the country.



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