To arrest the decay in the country’s education sector, the Vice-Chancellor of the First Technical University (Tech-U), Ibadan, Professor Ayobami Salami has called on stakeholders in the sector to unite for the transformation of the sector.
He said this recently as the guest lecturer at the grand finale of the 2019 United Nations International Youths Week, organised by the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Oyo State chapter, in Ibadan.
Chaired by the Chief of Staff to the Oyo State Governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka, the event had in attendance youths from across the state, legislators, notable opinion moulders and other critical stakeholders.
“Educational transformation is very dear to me; having been active in providing tertiary education for over thirty years. I have also traversed our educational system as a student, a teacher and as an administrator at various levels. As an ardent stakeholder, I can state unequivocally that all hands are required on deck to harness our vast human and capital resources towards achieving educational transformation at local, regional and national levels,” Salami said.
Salami, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adesola Ajayi, underscored the urgent need to revamp the subsisting model of education in the country, characterised by monumental infrastructural deficit, inadequate funding, irrelevant curricular, inadequate staffing, warped orientation of learners, dismal student performance, and the resultant dysfunctional system among other sectoral deficiencies.
“The consequences of poor education in Nigeria over the years are already evident in extremely high unemployment of educated youths, gross dependence on foreign technology and lack of technical expertise for even simple tasks.
“To fully explore the potential of our intelligent youth populace, all stakeholders in the education sector must agree on curriculum and delivery strategies that would elicit innovation, cooperation and ingenuity in educational spaces that guarantee practicality. We require the government at various levels to provide infrastructure and funding commensurate to the urgency and extent of the transformation we need in the education sector. The government must actualise the tenets of its recently declared state of emergency in the sector. Our brand of education must deliver development and social progress all over the country in alignment to the nation’s developmental priorities,” he said.
Salami, who was also honoured with an Award of Excellence in Education for his contribution to the development of education in the country by the NYCN through its Chapter Leader, Mrs. Adebola Agbeja, called for an all-inclusive strategy that would place education on the right pedestal.
“We can no longer ignore the unfortunate statistics showing that Nigeria currently houses over 10 million out-of-school children. Activities of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) at the national level must be complemented by prompt release of counterpart funds by states.”
To elicit maximum productivity from students, he said learning must be technologically-driven, participatory, resourceful and adventurous.
“There is need for top-notch facilities to support active learning in our educational institutions. Closely linked to this is the cardinal issue of welfare of teachers and all other professionals that make up the school system. It is certain that a poorly motivated workforce is unlikely to produce world class graduates. The only way to attract and retain the brightest brains in the educational system is to remunerate well and ensure that workspaces are functional and comfortable.”
To address the challenge of funding inadequacy, he suggested an innovative funding model that synthesises contributions from the government and the private sector.
“While we must insist that it is right and necessary that government increases its funding of education in the country, it is also wise that we explore additional funding models. What is needed is some measure of creativity and fresh vigour.
“Our teachers must become effective enablers of the new model of education, with emphasis on learner-centeredness, technology, innovation and social responsiveness. We must find a way of making learning stimulating, enjoyable and attractive for our students because they hold the key to the kind of future that awaits us. To ensure that policies are made to work and that all stakeholders do what is expected of them, we need to put in place well-motivated and thoroughly equipped quality assurance units in our ministries of education and our educational institutions. This is to ensure that the education given to our children conforms to best practices.
“Given the employability and skills gap crises in the country, it is pertinent to emphasise the need to recalibrate our educational system to mainstream technical, vocational and entrepreneurial education in all stages of education. The reality that should bother every concerned Nigerian is that the subsisting relic of colonial education that only prepared our people mainly for white collar jobs is no longer workable. The cheese has since moved from the traditional station and our educational system must be responsive so as to equip our teeming youths for this challenge.
“Expectedly, this laudable approach has extensive implications for the pedagogy we currently employ in our educational policy. We must now emphasise a learner-centred model, train our young people to ask questions and challenge the axiom, develop learners’ critical thinking capacities, create knowledge pools, interactive platforms and involve relevant participants from the larger society.
“Equally central to the proposed transformation paradigm is the urgent need to bridge the yawning divide that currently exists between our ivory towers and the industry. We must realise that there is no way we can have the kind of quantum leap that we desire without a synergy among these two critical sectors of the society. Institutions, which by their very nature are a sacred temple of experimentation and knowledge production for development must now link up with the public/private sectors to work out ideas founded on sound theoretical frameworks.”
Salami also charged youths of the country not to despair but to work towards birthing a better country.
“Whereas it is easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges that currently stare us in the face, it is important to state that this is about the best time to be a youth. The opportunities around you abound. All you need is the courage to see through the darkness and catch the brightness that awaits you at the end of the tunnel. Take responsibility and decide what your contribution would be to make the society better.
“Deploy your unique gifts and talents. You must realise that in the midst of the gloom of the current challenges lies the opportunity for you to emerge from the rubbles as a significant force in this generation.
“While I encourage you to take good opportunities and globalise your thinking and training, you must never abandon your cultural heritage. That is your identity and claim to uniqueness in the alluringly competitive global space. Through deliberate commitment to life-long learning, beyond the limits of the four walls of an academic institution, you owe yourself, your family, our nation, the African continent and indeed the world at large the obligation to develop the requisite intellectual and psychological capacity needed for the transformation of our world.
“While the educators are preparing world-class platforms for better education, you must come into institutions well prepared for the kind of education you desire. You must completely eschew fraud and cheating during qualifying examinations, read ahead and develop genuine passion for the kind of learning that brings national transformation. Similarly, take time to develop relational skills to properly integrate other ideas, cultures, attitudes and paradigms that are replete in today’s interactive world.
We must get education right in our nation. It is the main opportunity the older generation has to deliberately transmit accumulated knowledge, skills and values to the younger ones. We must evolve a system that adequately prepares our youth for both global relevance and local impact. We need to promote intense intellectualism in concord with a sense of civic responsibility that embraces collaboration instead of unhealthy competition. We must also promote honesty, synergy, diligence, innovation, technical expertise, entrepreneurship and deliberately reward excellence. I call on all stakeholders to join hands in transforming our educational system. It is the surest way to move our society from mediocrity and limitations into enlightenment and sustainable development.”