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2018 in Review: Events, Issues in Education Sector

By Charity Simon, Abuja
The Year 2018 was an interesting one in the nation’s education sector, especially with the federal government’s reforms targeted at boosting the delivery of quality education to Nigerians. 
Speaking at a one-day sensitisation workshop on Reform Agenda and Awareness Campaign on Self-values Orientation for Directors of the Education Ministry and Parastatals in Abuja, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echono, said substantial progress had already been made in the federal government’s reform processes.
Echono said the reforms were in line with the change agenda of the current administration being implemented in all sectors.
He noted that the reform agenda of government was gathering momentum in all sectors of national life, urging all in the education sector to come together to review their performance in line with government’s directives in every department and parastatal.
“We are committed, as a government, to improve service delivery to our people; we are also committed to blocking leakages, to reducing waste, to minimising idle time and to ensure that the limited resources placed at our disposal are used in a prudent and judicious manner to better the lives of our people,” he said.
He stated that the education sector was not only saddled with the responsibility of impacting knowledge and skills, but also moulding the moral character and other attributes of the children placed in their disposal.
“We are also required at headquarters, to formulate policies and programmes that would advance the cause of national development, bearing in mind that education is the bedrock of all activities in our national development.
“We need to look inwards and see that given the difficult conditions we find ourselves, given the limited tools we have to do our work; how well are we applying ourselves, and what improvisation, what innovation, what extra effort are we making to ensure that we deliver our assignments on time, meet target and work under pressure as required,” he said.
The ministry also established a framework for all undergraduates to pass through an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) training phase in the outcome year.
The Chairman, Information and Communication Technology Development Committee, National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr Johnson Asinugo, disclosed this in Abuja during an interactive session between the Directors of ICT of all Nigerian universities with the NUC ICT committee.
“There is no reason why we should graduate a Nigerian student who is computer illiterate. Part of what we are trying to do now is to establish a framework where all Nigerian university graduates or students would pass through an ICT training phase.”
On the issue of difficulties in issuing transcripts to students after graduation, Asinugo said that the ICT training, once effected, will address all the issues.
At the 63rd National Council of Education meeting which was hosted in Abuja with theme, “Funding of Education for the Achievements of Education 2030 Agenda,” the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, urged all stakeholders to collaborate with the Federal and State Governments to fund and boost the quality of education in the country.
The minister noted that adequate funding was central to the efficient and effective education in the country.
He said that the budget for education could not take care of the needs of the sector, hence the need for all stakeholders to come in to assist in increasing the funding of the sector.
Another high point of the year was when the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, played host to the 32nd Class of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru in his office in Abuja.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, the minister announced that government was on the verge of unveiling a major policy shift that will see to the establishment of more tertiary institutions by the federal government in the months ahead.
He said as government envisages this potential expansion in the number of institutions, it is also considering ways of dealing with the issue of availability of quality lecturers to man the institutions.
Also, the minister at an inaugural weekend briefing on the policies, programmes and activities of the federal government in the education sector, said the sum of N7 billion had been voted by the federal government to address security lapses in the 104 unity schools through the provision of security infrastructure between 2017 and 2018.
Adamu said government decided to provide basic security infrastructure in the schools because of insecurity in the north east, caused by Boko Haram, as well as incidents of kidnapping in parts of the country.
“Against the backdrop of insecurity in the north east, occasioned by Boko Haram, as well as incidents of kidnapping in parts of the country, the Federal Government has decided to provide basic security facilities in our Unity Schools,” he stated.
The minister said government has decided to provide perimeter fencing in the schools that are yet to have one, CCTV cameras within the school premises, as well as street lights powered by solar systems and modern security gates, among others.
He noted that the security infrastructural project in unity schools began last year, adding that in the 2017 budget, the federal government made a provision of N5 billion for those facilities to be provided for in 65 unity schools.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NIGERIA ARMY UNIVERSITY
The year also witnessed the establishment of the Nigeria Army University in Biu, Borno State, to assist in  ongoing efforts to tackle the nation’s security challenges.
Chief of Army staff, General Tukur Buratai, gave the indication  at a courtesy call on the management of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund in Abuja.
He said the idea behind the establishment of the institution is to make it a solution provider and  centre of excellence for a variety of technology related ventures.
The Army chief while commending the laudable achievement of TETFUND in transforming the nation’s higher education sub-sector, assured of judicious utilisation of the N2 billion take off grant to the university.
During the year under review, Zamfara State also broke the jinx of being the  only state without a university.
At a ceremony for the presentation  of strategic documents  for the establishment of Zamfara State University in Abuja, the Executive
Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, congratulated the state government and urged it to take full advantage of the establishment of the institution and contribute its quota to advance the course of education.
The universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) on its part disclosed plans to disburse N142.6 billion to states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure the provision of needed facilities in public primary and junior secondary schools in the country.
Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, gave the indication  while briefing newsmen on the achievements of the commission in Abuja.
Bobboyi added that 50 per cent of the money which amounted to N71.3 billion was deducted by the Federal Government from the Paris Club Refund accrued to states and the other 50 per cent as the marching grant from UBEC .
It was also revealed during the year that Nigeria has over 13.2 million out-of-school children, thereby making it the leading nation in the world with children without access to school.
According to United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), 69 per cent of the affected children are from the northern part of the country.
Despite efforts by government, international agencies and other stakeholders in the Nigerian education sector, the number of out-of-school children is alarming.
The ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over unfulfilled promises by government in several agreements entered into with the union, was a major low point recorded in the year 2018 in the education sector.
According to the president of the union, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, the indefinite strike is an indication of government insensitivity to university education.
Strikes by other bodies in tertiary education, including Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) also characterised the outgone year.
Another low point during the year was the issue of sex-for-marks in tertiary institutions, involving students and their lecturers. A case in point was that of Prof Richard Akindele who was arrested and arraigned after an audio clip of him demanding sex from a student in exchange for marks went viral. The lecturer was suspended indefinitely and later prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on four charges, following which he was dismissed and sentenced to two years imprisonment, after pleading guilty to the charges.

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