Obaigbena Calls for Collective Action to Salvage Education Sector

Obaigbena Calls for Collective Action to Salvage Education Sector

*Honoured as GCU Mariner of the Century 

*Omotor: There is growing distrust in value of our academic certificates 

Ugo Aliogo

Chairman of THISDAY Newspaper/Arise News Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, yesterday, called for concerted effort by stakeholders to salvage the country’s education sector. Obaigbena made the call in Lagos, during the Government College Ughelli (GCU) Class of Friends (GCU-CoF), 2022 GCU Man of the Year award and 2022 Mariner of the Century award ceremony.
Keynote speaker at the event, Professor Douglason Omotor, decried the poor funding of education by government, saying it has created rising distrust of Nigeria’s academic certificates.

Obaigbena said there had been a huge decline in the growth of the education sector, stressing that funding of the sector should not be left to government alone. He said all hands must be on deck to revamp education and place it on the path of prosperity for the common good of the society.
The publisher encouraged alumni organisations to take over their schools as trustees and raise funding for the institutions.
“That is the first step even for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU),” Obaigbena said.

He explained that with the right trusteeship and membership, the standard of Nigerian universities would change and they would be ranked among the top best in the world. He said without quality education, the country could not make meaningful progress.  
Obaigbena stated, “As technology evolves you have to evolve with it and that brings me to the issue of education. We all have to wake up together to save education in this country; you can imagine what we did, when we did it as students, can that be done today?

“We have to ensure that we find a means to salvage education because the government alone cannot fund education.”
Recounting his experience and times at GCU, Obaigbena said in his time, they had a school magazine and as students they were at the forefront of activism for the black race.

He stated, “We had what was known as the Black Cultural Movement and they had a magazine known as Chindava. I remember we were the first secondary school then to host a fundraising in support of our brethren in South Africa, when we raised about N2,000 to N3,000 through rag day and other activities with Mundiaghe JA late SAN and other greats and we presented the money to F.S Edo Osagie, who was the National President of South Africa Relief Fund and the money did go to South Africa.

“So those days of activism at Government College Ughelli were very important.”
In his keynote address, Omotor said Nigeria had one of the lowest expenditure commitments to education in Africa. He said the federal government’s education spending for 2021 was 5.14 per cent, a 0.01 per cent increase from that of 2020.

Omotor e explained that with an enrolment of about 49.3 million pre, primary and secondary students (in 2019), Nigeria had the highest concentration of students in Africa in the pre-tertiary school system. He stated that the paradox associated with the enrolment figures was that at each level of education, enrolment was below par, given the country’s population of over 210 million people.

He stated, “In 2019, Nigeria counted 22.7 million children enrolled in public elementary schools and 5.4 million in private schools. Recent data show that the gross enrolment rate in primary schools in Nigeria stood at 68.3 per cent and 54 per cent for secondary.

“The north-western states registered the highest figures. However, a country aspiring to achieve Vision 2030 through access to quality education should have enrolments of 100 per cent at the primary and secondary schools. Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore attained these enrolment levels.”

Omotor hinted that the major challenge facing Nigerian universities was the instability of the academic calendar occasioned primarily by industrial actions. He revealed that other local challenges also led to the closure of the universities for a long period, pointing that all these contribute to an unstable academic calendar and delay students’ graduation, and affect students’ performance and dropout rates.

According to him, “There is a growing distrust in the value of our academic certificates, as a good number of employers of labour are compelled to retrain new employees on basic knowledge.

“Also important is the quality of training and overemphasis on certification as against skills acquisition. The emphasis of the Nigerian education system should be more on skills acquisition – More Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET), Technical Colleges as against Grammar Schools.
“A pronounced challenge in the educational system, especially at the tertiary level, is the mismanagement of resources on the part of school administrators and unions’ leadership.

“The crop of union leaders in recent times are neither proactive nor realistic. The administration of the educational system is ‘rigged’ and there are instances where unions are culpable. Why should unions engage employers only when there is industrial unrest?
“Unions must appreciate the fact that the funding of tertiary is now beyond the government at the centre and subnational levels.

“Tertiary institutions must be able to augment employees’ salaries, and there is no basis why salaries in that sub-sector should be uniform across institutions and cities. Unions could engage the government or their councils on how best to fund tertiary education without depriving intelligent indigent students. Tertiary education is not a sub-set of Universal Basic Education.”

Omotor added, “The challenge of human capital flight and brain drain. The paradox and irony associated with this twin deficit are that the services of our graduates, which we claim to have been poorly trained by our ‘substandard’ tertiary education system, are being absorbed by the Western countries with superior facilities.

“In 15 days, between October 10 and October 25, 2022, 91 Nigerian doctors got accreditation. The total number of Nigerian-trained doctors in the UK as of October 27 2022, stood at 10,387.
“There are two forms of brain drain from Nigeria, nay Africa. The first is internal/sectoral by which trained talents move from one sector to another (trained teachers leave the classrooms for greener pastures). Internal brain drain does not constitute a net loss to the macro-economy.”

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