Today is Democracy Day, a day Nigeria celebrates her transition to civil rule as a nation. And 15 years on, it has remained an all important event with the governors and the President giving endless speeches regarding their achievements in office and their promises for the citizenry.
But in the face of this annual ‘ritual,’ one vital aspect of the nation’s economy the successive administrations have been paying lip service to, is education.
Year-in year-out, including the last three years of the present administration, the story has been that of poor infrastructural facilities, overcrowded classrooms, dearth of competent hands, students’ mass failure in public examinations, poor workers’ remuneration and welfare packages, incessant workers’ strike and students’ protests; poor library facilities and dearth of textbooks and lately insecurity.
More worrisome is that the country with about 150 million people has a total of 10.5 million school age children according to UNESCO out of school. The implication of this on the economy is inestimable.
The raging violence by Boko Haram members in the north and its direct attacks on schools including the Federal Government Girls’ College, Chibok, Borno State where over 200 girls were abducted is another bad omen pointing to the fact that schools are no longer safe.
So also is that of persistent mass failure and examination malpractice of students, especially in the senior secondary school certificate examinations (SSSCE) as well as in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
For instance, in 2013 WAEC’s May/June, the council could not give accurate figure of those who obtained credit pass and above in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics due to the crisis in the north-east which disrupted its exam. But investigations revealed that the statistics was lower than 40 per cent of the total candidates.
Also in 2012 edition of the exam, only 38.81 per cent, representing 649,156 out of 1,695,878 candidates obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English language and Mathematics while 6.70 per cent was alleged of exam malpractice.
Similarly, only 37.97 per cent of the total candidates for the November/December edition of the exam, obtained credit and above in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics.
The results were not any better in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) where only three or four candidates scored 300 and above out of the 400 obtainable points.
Also, in its picture of the sorry state is of that of the nation’s tertiary institutions, where the Presidential Visitation Panel set up by President Goodluck Jonathan had reported that majority of the universities in the country are grossly under-staffed; rely heavily on part-time and visiting lecturers; have under-qualified academics, and have no effective staff development programmes outside the Tertiary Education Trust Fund’s (TETFund) intervention.
“Many laboratories and workshops are old with inappropriate furnishing. Power and water supply is inadequate and unavailable. There are overcrowded and overstretched lecture rooms, equipment and consumables are absent, inadequate or outdated. Engineering workshops operate under zinc sheds and trees. Science-based faculties of some universities are also running ‘Dry lab’ for lack of tools to conduct physical/real experiments.
“There is also no cutting edge research facilities, no laboratory, workshop or library ranks among the top 1,000 in the world,” the report read in part. When one considers this report, it is little wonder that no Nigerian university–public or private– is listed among the first top 100 in the university world ranking.
Now, members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, and its colleges of education counterparts have been on nationwide strike for up to eight months without knowing when it will end.
The unions’ strike, which came at the heels of a similar one by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has further dented the image of the Federal Government, especially over the public’s doubt of its commitment to address the challenges in the sector as a major step to leapfrog the nation’s economy.
But the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike has condemned the gloomy picture of the sector, which he said was being painted by the opposition to dent the image of the present administration.
The minister, who has consistently listed the government’s huge investment in the sector, has cited the increased budgetary allocation; creation of more universities, investment in Almajri schools, among others, as parts of government sincere intervention.
Accord- ing to him, government in 2011 budgeted N356, 495, 828, 145; 2012 (N400.15 billion); 2013 (N427.52bn) and 2014 (N493, 450,130, 268) and all these were outside other intervention funds to the sector. Nevertheless, as challenges have continued to slow down the sector, stakeholders have predicted that something good can still happen in the sector.
National President of ASUU, Dr. Nassir Issa, and others called for total overhauling of the sector from primary to tertiary level. They also recommended upward review of annual budgetary allocation to the sector with strict supervision of its spending to forestall misappropriation and wastage.
Specifically, the ASUU boss noted that the recommendation by the Presidential Committee that all non-establishment positions created by some vice chancellors (like PAs, SAs, FCs, BGs, and so on) be banned in the university system with the council of each university to ensure compliance should be observed to the letter, among other recommendations. (National Mirror)