By TONY AKUNEM
The decay in the education sector is so profound that it occupied a substantive space in the ruling party’s manifesto during the 2015 polls. The APC had said: “we will fully implement and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on improving quality of schools, quality of teacher training, emphasis on performance over certificate education, innovative teaching methods and materials as well as gender equality and more meaningful learning experience for schoolchildren”.
President Buhari assigned two seasoned administrators to man the Education Ministry namely Mallam Adamu Adamu and Prof Anthony Gozie Anwukah. Consequently, while Adamu is responsible for the activities of the Tertiary Institutions, Anwukah oversees the Primary and Secondary Education sub sector. Stakeholders have severally posited that once we get it right in basic education where the foundations are laid, we possibly would have got it right with the development of the citizen who constitutes the sum total of what we call society.
Thus, the dearth of well-trained teachers in our primary and secondary schools remains the most conspicuous factor in the quality of teaching and learning that is obtainable in our country.
Professor Anwukah therefore seems ready and willing to overhaul the entire teacher training process, and indeed, to ensure that in the no distant future, nobody without proper certification as a teacher will be found in the classroom. His passion in this regard is unmistakable.
The Minister of State for Education had since convened a high Level Education Stakeholders Forum in January 2016 in Abuja on the need to take a critical look at the issues of teacher education curriculum, professionalization of teaching as well as the largely criticized selection processes for JAMB and NECO, both of which also fall within Anwukah’s supervision.
The meeting made concrete recommendations on how to improve quality of education and training of Pre-Service and in-service teachers as well as Higher Education selection processes for effective output. Professor Anwukah chaired the forum and sat through the entire proceedings while the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan moderated.
Others present included Directors in the Ministry, Chief Executives of Education Parastatals such as National Teachers Institute, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, National Council for Colleges of Education, National Universities Commission, National Educational Research Council, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, National Board for Technical Education, Universal Basic Education Commission and the National Mathematical Centre. Also in attendance were representatives of Committee of Vice Chancellors, Committee of Rectors, Committee of Provosts, Academic Staff Union of Universities; Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and Academic Staff Union of Colleges of Education.
The Minister left no one in doubt as to the desire to urgently re-strategize on the ways and means of closing the gap between the product of the education system at all levels and the expectations of the Nigerian society, particularly the employers of labour. He narrated his experience at the just-concluded World Education Forum in London, where he was surprised to realize that Nigeria was one of the very few countries in the world where people without teaching qualifications were found in classrooms.
He therefore made a commitment to ensure that this ugly situation is reversed, especially as the ministry is committed to the Presidential directive to recruit, train and deploy 500,000 unemployed graduates and NCE holders to teach in primary schools.
Professor Anwukah agrees that our Education sector is not yet where it ought to be.
But he is unequivocal in their avowed determination to get it right at least with the proper certification of teachers as is found in other professions like Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering and Accounting. The Minister also says that the Buhari administration is committed to promoting a novel incentive system that projects outstanding teachers for national and global recognition.
It is however expected that in the days to come, Nigerians will behold a rebranded teaching profession, one that will boast of a well certified motivated and rewarded teacher and one in which the entry matriculation requirements shall be at par with university and polytechnic standards, to boost the morale of the young student teachers.
The Nigerian teacher, in the tenure of the two Ministers, may well be on the way to joining their colleagues in Canada, Japan and Finland where teachers are among the highest paid public servants. “Once we get it right with our basic education we are bound to get it right with our national rebirth”, enthused Prof Anwukah.
•Akuneme is Media Aide to the Minister of State for Education