Our post primary institutions need an overhaul
The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) last week released the results of the May/June 2016 examinations after cancelling those involved in proven cases of malpractices. Unfortunately, it is yet another dismal performance, even though it should not surprise anyone given the state of education in Nigeria today. Only a return to those neglected details that make for a credible educational system can rescue the nation from the current sorry pass.
In seeking solutions, pre-primary school education, for instance, should be made to function within a well -articulated and enforceable policy framework. The entry and exit into education management at this level should be regulated and standardised. A modern testing instrument should be developed and administered to potential/existing proprietors and staff of early childhood educational facilities to audit the system.
Currently, the quality of teachers and other academic infrastructure at the level of basic education is a major challenge. Despite the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme, many states maintain a truly pathetic profile in the form and content of their curricula. This is hardly surprising, as many of them have consistently failed to access the federal government counterpart funding arrangement that offers a clear rescue path. They are unwilling to provide the matching funds for the UBE intervention and are therefore on the run from the generosity of the federal government.
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has repeatedly lamented the failure of state governments to access and use the funds. This is in addition to states which collect it and divert same to political patronage, or which put their counterpart funds as bait to draw federal government support and quickly pocket theirs. But there are other challenges.
The much-vaunted professionalism of teaching should be pursued with new timelines while the Teachers’ Registration Council (TRC) and the Nigerian Teachers’ Institute (NTI) may well be merged, to have all matters relating to teachers domiciled in one address. There should be a yearly presidential award for the best three teachers at this level of the educational system, following the 2007 National Teachers Award during which the best three teachers in the country each received a car at Eagle Square.
Our post primary institutions need a complete overhaul. This should begin with a comprehensive capacity audit of the academic staff. Research capacity should also be strengthened and the criteria for academic promotion made more rigorous. Above all, the reward system and the eligibility criteria for leadership of the trade and academic unions should be reviewed to favour serious academics.
Those who want trade union platforms as springboard to political visibility should be subtly distanced from such platforms. The government should also always honour its agreements with the teachers, so that attention can move from trade disputes to exchange of ideas for the development of the system.
The governing boards of our universities and polytechnics should be populated with people whose relevant exposure will add value to post-secondary education. Besides, the Federal Ministry of Education should reduce the excess luggage it now carries by merging some of its agencies. For instance, the continued retention of the staff of the Unity Colleges as staff of the Ministry promotes inefficiency and nurtures abuse in the system.
All said, the federal government can begin dealing with the emergency in education by not convening another national summit on education. Not only have there been many of such, there is already a road map adopted by the last Federal Executive Council. The many insightful suggestions can be structured with timelines and an implementation template so that specific action points are isolated and treated. For as long as education is in the doldrums, for so long shall the future of the country be there with it.