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Adamu’s confession, Mmesoma’s UTME, Covenant varsity/ hijabis, students’ loan, other top stories of 2023

The year 2023 started with much anxiety over the likely outcome of the presidential election in February that will usher in a new democratically elected…

The year 2023 started with much anxiety over the likely outcome of the presidential election in February that will usher in a new democratically elected government. The media was awash with political issues while activities in other sectors, including education, were left with barely minimal publicity. Earlier in the year, the news of the registration of UMTE was filtering out and mostly dominating the education sector. Despite the sector starting on a low key, as the year unfolded, activities in the sector took over the media attention at different points. The Daily Trust examines some of the top stories of the education sector as the year 2023 winds down.

Adamu Adamu’s confession: “I didn’t know anything about education sector when Buhari appointed me”

A few months after the election of the Muhammadu Buhari government, and while the previous administration was winding up activities in preparation to hand over, then new minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, set tongues wagging and the media agog following his confession that he knew nothing about the education sector when President Buhari appointed him minister in 2015.

Adamu, who remained to be the longest-serving minister, made the revelation at a valedictory session with officials and heads of parastatals of the ministry, saying, he was forced to apply wisdom by appointing some professors of education and other good hands, with the help of the officials of the Federal Ministry of Education.

“I didn’t know anything about the education sector when I was appointed minister except superficially. But when Buhari decided to make me minister of education, I called some people to assist me in working on policy documents on education because I was a novice in the sector. I shared my idea with them and they assisted me greatly, and I remain grateful to them for these years,” he said.

The minister appreciated the president who found him worthy and trusted him with such a responsibility, “even when I was apparently not ready and unprepared for such task”.

He said: “I was busy making recommendations and suggestions to the president on who to appoint into his cabinet in 2015. All of a sudden, he announced my name to my surprise and that was it. We worked together till 2019.”

This confession set tongues rolling as many Nigerians faulted the minister for making such revelation.

NUC Executive Secretary Rasheed resigned 3 years to tenure end

Shortly after Adamu’s confession, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) Professor Abubakar Rasheed, voluntarily resigned from his appointment three years and one month before the end of his second term at the commission.

The news took many Nigerians by surprise with some alleging that he may have done that for fear of being sacked by the new administration while others said it was likely on health grounds.

Prof. Rasheed however clarified that his voluntary resignation was borne out of his personal desire to return to the classroom to continue his academic work and his dream of ending his career in the university.

It was later gathered that Rasheed resigned before the new government came into power and his resignation was approved by former President Muhammadu Buhari

Covenant University delayed Muslim candidates in Hijab from taking mock

When some Muslim candidates for the mock test of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) were reportedly denied entry for some time at Covenant University in Canaanland for wearing hijab, the social media went agog with many netizens condemning the action.

In a video, which circulated online, someone narrated how some Muslim candidates were denied entry into the venue of the mock examination organised annually by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board in many centres across the country among which Covenant University was mentioned.  

Though JAMB launched an investigation into the allegation, the university’s management denied issuing such instruction.

Mmesoma forgery of UTME result

This is one of the biggest education stories of the year as it involved a teenager and attracted contrasting views among Nigerians.

A 16-year-old Miss Ejikeme Joy Mmesoma, a candidate who sat for the 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), set the buzz across media platforms after she declared herself the overall best candidate in the 2023 exam.

Mmesoma’s case actually caused an uproar following a N3 million scholarship award to her by Chief (Dr) Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors and also when Anambra State Government wanted to honour her but decided to put a call through to JAMB to confirm her claim only for the board to reveal that she actually scored 249 and not 362 as she claimed.

The issue escalated when JAMB debunked her claim and revealed that she had forged the result she was parading.

However after investigations by the Anambra State government and the National Assembly, it was revealed that she was guilty of the forgery, and she later confessed to the crime and tendered an apology to JAMB. 

Tinubu signs Student Loan Bill

It was another education top story of the year when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill. It generated mixed reactions with many expressing belief that it would give many Nigerians the ability to complete their higher education, and others saying it amounted to the federal government re-introducing tuition fees in federal universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions.

They argue that Clause 3 of the Students Loan Act, which says: “The loans referred to in this Act shall be granted to students only for the payment of tuition fees”, contravenes the existing provision that says tuition is free in public institutions.

The president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, told Daily Trust that the bill is not new as it has been on for a long time.

He said: “A country where more than 133 million are living below the poverty line and you want to introduce tuition fees? It will be counterproductive.’

However, the act is said to have been reviewed and will come into force in January.

Fees increment in universities

When many public universities across the country announced an increment in their tuition fees, many students and parents were unsettled by the news following the hardship already being experienced in the country.

ASUU also decried the situation saying the current government had made Nigerians poorer.

The union said that public education was not taken seriously because most children of the rich and those in high offices do not attend school in Nigeria.

However, it was alleged that the increment of fees by universities is connected to the plan of the federal government to grant universities financial autonomy.

UNICAL law students protest over sexual harassment

Another top story in the sector in the outgoing year was from the University of Calabar (UNICAL) where law students besieged the office of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Florence Obi, to protest alleged sexual harassment, extortion, and absenteeism by lecturers.

The students particularly accused the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof. Cyril Ndifon, of sexually harassing female students.

The story generated a lot of debate, which led to the suspension of Prof. Ndifon and his eventual arrest by the police.

Though the matter is still in court, but the Minister of Education had promised to deal with anyone involved in such acts in the Ivory Tower.

40% deduction from universities’ IGR

The federal government, in a letter dated October 17, 2023, tagged “Implementation of 40% automatic deduction from internally generated revenue of partially funded federal government institutions,’ said it would begin the deduction with effect from November 2023.

This however generated a lot of uproar by tertiary institutions, especially when the institutions have maintained that they are underfunded.

However, Tinubu later succumbed to the outcry from different quarters and stopped the deduction from universities’ IGR and asked the institutions to keep their cash.

“The 40 per cent IGR automatic deduction policy stands cancelled. This is not the best time for such a policy since our universities are struggling,” he said.

Lecturers leaving Nigerian universities in droves

A recent indication that lecturers from Nigerian universities are leaving en masse, just like medical doctors, further drives the country to the edge of brain drain and generated some concern from different quarters.

However, lecturers’ leaving the universities is beside the fact that many universities had been established and approved in recent years requiring qualified teachers while many were retiring.

Daily Trust gathered that lecturers are losing interest in the profession because of too many problems of understaffing, underfunding, corruption, lack of motivation, etc.

ASUU President Prof Emmanuel Osodeke said: “Check, you will see that Nigerian lecturers are leaving in droves because of how they were treated in the past eight years. In 2019 when we had agreement with government on salary increase, what we position there was about $3000 per month but today the salary of a lecturer is just about $400 equivalent per month.”

Exemption of varsities, polys, CoE from IPPIS

The recent announcement of the exemption of universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and other tertiary institutions from the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) is one of the biggest and cheering news for tertiary institutions in the country.

The IPPIS has since its introduction generated controversies as many lecturers complained of its deficiency and how they have been shortchanged with the platform.

This led to many leaving the system and looking for greener pasture elsewhere.

The president has received accolades over the removal, as it allowed heads of institutions to embark on recruitment without recourse to the Head of Service of the Federation.

Concerns on out of school children 

One of the challenges in the education sector in recent times is the high number of out-of-school children.

Though efforts have been ongoing by the federal government, development partners and civil societies to reduce the number, the crisis of abductions, closure of schools among others have continued to set back the efforts made.

However, with the acknowledgement that the northern states have the highest number, more attention is being garnered from different quarters to address the challenge.

Recently, the Nigerian Governors Forum called for the declaration of a state of emergency to rescue the sector from total collapse and urged state governors to ensure adequate budgetary allocation to education – from 5 per cent to 20 per cent.

Also, there is the declaration recently by the Minister of State for Education, Yusuf Sununu, on the high number of out-of-school children, especially in northern Nigeria, which he described as a time bomb that must be addressed. These, among others, are sure signs that come next year, the sector will receive the much-needed attention.

There is a positive outlook this year – Educationist

An educationist, Michael Sule, said the education sector this year seems to have a positive outlook, even though, “We are yet to get to where we want.”

He said: “With the new administration, it is expected that they will come up with new policies but what is important is that you make sure you consult rightly before imposing them on us,” adding that “I love the fact that the federal government has paid listening ears in reversing some trends affecting the sector.”

 

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