The importance of education to national development cannot be over emphasized; this underscores the effort made by successive administrations in Nigeria to ensure that the sector is improved. A brief history of the country’s educational policies and programmes goes to prove this fact.
For instance, the Universal Primary Education (UPE) was introduced in September 1976 by the former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo with the aim of meeting the educational needs of the country, but unfortunately it fell short of its expectations. Hence, in 1982 the 6-3-3-4 system of education was introduced by former ‘military president’, General Ibrahim Babangida, this educational policy emphasized the point that a child shall spend 6 years in primary school, 3 years in Junior Secondary School, another 3 years in Senior Secondary School and 4 years in a tertiary institution. Due to poor implementation, this also did not resolve the challenges faced in the sector; hence, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo again in 1999 introduced the Universal Basic Education (UBE) which is currently being used.
Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan lashed out on the 6-3-3-4 system of education at a presidential stakeholders’ summit held in Abuja. He said that the 6-3-3-4 system of education has failed and that the proponents of that policy should apologize to Nigerians. It is imperative to note that Late Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa was Babangida’s Minister of Education at that time.
According to analysts, Jonathan was obviously politicizing the issue of education. This is because; the president was not asking Professor Fafunwa whom he described on his official campaign website as “NIGERIA’S most respected educationist and former Education Minister” who passed on in the early hours of October 11, 2010 at the age of 87 to apologize to Nigerians. Rather, he was trying to score another political point against Babangida who already had loads of rotten eggs in his political basket.
On the other hand, experts believe that the 6-3-3-4 system of education did not fail because the policy was bad, on the contrary, they believe that it was an excellent policy which failed because of inadequate funding, inadequate supply of educational facilities and materials, ineffective monitoring and evaluation, lukewarm attitude of the society towards its acceptance and unavailability of trained man power to drive the policy. Let me quickly add that corruption on the part of some government officials is one major reason for the failure of educational policies in Nigeria.
One example that readily comes to mind is that of the former Minister of Education Professor Fabian Osuji who was dismissed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo following his indictment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly offering N50 million (about $400,000 at that time) bribe to the National Assembly in order to pass an inflated budget. The case was handed to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for persecution. Prof. Osuji was questioned by the ICPC, along with former Senate leader Adolphus Wabara, Senators Abdulazeez Ibrahim, Emmanuel Okpede, Badamasi Maccido and Chris Adighije.
These go to explain the fast and steady decline in Nigeria’s educational sector despite the huge investments made on the sector by successive administrations. It is very ironical to know that the more money given to education in Nigeria the lower the output and the poorer the performance. For instance in 2007, the total budget of Education Ministry was N189.2 billion, while it increased to N210.5 billion 2008 and then N224.7 billion in 2009. Yet there is nothing to show for all these monies except for dilapidated school buildings, ill equipped libraries and laboratories, incessant strikes and poorly paid teachers.
This is evident in the industrial action embarked upon by some state-owned universities in the South-East part of the country since July 22, 2010. Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the region are protesting the non-implementation of the 2009 Federal Government/National ASUU agreement by state governments in the zone. They complained that the 2009 agreement was reached in order to address issues of dismal working conditions, poor funding and dilapidated facilities.
It is very disappointing for some state governors to threaten the striking lecturers with court action instead of dialogue. The Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, a 1987 graduate of the University of Port-Harcourt threatened to drag the Rivers State University of Science and Technology chapter of ASUU to court for embarking on a strike over an agreement reached with the Federal Government by its national body. Why would someone who has passed through the university system ever think of taking such an action thereby toying with the future of the students?
These lecturers are not asking for too much, they are simply requesting for enabling working conditions. These are not market men and women who can be deceived they are the custodian of academic knowledge in the country; they know what is happening in government and have details of the country’s annual educational budget hence they know what they are demanding.
The way forward for education in this country is not by changing educational policies and programmes, whatever policy that is put in place should be fully implemented and those responsible for the sector need a change of attitude, there should be a sense of patriotism on their part.