Education stakeholders set agenda for Buhari


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Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election penultimate week, the poser on education stakeholders’ mind is: Will he right the wrongs in the education sector this second term? Though rated average in his first term performance in education, his achievements, they say, can be improved upon to dwarf the percieved drawbacks. In this report by ADEGUNLE OLUGBAMILA, JANE CHIJIOKE, ZAINAB LAWAL, BUSOLA SEBIOTIMO and RUKAYAT AKANNI, the stakeholders speak on how the sector can be improved upon in Buhari’s second term. Will President Muhammadu Buhari meet stakeholders’ expectations in education? This seems to be the poser on stakeholders’ mind. The President was given another chance penultimate weekend when he won the presidential poll, conducted on February 23. Though rated average in education sector, Buhari they believe, should use the next four years to right the wrongs in the sector. The outgoing first term is plagued  with pockets of industrial actions by workers in tertiary institutions, especially the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP); College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU); and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), among others. Their agitations hinged on poor funding, improved welfare of members, as well as government’s failure to fulfil its part of the agreement signed with the unions. To further worsen the situation, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), in December last year, issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to force a compromise with the striking teachers, failure of which it vowed to stage a nationwide protest to distrupt the general elections. Early last month, ASUP’s National Executive Council (NEC) suspended its two month-old strike. A few days after, ASUU followed suit, putting on hold an industrial strike which  dragged for nearly two months. The unions’ actions followed another Memorandum of Action (MoA) they signed with the Federal Government.  Both unions warned the government of the consequences of not complying with the MoA. “We have signed a new Memorandum of Action today (Monday). Each item contained in the MOA has a timeline attached. It is our hope that our trust will not be dashed again, we hope that the government will abide with the timeline attached to all the items in the MOA,” ASUU  National President Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said at a briefing in Abuja to suspend the strike. ASUP President Comrade Usman Dutse also echoed the union’s stance. With the foregoing, it appears there is much work for the government to do to justify the confidence reposed in it against dismal budgetary allocations, poor infrastructure and instructional materials in schools, dearth of manpower development in critical areas, as well as insecurity in schools, to mention just a few. Budgetary provision for education in this year’s budget, again, dipped in contrast to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) 15 to 20 per cent of budgets recommendation for developing countries. The education sector got N620.5bn (about 7.05 per cent), a marginal rise over the N605.8bn allocated to the sector last year. However, reactions from parents, students and others, who spoke to The Nation, revealed that the government must wake up from its slumber, have better listening ears and use the next four years to correct its mistakes and consolidate on its previous performance and gains. A teacher at Reagan Memorial Baptist Girl’s Secondary School, Sabo, Yaba in Lagos, Foluke Ajayi, rated the Federal Government’s performance on education, with regards to infrastructure and curriculum development, low. According to Ajayi, aside that some subjects overlap, various subjects are crowded into one, making learning difficult. “Starting from the curriculum, it is not stable and that is why students find it difficult to cope with so many subjects introduced, as well as the topics involved. Also, the merging of some subjects is really affecting students’ comprehension of some of the various subjects,” she said. She continued: “Not only that, infrastructure in our public schools has become an eyesore, especially in the East, North and the rural area of the West. Instructional materials too are not readily available for students’ use. I also think Nigeria is endowed with a good number of educationists, who should be given the key portfolios to handle in education.” Ajayi, however, commended the free meal initiative in some states, but condemned the poor remuneration of teachers. “The free meal given to students in some states is commendable, but inspection to schools is not there as it once was. I still disapprove the meagre remuneration of teachers. Also, the evaluation system of our students should be increased,” she said. Corroborating Ajayi, a teacher at Amazing Grace International School, Idi-Araba, Lagos State, Ebong Solomon, is not positive of a change in the sector. “In...