Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu said on Monday last week, January 29 that the Federal Government would declare a state of emergency in the education sector in April, this year. He spoke when he received Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State in his office. The minister solicited for the support of all state governors to do the same in their respective states.
The minister said he had planned to meet with state governors to appeal to them to “give special emphasis to addressing the problem of low standard of education especially at the primary school level.” He said the Federal Ministry of Education would present a proposal for Education graduates to henceforth be employed on salary grade level 10. Although declaration of a state of emergency in education is long overdue, government must first have to dispel citizens’ wariness about state of emergencies. The Yar’adua regime, for example, famously promised to declare a state of emergency in the power sector but never got round to doing so.
The crisis in the country’s education sector is not a recent development. Neither is it an ordinary challenge. It is complex, critical and multi-dimensional. Many years before the 2015 deadline set for meeting the goals decided in 2000 by Education for All [EFA] elapsed, there were symptomatic manifestations that Nigeria was going to miss out in that global education race. This dashed hope came to pass when the Global Monitoring Report (GMR) on EFA was made public by UNESCO in Paris in April 2015.
Clearly, Nigeria’s education system is in crisis today, at all levels. Malam Adamu Adamu said as much at the opening ceremony of a Presidential Retreat on Education which held in Abuja last November. It is tragic that the academic standard of most primary school teachers in the country is not better than that of the pupils they teach. A classical illustration of this professional embarrassment was when Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i of Kaduna State announced last October that 21,780 out of 33,000 teachers in the state failed the primary four examination administered to test their competence.
Challenges ravaging education at the basic and secondary levels include dilapidated physical structures, inadequate or complete lack of teaching and learning facilities including sporting equipment, and obsolete library materials, where they exist at all. All these lead to poor learning outcomes and abysmal failure rate in exams. More disturbing has been the persistent failure by State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) to access matching grants. A former Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission [UBEC] revealed in 2011 that an accumulated matching grant of over N35 billion was lying idle at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) because state governments failed to access it.
An even more critical challenge is the criminal tendency among many state governments to leave teachers’ salaries unpaid for several months. In June 2017, Nigeria Union of Teachers [NUT] threatened to embark on “aggressively-driven total strike action” over teachers’ salaries, which remained unpaid for between 4 to 23 months. Teachers in some states were placed on half-salary for over 3 years. The problems are no less grave at the tertiary level of education. Besides sharing some of the challenges bedeviling the lower levels, some of the nation’s higher institutions are “famous” for running unaccredited academic programmes. Others are notorious for the rain of first class degrees, award of honourary degrees to undeserving recipients, admission controversies, contract scams, overcrowded lecture halls and hostel accommodations, exam malpractice and cultism. Until recently, strike was the only “language” understood by ASUU. A huge consequence of this quagmire is the advent of educational tourism to European and neighbouring West African countries.
Common to all levels is moral decadence.There’s dire need to review the existing curriculum of the entire system. The time for lamentations or policy pronouncements is over. Declaring a state of emergency in education as promised by the minister is long overdue. But before it is declared, Nigerians want to see the blueprint.