Buhari Sad over State of Education, Backs Kaduna Reforms

  • Minister: N1tn required to Revamp education annually

Omololu Ogunmade

President Muhammadu Buhari monday lamented the drastic fall in Nigeria’s educational standard, describing the inability of teachers to pass elementary examinations which they ought to set for their pupils as a monumental tragedy.

Buhari, who made this remark while declaring open an education summit in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, recalled how dutiful, competent, and committed teachers were in his days as a schoolboy and bemoaned non-availability of such qualities in schools tuesday.

The president was actually referring to the height of decay in the nation’s education as exposed by recent moves by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai to salvage the education sector of his state by conducting examinations for teachers on elementary subjects which they failed woefully.

Most of the answers provided to such elementary questions by the teachers had no meaning as thousands of them could not even re-write correctly words which appeared on the question sheets let alone answering the questions.

Against this background, Kaduna State Government is set to dismiss over 20,000 of 33,000 teachers who sat for the examinations in its quest to salvage the state’s education.
Miffed by the development, Buhari challenged the summit to come up with recommendations aimed at refining the state of Nigeria’s education, saying doing so is one of the most important plans of his administration.

He said: “Having been an orphan, I still feel that whatever I did in life so far was built by boarding school. For nine years,i was in boarding school, three in primary and six in secondary school.. In those days, teachers treat their students or children like their own children. If you did well, they would tell you, you did well. If you didn’t do well, they never spared the rod.

“When I finished my secondary school, I didn’t work for a day. I refused to work for a day, I left home, I refused to work in the local government, and then I joined the Army. And the Army of that time we went through all, we went through up-to the civil war. And then, I listened to one of the Nigerians I respect. He said after his training here in Nigeria and the United States, he went to his alma matta, his primary school to see what he could contribute.
“I won’t mention his name but when he went, he couldn’t differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers. And what El-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago. It is a very serious situation when teachers cannot pass their exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass. It is a very tragic situation we are in and this our gathering together to me is one of the most important in this administration.”

The president who further attributed the woes bedeviling Nigeria’s education to what he described as historical abuses and mindless impunity, enumerated other crises plaguing the nation’s education sector to include estimated 13.2 million pupils dropping out of school, high level illiteracy in the society, recruitment of incompetent teachers, infrastructural decay and insufficient learning materials.

According to him, the trend of events had necessitated the convocation of such summit, which he said must re-direct the drifting state of the nation’s education by evolving strategies meant to boost primary and secondary education in the country.
He listed other approaches to be adopted for the redemption of the state of education to include: training of teachers, facilitating access to higher education and eliminating factors that can stop Nigeria from attaining its economic potentials among the comity of nations.
“The problem is no longer a secret that the quality of education in Nigeria requires greater attention and improvement.

That our country is facing numerous challenges in education and all other sectors as a result of historical abuses, mindless impunity and corruption is not news to anyone.
“With an estimated 13.2 million children out of school, high illiteracy level, infrastructural deficit and decay, unqualified teachers, and inadequate instructional materials, to mention some of the challenges, we can clearly see the effect of decades of neglect that the education sector has suffered.

“We are determined to turnaround the sector for the better. We are already making appreciable progress in this respect. This summit must therefore, among other things, sharpen our strategies for addressing the challenges of basic and secondary education, teacher training and professional development; technical and vocational education.
“The summit must work to enhance quality in, and access to, higher education and other challenges in the sector that will debar us from attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and be among the top 20 economies in the world. My firm belief is that with the calibre of participants at this summit, the road to a better future is before us and we must chart it.”

In his own remark, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said if the current administration must live up to its campaign promises to effect change in the society, it will require not less than N1 trillion annually over the next four years to revamp education.
Adamu said if the state of education in a given state is shallow and retrogressive, growth and development in that entire society will also be shallow and retrogressive, emphasising that the ruling party’s change agenda can only be encapsulated in effective education.
He described education as the bedrock of order in the society, pointing out that its denial could lead to damning consequences as he reeled out a number of steps to be taken to sanitise the decadent state of Nigerian education.

“And all change – including our very Change Agenda – begins with education; because it is education that shapes, corrects and restores society. But to be able to restore order to society, education has to be made a national priority. This truism is valid for every society and is of particular relevance for our society which, we all agree, is confronted with a litany of challenges and deficits.

“Such a denial can lead to a number of undesirable consequences, the most pernicious of which are value erosion and character failure among the youths who are supposed to become leaders of the society.

“It is also high time we paid attention to teachers and to teaching as a profession. Mass literacy, adult education, distance learning, nomadic education and the rest are all important; but we cannot deliver them without giving respectability and renewed stature to the teacher. We must learn to make education attractive to the best brains, makes its study free, its outcome lucrative – and accord it the respect it deserves. That is why we must attract and retain the best brains into the classroom as it is done in many other nations of the world.

“I am strongly persuaded that if we offer automatic scholarship to students who take education, and automatic employment and a preferential compensation package to those who take to teaching as a profession, our system will improve tremendously. If we give regulatory agencies the teeth to bite and do their work, mediocre teachers will soon disappear from our classrooms.

“If we insist on professionalism with appropriate deadlines set for those who teach, the situation will improve phenomenally. We can minimise and in due course eliminate mediocrity in the education sector. There is need to harmonise the learning and teaching that transpire our tertiary institutions as well as redefine our national goals periodically,” he said.

The minister also reiterated the need for Nigeria to retrace its steps back to the path of development plan, describing it as a catalyst for national development that will provide the platform for researchers to connect the output of their studies to national development policies.