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Continuing education amidst COVID-19, insurgency

Having read Barr. Bulama Bukarti’s piece on education in the North in the face of insurgency, l decided to proffer the following as a way…

Having read Barr. Bulama Bukarti’s piece on education in the North in the face of insurgency, l decided to proffer the following as a way out for educational advancement in the comparatively disadvantaged Northern Nigeria amidst insurgency and COVID-19.

I decided to focus on Northern Nigeria instead of the whole country because while COVID-19 is all over the nation, insurgencies (Boko-Haram, Banditry, Kidnapping) are exclusive to the north.

My suggestions are on these fronts: I envisage the idea of government creating an independent and sustainable education board akin to the malfunctioning ‘UBE’ but with wider spectrum to cover primary, secondary and tertiary levels through constitutional amendment (s).

Such an Act of Parliament/Legislature be made to be part and parcel of the constitution directive principles of state policy with a priviso that it cannot be amended just like that except through wholesale constitutional amendment.

The above envisaged scenerio is what obtains in most of the Middle East/Arab League countries on education and healthcare while it plays out in defence and foreign relations in USA, Europe and Far-East Asia.

Such a board should be independent in terms of functions and funding, and therefore not directly under states or Federal Ministry of Education .

Funding should be appropriated  directly from the pool (i.e. RMAFC/FAAC) monthly.

Implementation of curricular should be by the states/local governments (if the 3rd tier continues to exist) while all duly approved federal tertiary educational institutions should be collapsed under one board .

The various boards set up for better management  like National Universities Commission (NUC); Tertiary Educational Trust Fund (TETFUND);  National Board for Technical Education (NBTE); National Primary Education Board (NPEB); Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) etc,. should all be streamlined to avoid duplication of functions.

Such a mega all-purpose education board should be made up of well-grounded, committed, honest, integrity-minded individuals from educational as  well other callings with at least 70% in national spread.

Such a board should overhaul the whole strata of curriculum from primary to tertiary to tune-up with current realities so that after graduation, the youths may be able to set-up businesses or trades in their areas of calling  and therefore not bother about government or even company jobs.

While reviewing the curriculum , attention should be given to midstream education like bringing back the defunct teacher-training colleges especially Arabic colleges as well as technical colleges to take care of those necessary gaps.

Payroll should be universal for all salaries and allowances of teachers/lecturers/board members/non-academic staff/security men .

Health care should be provided for all on approved number of family members per cadre and to be provided by government-owned hospitals while the board foots the bills.

Housing or commensurate housing allowance should be given to all on permanent employment while those on temporary/casual should be compensated on an annual or a bi-annual basis.

All staff and board members should make a declaration of assets on first appointment and thereafter on annual basis as a pre-condition for appointment/employment.

To encourage pupils‘ enrollment in primary schools, evidence of enrollment should be demanded from parents in the event of seeking for medical attention in government hospitals and health centres.

Mega schools like the Borno and Osun States models should be encouraged, instead of 2-classroom plus under-the-tree schools. Permanent and well-equipped security should be provided on 24 hours bases to forestall burning the entire structure after school hours by insurgents.

This COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up major challenges not only in our religious duties to our Creator but also in our pursuits of education and other avenues to make a living.

Thankfully, so much has been achieved in the religious sphere as we can pray and fast but in the fields of factory production cycles, transportation, healthcare and education , much needs to be done.

On education particularly, both our ever-ready strikers in ASUU/ASUP as well as our innovative educational planners in the Federal Ministry of Education have failed to come up with a New-Normal Way of continuing with education amidst the pandemic.

The Academic Staff Union of  Universities (ASUU) has not been pro-active or forthcoming on ways and means of imparting knowledge to students while being mindful of COVID-19; rather it is more concerned with having its independent payroll  besides the federal government sponsored Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System ( IPPIS).

The ‘IPPIS’ is a variant of an ERP system and, therefore, it can be adapted by ASUU to run its payroll while taking care of its peculiarities and giving a periodic hand-shake with the mother ‘IPPIS’.

One would expect our Federal Ministry of Education to have come up with some virtual ways of continuing with education amidst the New-Normal instead of continuing to shift resumption date goal-post.

What would prevent the Fed. Min. of Education from bench-marking and imitating our closest West African neighbours or in Sub-Sahara African countries on how they are going about their educational pursuits amidst the pandemic, and keep track of unfolding events here and there.

Why would we not use the palliative money for feeding the ‘supposed’ Lagos and Ogun school children (while at lockdown)   to fund virtual lectures/seminars for students while thinking out-of-the-box for ways and means to carry-out Science and Technology Practicals?

What stops both ASUU and Fed. Min.of Edu. from bench-marking the few private universities that are running which you helped to set-up and mentor ab-initio?

What is the whole purpose of leadership, especially in education if you cannot think out-of-the-box in this era of COVID-19 and into the future?

I know that attaining ‘Utopia’ is not possible but let us all know that Utopia is the target and, therefore, we should strive to reach the universally accepted pass-mark  of 70% at least for the sake of our future leaders.

Ibrahim Haruna Geidam, FIMC/CMC, Abuja [email protected]

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