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Who amongst these presidential candidates will change Nigeria’s education sector?

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It is a few days to the much-awaited 2023 presidential elections. The political atmosphere is getting more electrified by the day amidst the fuel scarcity, cash crunch tensions, and round-off of political campaigns.

Eighteen political parties are expected to participate in the presidential election. In the last six months, candidates have engaged Nigerians intensively declaring their agenda, and reeling out promises and plans for the critical sectors if they emerged the winner. 

Critical among the agenda of most candidates is their plans for the Nigerian education sector. 

In the words of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” as such it is expected that to succeed in addressing the plethora of challenges facing the nation, the next president of Nigeria must get it right with the education sector.

In this article, Edugist has done a critical analysis of the plans of three leading contenders in the presidential race to revamp the sector and their achievements while serving in previous political offices.

These are: Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Gregory Obi of Labour Party (LP). 

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Popularly known as the Asiwaju of Lagos and the Jagaban of the Borgu kingdom in Niger State, Prior to his candidature as president, he served as Governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007 and Senator for Lagos West during the Third Republic.  

 Some milestones in the previous office

  • Activated the free education programme in all public primary and secondary schools including payment of WAEC/NECO fees as well as all internal examination fees to ensure that indigent children do not drop out of school.
  • Commenced computer education and provided equipment for learning in schools. 
  • Established five (5) new libraries and computer centres were established in the five division of the state; this is coupled with the establishment of library in each public school
  • In 1999, Tinubu relinquished his monthly basic salary to four rehabilitation centres until further notice. The beneficiaries of this charity are: Pacelli School 1 and 11 (Surulere), Modupe Cole Children Care and Treatment House (Yaba) and The Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria (Ikeja) 
  • Awarded scholarship of one hundred and twenty-seven million naira to over 4,000 students in tertiary institutions
  • Invested N1 billion to develop the state’s educational institute, Lagos State University
  • Constructed of four millennium secondary schools(though initially pledged to build at least one millennium school in each of the 20 local councils) as a new model for public schools

Plans for education sector

  • Reintroduce Nigerian history to school curriculum.
  • Make indigenous language courses compulsory for all children throughout secondary school.
  •  Institute a student loan regime.
  • Establish a special education fund that will be responsible for funding university education through the selling of bonds.
  • Establish a task force headed by a special czar to address the problem of out-of-school children.

 Atiku Abubakar

Former vice president of Nigeria (1999 – 2007) and a successful serial businessman, Atiku Abubakar is widely known to be a strong advocate of the importance of Nigeria’s educational system. He founded the American University of Nigeria (AUN) located in Yola, Adamawa. 

Some previous achievements while in office

  • Introduction of free tuition policy in all federal universities.
  • Implementation of the national policy on space science.
  • Implementation of national policy on information technology.
  • Reintroduction and expansion of the federal scholarship programme.
  • Establishment of distance learning (open university system).
  • Introduction of free and compulsory Universal Basic Education (UBE).

Asides from the achievements recorded under the Obasanjo administration, there are other personal strides that can be attributed to the PDP presidential candidate.

Through his university’s leadership institute, the Atiku Institute for Leadership (AID) of the American University of Nigeria, Atiku has been committed to enhancing education in northeast Nigeria. 

The institute has launched different programmes such as Strengthening Education in the Northeast Nigeria States (SENSE) and the Feed and Read program (launched in 2015).

Feed and Read Program focuses on identifying and reaching boys and girls outside the formal education framework and gradually blending them into the formal learning system.

SENSE promotes reading in early grades and strengthens teaching and learning capacities. In three years of funding activity, SENSE has successfully delivered high-quality teacher professional development to 10,000 primary school teachers in the two states.

 How Atiku plans to revamp education in Nigeria

  • Collaborate with state governments to prioritise science and technical education, including ICT and related IT-based programmes.
  • Incentivise for the private sector to set up additional Vocational Enterprise Institutes and to partner with the public sector in skills provision.
  • Encourage and promote more schools for girls in science and technology and generally stimulate interest in science courses for women.
  • Ensure federal ministry of education to focus on its core functions of policy design, standardisation, monitoring and evaluation. This includes vigorous promotion of Science and Technical Education to create skills for the new economy.
  • Increase primary school enrolment from 60 per cent to 90 per cent and graduation rate from 63 per cent to 82 per cent  by 2030.
  • Increase secondary school enrolment from 47 per cent to 80 per cent and the graduation rate from 56 per cent to 75 per cent by 2030.

Peter Gregory Obi

During his time in office as the governor of Anambra State (2007 – 2014), Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi was recognized as a model governor for his investments and accomplishments in the education sector.

Previous achievements 

  • Returned all schools to their original owners which led to revitalisation as centres of academic excellence; as well as strongholds for character and citizenship development. Over 1400 schools were returned to missionaries and volunteer organisations.
  • Earmarked N6 billion as a special fund for the restructuring and maintenance of the schools which were distributed to the new owners of these schools.
  • Under his administration, Anambra State was adjudged the best in improved school infrastructure in Nigeria. In addition, a World Bank study supervised by Paul Collier of Oxford University, UK recommended the Anambra Model for the rest of Africa and other developing countries.
  • Also under his administration, the State’s ranking in national high school examinations, NECO and WAEC moved from the 26th position to 3rd and eventually, 1st in both categories by 2013.

How he plans to revamp education in Nigeria

  • Introduce a mandatory “No Child Left Behind” educational policy.
  • Prioritise a structured approach to developing the digital skills of our young population for the new gig economy.
  • Address the gaps in the legislation guiding the funding access modalities to Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
  • Enable the public-private model that involves private corporations assuming funding and managerial responsibilities in a specially restructured taxation plan.
  • Improve and strengthen the education system to make it more efficient, accessible, qualitative, and relevant
  • Set up an agency for the regulation of private tertiary education and vigorous promotion of Science and Technical Education to create skills for the new economy.

Plans not sufficient to revamp the education sector – analysts

Reacting to the plans from the three leading candidates, analysts and education advocates have averred that more needs to be done to revamp the sector.

During a live review of the manifestoes on Channels Television, Politics programme, Budgit co-founder, Seun Onigbede  noted that while each candidate had great ideas, none of the leading candidates made a commitment on budgetary allocation. It has often been reported that the United Nations, has urged the Nigerian Government to increase its current budgetary allocation to the education sector from seven to 20 per cent in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4—universal, inclusive and equitable basic education for all school-age children by 2030.

Also, while speaking with Edugist, education advocate and proprietor of Adams College, Adams Adebola said the first focus of the presidential candidates should be to make the current educational environment in the country conducive for learning. “If you go to most of the public schools in Nigeria, there is infrastructural breakdown. If you go to many institutions, you will be shocked to know that they lack laboratories. The new government needs to address this. Likewise, there is a need to improve the welfare of the teachers and staff in schools and colleges within the country”, he said.

Adebola said that today education is no longer interesting, rather it is considered a scam. He also hinged on the need to make learning competitive. “Competitiveness has almost been eradicated in schools. I remember those days when you graduate with a first class, it is considered a big honour but today, what you will hear students say is ‘who first class help?’. 

“Similarly, many universities, excluding private universities when awarding the best graduating students, hardly give award prize money of up to N100,000 and this is a slap. Especially when you compare them to social programs like Project Fame, Big Brother Naija where winners cash out as high as N50 million. 

He added the current plans shared by the candidates are better spoken than achieved. 

Also, corroborating Onigbede on budget, Adebola noted that there was need for the candidates to express their commitment to improving budgetary allocation.

Another stakeholder who spoke with Edugist called for improved funding and implementation of the nation’s education policy. “If we have good plans and there is no commitment to funding the sector, nothing will change”, said a school administrator who pleaded anonymity. ” What we need is a system that works. A system that addresses the safety needs of the students. Today in Nigeria, we see low cost schools made out of flats. The school is on the 2nd floor of a story building, while there are people living or selling things below it. How can children learn that environment?”. 

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Ubong Duncan
Ubong Duncan
1 year ago

This is loveable. Precise yet comprehensive. Thank you Grace for this writ-up and kudos to the team.

In addendum to the submissions of Adams Adebola, the welfare of children and teachers, especially in public primary schools in Nigeria (with Lagos as a case study) is a far cry to the SDG goals for 2030.

How can at this time and age, a primary school doesn’t have a functional toilet for both teachers and pupils? No water i.e well or borehole etc. You see children going to the bush to urinate or defecate, exposing them to health hazards or harmful reptiles in the bush. I mean, how on earth can schools be encouraging open defecation?

Grace, our primary schools need proper and urgent attention as it is the cradle of the education we seek to transform.

Once again, well-done

Warm Regards

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