A 52, the Nigerian education sector no doubt has been facing lots of challenges in recent years depending on the strategy adopted towards moving it forward for the desired results. The decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to transform the basic sector of the economy was with clear objectives to improve service delivery and the educational development for the overall development of the nation.
In the education sector, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed who had served as the Minister in the first one year of President Jonathan, maintained her earlier One Year Strategy for the Development of the Education Sector now under the 4- Year Strategic Plan for the sector in line with the government’s transformation agenda.
The focus of the 4 year strategic development plan was designed to improve on service delivery and educational performance in the following identified areas:
• Strengthening the Institutional Management of Education
• Standards and Quality Assurance
• Teacher Education and Development
• Access and Equity
• Funding, Partnerships and Resource Utilization
• Technical and Vocational Education and Training TVET
In any of the above areas of intervention certain level of progress has been made and more are being pursued by the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’I with passion and commitment that it deserves towards achieving them under the 4-year strategy plan implementation strategy.
The desire for increased access to university education and to address the low admission of qualified students into tertiary institutions led to government intervention in 2010 that created Nine New Universities in Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kogi, Nassarawa and Taraba States. So far, most of the universities have taken off, thereby increasing access through the admissions conducted for the pioneer students with Federal University Oye-Ekiti admitting over 500 students and the rest between 200-400 students
These new universities have also created jobs for qualified Nigerians to fill vacant positions that were available as a result of the establishment of the universities in these states.
The objectives of establishing these universities was to increase access and equity by ensuring that such states that had no federal university had been met, thereby provide equal opportunities to all Nigerians irrespective of where they live in the country.
The Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa’I noted that with the take off of the nine new universities, President Goodluck Jonathan has fulfilled one of the most important campaign promises on education delivery and assured that their report to the President will address the second leg of the promise of creating three more federal universities to states that are yet to get universities like Kebbi, Yobe and Zamfara.
Still under the provision of access to education policy, the Nigeria government through the Ministry of Education launched a campaign on Basic Education that target large number of children that are out of school. They include the following:
• The Girl Child Education Programme
• The Boy Child Education programme
• Early Child Education
• The Almajiri Education Programme
These special interventions are targeted at special groups of children that are out of schools getting to over Nine Million. The Almajiri intervention scheme will ensure the construction of over 100 Day and Boarding Junior Secondary Schools in different parts of Nigeria thereby making it possible for the identified disadvantaged children to go to school. It also involved the scaling up of the construction of Girls Boarding Schools JSS in three States.
So far, the President has launched the campaign and opened the Almajiri model school in Sokoto, the first of its kind in Nigeria. The President also launched the back to school campaign in Enugu, Enugu state aimed at bringing back the boys drop out to school to ensure that they get educated to be more useful to the society and the nation. This policy implementation has also confirmed the Minister’s desire to improve basic education delivery system in Nigeria as provided for in the plan document already being implemented in Nigeria since last year.
The Minister of Education said President Goodluck Jonathan will soon launch the Girl Child education campaign in the South West towards reengaging and refashioning the girl child education programme implementation strategy in Nigeria.
The adoption of the Transformation Agenda by President Goodluck Jonathan provided clear direction to the Minister of Education, Professor Rufa’I as she became the first Minister to organise two levels of retreat for the Ministry’s Directorate and Agencies and another retreat on UBEC Stakeholders to identify roles and key into the transformation agenda for the desired development of the education sector in Nigeria.
Professor Rufa’I said at the retreat that President Jonathan was mindful of Nigerians expectations from the government and used the retreat to emphasise that education remains the key agent of the desired transformation and stressed that the national transformation must start with education for the desired results.
The Minister challenged stakeholders in the education sector to do more to ensure that the transformation really works in the education sector for maximum benefits. Professor Rufa’I reminded the participants at the retreat that ‘’the first necessary factor for rapid educational development and growth is quality leadership which must manifest the will to move the sector forward”.
Prof. Rufa’I also added that the citizens of Nigeria expected from the stakeholders and herself access to quality education, uninterrupted academic calendar, well motivated teachers and graduates of our institutions who would be employers of labour among many other good things of life.
This effort led to the changes already being witnessed in the education sector in the past one year, especially in students performance in the West African Examinations Council WAEC and National Examinations Council NECO SSCE where the results though below the target levels but have appreciated from the low 13 percent before her assumption in 2010 to the little improvement to 30 percent in 2011 and 39 percent for WAEC and 50 perent for NECO this year. This is an improvement that if maintained will lead to the realisation of the set target under the education reform strategy of 60 perent-70 percent by 2015. This target is expected to ensure that students score at least five credits including English and Mathematics as the basic requirements for admission.
The priority attached to teacher education made it to form part of the new Strategy for the Development of Education Sector in the next four years under the Four Year Development Strategy for the sector already launched by the Minister in April, 2012 in line with the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Professor Rufa’i said the ability of the Nigeria School system to meet the transformation agenda’s objectives depended largely on the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers. This made the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the relevant agencies like the National Teachers Institute NTI, National Commission for Collages of Education NCCE, National Board for Technical Education NBTE and the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC to adopt a well coordinated approach to the training and retraining of teachers at various levels.
These agencies have been involved in various levels of teacher training and capacity building in public primary and secondary schools in Nigeria. Since 2010, the training scheme had benefitted 300,000 as the base line aimed at improving teachers’ efficiency and ability to impact knowledge for the desired results.
• 17,000 Federal teachers Scheme for category of teachers to teach in public primary schools in the 34 states and the FCT by the NTI.
• 1,200 Teachers from the Six Geo-political zones training for enhancing the integration of ICT components in the teacher- learning process by the NCCE.
• All teachers training under the 4-year strategy plan is expected to increase by 50 percent yearly up to 2014.
The UBEC also as part of its intervention scheme paid for the Teacher Capacity Building in the 36 states and provided the teacher support materials developed to improve the delivery of basic education in Nigeria.
Entrepreneurial education which encouraged self employment is another area that received federal Government attention in the area of providing special intervention to fund the procurement of vocational and technical equipment for the Polytechnics and Monotechnics in Nigeria. This intervention led to the equipping of various polytechnics ready for the special Degree program on entrepreneurial study in the country.
The transformation in the education sector also provided for improved participation in TVET by 25 percent by 2014 in line with UNESCO and ECOWAS initiative on technical and vocational education and training. This policy when fully implemented will ensure the creation of more jobs and making the nation graduates self employed and employers of labour.
Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’I under the international development partnership initiative met a funding scheme that was design to provide capacity of teachers and prepare students for the new innovations in the use of Laboratory equipments to boost science and technology education at the Secondary Schools level.
The Minister ensured that the funds allocated for the projects under the World Bank intervention was used for the purpose. The Minister, Prof. Rufa’i and the Minister of State, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike had in various visits to some states inspected some of the projects under the STEP-B intervention on science and technical projects that upgraded science laboratories and technical workshop for the needed experiments in schools. This intervention was able to transform science education delivery system especially in Federal Unity Schools and states schools by preparing the students for the use of ICT with the distribution of computers to the students of Federal Unity Collages and states schools by the Ministers of Education since last year.
The Minister also initiated a funding scheme under the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation UNESCO Fund-In-Trust of N1billion to fund the reduction of illiteracy in Nigeria in line with the Education for All and MDG objectives. This intervention is already being implemented towards reducing illiteracy in line with UNESCO plan of action amongst the most populated nations of the world under the E-9 initiative.
This initiative and other interventions on mass literacy are expected to improve adult and youth literacy and retention by 50 percent by the 2014.
Nigeria as the Chair of the E-9 with Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i also initiated various programmes aimed at reducing illiteracy amongst the E-9 member nations. The Minister also secured approval for the establishment of category two status for the University of Nigeria Nsukka of the International Institute of Biotechnology and agreement has just been signed in October 2012 in Paris France for the immediate take off of the institute Prof. Rufa’I is also secured the hosting of the Life and Human services University of the African Union AU to be hosted by University of Ibadan.
The efforts to fast track the implementation of the transformation agenda in the education sector have started yielding results in the education sector especially in tertiary education delivery system. The Federal Universities Visitation Panels reports as part of the transformation in the education sector are being implemented.
The Needs assessment report of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund for the Universities and that of Federal Unity Collages in Nigeria will be implemented to ensure improved services in the university system and the collages.
This year alone because of the enabling environment provided in the sector Universities, Polytechnics and Collages of Education have been able to complete academic calendar that were never emerging in recent years. The universities and other higher institutions of learning have been able to carry out convocations which they hitherto were unable to do in the recent years. The university system also recorded increased public private partnership towards transforming the centers of learning with improved internally Generated Revenue IGR that impacted positively on the performance of the institutions in Nigeria. The universities also recorded low cases of cultism and other crisis in the campuses.
Presently some universities are talking of building hostels, classrooms, laboratories of world standards and FM/TV stations to service the university communities. The internally Generated Revenue, IGR of the institutions had increased over time and being put to proper use for the benefits of the education sector. There are other initiatives by some universities in the areas of Agriculture and entrepreneurial development towards raising their IGR, thereby reducing the dependence on federal allocation before carrying out their duties.
These achievements were acknowledged by the various unions of the Universities and Polytechnics by conferring Professor Rufa’i with the honour by the ASUU, ASUP and of recent by the NUT at the 2012 World Teachers Day celebration in Abuja as a minister that work tirelessly for the development of education and tagged her “MAMA EDUCATION”.
These unions have not left professor Ruaqayytau Rufa’i’s contributions to go unnoticed, as they always say they had never seen it work with such speed and results and assured the minister of their continued support for the improvement of the education sector for the benefit of all in Nigerians.
The National Universities Commission has also continue to fund research and post graduate studies in Nigeria and abroad to enable the university system meet up with postgraduate demand in the university system. The Rehabilitation and upgrade of infrastructure are in progress in most of the higher institutions towards achieving 70 percent face lift in the next two years.
The Presidential initiative of sponsoring the best 101 first class graduates of selected science courses to the 25 world best universities has taken up with 81 Males and 20 Females’ students on their way to study up to PHD outside Nigeria.