In a society, no matter how good a government is, there is no way you can solve all the problems at a time. So far my committee has done a lot in trying to stabilize the education sector in terms of funding and ensuring that money allocated to the sector are properly utilized because we need a lot of funds in order to push the sector forward. You remember that UNESCO recommended 26 per cent of the nation’s budget for education. But unfortunately we haven’t been able to get there, but we have been able to push it from five per cent in 2003 to 13 per cent in 2009. So we have a lot of problems that have to do with funding. Any society where you have a lot of illiterates is like a society that is as good as dead. It is the highest human capacity driver. It is a human right and we will continue to push for it. The UBE law was enacted to ensure that our children, irrespective of their social standing, have access to education through the UBE scheme. But we still have a plethora of problems in the education sector, especially in relation to the condition of service of teachers at all levels. This has resulted in brain drain, poor quality education, and lack of respect for certificates coming from our universities. Before now, employers rush to employ our graduates but now they don’t. Even some Nigerian institutions don’t feel comfortable employing Nigerian graduates without Masters Degree. They prefer to employ other graduates from outside Nigeria and I think that is a big slap on the psyche of Nigeria and Nigerians given that Nigeria is the giant of Africa. But then when you look at competing needs, it is difficult to give education all it requires but no matter how we look at it, anything we can do to better the condition of service of the teachers must be done within the limited resources because if we don’t encourage them how do you now expect them to carry out effective teaching or do much without proper learning environment in terms of good condition of service?
What are you doing to bring the current ASUU strike to an end?
My committee had invited the minister of education and the leadership of the ASUU so that we can listen to them and see how the problem will be solved. There is no gain saying that those agreements should be implemented. It places a moral burden on you apart from the legal aspect to implement any agreement reached with the ASSU. If you agree with somebody it is mandatory that you must keep it. If there is an agreement between the ASUU and government, the government must keep its own side. If in the process they will not be able to meet up with such given economic environment as it is today, then they have to now involve the ASUU in a genuine dialogue to see how they can come out of it. But if and only if there is a subsisting agreement the government must keep to its own side of the bargain.
There is also the issue of removing junior secondary schools from the unity schools which led to strike by the teachers. What is the position of the committee on that?
First of all, we had to look at the reason for which the unity schools were established ab-initio. The major reason is that Nigeria is one country that is held together under the principles of unity in diversity; so anything we can do to continue knitting up the diverse groups must be done. One area is that of the National Youth Service Corps and the other one is unity schools. Some people were saying that they were spending a lot on the 101 unity schools. No amount of money is too much to keep the unity of this country. We can see the children that went to unity schools like some of my cousins who went to unity schools in the north, they have a lot of friends and then my two girls also have a lot of Yoruba and northern friends. When they came for youth service they all stayed in my house because they met then at the unity schools and they became friends; so we are all one in this country. That is the purpose of the unity schools. There was a policy by the previous regime that the schools be privatized that they were spending a lot of money without getting anything. The UBE law provides that there should be compulsory education from primary to junior secondary schools and there is not much we can do regarding that law but we are waiting for the executive to send in an amendment in order to take care of the unity schools because the unity schools don’t have primary schools to take care of that.