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Stakeholders set agenda for education in 2018

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SECTORAL AGENDA: Ahead of the Year 2018, which commenced yesterday, stakeholders in the nation’s education sector have set agenda for the system, hoping they would address the multifarious challenges facing us as a country

As the nation begins the journey into 2018, major players in the education sector, who are already apprehensive over the unfavourable developments in the system, have set agenda for the sector’s revitalisation.

These stakeholders, which include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); Education Rights Concern (ERC) and other members of the academia, have called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to rise up to the challenges of rescuing the sector from its imminent collapse.

Citing the poor allocation to the sector in the proposed 2018, which is currently before the National Assembly, among other numerous unresolved challenges confronting the system, hold the view that as the fulcrum for national development, education deserves priority in the order of things.

Some of the issues listed by these stakeholders, which they claim are deserving of the attention of government at all levels, include incessant workers’ strikes, paucity of funds, dearth of instructional materials, decayed infrastructure, shortage of qualified teachers, and poor teachers’ remuneration and welfare, among others.

According to them, the ongoing indefinite nationwide strike embarked upon by the non-teaching staff unions of universities, comprising the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), who are protesting the alleged disparity in the disbursement of the earned allowance to all the staff unions in Nigerian universities, should be addressed without further delay. Following the strike, which entered its second month this week, administrative and other allied activities across Nigerian universities had been paralysed with many universities abruptly shutting down.

Lamenting the low budgetary allocation to the education sector, they criticized the Federal Government for paying a lip service to the ailing sector, which they said would be worse for it this year, if nothing substantial was done to improve funding into the system. They said the proposal of N605.8 billion, representing only about 7 per cent of the total budget of N8.6 trillion fiscal budget to education, is too meager to take the sector out of the wood.

Going by the trend of the budgetary allocations in the last nine years, the government in 2010 voted N293,427,655,563 (7.19%); 2011- N393,810,171,775 (9.32%); 2012 – N468,385,037,983 (9.86%); 2013 – N499,761,707,838 (10.15%); 2014-N494,783,130,261 (10.54%); 2015- N484,263,784,654 (10.78%); 2016 – N480,278,214,639 (7.92%); 2017 – N550,597,184,148 (7.40%); and 2018 – N605,800,080,038 (7.04%).

Beyond budget, another critical area stakeholders want the government to touch in the year is the release and rescue of some lecturers of the University of Maiduguri, who were kidnapped several months ago.

They called on state governors to provide matching grants to access the several billions of Naira, which have continued to lying fallow with the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), while Nigerian public primary and secondary schools have continued in their scandalous state of disrepair. This situation has propelled poor parents to patronise mushroom private schools that are mis-educating innocent Nigerian children. Today, many states are owing teachers several months of salary arrears, ranging from three to 11, and without any concerted move to address the issue.

“The criminal neglect of public insti tutions has also crept into provision of tertiary education especially the universities. This is most evident in budgetary allocation. In the last three years, for example, allocations to education has slid from about eight per cent to seven per cent. New tertiary institutions were whimsically established without any idea of how they will be funded or what to do with the older ones,” they said.

For instance, with the sector suffering under the present administration, the National President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, noted that what had been proposed as budget for education for 2018 is no clear departure from what we have witnessed within the last three years.

He queried: “When will Nigerian government see education as a right for its citizens and not as a privilege as guaranteed by Section 18 of the Constitution; when will education become the cornerstone of our national development; that is, when are we going to decide to make education the centre of our advancements in health, infrastructure, agriculture, arts, social life, among others; and when will the country match action with policy plans; that is, when are we going to stop intellectual gyration alone and match action with words?” The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has also hinted that the nation’s education sector in 2018, will be a colossal disappointment given the meager 7 per cent allocation to the sector.

Speaking through its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abdulsobur Abdulsalam, the union blamed the government for showing a clear lack of direction and insincerity to move the sector forward.

“As far as public universities are concerned, we have witnessed a spate of industrial actions which would have been avoided if government had acted responsibly. As we speak, our union and two others are on strike for reasons which would have been avoided,” SSANU said.

It accused the government of approving the establishment of more private universities, while public universities were being neglected obviously deliberately, for the purpose of promoting private universities owned by the same people who destroyed the public universities.

In the budget proposal presented by President Buhari, of the N605.8 billion total education budget, N435.1 billion is for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure and N109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Meanwhile, stakeholders have expressed dismay over what they described as floppy allocation where recurrent expenditure far outweighs capital expenditure, saying what development is being expected from such awkward allocation.

To the former Vice-Chancellor of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba- Akoko, Ondo State, Prof. Femi Mimiko, who described education as the bedrock of national development, insisted that a literate population is the fulcrum around which democracy revolves.

According to him, any nation that must be great must prioritise education as there is no shortcut about that. “It is not without reason that our Regional governments of old each spent close to 50 per cent of their annual budget on education.

It is a shame that what Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and his colleagues knew about education more than half a century ago is now lost on the current generation. It is so sad,” Mimiko said. Even if you add what goes to subheads such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and UBEC, among others, to this, what figure you get is still indefensibly minuscule.

“This nation is yet to come to the realisation that education is the greatest and wisest investment a country can make,” he argued.

On its part, a non-governmental organization, the Education Rights Concern (ERC), however, blamed that government for what he called its extant policy of education commercialisation and the culture of intolerance of democratic rights. Its National Coordinator, Mr. Taiwo Hassan, who bemoaned the level of decay of the sector, noted that the education sector will be in stormy waters come 2018 if all the nagging issues were not addressed or tackled headlong.

Some of the sectoral crises, according to the stakeholders, include the crisis of sacking of over 21,000 teachers who were said to have failed the competence test conducted for them by the Kaduna State Government, led by Governor Nasir el-Rufai. This development has pitched workers’ unions nationwide against the government.

According to ERC, the paltry sum allocated for funding of the sector implies that the public primary and secondary schools will largely remain in their deplorable conditions with inadequate facilities and ill-trained and poorly remunerated teaching and non-teaching staff.

“If proposed funding to education is not increased in the 2018 appropriation bill, many on-going capital projects in public tertiary institutions, except TETFUND projects, will remain abandoned while important teaching infrastructure requiring urgent repairs or upgrade would remain in their deplorable state,” Hassan said.

Towards this end, he pointed out that what this would suggest is that new waves of fee hikes should be expected as universities, polytechnics and colleges would now descend on students and their poor working class parents to make up for funding shortfalls. The resultant effects of this, which he hinted would be negative on the sector, would be further crises which would disrupt academic calendar in the schools to the detriment of students.

A don at the University of Ibadan (UI) and a Professor of African literature and Oral literature at the Department of English at the premier university, Ademola Dasylva, bemoaned the poor state of the education sector, saying paucity of funding is the most critical challenge of the sector.

Dasylva, who expressed worry over the quantum of the yearly budget that really goes into the system, called on the government to implement the 2009 Agreement reached with the workers’ unions to ensure stability in the sector in 2018. He queried: “Ask the government how much of 2017 budget was implemented? The responses you get will not be the same, even from core political office holders. Most of them do not know.

The more you look the less you see. Every year, huge sum of money is allocated to service the status quo, especially for same number of cars for National Assembly and House of Representatives members.

Again, huge sums of money annually allocated to purchasing computers for the President’s office, and other core offices running into billions of naira at the expense of more important things and critical sectors like education, health, food and security. This is really appalling.”

The stakeholders, who scored the sector very low in 2017, blamed the successive administrations for the age-long neglect and inadequate funding of the sector, saying the education sector might not fare well in the year given the current body language of the government to the development of the sector.

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Education

JUST IN: Student killed during protest at Plateau College of Education

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The Management of the College of Education Gindiri, Mangu Local Government of Plateau state has close down academic activities in the School indefinitely, following students protest, which claimed the life of a student and properties worth millions of naira also destroyed.

Investigation revealed that the students had embarked on a protest demanding for the released of the identification card and also cancellation of a National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS Policy which they claimed to have paid to the school, but whenever the approach the school clinic the management still as them to pay another money.

New Telegraph gathered that during the protest, the students on rampage burnt down the school Clinic and also damage several cars belonging to staffs as well as destroyed doors and windows of the Administrative buildings of the institution before the arrival of the security.

Public Relationship officer of the School Mrs Elizabeth Aboreng who spoke New Telegraph on a Telephone call disclose that the students from NCE Two class had protested the released of their ID card by the school management and later took laws into their hands by burning down properties in the institution including the school clinic and Ambulance.

“The Management of the institution has close down the school indefinitely, Because the students of NCE two had issues of Identification Card which was not released to them, but the made the Acting Provost Mr Cornelius Ka-ankuka and he resolved that the ID Card was to be made available today, but surprisingly today the students went on rampage without waiting to collect the ID cards and burn down two ambulances belonging to the school, burn down the clinic and also destroy staffs cars” she said.

However, New Telegraph gathered that in the midst of the protests, one student was alleged to have been hit by a stray bullet and died on the spot.

When contacted, the Plateau State Police command, Public Relations officer, DSP Mathias Tyopev, confirmed the incident and said he is expecting details from the Divisional Police officer of Gindiri, Mangu LGC of the state.

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2018 UTME: Candidates protest exam date, seek postponement

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Human and vehicular movements along Bariga-Akoka road, Lagos, were, this afternoon, impeded when hundreds of candidates, who have registered to sit the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) staged a protest over what they described as the inconsiderate stance of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) by fixing the examination for March.

The candidates carried placards with various inscriptions such as; “Admissions are yet to close, why conducting another UTME now?”; “JAMB isn’t for revenue generation, stop milking our parents,” “2017 UTME held in May, why March in 2018?” “2018 admissions not transparent,” among others.

They said many of them who had hoped to be admitted by various institutions during the 2017/2018 academic calendar year just found out this week that they were not admitted and that less than one month cannot be enough to prepare for another examination.

But JAMB has justified the decision to hold the examination between March 9 and 17, noting that it was a decision jointly taken by other examination bodies to avoid clash of timetables and to ensure that all admissions are concluded by August every year for smooth academic system.

The examination body, however, advised the 245,000 candidates billed to take part in its Monday Mock test to visit the website to reprint their slips and prepare adequately for the examination.

Addressing the press during the protest, the National President of the Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr. Dotun Sodunke, who led the candidates to the streets, said if allowed to hold as scheduled Nigeria would experience another round of mass failure.

He said if JAMB was not only concerned about generating revenue for the government it would consider the candidates in fixing the date for the examination, saying it is obvious that there was no way the candidates would complete the UTME syllabus under one month.

Sodunke added that institutions like the University of Benin, Yaba College of Technology, among others, still released admission list on Wednesday, and that the students who had applied to such institutions but are yet to be admitted would not concentrate on preparation for another examination.

He said; “The new head of JAMB needs to be called to order. He should not be carried away by the euphoria of revenue generation. The future of this country depends on these children. JAMB is sure that if you conduct the exam early, many candidates would fail, and they would come back to register again next year. This is so because their children don’t school here.

“Admissions are yet to be concluded, yet you are fixing date for another one. Who does that? The introduction of the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) is also a fraud. You would be admitted on JAMB portal and on CAPS page it would deny you admission. Everything is done in secrecy as we don’t even know which schools are organizing post-UTME and which ones are not. Every institution is doing what it wants. Things must not go on like this.”

However, the Head of the Press and Public Relations Unit of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, explained that there was yet no basis for the postponement being sought by the candidates, saying the date had been fixed as early as December, 2017, and that it was made public.

Benjamin said; “We need to place the interest of this country above selfish interest. The candidates are not the ones staging protest but the tutorial centres operators, and parents must intervene to rein them in. They are doing this because they want to keep the candidates at their centres till May so that they can get more money from them. Things are not done that way.

“JAMB is not alone in this business. All stakeholders in Nigeria’s education sector have realised that our calendar must be organised and firm as we experience abroad, and it must start somewhere. Even if heaven will fall, the new government wants to ensure that academic calendar starts every August, and that is why all admissions will be concluded by August this year. So if these candidates are affected, we apologise to them, it is for their good and the good of the nation.”

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Mixed reactions trail Lagos’ Yoruba preservation law

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NUC: Law against universities admission policy

•JAMB: NCE has exclusive right on admission

•ASUU, SSANU: Better to introducing language as general study

POLICY

Stakeholders are divided over the Lagos’ Yoruba preservation law, set to deny candidates without a Credit Pass in Yoruba language, admission into the state’s higher institutions

With the new Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion Law promulgated by the Lagos State Government, the state may have stirred up the hornet’s nest, particularly among stakeholders in the education sector, if the reaction trailing the policy is anything to go by.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had last week promulgated the law, which seeks to make Credit Pass in Yoruba language at the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) level, one of the prerequisites for admission into any of the state’s higher institutions.

While some of the stakeholders see the law as a welcome development, but with suggested modifications, others condemned the decision in its entirety, insisting that no state government is empowered to add such conditions to admission requirements.

The agencies of government that are concerned with admission processes such as the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) have described the law as misplaced priorities and illegal.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), whose members are involved in admission processes on various campuses, have also raised some fundamental issues about the new law, suggesting how best the governor’s intention could be achieved without ‘localising’ the institutions.

On Thursday, last week, Governor Ambode, flanked by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan and the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, among others, formally assented the bill into law “to provide for the preservation and promotion of the use of Yoruba Language and for connected purposes.”

By this step, Lagos became the first state to enact such law, seeking to preserve and promote its indigenous language.

There were other six bills assented by the governor on the same occasion and they included: the Amended Land Use Charge bill, School of Nursing bill, Cooperative College bill, Cancer Research Institute bill, Amended Customary Court bill and the State Electric Power Reform Bill.

On its part, the Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion law provides that all the laws in the state “will be translated into Yoruba Language and all state-owned tertiary institutions are to incorporate the use of Yoruba Language in the General Studies (GNS) courses.”

It added: “The use of Yoruba language shall be an acceptable means of communication between individuals, establishment, corporate entities and government in the state, if so desired by the concerned. It shall not be an offence for a person to speak Yoruba language by the state government.”

As a stern warning to those who may be willing to contravene the new law, the provision of Section 2 of the law states that any institution found guilty of flouting it commits an offence and is liable on first violation to issuance of warning and on subsequent violation be closed down and also pay a fine of N500,000.

According to the state government, the socio-cultural value of the Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion Law 2018, “has also made it mandatory for all candidates seeking admission into our tertiary institutions to secure Credit Pass in Yoruba at SCCE. Yoruba will now become a major requirement to engage in normal business communication in Lagos State.”

Adding, the state’s Commissioner for Information was quoted to have said: “This is a clear and conscious commitment to the position which Lagos State prides Yoruba language as the cultural vehicle for us to be able to articulate our position and it also shows that Lagos has further recognised the importance of language as a vehicle for development.”

With the law, Bamigbetan said anyone seeking admission into the Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos State School of Nursing and Lagos State College of Health Technology, among others, must have Credit Pass in Yoruba language.

However, in its response to the development, NUC has described the law as illegal, saying admissions and regulations of universities’ programmes are exclusive of the National Council on Education (NCC), which comprises the Federal Government and state governments’ representatives.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, NUC’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Mallam Ibrahim Yakassai, said NUC is not bothered on the matter, and that the ball is on the court of the candidates who may be denied admission based on the law. He said such candidates have the right to challenge such decisions in court.

Yakassai said: “Lagos State does not have such power as it concerns universities admission. All admissions to universities in this country must be through JAMB. I don’t know about other higher institutions, but as it concerns the universities, states do not have such powers.

“Education may be on concurrent list, but admission is central and exclusively for Federal Government. Universities admit but admission letters are issued by JAMB, and there are guidelines for admissions. That is why every year, the National Council on Education (NCE) meets, and this involves representatives of all the 36 states of the federation. That is where such policy decisions are made.”

Yakassai further explained that there is a window of opportunities for the universities to introduce such languages as general studies course on various campuses, and that they may compel their students to pass such course upon admission, but not as a condition for admission.

Similarly, to JAMB, such law is strange, and that rather than promoting the language, it would only end up reducing it to a local subject among its speakers.

An official of the examination body, who craved anonymity, said JAMB, would await the state or the Lagos State University (LASU) to write it before it takes any decision.

The source said: “JAMB will be waiting for communication from the state before taking any decision. But what is clear is that only National Council on Education has the exclusive mandate to determine admission requirements.”

The President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said such initiative aimed at protecting indigenous language is supported by the National Policy on Education and the constitutional provision that places education on concurrent list.

Ogunyemi, however, cautioned that it would be better if the language is introduced as a general study course in the institutions and not as requisite for admission.

He said: “It is not new for a people or country to seek to protect their languages. Some programmes in higher institutions in Finland, China, Germany and even France are taught in their languages and not English. Before you can be awarded their certificates, you would have been made to go through the languages.

“So, Yoruba Language can be brought in through that means. It is a welcome development because our languages are fast losing their pride of place.”

Also speaking, the National Public Relations Officer of SSANU, Mr. Abdulsobur Abdulsalaam, hailed the development, but also toed the line of ASUU President.

Abdulsalaam, who is on the admission team of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said by introducing the subject as a general studies course, it would help in promoting the language, even among its non-speakers.

“We cannot close the doors completely against those who had never studied the language by introducing it as a requirement for admission. Rather, if it is introduced as a general studies course, as it is done abroad, then non-speakers of the language would be made to experience it, and by that, it would further expose it to outside world,” he advised.

Meanwhile, efforts to seek further clarifications on the law from the Special Adviser on Education to Governor Ambode, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh did not yield result, as he neither picked his call nor replied text message sent to his phone.

However, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Bamigbetan promised to give detailed information about the law and respond to the questions on the legality of the position on Monday.

The short text message sent to New Telegraph by Bamigbetan reads in part: “Please expect a robust response on Monday morning. I need to quote sections of the law.”

On his part, former Rector of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Mr. Olawumi Gasper, an engineer, said the policy would ridicule the “universality of the university system.”

“With this bill it means a Brazilian, Briton or German, who intends to study at undergraduate level at the Lagos State University (LASU) and to further research on his ancestry has been deprived such opportunity going by the new policy for admission,” he added.

According to him, universities have common global standards and shared values, which the bill has already defeated.

On the effect of the policy on the system, Gasper said “wherein lies the autonomy of the university,” even as he further queried whether the policy received the concurrence of the university Senate, or not.

Also, a Professor of History and International Relations at Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Osogbo, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, described the bill as a welcome development and a right step in the right direction.

He, however, commended Lagos State Government for what he described as “a Yeoman Job,” saying the state deserves great commendation for its foresight in promoting Yoruba language.

“The Yoruba Language Bill is a right decision taken by the Lagos State Government at this crucial period when the language is almost going into extinction,” Oyeweso said, stressing that Yoruba language deserves its right place and recognition like other foreign languages in our school system.

The don, who noted that the passage of the bill epitomizes the revival of Yoruba language, recalled the important role scholars such as the late Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola and Adebayo Faleti had played in the growth and development of the language. He lamented that scholars of Yoruba Language are fast diminishing.

He, therefore, called on other states of Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Ogun to emulate Lagos State, even as Oyeweso said: “We don’t need America, Germany and Britain to develop our language for us.”

He praised the state lawmakers for doing “a wonderful work,” and sought the enforcement of the bill, saying any school that failed to comply with the policy should be sanctioned or have its operating licence withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Proprietor of Rholak Group of Schools, Meiran, Lagos, Dr. Olakunle Ologun, said since education is on the concurrent list, Lagos State has the right to formulate its education policies.

Ologun, who hinted that he wondered why such policy should be condemned, lamented that already Yoruba language is going into extinction and a bold step needed to be taken to restore it.

“There is the urgent need to propagate the studying of Yoruba Language in our school and so Lagos has done the right thing. The policy statement should be enforced in order to make it work,” he added.

While insisting that the state has done nothing wrong with the policy, Ologun, however, hinted that in the South-East, Igbo language is being used as medium of instruction in most of its schools.

“Any candidate could go to federal institutions or in their states. It is a right policy and Lagos has every right to legislate on its education. The action does not preclude other states from doing similar thing to move their language and culture forward,” he argued.

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