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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

Bello grants scholarship to Best Graduating student from Law School

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Ms. Fatima Bombom Sani, the best graduating student at the 2015 Call to Bar examination of the Nigerian Law School, has been granted academic scholarship to the tune of $93,000  by the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

This was made known at the award ceremony at Government House Kogi State over the weekend when the governor received Ms. Fatima Sani, her relatives, alongside Bar. Natasha Akpoti.  In his speech, the governor lamented a situation where academic excellence has not been given the requisite reward in Nigeria.

“The case of Fatima Sani reminds me of how academic excellence has not been adequately rewarded in Nigeria. Imagine someone that bagged nine separate awards including “Best Student of the Year and Council of Education Star Award, and nothing was done for her since 2015.”

The governor also thanked Barr. Natasha Hadiza Akpoti for taking up the case of Fatima Sani by starting an awareness campaign about her academic feat. “I thank Barr. Natasha Akpoti for this if not we won’t all be gathered here.

It was Bar. Natasha Akpoti, who sought the intervention of the Kogi State Governor who was not only surprised but disappointed that Fatima was left unsupported while no information was brought to his office concerning her case.

“I heard about your exceptional performance at the Nigerian Law School in 2015 and assumed you were recognized and sponsored by the administration of the day. It’s unacceptable that such brilliance is not celebrated and promoted. Nevertheless, now that your genuine self is before me, I shall grant you a personal scholarship to celebrate your exceptionality and help your career-defining goals.”

Governor Yahaya Bello stated that after some inquiries and validation of Fatima’s credentials, he in his capacity declared a full scholarship for Fatima to study Masters in Finance Law at the Colombian Law School, in the United States of America.

Gov. Bello thanked Natasha Akpoti for her humanitarian efforts in bringing Fatima’s issue while urging Fatima to uphold her academic excellence and make Nigeria proud and return home to serve her fatherland.

Barr. Natasha Akpoti in her remark thanked the Governor for his benevolence and penchant for promoting academic excellence. “We must celebrate heroes like Fatima in other to motivate young people especially girls towards exceptional educational performances.” She equally advised Fatima to go for her studies and come back to contribute her quota to the development of Kogi state and Nigeria while being a source of inspiration to others.

It would be recalled that Barr. Natasha Akpoti had on the 27th of April 2018 via her Facebook page, advocated for sponsorship to help Fatima further her academic dreams having emerged as the best graduating student at the 2015 Bar exam where she bagged nine separate awards including “Best Student of the Year and Council of Education Star Award.

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Education

AAUA: Mass withdrawal of students looms over fee hike

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  • Visitation panel report: Stakeholders chide govt over delay
  • We’ve handed over report to councils – Commissioner

 

WITHDRAWAL
Some indigent students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) are said to be prepared to withdraw from the institution as they are yet to make headway in their efforts to raise their new school fees

 

 

These are challenging times for indigent students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) and their parents, as many of them are allegedly set to withdraw from the institution due to the astronomical hike in fees.

Following the hike in fees, which was jerked up from between N30,000 to N35,000, to between N80,000 to N150,000 by the management, some students have allegedly shunned the ongoing registration, which is billed to end on Saturday, May 26.

For instance, Richard Olaosebikan, a 300-Level undergraduate of the Department of Political Science, said he was yet to pay the new school fees, as he still struggling to meet up.

He said: “Paying new fees has been difficult for me because things are very hard. I have struggled to make part-payment and I hope I could meet up to pay the rest before the close of portal on Saturday. I am speaking to some people who could help me and I pray they respond before then. I am presently in school to see what I can do and I hope that I will meet up.”

Also, Olaosebikan’s friend, Success Ibitoye, a 400-Level student of the Faculty of Agriculture, New Telegraph gathered, might be forced to drop out of the university if he receives no assistance before Saturday.

According to his friend, Ibitoye is yet to pay a kobo from his school fees which is about N150,000 and to worsen his situation, he does not have any hope of doing so any moment from now simply because of his parents’ background and the harsh economy downturn in the country.

Expressing his predicament, a parent has revealed that contrary to the acclaimed N150,000 fees for the Faculty of Law students, he said he eventually paid N200,000 when departmental fees, and other sundry levies were added.

According to the parent, out of 35 fresh Law students admitted by the university, who are currently undergoing their registration, as at Friday, May 18, only about 15 students were yet to pay their fees, suggesting that they might lose their admission.

But, the spokesman for the university, Mr. Sola Imoru, who said he was not aware of such development, however, noted that the university had since inaugurated the Students’ Support Service to address the challenges of such students that are genuine.

Such students with genuine complaints are expected to visit the Students’ Support Service purposely established by the management for such complaints,” Imoru said, insisting that those alleged to have withdrawn did so out of sheer ignorance.

According to him, the university last week organized an orientation session for the fresh students, where the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun, addressed them on this issue, among others.

Again, the Chairman of the university’s Council, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who also claimed ignorance of the withdrawal of students, hinted that if such case would arise at all, it would be very low. He said the management would look into it with a view to assisting such students.

Also commenting, the Chairman of the institution’s chapter of the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Mr. Tope Famuti said there was yet to be any information to that effect, saying though the fees were increased based on faculty or department, it was not enough for students to withdraw.

According to him, the students were paying about N35,000 before it was increased to between N80,000 and N150,000, but they have the opportunity to pay more than once.
“To the best of my knowledge I don’t have such information as a stakeholder and I am a worker here,” he stressed.
However, his Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) counterpart, Dr. Sola Fayose said it was too hasty to draw such conclusion that some students of the university were withdrawing for their inability to pay the new fees regime.
“For now, we can’t say precisely as the students are still undergoing their registration. Such withdrawal could only be firmly established after their registration and during examination, when we will be able to discover whether some students are no longer in the class.

“Until after registration and examination we cannot determine whether some students have withdrawn or not,” Fayose said.
Meanwhile, major stakeholders in Ondo State education sector have condemned the state government-led by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for its perceived delay in releasing the reports of the Visitation Panel constituted for higher institutions in the state.

They expressed worry that the reports might have been swept under the carpet by the governor, almost four months after the Panel submitted it to the government
Governor Akeredolu, who is the Visitor to the institutions, had on November 21, 2017, inaugurated the Visitation Panel to all the four state-owned tertiary institutions, including the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa; the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED), Ondo; Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo (RUGIPO); and the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA).

The visitation panel to the Ondo State University of Science and Technology was chaired by Prof. Olumide Tewe, while the University of Medical Sciences panel was chaired Prof. Ayo Arowojolu and Rufus Giwa Polytechnic by Prof. Sunday Adewale; and Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, was chaired by Dr. Goke Adegoroye.

Meanwhile, several memoranda in form of reports, petitions and appeals were received from the public, student unions, members of the various university communities, as well as other stakeholders and workers’ unions including ASUU, SSANU, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technicians (NAAT).

The panel, among other terms of reference was to recommend measures and actions to reposition the institutions for optimal performance, examine the financial management of all the tertiary institutions and determine their compliance with appropriate regulations; examine the financial management of the university including subventions, grants, loans and internally generated revenue and determine their compliance with appropriate regulations; examine adequacy of staff and staff development programmes of the university.

The panel, which reports the governor said would reposition the institutions, was also to examine industrial relations among management, staff and students and recommend ways to achieving lasting peace and harmony; examine the state landed properties and other assets of the university; and recommend measures and actions to reposition the university for optimal performance.

It’s believed that issues ranging from repositioning of the various institutions, miss-governance, financial challenges, over-bloated employment, among others, will be considered by the panels.

Other expected recommendations are issues concerning cooperative societies’ deductions, school fees and student welfare; staff issues such as wrongful termination of appointments, withheld promotions, victimization, and administrative issues.

Other critical areas the panel was expected to cover include subventions to the university and their spending, award of contracts, inflation of contracts, financial recklessness, incompetency and moral ineptitude in the system.

With the submission of the report since Friday, January 26, this year, the stakeholders expressed regret over the delay in the release.
But, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, who exonerated the government from the delay in implementing the panel’s report, however, told New Telegraph that the governor, after presentation of the report to the State Executive Council, had immediately transmitted same to the Governing Council of the respective institutions on their inauguration.

“There is autonomy of the institutions and what the government did was to transmit the report to the council of the respective higher institutions on their inauguration for implementation. So, it will be wrong to blame the state government for the delay in implementing the report,” the Commissioner said.
But, contrary to the state government’s claim that the report had been handed over to the Governing Councils of the different institutions, Dr. Abayomi, in a phone call, denied ever receiving such report from the state government.

He, however said the document may have been handed over to the Vice-Chancellor, who he noted is yet brief him.
“I am not aware of such report. I still spoke with the Vice-Chancellor today (Sunday) and I don’t know if he had received such. But, it has not come to my notice. I will see him (Vice-Chancellor) on Thursday this week, maybe he is holding the report till then,” Abayomi said.

Also, the university’s spokesman denied any knowledge of such document, whether or not such had been handed over to the Council or the management.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Fayose, described the governor’s delay in making the panel’s report public as a disservice to the collective development of the institutions.
“Since the report was submitted in January 26, this year, we have been awaiting the White Paper, that will usher in its implementation but this has not been done,” he said, the government has not done things properly.

“If the inauguration of the panel and presentation of the report were made public, the state government should also make public the handing over as claimed by the same government to the councils so that we will know those to hold accountable. But, as it is now we find it is difficult to believe the government.”

Also, the Chairman of SSANU, Famuti, who echoed the position of ASUU, wondered while government had not released the report or made it public.

He said; “There is no gain-saying that public funds have been expended on the various panels which comprise of men and women of integrity, who not only sacrificed their time and energy, but also their experience from various fields to put the report that would give a better direction to our tertiary institutions in the state under the carpet.”

 

 

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Education

FCT students shine at Korea, FG art competition

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No fewer than 30 primary schools across the six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja participated in the ninth Drawing competition, jointly organised by the Federal Government and South Korea.

The competition was instituted in 2010 to mark the diplomatic ties between South Korea and Nigerian governments.
This year’s edition of the competition, which had as theme: “Peace and Conflict Resolution,” showcased a total collection of 150 artworks from students in the FCT.

According to the Director, Korea Cultural Centre Nigeria (KCCN), Mr. Han Sungrae, the essence of the competition was to help children to benefit from the positive effects that arts, especially drawing, could have on children at the formative age, and also to further strengthen the existing relationship and mutual understanding between Nigeria and Korea.

“We recognise how important peace is and that is why we have encouraged these young ones to bear out their minds on what they envision peace to be. In doing so, they have expressed their imaginations, creativity, inventiveness, innovation and cultural awareness,” he said.

The Chairman of FCT Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Kabir Matazu, noted that the various competitions organised by the KCCN for students and teachers in the FCT in the last nine years, was a proof that exposing children to acquisition of skills was the right step to take.

Matazu, who was represented by a Director in the Board, Dr. Hassan Suleiman, assured the organisers of the Board’s continued support to enhance the competition in every possible way.

“It is a wonderful development because the pupils were able to pick in practical terms the theme of this competition, “Peace” by bringing out different artworks portraying peace.

“There are series of conflicts across the world; even in this country there is no day that would pass without conflict in one part or the other.
They are trying to preach that we need to imbibe peace instead of engaging in conflicts. If at their level the children are preaching to the people to embrace peace, I think it is a welcome development,” he said.

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