RE-POSITIONING EDUCATION IN NIGERIA FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT BY CHIEF PHILIP C. ASIODU, CFR, CON, HLF

Delivered byCHIEF PHILIP C. ASIODU, CFR, CON, HLF

HALLMARKS OF LABOUR RE-UNION

RE-POSITIONING EDUCATION IN NIGERIA FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

BY

CHIEF PHILIP C. ASIODU, CFR, CON, HLF

Your Excellencies

Chiefs

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I feel much honoured to be asked to speak to you today on such an important subject: “Re-Positioning Education In Nigeria For Peace And Development”.

As we are all aware, formal education plays a critical role in the development of modern society. In primitive societies and cultures, there is little formal learning. As the child grows up, the entire environment and all activities are his school and all the adults are his instructors and by the time he/she grows up into an adult, he/she can play his or her role as required by tradition in a primitive economy involving only rudimentary farming, hunting, or fishing.

As societies develop and become more diversified so grows the need for formal education and specialized institutions to prepare the growing child to be able to perform adequately in his more complex world.

We do not have the time on this occasion to consider the very interesting historical and philosophical ideas about education with their interesting lessons for us. We shall confine ourselves to discussing today how education properly pursued with determination will enable us overcome the grave challenges facing us in the task of building a united, peaceful and prosperous nation from the diverse ethnic entities which for just over 100 years have been grouped together and have interacted with one another in one compact geographical area called Nigeria.

There is no doubt that Nigeria today is facing very challenging times. The headlines in the media have recently been dominated by reports about : Southern Kaduna killings of Christians; inflammatory speeches by a few clerics calling for Christian self-defence, one going as far as urging retaliatory killings; continuing outrageous attacks and ambushes by Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri Province; frequent slaughters of farmers in their villages and despoiling and destruction of their farms by well-armed Fulani Herdsmen; attacks on oil installations by militants in the Niger Delta with its crippling consequences on oil exports, foreign exchange inflows and the Nigerian economy; the continuing restiveness of the Movement For The Actualization Of The Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB); the demand for the secession of Biafra from Nigeria by MASSOB and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); the “Quit the North Order to Ibos by 1st October 2017” by some members of Arewa Youth Forum; the seemingly clumsy security and extra-judicial proceedings against MASSOB and IPOB; and cries of marginalization by various communities and more recently by country-wide strikes by University Teachers and Resident Doctors in the Hospitals.

To compound the situation, the Nigerian economy is still in recession, the immediate cause being the drastic fall since July 2014 in the price of crude petroleum, our main export, but the real longer-term cause being the abandonment of Planning and disciplined implementation of Plans since 1975 and the failure to grow and diversify the economy for which good plans had been made and for which Nigeria is so richly endowed with natural resources and a sizeable internal market. Our performance over the last forty years has been in marked contrast to that of the Asian Tigers with whom we were at par in the mid-1970s but who are now far ahead of us in development and per capita income.

The things described above are symptoms of a far deeper and more extensive national crisis.

The Threat of National Disintegration

It is not surprising to hear otherwise level headed people, given the current challenges, talk as if the breaking up of Nigeria into several parts would be a solution since to them Nigeria is too difficult to administer. I have no doubt that the solution to our problem does not lie in disintegration. It is not possible to divide Nigeria neatly into a given number of successor countries. A collapse of the Nigerian State will most likely result in an unpredictable number of mini states controlled by war lords. Imagine leaving Lagos and encountering a Customs Post in Ikorodu, then Ijebu Ode, then Ofuse, then Benin City, etc. or travelling Northwards, in Shagamu, then Ibadan, then Ilorin, then Minna and so forth. It will be horrendous to have Nigeria as a failed State. The fault will be that of the so-called elites to which we all belong. There will be no economic progress and civilization will be halted and life will be very insecure. We would find ourselves in a situation of general anarchy and violence. It is a prospect which should shock us to exploring solutions to our current problems. What the ordinary man desires is shelter, food, educational facilities to ensure his children’s advancement in life and of course adequate and improving availability of power, health and transportation infrastructure. He is really not interested in the power struggles among politicians.

Good patriotic visionary leadership and good governance which result in rapid economic and social progress and improving standard of living and quality of life for the great majority of the people are what will lead to national cohesion and stability. How remarkable the success of Malaysia in uniting the Malays and Chinese and smaller communities of Indians and others in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic state. Again, China with her 1.4 billion people unites many diverse ethnic and linguistic groups. We also have the Indian example as well as Indonesia which has thousands of islands in ocean space of just over 6 million sq.km.

In a recent article contributing to the debate on the current National Crisis, I spoke about the need for a Visionary Leader to play the Great Role which has been waiting for years for a Player as follows :

A Great Role Waiting For A Player

There is a great role waiting for a player in Nigeria. There is need for a great patriotic and visionary leader to articulate a National Vision and Agenda of where Nigeria should be by 2040, to be at least a top middle income nation of over 300 million people and to quote from Vision 2010. “A united, industrious, caring, God-fearing democratic society committed to making the basic needs of life affordable for everyone and creating Africa’s leading economy”. He will need to lead a revolutionary change of attitude, beyond party, tribal and religious divides, amongst leaders of all sectors of government and society to embrace all aspects of good governance and re-launch Nigeria irreversibly on the path to unity and greatness. He must be ready to commit his life to this great cause.

I also said that the least traumatic way of saving Nigeria from the threatening disaster of a failed state and violent anarchy is for President Buhari as the elected President to get a group of capable patriotic people to elaborate a new “Vision and National Agenda 2040”, and to require all who love Nigeria to identify with him.

National Vision And Agenda 2040

It is critically important to elaborate a National Vision and Agenda 2040 now to enable the Leader mobilize the broad masses of the people to move forward to progress, unity and greatness. The goal of Independence and sovereignty was a uniting anchor for the political parties and other interest groups before 1st October, 1960. Our national tragedy is that since then there has been no national consensus on objectives to pursue. Confusion in objectives, and discontinuities in policies and programmes have been the Nigerian experience of Government, resulting in the lack of progress in developing a one-nation consciousness and in developing the economy to lift our richly endowed country from poverty.

The essential elements in the National Vision 2040 will include :

  • National Economic Perspective Plan 2020 – 2040;

  • Adoption and Implementation of all the Aspects of Good Governance;

  • Necessary Urgent Amendments to the 1999 Constitution;

  • Universal Compulsory Good Quality Education for all Citizens up to the age of 18;

  • Maintenance of Nigeria as a Secular State and Religious Freedom for the Individual;

  • A Language Policy to Promote National Integration;

  • Eradication of Corruption in all facets of National Life and Adoption of a Realistic Personal Incomes Policy;

  • Determined and sustained retraining and re-motivation of the Civil Service and staff of all Agencies so that they may achieve a new image of competent, friendly, prompt, patriotic, non-corrupt, pro-investment, pro-development public service dedicated to prompt cost-effective service delivery.

Universal Compulsory Good Quality Education For All Citizens Up To The Age Of 18

This is absolutely necessary for the future progress of Nigeria, for international competitiveness and economic development, the welfare of all citizens and for national harmony and cohesiveness. The available funds must be re-allocated to guarantee good quality free education for all citizens of both sexes up to the end of SS3 or its technical equivalent. It should also be made much easier for any capable student to have tertiary education. Within 15 years of efficient implementation of this policy, the nation should have abolished illiteracy and there should be no idle unemployable youth available for recruitment into criminal and terror gangs which account for the country’s current poor image in international media. More important, there will be no so-called “disadvantaged states” and therefore no need for the type of “Federal Character Affirmative Action” which prevents us from employing the best man for the job and which has impeded national development and growth, apart from breeding otherwise unnecessary inter-state and inter-tribal tensions.

I am indebted to Prof. E. Ade Elebute for the succinct summary reproduced below of the challenges facing Education in Nigeria :

Education Challenges

  • There are over 10 million children of school age who are not in school, thus
    depriving the nation of the realization of their potentials and possible
    contribution to national development.
  • Current slant in our education system is in favour of arts and social sciences to
    the detriment of the sciences but rapid growth and development are driven by
    science and technology.
  • A poor presence of technical/technical skills education system which is critical to
    economic development.
  • Inadequate level of well-trained, committed and competent teachers/lecturers to
    teach at all
    levels.
  • There is a gap in converting the results of research to viable commercial products.
  • Poor school environment particularly in basic schools. There are reported cases of
    pupils
    learning under trees and schools with dilapidated walls. Besides teachers
    are poorly paid and unmotivated.
  • The inactivity or non-existence as in the past of the inspectorate system headed
    by a director of education.
  • Because of the negative perception of teachers at the basic level many young
    people take up teaching as a last resort
    , without commitment or dedication.
  • Fall in the standard of quality of education. The situation is so bad that before
    some Nigerians can be accepted to post graduate programmes outside Nigeria,
    they are compelled to do remedial courses for one session.
  • Insufficient opportunity within the curriculum to teach emotional intelligence and
    build character as well as knowledge and skills acquisition”.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

The details in Annexes 1-3 on Youth Literacy clearly show the task before the nation in achieving our goal of abolishing illiteracy by 2040. We must aggressively address the problems of : Funding, Educational Buildings and Facilities, Reinvigorate Programmes of Training and Upgrading of Teachers to meet stipulated minimum qualification of 1st university degree and teaching qualification, Improvement in Remuneration and Status. With two years of planning and preparation, the new Programme can be launched in 2019.

Funding

Let us consider a few figures. Our population today is about 200 million. Children and youth between 5 and 19 years old account for just over 35% of our population. The Constitution promises them education as of right, education to prepare them for a decent productive life. By 2040, it is estimated that the population would be around 300 million. Ideally, the country should be providing now good adequate facilities for international standard education and skills acquisition for 40 million children and youth every year projected over the next 20 years to say 55 million. We must include the over 10 million children estimated to be outside proper schooling, and also integrate into the formal system those in Almajiri and Nomadic schools. Using normal ratios of teachers and instructors to students, we should be talking of 1.8 million to 2 million properly trained and motivated teachers / instructors. In today’s condition, an average salary per person of N840,000 per annum is not much. That would cost for 2 million, N1.68 trillion per annum. We have not factored in yet capital cost of class rooms, laboratories, theatres, etc. So ideally, we should be considering the figure of N2 trillion a year for the whole country. What is the provision this year by all our Governments in the three tiers for education? Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to education 2010 – 2016 were : 2010 – N234.8 billion, 2011 – N306.36 billion, 2012 – N400.15 billion, 2013 – N426.53 billion. 2014 – N493 billion, 2015 – N392.2 billion, 2016 – N369.6 billion, 2017 – education budget is 7% of the total budget.

We all recall the UNESCO recommendation of at least 25% of the total budget to be for education. This is most necessary for a developing country like Nigeria. However, you will all recall that even for an advanced country like the UK when Tony Blair as Prime Minister was asked about his priorities, he replied – “Education, Education, Education”.

There is therefore an urgent need for our Governments to re-order their priorities. Nigeria has enormous resources from our oil income. Better governance, less corruption, less bloating of public procurement – in some cases over 200% – more friendly and prompt processing of enquiries from intending investors will accelerate development and give us access to greater revenues. Meanwhile, there is great scope for reducing the cost of our government institutions, drastically reducing the perquisites and numbers of political office holders so as to change the allocations in our Budgets and enable the Government to spend what they should in order to guarantee every child access to good education.

There will not be uniformity but the state must guarantee to the poor child that he will be given the opportunity for good quality education which provides the route to upward mobility in society and a better life. This is not only a constitutional and moral imperative but is critically necessary for the rapid development of the nation and also for guaranteeing peace and security for all citizens.

In terms of private sector initiatives, as we are already doing, we have to increase our contributions to restoring our old “elite” schools to becoming again centres of excellence. Such schools, perhaps 50 or so in number but starting with say 7, should be empowered with special charters to become quasi-independent and be run by independently chosen Boards of Governors. There will be minority Government representation on such Boards. The schools may receive some subventions from the Government but the bulk of their revenues should be mobilized from private sources. In my old school, King’s College, Lagos, we have spent N1 billion. However, these are very small sums compared with the volume of funding which we need to mobilize over the next few years. The schools will as in the past throw open their doors to students from every part of the country and there should be funding for scholarships for capable students from poorer families – perhaps up to at least 25% of each class. The Federal Government may also upgrade six schools in each of the six zones to fulfil the intentions of the unity school, ensuring that they, like the old elite schools, are of the best international standards.

There will still be room for the very expensive private schools such as already exist but like in the past all schools must be subject to monitoring by re-organized and re-equipped competent Educational Inspectorates.

I am sure that private sector resources will be quite stretched playing the role assigned to them in the two categories of institutions which I have just described. Even then, it can only be a limited supporting role where trillions of naira will be required annually.

There are many other areas in vocational education and in the tertiary institutions in which private sector, especially business corporate organizations should intervene. In partnership with the Governments, they should develop institutions and apprenticeship arrangements to enable the country develop the millions of technical skilled workers required if the Nigerian economy is to grow and develop rapidly and be numbered by 2040 amongst the largest 15 economies in the world. This is possible if the country is properly led.

Remuneration Of Teachers

The remuneration of teachers, especially as we insist on teachers having at least first degrees and teaching qualifications must be made comparable with the remunerations of people in the Public Service with equivalent qualifications; and remuneration in both sectors must be made comparable with remuneration in the private sector within a period of 5 years. In addition, housing and transportation facilities should be provided to enable teachers adequately supervise games, prep. hours, and extra-curricular activities of their students.

Educational Curricula

It is disgraceful the degradation of our educational standards over the last four decades. All of us here this morning owe our positions in life, the successes we have achieved, and the positive contributions we may have made in our working life to the very good education we received in our days in the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, but perhaps, most important in the secondary schools.

The secondary schools were few but of good international standard and we were able to go from our secondary schools with our Higher School Certificate or GCE Advanced Level straight to Oxford or Cambridge or other leading universities in Britain and the Commonwealth, to Ivy League Universities in America, and to other advanced countries and to perform competitively and creditably with the home students and students from other parts of the world.

The Federal Ministry of Education working with the State Government Ministries of Education must immediately assemble our educational authorities and experts to review our school curricula to ensure that they meet good international standards. They must ensure : That appropriate attention is given to mathematics and the science subjects, and ICT, and in keeping with current developments in the world, that teaching with regard to the development of Emotional Intelligence (E. I) is introduced.

It is remarkable how countries like Singapore and South Korea with whom we were equal in 1970s score very high now amongst the Top 20 in the World Ranking of the Best Educational Systems. Their outstanding performance as regards economic development and the standard and quality of life of their citizens attests to this. The Reports and Recommendations of the Panels should be ready for implementation within 6 months.

Tertiary Education

Here again in the latest ranking of World Universities, unlike what we would have scored in the early 1970s, the University of Ibadan which is No. 1 in Nigeria is only No. 1,032 in World Ranking and No. 9 in Africa.

We must work out urgently a programme to provide much higher levels of funding for our universities and insist that NUC monitors standards and de-lists universities which do not meet accepted minimum international standards of the good universities of Britain, the Older British Commonwealth Countries, USA, and Europe. The Funding will be for:

  • Improvement of facilities and equipment;
  • Research and transmission of useful research results to the economic sector;
  • Better remuneration of staff;
  • Ensuring that all capable and qualified students receive tertiary education;
  • Exchanges of faculty staff between selected local universities and leading international universities.

The Federal Government should agree on a programme to ensure that within 7 years, starting with these ten, the Universities of Ibadan, Lagos, Ife, Zaria, Nsukka, Benin, Ilorin, Jos, Maiduguri, and Port Harcourt, should be made to achieve good international standards and three of them should be numbered among the top 100 world universities.

The Educational Programme described above should be fully articulated and ready for implementation within 6 months. The Federal Government should get the commitment of all the major political parties whether government parties or in opposition to the Programme as the solution to the National Emergency on Education and for the nation’s future, so that the determined and sustained implementation of the Programme will not be disrupted by any changes of Administrations.

Secondary and Tertiary Education should also remain in the Concurrent List to enable the Federal Government assist any State which requires it in order to reach agreed minimum national standards.

Need To Include The Language Policy To Promote National Integration As Part Of Our Educational Drive

A Language Policy To Promote National Integration

I had hoped following up on the early successes of the National Youth Service Scheme that we would be able to persuade the Government to introduce a Language Policy to foster national integration. That was before the termination of the Gowon Administration by the Coup of July 1975.

Such a policy would require each child to learn to read and write the local language where he or she begins schooling even in private schools. By the age of 10, the child begins to receive his instructions in English as is the practice now. The new policy would be that by the age of 12 or 13 when he or she enters a secondary school, he/she has to make a choice. If he is in the North, he must choose one Southern Language which he will be taught to speak, read and write. The chances are that the child will choose either Ibo or Yoruba. In the South, the child will likely choose Hausa as the Northern Language which he will be taught to speak, read and write. All secondary schools will have the necessary language departments.

The upshot of this policy will be that within 15 to 20 years, all educated Nigerians (like the Swiss today) will, apart from their local language and English, be able to communicate in one or more Nigerian languages. With the ongoing inter-action and cultural exchanges and the pressures of globalization, you can imagine the situation among our children and grandchildren twenty years hence especially as they would have received similar good quality education. Ethnic differences will mean much less to them. Such a policy should be initiated within the next two years after careful detailed consultations and preparation.

For the avoidance of doubt, I must stress that English will still remain the official language of the Federal Government.

I have no doubt that the current national debate on restructuring and the need for a new Constitution will continue for quite some time before agreement can be reached on what to do. However, a new Educational Policy to get our citizens equipped to develop and diversify our economy and improve the standard of living and quality of life of all the people in the context of the rapidly emerging technologies of the 21st Century cannot wait. Compared with the Asian Tigers with whom we were at par in the middle 1970s, we are very far behind in per-capita income and over all development. Therefore, we must all do what we can to ensure that the nation adopts and begins to implement in earnest within two years the Modernized Educational Programme and the Language Programme which are so critical for accelerated development, national integration, and peace for our children, their children and future generations.

I thank you all for listening to me patiently.

CHIEF PHILIP C. ASIODU, CFR, CON, HLF

LAGOS

SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

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