OVERHAULING THE EDUCATION MINISTRY…EDITORIAL BY DAILY SUN JUNE 2011
The fresh indication that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will soon overhaul the Federal Ministry of Education has clearly underscored the fact that all is not well with the nation’s education sector. The president, at a ceremony where he received the report of the Presidential Team on Education chaired by a renowned educationist, Prof. Pai Obanya, said that the ministry will be split into TWO, pre-tertiary education and tertiary education, with two different job schedules for two ministers manning the ministry.
The Obanya team had in its report entitled ‘Necessary First Steps in Moving Education Forward in NIGERIA,’ recommended among other things, the splitting of the ministry into two ‘as it was too large and complex whereas tertiary education was expanding exponentially.’
While we acknowledge the need to overhaul the nation’s education system holistically, we do not believe that splitting the ministry into two per se will be the panacea to all the problems of the sector. The sector is besieged with such myriad of problems that no ONE solution can be the magic wand to solve them all.
Since our independence in 1960, no sector has witnessed as much tinkering and policy somersaults as education. There is no doubt that most of the changes did not bode well for the beleaguered sector. Beyond whatever changes the government wants to effect therefore, there is the need for stability. We say this bearing in mind that frequent changes of policies is not good for the system and may prove counter productive in the long run.
We need good operators of whatever system we want to run, and not necessarily change for its sake. If a policy is good and those operating it are not okay, there is every likelihood that things will not improve. We have had so many policy changes in education, yet the sector is not yet out of the woods. The fire brigade approach to tackling the problems is not the best. It is high time the government came up with pragmatic measures to address them.
It is public knowledge that the most serious problem plaguing education in Nigeria is under-funding. This is at the heart of all the problems in the sector. Therefore, the government should address the issue of funding before it can GET good results. Nations that commit huge amounts of money to education rank among the most technologically advanced countries of the world, with high standards of living and strong economies. The sector cannot improve if we continue to neglect it. Our vision of BECOMINGone of the 20 strongest economies in the world by the year 2020 will be a mirage if we continue to deprive education of adequate funding.
For instance, there is evidence of decay in our education system. Laboratories and libraries are in shambles. Lecturers do not have access to reputable academic journals. The engineering disciplines lack requisite equipment for adequate teaching and learning. How can students operate e-library and other Information Communication Technology (ICT) equipment in schools without electricity?
The nation’s education system is still geared toward producing job seekers and not job creators, hence, the high level of unemployment among graduates of our tertiary institutions. Government must reverse this trend.
Right now, it appears that the government is talking more than it is embarking on concrete actions. The government should come up with a clearer concept of the type of education it wants. This should be done with sincerity of purpose. Let it place moratorium on policy changes.
What is government also doing with erring school administrators? In order to move the sector forward, the bad eggs within the system must be adequately sanctioned.
Vision 2020 depends much on human capital. It is education that will produce it. If the sector is in shambles, its products will automatically be bad. There is the need for a comprehensive review of our education system. We can get our acts right without splitting the ministry into two as being suggested. After all, there are sections and departments already in the ministry that can cater for pre-tertiary education and tertiary education. The duplication is diversionary and unnecessary except to create jobs for politicians.
There is also the problem of acute manpower shortage in our education system, especially at the tertiary level. Something must be done to address this problem before more harm is done with the opening of more universities without corresponding increase in manpower production.
Above all, the report of the Obanya team should be made public for critical scrutiny, evaluation and input from other Nigerians.