There is little doubt that the failure of countries like Nigeria to attain real appreciable progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was what led to the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGAS) in New York on September 25, 2015.
It is remarkable that Sustainable Goal four specifically encourages all UN-member countries, including Nigeria to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" by 2030.
Long before the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, Nigeria's educational system had variously been rated poor by many analysts. In a discussion with his students in the early 2000s, Abdulkadir Nauzo, a lecturer in the Department of English Language at the University of Abuja, argued that contrary to what many people think, the standard of education in Nigeria had not fallen as there is only one excellent standard. What had gone bad were things that ought to sustain that standard. One of these is facilities, many of which, as at the early 2000s, were moribund in many tertiary institutions, secondary and primary schools across the country. It was so bad that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a six-month strike to protest, among other matters of concern, the poor state of education in Nigeria's universities. Clearly, little was achieved by the strike, as 12 years later, ASUU again called its members out on strike to protest what it called "the abysmal state of Nigerian universities."In embarking on the fresh strike, ASUU said that the Federal Government had failed to honour the agreement on improving the university system that it had reached with the union in 2009. The strike also lasted six months and in order to resolve it, the Goodluck Jonathan administration agreed to release the sum of N200 billion per annum to be disbursed to Nigerian Universities over a five-year period. But issues surrounding the 2009 agreement remain unresolved, and ASUU has again threatened to go on strike. Nor is ASUU the only body to do so, as associations of Polytechnic and College of Education lecturers had also embarked on strike action over the government's failed promises or breaches of contract.
In late January this year, Dr Chika Ogonwa, National Coordinator of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) in the South-south and South-east geo-political zones, ascribed the 'warning strike' that ASUP had embarked upon on the insensitivity of the government. He said that the strike was meant to draw attention to the terrible state of the sector and save it:
"... from total collapse [caused by] poor funding, discriminatory practices, decayed infrastructure, weak and obsolete legal and regulatory regimes, wanton and wilful breach of agreements as well as serial and sustained cases of impunity in the sector."
A month before that, College of Education lecturers in the country had also downed tools to protest the non-payment of their salaries for eight months.
On most occasions when tertiary education lecturers embark on strike action, part of government's strategy has been to initiate conciliatory moves while pledging to better fund the sector or address the challenges at some later date.
Perhaps in an attempt to be proactive and avoid another strike by university lecturers, on the 13th of February 2017, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, inaugurated "a 14-man team to re-negotiate the 2009 Agreement reached between the Federal Government and University-based Staff Unions." The Minister said that:
"[The] inauguration marks the beginning of a drive for re-negotiation across the three segments of the tertiary education sub-sector; Universities, Colleges of Education and Polytechnics, starting with those of Universities."
At the ceremony, while thanking the Federal Government for revisiting the issue, ASUU President Professor Biodun Ogunyemi expressed the hope that the exercise would not be aborted midstream like others before it. That was a reminder of the inconsistency that has plagued Nigeria's education system as regards government policies and implementation over the years.
A few months before that, the Vanguard newspaper report headlined: "Buhari's 2017 education budget: We are still in shock – ASUU" contained the news that President Buhari had:
"... released the 2017 budget of N7.298 trillion with the Ministry of Education expected to gulp N398.01billion in recurrent expenditure...under capital expenditure, it was stated in the budget that the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) will get N92 billion and Education N50 billion. On the whole, a total of N540.01billion will be expended on education sector in 2017. Basically, the Federal Ministry of Education is expected to adequately cater for the 36 federal universities, 25 federal polytechnics, 22 federal colleges of education and 104 federal unity schools. In 2016, the education sector which got N369.6billion from a total national budget of N6.07trillionwas described as still the lowest since 2012. Thus, from N306.3billion in 2011, it moved to N400.15billion in 2012, to N426.53billion in 2013, to N493billion in 2014, to N492billion in 2015, to N369billion in 2016."
With statistics like this, Nigeria is far from achieving the UN's 26per cent budget recommendation for education.
The 2009 Federal Government-ASUU agreement and expected funding therefrom was for universities alone, but at the tertiary level there are also polytechnics and colleges of education. The funding for all three sets of institutions is done through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). According to A.B. Baffa, Executive Secretary of TETFund, quoted in an official report released by the agency, TETFund had N213,418,124,493.75 for its 2016 budget. This sum was to be shared among the different institutions, with each of the 40 Federal universities and 34 State universities receiving N1,009,410,000.00. Each of the 54 public polytechnics would get N691,632,000.00, while each of the 55 public colleges of education would receive N679,057,000.00. Baffa described the 2016 budget as the "the biggest ever annual direct disbursement (normal intervention) given to any beneficiary institution since the establishment of the Fund."
TETFund's 2016 budget was disbursed under the following terms:
1. Annual direct disbursements: N149,392,687,145.63.
2. High Impact Phase VI: N30,000,000,000.00.
3. Zonal interventions: N12,000,000,000.00.
4. Stabilization Fund: N10,670,906,224.69.
5. Designated projects: N5,400,000,000.00.
6. National Research Fund: N1,000,000,000.00
Generally, the funds were meant to:
"... accelerate the training and support for scholars in Nigeria's tertiary education institutions to pursue and acquire doctorate degrees; accelerate the process of bridging the teaching and learning infrastructure gap in all beneficiary institutions; and continue to support cutting edge research and innovation."
The role of UBE
The Nigerian government acknowledges that the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme will be key to its achieving its development goals. Established in 1999, UBE's primary objective is "to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty as well as stimulate and accelerate national development, political consciousness and national integration." For such a critical agency, it is surprising that even by its own admittance, since it was set up, its progress was "hampered by lack of an enabling law to execute certain aspects of the programme." This issue was addressed on the 26th of May 2004, when President Obasanjo signed the Universal Basic Education Act into law. Its provisions were described as follows:
"The UBE Act 2004 makes provision for basic education comprising of ECCE, Primary and Junior Secondary Education. The financing of basic education is the responsibility of States and Local Governments. However, the Federal Government has decided to intervene in the provision of basic education with 2 per cent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund. For states to fully benefit from this Fund, criteria were established with which states are to comply. The Act also provides for the establishment of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to co-ordinate the implementation of the programme at the states and local government through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) of each state and the Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs)."
On the 4th and 7th of October 2016, the management of the UBEC held a meeting with the Executive Chairmen of State and FCT Universal Basic Education Boards at Crest Hotel in Jos. In the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, which had as its theme: "Strategic Planning: An Essential Tool For Effective Implementation of Basic Education in Nigeria", the organisers stated that it had been convened to "review the operational modalities in the delivery of basic education in Nigeria with a view to making necessary adjustments for optimal performance."
Part of the grim statistics from the UBEC meeting was the disclosure that "the 2015 Global Monitoring Report (GMR) by UNICEF revealed that Nigeria had the highest number of out-of-school children in the world which was estimated to be around 10.5 million," something the members considered "a worrisome trend and remains a major challenge in the delivery of basic education in the country."
A high percentage of these out-of-school children are in northern part of Nigeria, and in this regard, a 2005 UNICEF report states that:
"Over the last decade, Nigeria's exponential growth in population has put immense pressure on the country's resources and on already overstretched public services and infrastructure. With children under 15 years of age accounting for about 45 percent of the country's population, the burden on education and other sectors has become overwhelming. Forty percent of Nigerian children aged 6 -11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls."
By 2015, the situation had not changed, as another UNICEF report revealed that "10.5 million children are out of school," in Nigeria, with "more than 60 percent of them girls."
Betty bah, Executive Director, Centre for Children's Health, Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) blames the high out of school children on cultural and religious practices in the northern part of the country. "The rate of OOS (out-of-school) children is high in the North due to culture, a negligent elite, failure on the part of government to enforce education polices and mass poverty."
Reversing the trend
Abah feels that the government has a role to play in reducing the high number of out-of of school children in Nigeria. Part of the way to achieve this, she says, is to provide incentives:
"There is lack of incentives for these children. First, government has to offer them irresistible incentives such as very delicious school meals. I know people who have been 'lured' into schooling because of the prospects of meals by missionaries, and along the way, their lives are improved."
At the time of writing, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has commenced implementation of one of its election campaign promises, namely to provide a free meal every day to Nigerian school children. Prince Chibueze-Agbo Ndubuisi, former Ebonyi State Commissioner for education says it is a good policy that should be sustained. "The feeding programme as has been introduced by the federal government should be sustained. A hungry child cannot concentrate in school."
SUBEB's action plan
To improve access to education at the Primary level in Nigeria, SUBEB has a vital role to play. SUBEB is the acronym for the State Universal Basic Education Board. According to the Osun State chapter of SUBEB, the programme is to:
"Ensure unfettered access to nine years of formal basic education; the provision of free, Universal Basic Education for every Nigerian child of school going age; reducing drastically the incidence of drop-out from the formal school system, through improved relevance, quality and efficiency; ensuring the acquisition of appropriate levels of literacy, numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life skills as well as the ethical, moral and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning."
The communiqué from the meeting between UBEC and the Executive Chairmen of State and FCT Universal basic Education Boards in Jos states that "SUBEB's Action Plans should be aligned to their respective Education Sector Plans especially in addressing UBE prioritized needs and the Ministerial Strategic Plan." But, it notes, the government "cannot realise its mandate in basic education sub-sector when billions of naira meant for improving the quality of basic education, remain un-accessed in the Central Bank."
Poor funding of the education sector
Despite the publication of the amounts spent funding schools at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, some think that the impact on the education sector in Nigeria is minimal and therefore inadequate. Professor Aloysius-Michaels Okolie of the Department of Political Science at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka says that a lot still needs to be done as the standard of infrastructure in Nigerian institutions remain very poor:
"Presently over 40 per cent of the academic staff do not have functional offices. Most of the offices are poorly equipped and not particularly suitable for productive scholarship. Besides, 70 per cent of professorial offices do not have convenient and critical equipment for research. Worse still, the energy situation has now compelled the staff to resort to self help by funding the project of furnishing their respective offices."
Okolie noted that the abysmal situation is not restricted to just infrastructure because the quality of personnel is also depreciating with passage of time.
He added that the management of the funds in some institutions is shrouded in secrecy and deployed mostly to settle loyal but unproductive elements who have no professional calling to teach. That is not the only challenge, as he is also of the view that over 60 per cent of academic staff recruited to teach appears ill prepared for the task of scholarship:
"Qualification for appointment of academic staff in some tertiary institution is now based on 'who you know' and 'who you are prepared to serve' and not on service delivery...the implications are better imagined."
To Professor Okolie, the damage caused by poor funding of the education sector is multifarious:
"Poor funding and mismanagement of funds in Nigerian universities have infused frustration, indolence and lack of critical thinking. Poor funding and poor remunerations have combined to reduce viable manpower to a level of zeroing down to thinking within the ambit of 'stomach infrastructure.' Valuable time is now wasted on micro-survivalist research endeavours that veer attention away from demands of positive scholarship. Over time the very good eggheads get frustrated and search for greener pastures. Brain drain derails sustained research and truncates consistent scholarship that produces critical inventions."
Dwelling on the same issue of poor funding is Shantaram Hegdekatte, an Indian educationist who was the chief executive officer of Educomp Nigeria, a company engaged by the former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to oversee one of its public schools. Speaking generally about public schools in Nigeria, Hegdekatte stated: "If money has been spent, [there is] very little to show for it on ground." He described Government schools in Nigeria as "beyond repair."
The poor state of schools aside, Raphael James, the Director General of the Centre for Research, Information Management and Media Development (CRIMMD) says they are not even sufficient to cater to the growing population. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, as at 2013 Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, had a population of 173.6 million. While there is an increase in the number of students being enrolled, James said that the number of institutions available did not grow proportionally to meet the needs of the children concerned:
"For example, while enrolment in secondary schools increased from 297,605 in 1987 to 347, 276 in 1990, the number of schools established increased from 334 to 342 within the same period. Nigeria has about 60,913 secondary schools; 92 universities, 27 federal, 30 states, 35 private and 19 other award institutions."
Ephraim Kuji, a secondary school teacher in Abuja, also thinks there is a shortage of infrastructure and wants the shortfall corrected in view of the "constantly growing number of the poor seeking access to education."
One of the assignments that Educomp handled on behalf of the Rivers State government was recruiting teachers for secondary schools and conducting examination for students. These assignments gave Hegdekatte an opportunity to see things from a close perspective. His verdict:
"The so-called government teachers are mostly not qualified and have been recruited by corrupt practices. And their salaries are not paid for months! As a result they hardly attend the schools! This is the bitter reality!"
As for the students, the Indian administrator said:
"When we conducted an entrance examination, results revealed a lot about the status of education. IQ and aptitude scores of Nigerian students were on par with the global averages if not higher. Language skills were also acceptable. But scores in mathematics and science were abysmally low, showing that kids are intelligent but education system failed them. This handicap could be seen across primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of education."
Poor performance in external exams
The results of the National Examinations Council (NECO) released by the National Bureau of Statistics between 2011 and 2015 give an idea of the performance of Nigerian students in mathematics and science subjects.
Of the 1,190,365 registered candidates in Mathematics for 2011, 3,355 scored A1 while 89,023 got F9 (the rest hovered among the grades between). In 2012, 88,544 candidates out of the 1,088,530 who sat for the exam recorded F9, while not a single candidate scored A1. In 2013, of the 1,020,260 who sat for mathematics, 63,796 scored F9 while no one made A1. For 2014, 960,600 sat and while 45,365 scored F9, forty nine candidates got A1. In 2015, of the 961,258 who sat, 21,810 scored F9 while 4,616 secured A1.
1,182,161/1,112,947 sat for Biology in 2011. Of these, 70,059 scored F9 while 1,170 attained A1. In 2012, the result sheet showed that while 1,088,530 sat, 77,050 scored F9 and no one got A1. In 2013, 1,017,350 wrote the exam, and while 56,241 got F9, not a single candidate secured A1. The situation was not different in 2014 as there was no A1 candidate. Rather, of the 783,975 who sat for the exam, 51,519 scored F9. There was an improvement in 2015 as 21 candidates scored A1 out of the 719,995 who sat while 31,885 failed (F9).
446,456/427,765 registered for Chemistry in 2011 out of whom 874 scored A1 while 26,702 scored F9. It was worse in 2012 as no student scored A1 while 19.449 failed the subject. There was no improvement in 2013 as again the A1 chart read 0 while 21,831 failed with F9. 2014 was also woeful as not a single candidate from the 783,975 who sat the exam scored A1, while the failure rate was 15,006. 2015 saw some improvement as 577 persons scored A1 even though 9,907 earned F9.
Of the 446,009/426,388 candidates who sat for Physics in 2011, 1,040 got A1 while 20,233 scored F9. The performance dropped in 2012 as no student got A1 while 19,449 scored F9. In 2013, only four students got A1 out of the 417,501 who sat the exam, while 13,607 failed. The performance dropped in 2014 as there was no A1 candidate while out of the 418,440 who sat the exam 15,006 scored F9. 2015 was a little better as 258 students scored A1 while 6,968 from the overall 432,509 who sat for the test failed it.
Performances like this tend to justify the opinion of Hegdekatte and others that the quality of education in Nigeria is poor, and that in part, this is caused by the poor state of facilities and the poor quality of teachers in many public and even private schools. Poor facilities are the result of poor funding but that is not the only impediment to progress in Nigeria; Government inconsistency is another. Governments in Nigeria appear to think that jettisoning or failing to improve on the policies or ideas they inherited is a way of proving their independence, or of rubbishing the achievements of their predecessors. When they are not outrightly criticizing or lampooning their colleagues, they initiate new policies to override existing ones. While this may seem to have become rampant in recent times, it is far from being a recent phenomenon as James recollects that since January 15, 1966 when the first military coup in Nigeria took place, there has been frequent changes in educational policies from one administration to the other.
This is a view shared by Prince Chibueze-Agbo Ndubuisi, former Ebonyi State Commissioner for Education as he pointed out that "Every administration wants to change the system without proper and critical study of what is on ground."
The poor state of public schools is believed to have benefited the private schools as many parents prefer to enrol their children in them. Kuji, who teaches at a private secondary school in Abuja says private schools are neater than public schools, and that they also boast better facilities.
Better facilities probably explain why many private schools are more expensive than public schools but are not necessarily better in terms of quality. Comparing the situation in his country – India – to Nigeria, Hegdekatte claimed that:
"Education in Nigeria has become only for super rich! Entire generation of Nigerians is growing up without the basic education. This is a demographic disaster waiting to happen."
Is the SDGs Quality Education goal attainable?
Goal setting, catchphrases and slogans are not new in Nigeria. While the SDGs were not created by Nigeria, the fact that it has signed up to them makes them binding. But doubts persist as to whether the country can attain the SDG Quality Education goal. James noted that it is not the first time the country would be part of ambitious goals, and that antecedents of the present commitments are well known. He recalled that "in the 80's and 90's we heard of 'Education for All in Year 2000.' But by 2000, the problem remained unsolved. He says it is doubtful whether attaining SDG Quality Education goal will become a reality in Nigeria.
Professor Okolie was no less pessimistic about Nigeria achieving the SDG Quality Education goal by 2030:
"This remains a tall and unrealistic dream. The way we are going, even in 2050, Nigeria will remain a harbinger for incubating illiterates and half-baked manpower. The idea of unifying the curriculum of institutions of higher learning smacks of a polity with deceptive semblance of common problems with a one-dose curative pill."
Chizo Asomugha, President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics believes that in Nigeria, governments at various levels are not well enough acquainted with the global urgency and exigency for meeting SDG4:
"There does not appear to be any concerted focus on the part of governments to take the SDGs seriously. As at yet, the efforts made in that direction are so feeble they can only pass for lip service."
National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign, Mr Hassan Soweto, is also not hopeful about Nigeria's chances in this regard considering the current trend of its "pro-capitalist education policies and the lacklustre attitude to funding":
"I do not think it is feasible for Nigeria to achieve the SDG goal 4. Every bit of Nigeria's education policies contravenes the spirit and aims of the SDG goals. Our education policies promote exclusion instead of inclusion. The economic system of Nigeria is still capitalism which means social services, including education, are seen not as government responsibility but as business, and students are seen as customers."
However, Soweto noted that if the Buhari administration is serious about achieving the target, the first step is to declare free education at all levels and devote public resources to providing the required facilities needed to ensure that education is not only free but also qualitative.
Government's action plan
In its bid to revitalize the education sector in the implementation of its change agenda; the Federal Government convened a 3-Day Task Team Implementation Status meeting in Abuja in December 2016through the Ministry of Education. Its purpose was to review, evaluate and examine the level of progress so far made in the execution of the 2016 Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs) projects and programmes across the country. The meeting was also geared towards identifying gaps, challenges and making hard-nosed recommendations to reposition the education sector as a major driver of growth and development in the country. The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on SDGs and former Lagos State Deputy Governor, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, made it clear that the Muhammadu Buhari administration would go the whole hog in the realization of SDG-4, to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education, and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all:
"The SDG-4 is transformative and universal, attends to the unfinished business of the Education For All (EFA) goals and the education related MDGs 2 and 3, while also addressing global and national education challenges."
Aware of the importance of a functioning system in the pursuit of lofty goals of this nature, the Presidential aide told the impressive audience that the 2030 target date for the realization of the global SDGs would be a mere dream if the education sector in Nigeria is not fixed to meet the challenges of the times: "For Nigeria to attain SDGs by 2030, there must be a functional education system that is accessible by all and responsive to the requirements of the 21st century skills." She added that SDG-4 and its objectives must be captured in the national education policy and planning.
Orelope-Adefulire highlighted some preconditions which must be met if Nigeria is to walk the same path as the rest of the world in the pursuit of this goal, and the country and her teeming citizens are to heave a sigh of relief on or before 2030. According to the SDGs boss, gone are the days when government shoulders the responsibility of "doing it alone." She stressed that all hands must be on deck to push through the total overhauling of the education sector, especially in the area of funding and teachers' training.
Apparently to ensure that Nigeria does not lag behind as she did with the MDGs, Orelope-Adefulire said that a good number of Nigerian youths would benefit from the partnership of the SDGs office with some international organizations in the sphere of training: "The present administration through my office in collaboration with Google/MindtheGap Foundation has proposed the digital training of 100, 000 youths in Nigeria towards sustainable development."
Given the stark reality starring the nation on its face, through the instrumentality of Management By Objective (MBO), the Education Ministry is working round the clock for optimal use of resources with the emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness. For the first time in many years, the ministry has swiftly moved to block leakages in its funding channels and to ensure adequate value for money in projects implementation and execution. In his keynote address the Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwukah, described the meeting as historic, saying that the review of the implementation of the projects would keep the ministry abreast of the pressing issues that need to be tackled squarely. While calling on beneficiaries to be transparent in their conduct, Professor Anwukah noted the importance the Buhari administration accords the education sector: "The present administration holds education as one of its flagship sectors in its effort at improving school effectiveness, learning outcomes as well as lifelong education."
Way out of the rot: Partnership financing
Attaining progress on education and meeting the SDG goals will go beyond planning without effective implementation. As the experts have said, amongst other things, it will also require improved funding of the sector, the political will to curb corruption and mediocrity, and partnership with the private sector. While the Federal Government has collaborated with the private sector, including foreign agencies, on education matters in the past two years, it needs to deepen such engagement. One of such partnerships was visible at Nigeria's Annual Education Conference 2016 which took place in Abuja on November 2016. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo delivered the keynote address at the event, with the theme, Learning Opportunities for All: The Critical Role of Teachers. The conference was sponsored by the UK's DfID Education projects (Education Data Research and Evaluation in Nigeria, Education Sector Support Programme In Nigeria, Girls Education Programme, Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria and Teachers Development Programme), the British Council, UNICEF, State Education Partnership Investment Programme, Nigeria Partnership for Education Project, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Universal Basic Education Commission. The 2016 conference was a follow up to that of 2015 which had also been organised by the Federal Ministry of Education in partnership with some education development stakeholders such as Education Data, Research and Evaluation in Nigeria (EDOREN), the British Council, the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), the Teacher Development Programme (TDP), UNICEF, the UK DfID and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Professor Anwuka, the Minister of State for Education, declared open the 2016 event that "interrogated the importance of evidence (knowledge, research, data) in strengthening policy making and good practice in Nigeria's basic education systems."In particular, it examined evidence and policy in four key areas: Better Primary School Teachers, Improved Learning Outcomes, Safe Schools and Better Use of Data."
Beyond such collaboration, direct private sector involvement could go a long way towards improving not only the quality of education but also providing less privileged children with the opportunity to go to school. In February 2017, a foundation established by Nollywood actress, Tonto Dike, pledged to renovate some schools in Warri and provide items such as books, whiteboard and school uniforms.
Ndubuisi, now a school proprietor, wants the government to exert political will as he sees that as the way to stamp out corruption and other ills plaguing the system such as the recruitment of unqualified teachers based on ethnicity, favouritism, cronyism and extortion.
On policy implementation or lack of it, Ndubuisi says Nigeria has a very serious problem in implementation, especially with regards to education programmes and projects.
Eric Okoro, a lecturer in the department of social sciences at the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede in Imo State wants the authorities to refocus the curriculum in favour of skills-based courses by introducing into the curriculum certain skill requiring jobs considered (odd) for graduates as special areas of study and specialization. These include plumbing, vulcanizing, refuse technology and control, carpentry which will include building and roofing, hairdressing and weaving. And just as the National Universities Commission (NUC) was established to oversee universities, Okoro wants a National Polytechnics Commission to be set up as an apex body that will regulate and improve that arm of tertiary education.
An ugly feature of the Nigerian education system is the frequent strikes embarked on by lecturers to protest the state of the sector. While some are unhappy about this and consider that some of ASUU'S claims are selfish, Professor Okolie does not share that view as he believes that ASUU's actions are driven by love of country:
"I must have to state that the present gains recorded in our institutions are largely orchestrated by ASUU.ASUU remains the only 'man' standing in reviving, sustaining and stimulating the flame of decency, good conscience and transparency in the management of the Universities. ASUU as a Union is responsible and resort to strike/industrial action as only the last resort. We have come to realise, though painfully, that the only language understood by the political leaders in dealing with academic matters is strike. ASUU detests strike and has, over the years, made conscious efforts – including reasonable consultations and lobbying – to avert strikes but surprisingly, those at the helm of affairs insist on dragging ASUU into avoidable industrial actions. Perhaps they gain more in this regrettable scenario. Remove ASUU in Nigerian Institutions, and the result will be total decimation of academic values and total infrastructural decay."
To put an end to strikes and ensure uninterrupted academic sessions, Okoro proposes that the government should – as a matter of urgency – establish a statutory body that must meet every three months to dialogue and negotiate with stakeholders on issues affecting the education sector.
One of UNESCO's seven target goals as revealed in its Education Strategy 2014-2021 is that:
"... by 2030, all countries allocate at least 4-6 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or at least 15-20 per cent of their public expenditure to education, prioritizing groups most in need, and strengthen financial co-operation for education, prioritizing countries most in need."
Despite the pessimism expressed by many Nigerians, the country would do well to be part of the successful group.
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