The Okowa agenda to ‘leapfrog’ education
By Festus Ahon
Worried by the poor education standard in the country, and Delta State in particular, the state government, last week, held a two-day summit to find lasting solution to the problems faced in the sector.
Education, key to economic, political and social development of any society, has been in a poor state, resulting in the turning out of half baked graduates from the country’s primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
The two-day summit, held under the theme, ‘Leapfrogging Education in Delta State’, attracted several eminent persons, including Chief Afe Babalola and Emeritus Prof. Pai Obanya, who addressed some of the key issues responsible for the dwindling standard of education, especially in Delta.
And the state, in a proactive step, included, in its 2016 Budget, the establishment of a Teachers Professional Development Centre for in-service training, in an effort to build the capacity of those in the educational sector. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, however, expressed concern over the continued request for the establishment of more tertiary institutions in the state.
The governor, who raised the issue during the question and answer session at the summit, asked know how best to go on the matter as funding the existing ones was already a big challenge in government’s determination to providing the best education for the people.
He informed the summit that Delta presently grapples with a university with three campuses, seven polytechnics and three colleges of education and yet more requests were being made by communities for higher institutions.
Okowa noted that one determining factor in the establishment of the three campuses of Delta State University in Abraka, Oleh and Anwai as well as the first three polytechnics at Oghara, Ozoro and Ogwashi-Uku was senatorial district representation.
He stated that the people were moving in the direction of state government establishing a higher institution in each of the 25 local governments, maintaining that the way the requests were being made, each ward in the state would soon be asking for at least one higher institution sited there.
The governor pointed out the financial burden already faced by government to run the existing institutions in the state led to the education summit to find the way forward.
Most of the participants said no to the establishment of more higher institutions in Delta.
They maintained that what is most required now was for government to ensure quality in the existing ones, stressing the need for urgent revolution in the education sector.
The summit participants stated that right and enabling environment must be created to leapfrog education in Delta. The Chairman of the occasion, Chief Afe Babalola, in his remarks, said: “The state government must be congratulated for identifying the need to set up an education summit. This is quite understandable as no right thinking Nigerian would deny the fact that there is urgent need for a revolution in our education system that would bring about quality and functional education having regard to the ever growing number of unemployable and unemployed graduates, the poor quality of teachers, cases of fake certificates, the rising list of illegal institutions, strikes and the unprofessional attitude of some teachers to education etc.
“The aim of education at any level and more importantly at the University level is to improve learning and also to mould character. A society which is interested in and concentrates only on learning at the expense of character is one that is bound to falter with time.
“As a matter of fact, character itself aids and accentuates learning whilst learning on its own is empty without character. It is for this reason that University certificates are issued only to persons who have been found deserving of it in terms of learning and character. This is a carryover from ancient times when the first universities were established by religious organizations or orders. At that time much emphasis was placed on morals”.
Professor Obayan, in his keynote address, said: “Education as a never-ending process has a vertical as well as a horizontal dimension. On the horizontal axis, we see various modes for the aquisition of learning not only co-existing but in fact coalescing. Of the four modes of acquiring/promoting education listed, only one belongs to the realm of the formal.
“On the vertical axis, as the figure illustrates, formal education goes on from early childhood development, through primary and secondary to the tertiary level. In all natural conditions, non-formal equivalents of early childhood, primary and secondary education also exists. In order words, non-formal education is not simply for the basic life skills required for the basic level of education. It should also be available and accessible for persons in a variety of evolving life circumstances, in a variety of forms, for a variety of learning needs throughout life”.
The Chairman of the Summit Planning Committee, Prof Patrick Muoboghare, said “the ?summit is not about who is wrong but about what is wrong” and insisted that funding was critical to education.
He said inadequate funding has created anxiety for school heads “such that many have resorted to unconventional practices to make the system run”.
In his paper, a former Vice Chancellor of the Delta State University, Prof John Enaowho, advocated the scrapping of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, and the National Universities Commission, NUC.
Enaowho held that both establishments have outlived their usefulness. In the lecture, entitled, ‘Fiscal Planning and Development in Nigeria Education: The Paradox of Autonomy and Dependence’, the former VC decried that, despite the supervisory role of JAMB and the NUC, no Nigerian university has made the list of the 100 universities in the world.
Enaowho, a two-time Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Port-Harcourt, argued that accreditation of courses in tertiary institutions should be done by professional bodies in the respective disciplines such as the Council for Legal Education, the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council and the Council for the regulation of engineering rather than the NUC which he maintained should be scrapped.
He called for the removal of education from the purview of the Federal Government by decentralizing the educational sector in line with true federalism, urging the Federal Government to focus on other sectors such as defense, aviation and works. He insisted that it should leave education to states as was obtainable in foreign countries.“While noting that funding was the major challenge in education sector from primary to tertiary levels, Enaowho added: “Some level of charges should be introduced because the present day education cannot be totally free of tuition”.“The professor disclosed that Nigerians spend billions on Naira for their children’s fees abroad and in private universities but were not willing to pay fees in government owned tertiary institutions.
In another lecture, entitled, ‘Community and Parental Involvement in the Formal Education of the Child’, Prof Cecilia Otete Okobiah said communities have abandoned their pivotal role in the education of the child even as she lambasted some parents for not paying adequate attention to sound upbringing of their children.“On how government could leapfrog education in the state, the university don charged the state government to revamp the existing educational structures to ensure they play their role effectively among others.