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EDUCATION

Stakeholders Set Agenda For Education Minister

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Last week, Adamu Adamu staged a come back after his swearing in by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Minister of Education.

While some Nigerians believe someone else should have been appointed to over see the affairs of the ministry, many say that the return of Adamu was a good move as it will give the minister the opportunity to consolidate on what he started when he held sway.

When the minister resumed office in 2016,  he produced a strategic plan for the ministry. The plan known as ‘Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan 2016-2019’, according to the minister, was strategic to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s change agenda as no nation can achieve economic prosperity without a sound and functional education system.

He had lamented that while the world is producing professionals, Nigeria was still grappling and leading the world with the highest number of out-of-school children.

The minister was optimistic that the plan will help a great deal in reviving the nation’s education system.

Indeed, the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) which focuses on addressing the issues of out-of-school-children, basic and secondary education, capacity-building and professional development of teachers, curriculum and academic standards, among others, was also to look into issues of technical and vocational education and training, quality and access in higher education, ICT in education and library services.

With the implementation of the plan, the minister is optimistic of a brighter future for the education during his remaining years in office and even after he has left.

As Adamu settles down for the onerous task of taking the education sector to the next level, stakeholders said the expectations are high now as they were in the last four years.

According to some educationists who spoke to LEADERSHIP, the top most challenge the minister has to tackle is the increasing numbers of out-of-school children in the country.

Although the minister has stated that the number has been reduced from 13.2m to 10.2m, stakeholders insisted that the figure might not be accurate even as they expressed doubt on the reduction.

They lamented that If nothing is done fast, it will create a huge problem for the nation in years to come.

“When children are roaming about the street with no education, it is a ticking time bomb that would explode, if not now but later in the future. Theses little children will rise against a nation that did nothing to give them education,” Moses Nwobu, an educationist noted.

But stakeholders stated that if the Almajiri children rooming the streets are sent to school, it would drastically reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country.

It would be recalled that the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan established an Almajiri model schools programme, popularly known as Tsangaya School.

The main objective of the government for embarking on the projects was to provide a lasting solution to the Almajiri syndrome that has bedeviled most parts of the North where millions of children are currently roaming the streets.

The sum of N15bn was earmarked for the provision of dormitories, classrooms, vocational centres, language laboratories, staff quarters, and kitchens, among others.

However, in some places, the schools had fallen into state of disrepair such that the authorities concerned had converted them to conventional schools.

Undersandably, stakeholders said another issue of concern is the strike action by the unions in the tertiary institutions of the country.

The union leaders who spoke with LEADERSHIP want the minister to resolve pending issues.

The President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Biodun Ogunyemi stated that the minister has a lot of things on his table to deal with while adding that his coming back should be a blessing for the sector if he will build on the experience he had garnered before.

“Unlike some other ministers, he is not starting from the scratch. By now, he knows the most critical issues that require immediate attention at all the levels of the educational system – pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary.

  “Even the bureaucrats in the Ministry know him and he knows them sufficiently enough after over three years of working together. So, his job is well cut out for him and he should hit the ground running,” he said.

Ogunyemi, stated that Adamu made efforts to unearth the critical issues hampering the development of education in this country.

“He was the first Minister of Education, since 1999, that would openly canvass for at least 20 per cent annual budgetary allocation to the education sector as obtained in the D8 countries.

“He also courageously called for a state of emergency in the education sector. Similarly, the Ministry of Education, under his watch, organised a workshop on sustainable funding of education to which ASUU made a submission,” he stated.

The union leader however, expressed sadness that the minister’s advocacy for budgetary increase did not lead to significant improvement in the funding of education in the country.

“Again, some outstanding labour issues he met on ground were not fully resolved. For example, Nigerian academics were not happy that the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement which Mallam Adamu kickstarted in March 2017 was not concluded for more than two years,” he said.

On the tasks ahead, Ogunyemi urged the minister to do more to fix the Nigerian education by following through with his earlier pronouncement of the declaration of state of emergency in the sector.

“As for the university system, ASUU expects that the minister would ensure that the 2012 Report the FGN’s Committee on the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities is updated and fully implemented,” he said.

Ogunyemi also urged the minister to stop the proliferation of universities by both Federal and State governments.

“What Nigeria needs, for now, is to address the rot and decay in existing public universities and expand spaces to accommodate more prospective students. Governments should stop creating universities they have no plan to fund,” he added.

Also speaking, the national secretary of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) Anderson Ezeibe, said the minister’s second coming is a perfect opportunity for him to implement the administration’s education blueprint, urging him to hit the ground running.

“The minister has been there for nearly four years and he knows that a lot of things where left half done. Before he exited, for instance, the renegotiations of the agreement between the union and the government have not been concluded. It is still pending.

“The engagement we have been having since we had our last strike in 2017, some of them are still pending, for instance, the NEEDS assessment issue and the revitalization fund which he was pursing before he exited. We expect him to consolidate on this effort,” he noted.

But other stakeholders called on the government to look inwards at all levels of education: the basic, secondary and tertiary education, to ensure that none is abandoned so as not to jeopardise in the fight to achieving the best education for the citizenry.

For his part, the President of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Comrade Nuhu Ogirima, called on the minister to respect the tertiary education governance structure.

He stressed the need for government to pay more attention on colleges of education and polytechnics especially as they have recently transcended their mandate.

“Their mandates have transcended from given tertiary services to middle level manpower now because we have HND being awarded by polytechnic, HND is equivalent to degree. We have the colleges of education affiliated with universities awarding degrees.

Ogirima urged the minister to ensure that agreements with the various unions in the tertiary level of education are adhered to and dutifully implemented.

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