Against the backdrop of the general belief that the standard of education in Nigeria is plummeting, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola, has argued to the contrary.
Okebukola, now President, Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi-Africa), stated that despite the many challenges confronting the nation’s education system, its standard is rising.
But he was quick to add that what was falling was the quality to attain the standard, even as he appealed to the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to shelve its ongoing strike and return to the negotiation table with government, with a view to finding lasting solutions to the identified problems.
He made the positions known at the Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, on Thursday, November 8, 2018, while delivering the first Education Lecture Series of the University.
Organised by the College of Education at the Mini Convocation Arena of the Institution, the lecture was entitled “Declaration of State of Emergency in Education: The Day After.”
The guest lecturer buttressed his point with the improved syllabi of primary and secondary schools as against what was obtainable in the past.
He stressed that before now, without a PhD, it was possible to become a Professor, “but now, without it, you cannot even be a senior lecturer. This means that the standard is rising, but something is falling which is the quality to attain such standards.”
Okebukola, who is also Chairman of Council, Crawford University, identified inadequate budgetary allocation, lack of infrastructural facilities and decay, dearth of qualified teachers, explosion in student population, and gender disparities, among the major challenges militating against the attainment of good quality education in Nigeria.
These, according to him, called for an emergency declaration in the nation’s education sector.
In his words: “For many years now, the bell has been ringing about the education crisis in the country. All here present are aware of the dysfunctional state of education today at all levels, a typical illustration was when Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State announced in 2017 that 21,780 out of 33,000 teachers in the state failed the primary four examination administered to test their competence.
“At least 25% of Nigerian children aged six to 11 do not attend any primary school with the northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly girls. In spite of a significant increase in enrollment rates in recent years, it is estimated that over 10 million children of primary school age are still not in school. In recent weeks, the figure of over 13 million has been bandied.”
Okebukola added: “We established that the critical challenge that is threatening the attainment of good quality education in Nigeria is under-funding of educational sector in the country.”
He attributed the poor state of education to the paltry seven percent of budgetary allocation invested in the sector in 2018 by the federal government.
The Professor of Science Education at the Lagos State University charged the government to invest greatly in education to have a better result in nation building and sustenance.
To achieve the targets of the declared state of emergency in education sector, he also recommended, among others, that the National Assembly approved a bill on the emergency based on the approved document by the National Economic Council, adding that approval at the state level of similar bill would muster national action.
Not only that, he also proposed accent to the bill by President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors and its immediate implementation as law.
“Since emergencies are by nature extra-ordinary, extra-budgetary measures must be adopted which include but not limited to transfer of education to 1st line charge to facilitate release of all the appropriated funds,” he added.
The don noted that “In all of these, we need to carry along the various unions (ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NATT, JACs, student unions, the coalition of professional associations) in tackling the emergency.”
On ASUU strike, he appealed to the striking teachers to embrace dialogue in order to find workable solutions to the fundamental problems facing the sector, adding that the government had demonstrated sincerity by declaring the state of emergency, and that all hands should be on deck to resolve the problems once and for all.
Meanwhile, the guest lecturer climaxed his thought-provoking lecture with a presentation of an “Exemplary Leadership in Higher Education in Africa Award” to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, amid thunderous applause.
The award reads: “Exemplary Leadership in Higher Education in Africa Award presented to Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, for his uncommon commitment to building a university - Kwara State University (KWASU) that is emerging a regional exemplar in the delivery of quality university education.
“Since assuming office as Vice-Chancellor, KWASU under Professor Na’Allah has witnessed such tremendous growth in infrastructural development, international partnership and attraction of the best scholars that can hardly be matched by a university thrice its age in Africa.
“The programme offerings are pitched to produce nationally-relevant, globally-competitive and 21st-Century graduates. KWASU’s entrepreneurship programme remains one of the best in the region.
“By this Award, GUNi-Africa will document KWASU in its Register of Successful Practices of University Education in Africa.”