With barely five days to the first anniversary of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, stakeholders, no doubt, will like to assess his leadership approach in the various sectors of the nation’s economy. And education is not going to be an exception.
Issues bearing on funding, policies, stable academic calendar, among others, will be in the front burner of the discourse. But how well has the Buhari leadership fared in the last one year? While a few have given his tenure a pass mark, especially with regard to stable academic calendar and fighting corruption, many others say that more needs to be done to properly accomplish the ‘change mantra’ in the education sector.
According to the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Dr. Caleb Aborisade, the Federal Government has not done anything significant in the sector in the past one year.
The President, Aborisade added, had not carried out “any meaningful change” in the sector despite his promises during electioneering.
The ASUU chairman, however, said Buhari had been fighting corruption effectively.
He said, “I have not seen any meaningful thing done by this administration in the education sector. The only thing I know Buhari government is doing is fighting corruption and he is doing that well.
“This government has also shown that it is a democratic government. If you look at the way the dissolution of some boards, including that of universities took place, he did it in an error and when he saw people’s reactions, he apologised and reinstated them. This is commendable. But teachers in staff schools of federal universities have not been receiving salaries since February. This is bad.”
Despite this, Aborisade said the administration could still carry out an extensive review in the sector.
Aborisade said, “Government should allocate more funds to the education sector. More hostels should be built, more lecture rooms should be built and laboratories should be equipped to make teaching better and create a more conducive environment for learning.
“There is no significant improvement in the fund allocated to the education sector in this year’s budget. The government should encourage teachers by exposing them to trainings and seminars to make them better. The nation will benefit immensely from this.
“I also want the government to encourage local researchers. This will ensure the desired development in the country. Instead of depending on foreigners to drive our development efforts, I think the nation will benefit more if we encourage local researcher.”
The University of Jos ASUU Chairman, Dr. Chris Piwuna, who also said that the sector had not fared well, blamed it on the late passage of the 2016 budget.
Noting also that there had not been any major policy statement within the period, he added that the delayed budget did not allow intervention agencies, such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, to perform their statutory roles.
Besides, some stakeholders argued that not much was coming from the ministry, especially from the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. Apart from the sacking of the 13 vice-chancellors and the accompanying controversy that trailed the action, the minister, they said, seemed to be “living in inaction.”
There also seems to be no further news on the recruitment of the 500, 000 teachers promised by the government. According to the Education Rights Campaign Coordinator, Mr. Taiwo Hassan, the promised recruitment of teachers and the provision of free meal and tuition for 100, 000 STEM undergraduates have not materialised.
Even the outcome of the panels the minister inaugurated to examine the allegations of financial and administrative abuses levelled against some vice-chancellors and rectors of tertiary institutions has yet to be made public.
Adamu had last December set up probe panels to visit the Federal University, Dustin-Ma, Katsina State; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State; University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State; Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State and the University of Abuja.
Others are the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State; Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State; Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State; Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State and the University of Calabar, Cross River State.
The panels submitted their reports in January. The Civil Liberties Organisation President, Mr. Igho Akeregha, who maintained that the reports be made public, said the call had become imperative “to serve the full course of justice and stem ravaging corruption in the country’s higher institutions.”
The last one year has also witnessed frequent protests on campuses and an onslaught against student unionism in the country. The examples abound. From the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State; Yaba College of Technology; University of Lagos, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State; to the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, just to mention a few, it has been one crisis after the other. With regard to this, Hassan said that the minister had not shown any concern about the plight of the students. According to him, nobody has seen or heard Adamu comment on all students’ protests recorded since his assumption of office.
Though on paper education received a good mention in terms of funding (N369.6bn out of N6trn) this year, stakeholders said that there was more to it than met the eyes.
For example, Piwuna said that the government had not looked into the implementation of the 2009 agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government, an action, he added, was stifling the growth of the university system.
The unionist explained, “The inability of the Federal Government in the last one year to look at that agreement is a minus. There are outstanding issues which are very important and germane to the growth of education in the country and I think the government is lacking in its responsibility by not looking at this vital aspect.”
Hassan, who said the crisis of underfunding would continue, explained that a large population of young people would continue to be left behind.
To arrest the situation, Hassan urged the government to invest massively in funding public education, judicious spending of the money as well as ensure a democratic running of the ivory towers.