Stakeholders chart new path for Ogun education sector
An attempt by the Ogun State government to assess its efforts at turning around its education sector since 2011 when the present administration came on board has shown that the situation is still a far cry from what is envisioned; the challenges are still there. This informed the gathering of eminent scholars and other stakeholders at the two-day summit held at the June 12 cultural centre, Abeokuta to offer fresh ideas and chart a new course for the sector.
The summit provided an opportunity for stakeholders to reassess the sector and its integral parts; review the set goals, reappraise the strategies implemented and reposition the sector for better performance.
Four thematic areas, namely education resource management, law review and harmonisation, curriculum review and schools security were critically looked into during the two-day discourse.
The state governor, Ibikunle Amosun explained some of the envisaged goals: “Given our history as a people, it is imperative that the state remains on the cutting edge particularly in the area of education to ensure that it not only retains its pride of place as first, but leads the charge for the provision of quality manpower to staff the great Nigerian corporations many of which have now made the state their industrial hub. Secondly is the urgent need to provide potential employers of the future and equip our nation with a crop of market ready entrepreneurs.”
Governor Amosun in taking stock of steps taken by his administration to reposition the rotten sector upon assumption of office said, “On our assumption of office in May 2011, our first mission was to carry out a critical assessment of the sector with a view to determining appropriate interventions. This exercise revealed confounding challenges which included dilapidated classrooms, acute shortage of instructional materials and textbooks, insufficient classrooms and furniture for both students and their teachers, lack of regular training for teachers, poor commitment and teaching habits due to lack of incentives and motivation, collapse of the monitoring and evaluation systems, poor governance structures in schools resulting in indiscipline and outright gangsterism, insufficient funding and poor remuneration of the workforce.
But six years down the line, an elated Amosun said his administration has been able to tackle some of these challenges. “The first step we took was to provide, sustain and safeguard unhindered access and equity in education through the introduction of free and compulsory primary and secondary education. In addition, we have invested over N2billion in the provision of required textbooks and educational materials; we have improved the quality of our school environment through the rehabilitation of classroom blocks in both primary and secondary schools, we have employed significantly higher numbers of qualified teachers, engaged in their regular training and retraining and ensured regular and prompt payment of their.
However, the governor noted that more still needed to be done for the sector to be adequately positioned. According to him, “The various stakeholders seem to have left the funding and running of the schools, alongside the care of their wards in the hands of the government, which have proven to be wrong as events in the past years have shown that government alone does not have the wherewithal to completely cater for the sector. He subsequently canvassed support from alumni associations, on the need to give back through appropriate school support schemes and see themselves as stakeholders in the sustenance of the sector. Amosun also called on the private sector, particularly companies operating in the state to consider school adoption.
Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Ishaq Oloyede who spoke on “Affordable and qualitative education in Nigeria,” said white-collar jobs are no more available for every graduate; hence the need to embrace vocational training while the Innovative Enterprise Institutes (IEI) must be strengthened to expand opportunity for skill acquisition.
Oloyede posited that skill acquisition should be considered as co- curriculum rather than extra curriculum at the secondary and tertiary levels to pave way for the much-talked diversification of the nation’s economy. He added that in the pursuit of excellence, qualitative and affordable education for all must be encouraged.
Vice chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, Prof Saburi Adesanya in his presentation titled, ‘ It is possible: The successful turnaround of a tertiary institution,” shared the OOU experience citing how bad things were academically and financially between 2011 and 2012; how lawlessness, violence and cultism reigned supreme; how academic programmes and activities nosedived and how the institution eventually weathered the storm.
Prof Saburi opined that institutions of learning could be improved upon in the area of academics through introduction of new programmes such as part time and distance learning programmes; as well as alternative funding through research grants, ventures, consultancies and professional services.
On his part, Chairman, Phillips Consulting limited, Mr. Foluso Phillips who spoke on “Technology: A tool for education advancement”, noted that education is not only about schools but building the competence and capacity of the nation.
Phillips who deplored the nation’s poor ranking in the World Economic Forum (WEF) competitive survey shown at the event expressed regrets that we are far behind as a nation and harped on the need to be technologically equipped to meet current trends. Specifically, he maintained that 21st century workplace skills are required to thrive in our technologically- driven world with an exponential increase in innovation.
While warning on the consequences of being technologically deficient, Phillips tasked government at all levels to not only invest in the sector but also ensure that technology is aligned with current curriculum.
A senior lecturer at the Pan African University, Dr. Doyin Salami in his paper, “Funding vs. Results: A critical look,” canvassed improved funding of the sector and a change of attitude from stakeholders; saying a situation where federal government would allocate a meagre eight percent of the annual budget to education was no longer acceptable.
Salami decried the performance of Ogun state in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination, saying coming 19 out of 36 calls for great concern and a parading shift from all concerned. The university teacher was of the view that reliable data is essential for proper planning, adding that it is imperative for education managers to know the number of teachers in each school; teacher- student ratio and total number of schools among others. He also stressed the need for regular teachers’ training, which he described as one of the major ingredients of quality education.
The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) commission, in its presentation titled, “ The dynamics of quality education was emphatic in his submission that education, whether formal or in whatever form, must be relevant to the needs and aspirations of the individuals and the society at large. The commission set up to champion the advancement of the south west opined that for education to become more relevant to our development process, it must seek to train the individual for a better appreciation of his own cultural traditions whilst at the same time equipping him with the ability to absorb new ideas, new information and new data for resolving the constantly changing problems of his environment. In addition, it must train the individual to relate to and interact meaningfully with others in the society and to appreciate the importance of effective organisation for human progress; develop the creative ability of individuals especially in the cultural and technological realms; foster in the individual those values which make for good citizenship; such as honesty, selflessness, tolerance, dedication, hard work and personal integrity,
Besides, it must provide the rich soil from which good leadership is spawned; promote the culture of productivity by enabling every individual to discover the creative genius in him and apply it to the improvement of the existing skill and technique of performing specific tasks thereby increasing the efficiency of his personal societal efforts.
Unfortunately, the commission concluded that education has failed the relevance test while we as a people have also failed to make the sector useful. To secure a better future direction for the sector, DAWN canvassed a strong political will to implement language policies bearing in mind the multilingual nature of the country and which of the three major Nigerian languages to adopt as language of instruction in our schools.
At the end of the deliberations, recommendations were made which include the need for the state government to increase its annual 20 percent budgetary allocation for the sector to meet the 26 percent United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) benchmark.
Stakeholders also agreed that the curriculum must be domesticated to meet local needs and reviewed constantly, while implementation should be paramount; they also harped on constant training of teachers to meet current trends while greater premium should be placed on skills acquisition for enhanced knowledge as well as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills for teaching, learning, examination and reviews.