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Educational Programme In Nigeria

The Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) (aka Centre for Transparency Advocacy)organized a civil society strategic session on tertiary education in Nigeria on 17th January, 2013 at the Ladi Kwali Conference Centre, Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja. The strategic session which had as its theme “Revitalizing Nigeria Tertiary Education for 21st Century Challenges”, attracted participants from civil society organisations, the academia, the media, women organisations as well as representatives of the students body from Universities.

The strategic session was divided into three sub-sessions. The first session focused on Industrial Harmony in the tertiary education sector, while the second session focused on the Report of the Committee on Needs Assessment for Nigerian Universities and the Revitalisation of Tertiary Education in Nigeria vis-à-vis the Role of Intervention Agencies. The third session dealt with The State of Nigerian Tertiary Institutions and the Role of Corruption. Discussants at the strategic session included: Abdulrazaqque Barkindo-Publisher, The Road Newspapers, Mr Femi Falana, SAN-Legal practitioner and Activist, Prof. Emeka Ezeonu- Lecturer, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Barr Mumuni Adetokunbo- Executive Director , SERAP, Faith Nwadishi-National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay and Member, NEITI Board, Comrade Babatunde Oluajo – National Secretary, Zero Corruption Coalition, Prof. Godwin Chukwu -Director of Petroleum, African University of Science and Technology, Dr Nasir Fagge- National President , ASUU, Ms Yemisi Ransom Kuti-former Executive Director, NNNGO, Comrade Jaiye Gaskiya, Convener, United Action for Democracy, Abuja, Dr. Sofiri Joab Peterside-Executive Director, Centre for Advanced Social Sciences, Comrade Lanre Arogundade- Executive Director, International Press Centre and Former Chairman Lagos State NUJ and Former President National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr Lanre Ogudipe-former NUJ President, Barr Abdulmumin Mahmood-President, Public Interest Lawyers League to mention a few.

The sessions after extensive discussions of the sub-themes made the following observation-

. That education is and remains the bedrock of economic development and social transformation, and as a result, countries concerned with their long term development continue to pay attention to their educational system in terms of quality, access and relevance to the economy.

. This, the session observed is more so in the 21st century where the strength of countries and economies is increasingly becoming a measure of their knowledge base rather than a measure of the size of their mineral resources and endowments

. That education in Nigeria currently is characterised by massive decay of infrastructure, near absence of and/or obsolete learning aids and very low capacity of teaching staff at virtually all levels of education.

. That in Nigeria, the nation is daily confronted with the reality of the falling standard of education as exemplified by mass failures in public exams and poor quality of graduates from the nation’s tertiary institutions. This the session noted is amply captured by the Report of the Committee on Needs Assessment for Nigerian Universities(CNANU) set up by the Federal Government

. That the single greatest factor responsible for the sorry state of Nigeria’s education sector is the inability of the Nigerian state and its ruling class to see education as an investment in the citizens and therefore a tool for the development of the totality of the human person rather than a means  of producing people to meet market demands.

. While noting that various interventionist efforts continues to be made to address the continuous decline in the standard of education, these responses participants observed appears episodic and often defeated by the lack of genuine political will to restore the lost glory of Nigerian educational system.

.While acknowledging the historic and incisive interventions of the TETFUND  in restoring some dignity to tertiary institutions in the country in the last five years, participants noted with disappoint that this Agency is gradually becoming the ONLY tool of government to combat the rot in the sector and hence the attempt to amend the Act of the agency to include more beneficiaries will be counterproductive

. That the lack of industrial harmony in the tertiary education sector has been a major challenge to efforts at revamping the tertiary education sector

. That the lack of genuine autonomy for tertiary institutions,politicization of appointments into critical governing and accountability structures in the tertiary education sector,muzzling of independent students unionism and abridgement of students to independently organize ,harassment of industrial unions in tertiary institutions and refusal of Government to honour agreements it entered freely with stakeholder unions in the sector has contributed greatly to the spate of industrial unrest in the tertiary education sector

. That the designation of the offices of the head of tertiary institutions as political appointment has greatly contributed to the lack of transparency, accountability, dictatorship by  heads of tertiary institutions, cronyism, political patronage, poor governance  as well as corruption in the tertiary education sector

. That the tertiary education sector is not immune from  the scourge of corruption currently ravaging the Nigerian nation

. That the near collapse of integrity systems and structures meant to ensure transparency, accountability and probity in tertiary institutions including the Council, Senate, Faculty and Departmental boards of tertiary institutions does not bode well for the survival of the tertiary education sector and has led to the spate of corruption currently ravaging the sector
. That the Report of the Committee on Needs Assessment for Nigerian Universities set up by the Federal Government is a clear indication of the massive rot in tertiary institutions

. That in addressing the rot in Nigeria’s educational system as once again exposed by the CNANU Report and ensuring it plays its critical and important role as a catalyst for national development and social transformation, all stakeholders must actively get involved in holding the Nigerian government accountable in finding lasting solutions to the findings of the report

. That while the various interventionist agencies including the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) have made tremendous efforts at addressing the challenges in the tertiary education sector, participants observed that there exists a major gap that can only be filled when the relevant levels of government become alive to their responsibilities especially in the area of the vexed issue of funding rather than abdicating such to the interventionist agencies

. While noting the presence of external interventionist agencies such as bilateral and multi-lateral development agencies and the resources these could provide in addressing the crisis of funding confronting higher education in Nigeria, the session however noted that these agencies do not hold the key to the long term resolution of the crisis of funding confronting tertiary education in Nigeria. Participants noted in particular the work against the long term interest of the nation’s developmental aspirations through its conditionalities and terms which has been noted to be anti-people in most cases

Participants and discussants thereafter collectively joined their voices in calling and pushing for an urgent action on the part of Government to act quickly and decisively in addressing the parlous state of education in Nigeria. Specifically, participants proposed as follows:
. That the nation’s educational philosophy must make as its centre-piece the fundamental need to develop the totality of the human person  and an investment in the citizens as the agents of development and commit the needed resources for achieving this rather than viewing education primarily as a process of producing people to meet market demands
. Notwithstanding the existence of the education interventionist agencies, participants called on government at all level to be alive to their fundamental duties of investing in the education of Nigerians as tool for the realisation of its developmental aspirations and not abandon the funding of education and educational development to the interventionist agencies. Interventionist agencies remain largely interventionist and are not a substitute for the duty of governments at all levels to fund and commit the needed resources to education
. In order to address the perennial crisis of lack of industrial harmony in the tertiary education sector, accountability, transparency, probity must have to be enthroned through guaranteeing the autonomy of tertiary institutions as well as the rights of the industrial unions and students to independently organize free from the intervention of the management of tertiary institutions.
. For efforts at revamping tertiary education in Nigeria to yield positive results, appointments of the head of tertiary institutions must de-politicised and the designation of such heads as political appointments be reversed forthwith and immediately
. That the integrity system and accountability structures of tertiary institutions including the council, senate, faculty and departmental boards of tertiary institutions must be strengthened and appointments into such be de-politicised in order for them to be alive to their responsibility of ensuring the integrity of tertiary institutions in terms of its management and services provided to the larger Nigerian economy
. That transparency and probity must of necessity be enthroned in the tertiary education sector and acts of corruption punished if the resources being committed in the  sector by the interventionist agencies and the government is to produce the desired results of a revamped educational sector in the country.
. That the Report of the Committee on Needs Assessment for Nigerian Universities set up by the Federal Government be implemented fully and timelines for for its implementation released
. That the CNANU Report be adopted  as a roadmap document for the transformation of the fortunes of the sector
. That all stakeholders should hold government accountable on its responses to the report it commissioned itself as well as engage the report for the purposes of advocacy for urgent interventions in addressing the sorry state of education in Nigeria
.That Government should honour the terms of agreements it freely entered with stakeholder Unions to avoid incessant strike actions.

 Morgan Omodu.

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