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Why census, data bank on education are important

It must be accurate, not politicised — Experts   The continuous attack on schools across the country has exposed the poor state of educational institutions…

  • It must be accurate, not politicised — Experts

 

The continuous attack on schools across the country has exposed the poor state of educational institutions in the country especially at the basic school level and how porous many of the schools are in terms of location and security. Also very challenging is the lack of proper records and data to fall back on whenever the need arises.

In recent times, the education authorities have been unable to provide accurate records and information regarding out of school children and students abducted from schools, especially in the rural areas, among others.

Following this situation of the absence of specific places where reliable data can be obtained for information on schools, the Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, recently said the federal government will undertake a mini-census focusing on education, to help the current administration effectively tackle the myriad of challenges in the sector.

Professor Mamman made this known in Abuja during a two-day capacity-building workshop for desk officers in the ministry, parastatals, departments and agencies.

The workshop was on the implementation, collation, harmonization and reportage of federal government Presidential priority areas/Ministerial Deliverables and roadmap for the Education Sector.

The minister also hinted at establishing a National Education Repository and Bank Data to collect, collate and house all education records from 1932.

Mamman said government would sign a partnership contract with an Information and Communication (ICT) firm to comprehensively generate data on all schools in Nigeria covering the number of schools, teachers at various levels, students and available classrooms among others.

He also said the issue of the teacher-student ratio was key in effective learning.

“It is our plan that by the end of this year, or early next year, we will be signing a partnership contract with a firm that will be working with our IT people to generate data on all schools in Nigeria. This is because we need to know our teachers and every single student; we need data to know the trend of learning and our school infrastructure.

“This exercise will enhance decision-making and policy formulation as the data collected and collated will aid evidence-based planning, measure implementation and progress, and identify areas where improvement is required,’’ he said.

Mamman added that the data would help advise the state governments on the right policy to make that would affect schools positively.

“The uppermost focus of the ninistry in general is in the areas of ensuring the generation of credible, timely and reliable education data at all levels and the promotion of skill development.

“It is also in the enhancement of skill development across the entire education landscape for innovative and employability education; teacher training and development; and reducing the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

“I believe if we get it right in education, everything else will fall into place.

“The doctors who man our hospitals, the nurses who deliver the vaccines, the engineers in charge of our construction works—everybody is the by-product of our activities,’’ he said.

On his part, the Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Tanko Sununu, said it is the ministry’s hope and expectation that the training will up-skill and enhance their capacity to qualitatively track, collect, collate, harmonize and report the activities, programmes and projects in their various departments and organisations.

While conducting education census in Nigeria is long overdue, experts have said it will be of immense benefit, but require all the seriousness. This is even as they noted that it will not be devoid of challenges but a poly stance that the federal government should pursue with all the necessary political will.

An educationist, Michael Sule, said census on the education sector is very important and an exercise that should have happened long ago with the authority updating the information gathered after two or five years as the case may be.

“It is very crucial to know every details relating to every school in Nigeria, ranging from the infrastructure, number of students, teachers and location among others. It is lack of accurate information that causes the embarrassment of when schools are attacked the school management could not provide accurate number of students missing,” he stated.

He said every year there are changes in the sector, just as there are also in schools. “You see some terms you have students changing schools, infrastructure going bad and teachers leaving. So without regular collation of information you cannot get accurate record.”

While noting that it is a must be embark on the census soonest, he said the federal government must also fathom the possible challenges in embarking on such noble initiatives, such as people giving inaccurate details, the conductor not going to some areas probably because of difficult terrain and, most importantly, the exercise should not be politicised.

The chairman of Voyage International Schools, Abuja, Yussuff Oriyomi, said conducing census in the sector will not only help government to know the number of children in schools, age groups, gender, urban and rural plus other categorizations, but also help it to estimate the number of out of school children as well as how to plan to mitigate the phenomenon.

“School census is a crucial tool as it helps government to plan it’s programmes and direct its interventions properly. School census helps government to know the population in private and public schools and thus how to channel her interventions,” he said.

On challenges likely to be faced in conducting the census, he said inadequate resources to train the enumerators may be an issue and also poorly trained/equipped enumerators may deliver defective census results.

“There is mistrust from private schools about government intentions about the school census, that some of the data given may be inaccurate. School census would be more impactful if it is carried out annually and diligently. But that’s not the case at the moment,” he noted.

While saying that as of today, the number of children attending non-state schools is far more than public schools, he said the government needed to partner private schools to enhance trust between the two.

“This will aid the accuracy of census figures. This can be achieved by partnering with school associations such as the Association of Model Islamic Schools (AMIS) that have branches nationwide with the headquarters in FCT Abuja,” he said.

He advised government to take accurate data generation more seriously and make adequate budgetary provisions for a robust annual school census.

“Government should partner with donor agencies in the field of education to enhance school census data and also train and equip more enumerators for a productive school census,” he said.

For Sophia Emmanuel, a teacher in a public school, census will go a on way in addressing many issues especially in public schools.

“We have found it difficult to get accurate data to use in Nigeria. Every data you see is the one carried out by international organizations and I can tell you they are not comprehensive and most times not updated, but with an accurate census, we can know the real information on the education sector.

“You go to some public schools and you find out the number of transition to senior classes are low, and yet schools cannot provide concrete reasons for it or the whereabouts of their students: no records of old students or account for some resources given to them, it’s really that bad, “ she said.

She however, advised that the government should not compromise if it wants to address the challenges in the education sector, saying, “Having the right persons who will do the right thing by providing accurate information without politicizing the process is important.”

 

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