Improve teacher quality, ensure standards, upgrade facilities, stakeholders task Adamu
IF asked to hazard a guess, 54-year-old accounting graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Mallam Adamu Adamu, would have been the last person any member of the academic community would have contemplated as the one that would be saddled with the task of leading the Education Ministry.
Not so much owing to lack of capacity, but simply for the fact that his professional calling and the things that have been engaging his attention over the years, were not strictly linked, or wound around the ministry he now heads.
That notwithstanding, he is President Muhammadu Buhari choice (preferred over time-tested professors) to salvage what is left of the country’s deeply troubled education sector.
The accountant-turned journalist, who has been Buhari’s close ally for about two decades, a couple of months back, served as the secretary of the president’s transition committee, which Ahmed Joda headed.
A renowned public analyst and columnist with Daily Trust Newspaper, Adamu, who graduated in 1978 worked briefly at Kwara Cooperative Federation in Ilorin as an accountant, then as finance accountant at Star Nigeria Ltd, before transferring his services to Bauchi State government, where he worked as an accountant in the state water board.
By 1984, he was chief accountant in the water corporation before the search for new challenges and his flair for writing took him away to the New Nigerian Newspapers, where he was absorbed as a special correspondent and a member of the editorial board.
Adamu, who joined the newspaper in 1984, after spending just about two years became its deputy editor and chairman of editorial board. After that, along side two colleagues of his, he set up the defunct Citizen magazine, which was on the stands for about five years. He was invited by the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, to come over and edit his news magazine, The Sentinel.
It was while he was at The Sentinel that Buhari invited him over to become his special assistant at the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
At the ministerial screening, Adamu told the senators, “I stand before you, unfortunately as one of the many Nigerians, who are extremely sad and pained over what is happening in the country today, especially during the last two decades. Throughout that period, the country experienced a downward spiral trying to fall into a whirlpool of disaster. God saved us by bringing this government and this assembly into being so that at last, people will have their chance of experiencing change.”
Apart from deploring the rot, Adamu also spoke glowingly of the tremendous change he said the country witnessed during the era Buhari held sway as PTF boss, and himself, his aide.
Though not an educationist, many stakeholders in the education sector expect Adamu to be the force that would pull the sector out of the whirlpool of disaster it has been plunged into. It is only by so doing that his appointment to such a key sector would have been justified.
One of those that want Adamu to make a headway in his new assignment, considering the importance of education to the country’s development is the immediate past executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola.
And by way of advise to Adamu, Okebukola said, “I will stress that the minister should not engage in any so-called “Summit on Education.” We have had enough of summits. All the summits have ended up with the same recommendations. Now we need action. For the “change” mantra of the Buhari Administration to be effective and sustainable, we need action in three main areas: improvement in the quality of teachers at all levels of the education system; improvement in the resourcing of our schools (facilities) and radical change in the quality assurance system at the basic and higher education levels.
The former vice chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), added, “In order to improve quality of teachers, the new minister should direct the National Universities Commission (NUC), the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the National Teachers Institute (NTI) to collectively produce a blueprint within two weeks to address the poor quality of NCE and graduate teachers being produced by the institutions under the charge of these agencies.
Within a month, he should convene an emergency meeting of the National Council on Education to, among other things, review and bless the proposals for immediate implementation. As a teacher educator and teacher trainer myself, I see the need to completely overhaul the teacher education curriculum at all levels, temporarily close all sandwich and outreach programmes on education where the bastardisation of training is reigning supreme, institute a five-yearly teacher re-certification system and work with states to improve the welfare scheme for teachers,” the university teacher submitted.
He also added that, “Working with states through the National Council on Education, the minister should set 2016 as the year of the beginning of massive rehabilitation of schools. Most of our schools are as hopeless as can be in terms of facilities, yet money is locked in the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and the Tertiary Education Tax Fund (TETfund) (now happily sucked into the TSA scheme) that can be utilised to correct the ills. “Thumbs up for TETFund for its mighty footprints in the rehabilitation of our higher education institutions. It can still do better.
Managers of our institutions can also do better by being transparent and judicious in the use of funds from TETFund and UBEC. The third item on the agenda – radical change in quality assurance, is to work towards a merger of NUC, NBTE and NCCE as a Tertiary Education Council. This suggestion is not new. We only need a minister with courage to work with the president and the legislature to give effect to this popular demand,” the don stated.
Commenting on Adamu’s appointment, Education Director/Proprietress of Mind Builders School, Ikeja, Lagos, Mrs. Bola Falore said, “A professional could have been ideal to handle that portfolio based on experience and training. But if Adamu has a passion for education and has listening ears to take advise from tested hands that surround him, both within and outside the ministry like permanent secretaries and education professionals, he will surely do well.”
On areas of needs the minister should take as priority areas given present state of the country’s education milieu, she said, “He should develop and adopt a rich curriculum, which is entrepreneurial based because we are in the 21st Century. The Ministry should be forceful about the adoption and implementation of that rich curriculum in order to equip Nigerian children to face 21st Century challenges.
There must be serious focus on proper and adequate training for teachers in the colleges of education and other educational institutions of learning. And emphasis must be placed on people with genuine interest and passion for teaching profession, and not for leftovers from other areas, who veer into teaching because there is nowhere else to turn to.
“There should be a conducive environment for learning, in terms of good schools and provision of adequate instructional materials to enhance teaching. Teachers should also be well appreciated and rewarded through remunerations. This will motivate them to put in their best,” she added.
In view of the fact that teacher training has become a niggling problem in the sector, the education director suggested that, “We should go back to the olden days teacher training colleges, and make them form the basis/foundation for teacher education in Nigeria.
“There should be total eradication of all part-time programmes such as TCII and Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) under NTI.
Additionally, “All training institutes should be equipped with standard educational facilities and instructional materials. There must be constant and regular on-the-job training for teachers including seminars and workshops to further equip them for contemporary challenges. Teachers must also subject themselves to personal professional development by embracing reading culture and trainings.”
On specific steps to revive the comatose sector, she said, “budgetary allocation to the sector should be increased to cater for free Universal Basic Education (UBE) for all; experienced and tested hands should come together and develop a rich curriculum that will cater for the three domains of education.
“Non-professional should not be allowed to take up teaching in any educational institution as they lack passion to do justice to what it requires to raise children in schools, and parents should be well informed about their roles, as the home is the first agency of education. It is a joint responsibility between the home and school,” she stated.
Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Lagos State University Branch, Dr. Adekunle Idris is not inclined to setting an agenda directly for Adamu because he believes that past experiences have shown that doing so have largely remain academic exercises.
That explains why he is of the view that the masses must always be on standby to criticise political office holders, including the education minister, until they get things right and deliver the good governance that they promise.
Idris who said, “I believe in President Muhammadu Buhari as a leader because of his antecedents,” however, deplored what he said is the “absence of bureaucrats, technocrats and captains of industries that would have driven the desired change in government.
According to him, any nation that aspires for greatness does much more than what the political class in the country is doing.
“What these politicians are doing is that they fashion the manifestoes of their political parties in line with the Nigerian Constitution. In it, they make all manner of promises. They always end up not keeping these promises.
“The bulk of these people in government were in a political party, which ran down the country’s economy, and they only left when they had disagreements with the party. This is why their claim to be saints and the change that the country needs is faulty to me. For us as a nation, we have to introspect because there definitely has to be some sacrifices for any nation that desires greatness.”
Asked to specifically state his wishes for the education sector under Adamu’s watch, he went this way; “The government has to diligently go through what ASUU has been asking for over the years. Therein lies the key to salvaging education in the country.
“Furthermore, a lot of attention has to be paid primary and secondary education because the crises that are brewing at the higher level usually start from there.
State governments have a lot to do in this direction. In virtually all states of the country, public schools are reserved for house helps and maids of the elite, while their kids go to private schools. How can a country develop this way?
“State governments should also be prevailed upon to fund tertiary institutions that they establish if they want to encourage excellence in scholarship because there is no point establishing universities that are not being cared for. In most of these state universities, the only projects you see there are projects done by the defunct Education Tax Fund (ETF) and the current Tertiary Education Tax Fund (TETFund).