In recognition of the mediaâ€™s role in improving the quality of education and in fostering national development, stakeholders in the education sector recently converged on the MUSON Centre, Lagos at the instance of the state chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations for its fourth stakeholdersâ€™ conference where far-reaching recommendations were made. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports
The Nigerian education sector has over the years been grappling with several challenges, thus the call on government at all levels to declare a state of emergency in the sector has continued gain momentum.
Some of the identified problems confronting the sector are poor funding, problem of access to quality education, poorly trained and motivated teachers, outdated curriculum and equipment, unconducive learning environment, declining reading culture and poor learning outcome, among others.
In view of the contending issues in the sector, the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) recently held its fourth stakeholdersâ€™ conference with the theme â€˜Media, Communication and the Challenge Quality Education for National Developmentâ€™ to engage stakeholders in the sector, including the media and communication practitioners for better perspectives and evolve strategies to enhance scholastic quality for the coming generation in the country.
Setting the tone for the conference, the Chairman, Lagos chapter of NIPR, Mr Olusegun McMedal said stated that the crisis in the countryâ€™s education system is not one of money, men, morale or resources, saying, â€œthese are plentiful with a large consumer market. The real crisis lies in leadership, management and perennial selfishness.
â€œThere is an obvious depreciation in the quality of education obtainable in Nigeria today when compared to the past. Currently, the Nigerian education system is renowned for its outdated syllabus, inadequate funding, epileptic power supply, poorly motivated staff and substandard facilities.
â€œThat no Nigerian university was ranked in the top 500 and only one in the top 1,000 in the 2017 Times Higher Education World Ranking of University facilities is indeed very worrisome to say the least. The best Nigerian University was ranked just 601st.â€
He stressed that the theme was premised on the belief that the future of a state/nation is a function of the quality of education obtainable in the society, adding, â€œwe should never be satisfied until all Nigerians have access to quality education for Nigeria to prosper, achieve and excel.
In her paper, â€˜Role of the Media in Promoting Reading Culture in Nigeriaâ€™, the Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, said with an estimated 1-14 billion adult and children worldwide who still lack basic literacy skills, it has become imperative to close the literacy gap to avoid having more people who will end up being marginalised as it were. And the only way to achieve that is through reading and learning.
She described reading as the springboard of any literacy programme, saying that it has a critical role to play in the overall development of an individual and the nation at large. â€œAs an essential tool for lifelong learning, reading also has a critical role to play in manâ€™s survival.â€
She regretted that there is a decline in the reading culture in Nigeria and that research has shown that more than half of the adult and youth population in Nigeria hardly ever read a book.
â€œSome of them blame their changing reading habits on technological development. So instead of reading, they spend more hours on electronic and social media.â€
While highlighting the role of the media in promoting reading culture, Ogwezzy-Ndisika stressed that there are opportunities that can be exploited from internet and communication technology for the promotion of reading culture. â€œOne of it is the integration of ICT in education through enabling policy environment, supported by appropriate regulatory framework.â€
â€œICT has the potential to harness reading culture among students if properly deployed. It also has the potential as we have established to enhance learning and provide students with new sets of skills, to further the objectives of long distance learning, to facilitate and improve the training of teachers and to minimize the costs associated with the delivery of traditional instruction.â€
She therefore recommended that there should be a sustained media advocacy that would promote reading and writing culture; reading should be included in the nursery and primary school curriculum so that reading can be taught as a subject and not subsumed in every other subject.
She called for a national readership promotion campaign, which will help to inculcate the culture of reading in children, adding that there must be a deliberate effort to mobilise Nigerians to imbibe the reading culture in all their endeavours.
â€œGovernment at all levels and stakeholders particularly proprietors of schools and institutions must build functional libraries to boost the reading habits and culture of pupils and students. There are only few schools with good and functional libraries while majority have outdated books on some tacky shelves. It is important that the libraries should be e-complaint to ease the stress of reading from hard copies.â€
She also advised schools to encourage the establishment of structures like the readersâ€™ club, press clubs, and debate societies as they have proved useful in reviving reading habits.
According to her, parents also have a role to play by creating incentives and sanctions as well as the promotion of the reading habit in the home setting.
â€œGovernment needs to be committed to manpower development and it must as part of a strategic plan to promote the reading culture build or partner the private sector to build well stocked libraries in different locations in the country and encourage initiatives like book tours, workshops, seminars and discussions where a National Book Policy (NBP) could be developed and adapted toward specific societal need.â€
In a keynote address on the theme â€˜Media, Communication and the Challenge of Quality Education for National Developmentâ€™, the founder and Chairman Silverbird Group, Senator Ben Murray Bruce noted that the job of the media is to present the facts and allow the audience process those facts and reach their own conclusions.
However, he said the problem the world is now facing with the media and which has given birth to the rise of fake news and alternative facts is that maybe because of the encroachment of non-professionals into what used to be a very professional industry, the media is now stepping way out of its territory and is no longer presenting just the facts, but is now also projecting its own opinions and attempting to help or manipulate the audience into drawing the conclusions it wants them to draw.
Thus he said Nigeria needs a media organisation that will tell the countryâ€™s story to the rest of the world just like other countries do otherwise the country will continue to be seen in a negative way as projected by foreign media organisations.
â€œThey do not tell you that Nigerians are the most educated people in America. Not one of the most educated people, but the most educated bar none. Some of you are looking surprised because you have never heard this before. You now see why we need our own media?
â€œAre you aware that 27,000 Nigerian doctors are practicing in America and that 77 per cent of all black doctors in America are Nigerians? When CNN reported about how Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye performed the ground breaking surgery that involved taking a foetus out of its mum’s womb, operating on it and putting back they did not tell you he was a Nigerian. They promoted him as an American doctor. But if they catch an Olutoye committing credit card fraud, they will label him a Nigerian even if he has a US passport.
â€œWhen Anthony Joshua was arrested with drugs, British newspapers called him a Nigerian, but when he won the heavy weight boxing championship of the world he became British faster than you could bat your eyelids.
â€œWhat I will say to you is that whether your media is just your social media platforms or you grow up to run or own your own newspaper, radio station or TV station, use whatever media you have to project Nigeria positively because no matter where you go, your value is tied to that of Nigeriaâ€, Bruce said.
Sharing his thoughts on the state of education in the country, Bruce said Nigerian youths go abroad to acquire university education because of the poor state of facilities in the countryâ€™s universities.
He stressed the need for the government to privatise education at all levels; allow professionals to manage the sector so that admissions and recruitments will be based solely on merit.
According to him, privatisation will prevent mediocrity in the system and improve infrastructure, adding that parents that can afford to pay their childrenâ€™s school fees would be made to pay while those that cannot afford it would be awarded scholarships by the government.
In her remarks, the founder, Chrisland Schools Limited and Chancellor, Chrisland University, Chief Winifred Awosika described education as the bedrock for any nationâ€™s development and that any nation that will survive in this 21st century must not pay lip service to the issue of quality in education and other fields of endeavour.
â€œIn nations where education is given its pride of place, development in all spheres has been achieved. I personally believe, and it is my philosophy that no half measure ever takes anyone to the pinnacle of success. Therefore nothing but the best in education must be our goal if our children must compete favourably with their peers all over the world.â€
She said when she compares the standard and quality of education she received in her days with what obtains today, â€œin spite of the advancement in technology, it is disheartening to note the wide gap.
â€œAside the issue of inadequate funding, inadequate professional and qualified educators, inadequate/substandard teaching and learning facilities, there is also the dire need to boost the morale and psyche of the educators by paying them good salaries, and providing enabling working conditions.â€
To revive the education sector, Awosika stressed the need to review school curricula to ensure they are relevant to what obtains in the world and can proffer solutions that will meet personal, local, national and global needs. â€œWe must ensure that we do not lower the standard or water it down in any way.
â€œWe must encourage synergy between the public and private schools, so that the students can learn from one another. The government should encourage owners of private schools and come up with policies that can assist and not stifle them. There is a need to work together as partners in progress, all hands must be on deck to ensure we revive our education sector and produce graduates who are well equipped for the workplace.â€
She added: â€œLet our collective efforts in the area of education be focused on the national policy on education, curricular, management of schools at the local, state and national levels, staff development and remuneration, funding, adequate facilities, technology application, globalisation and economic impact, among others.â€
For Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, the Administrator, Osogbo Government High School, the future of the country is being threatened with the problem of out-of-school children and youth unemployment. She regretted that the few children that are in school are not learning as a result of poor quality of education they are receiving.
She said the country should declare a state of emergency in the sector and government and stakeholders should think of a way to mop up the out-of-school children and give them quality education.
Adefisayo also called for the integration of ICT in education so as to give education to as many children as possible and to avoid the possibility of having 70 million young and strong idle people in Nigeria in future.
Though similar conferences with similar outcomes have been organised in the past, the NIPR expressed hope that relevant authorities in the country will do the needful and save the education sector from total collapse.