FG vows to make education work
…As expert blames decay on improvisation
From CHIDI NNADI, Enugu and ZION ZADOK, Abuja
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
• Rufa’i
PHOTO: THE SUN PUBLISHING


Improvisation which is the ability to manage or make-do with little resources has been described as the bane of education in the country, particularly in the South-East. This assertion was made at 6th Emeritus Professor Nwokolo Lecture 2011 delivered by Prof Samuel Chukwunonyerem Ohaegbulam at the University of Nigeria.

Speaking at the lecture organized in honour of Emeritus Professor Nwokolo for his contributions to the College of Medicine of the UNN and to academia in general, Prof Ohaegbulam, a neurosurgeon from the Memfys Hospital for Neurosurgery, Enugu, pointed out that a visit to any of the primary or secondary schools would make one appreciate the level of decay in infrastructure and academic facilities caused by improvisation.

“It is arguable if classrooms under the tree shades of yesteryears were not more natural and congenial than the ramshackle classrooms of today. During a recent visit to a secondary school in a city I was flabbergasted by the decay. I then wondered how those in the villages would look like if a city secondary school boasted such rot,” he noted.
He, therefore, warned that such institutions do not provide academic environment for study or cultural refinement just as the teachers are not motivated with the paltry and epileptic salaries they receive.

Speaking further, he noted that the universities are not, in any way, different as unscrupulous entrepreneurs have capitalized on the liberalization of universities to lure unsuspecting students to phony institutions masquerading as universities.
“They charge hefty fees in exchange for a bogus certificate at the end of a prescribed duration of time,” he lamented. “The supervisory authorities are overwhelmed and most of the time cannot exercise their oversight functions due to religious, political or ethnic influences.

“The concept of private university is a noble one and in countries where people have conscience, it has provided a vital stimulus for the development of high quality education. Is Harvard University not one such example of a private university blazing the trail? Federal and state universities do not boast of superior facilities. These examples underscore the problem of improvisation and how it has become the bane of education, especially in the South East of Nigeria.

“This part of the country (South-East) was once the seat of education in Nigeria. The story is now different. The pursuit of money has brought devastation to education here and completely derailed our moral and traditional foundation. But we neglect education to our detriment. Commercialization and exploitation of Christianity, armed robbery and kidnapping are the by-products of a failed education system,” he said.

Ohaegbulam noted that it was gratifying that the Emeritus Professor Nwokolo’s lecture was geared towards promoting academic excellence in the College of Medicine of the University of Nigeria. He pointed out that in 1974, the medical school was the only one in the South-East and added that it required the foresight of people like Emeritus Professor Nwokolo to start the medical school in this part of the country.

Even though the South-East has seven medical schools, as at today, certain trends affecting these schools of medicine, according to Ohaegbulam, deserve urgent attention. They include critical shortage of appropriate workforce necessary for a high quality academic work, over-bloated classrooms, lack of adequate academic staff, leading to most of the universities having far less than the prescribed minimum standards, and archaic facilities.

“Without their sacrifice, most of our medical schools would have lost their accreditation thereby worsening the already bad situation of imbalance. We are all human and we know that there is a limit to what one person can do in a given time, no matter the dedication. Having given great thought to this problem, it is astonishing how we in this part of the country attach so little importance to manpower development. Improvisation is clearly to blame. We can manage as long as the supervisory authorities are fooled into sustaining recognition,” he said.

On academic excellence, he observed that every academic is involved in research, teaching and administration.
“These are accepted as the tripod on which every academic staff must stand. The three legs of this tripod should be strong, nourished and maintained effectively or it will not stand,” Prof Ohaegbulam insisted. He noted that a clinician cannot lay claim to academic excellence if he fails to regularly update himself so as to remain on top of his profession.

He also regretted that continuing education is just beginning to receive attention in the country unlike in the advanced countries where its importance was long understood. “Nigerians tend to overestimate their knowledge and may not be humble enough to recognize their limitations,” he observed. “We are witnesses to the dangers and consequences of this delusion, but trusting patients who unfortunately are the victims are not in the position to judge the competence of their doctors.
“University libraries are a mockery of what they should be, partly due to funding.” At this juncture, he asked: “How many academic staff buy relevant state-of-the-art books or subscribe to important journals in their own field so as to remain current?” “These failures,” he reiterated, “are partly due to the entrenchment of improvisation in our lifestyle.”

In a related developed, the Federal Government has expressed its commitment to refocusing the nation’s education system in terms of access and equity, quality, infrastructure, teacher quality and development, curriculum relevance, funding and planning in order to ensure the attainment of the National Vision as well as the Millennium Development Goals.

At a meeting in Abuja to assess the implementation status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) projects of the Federal Ministry of Education, the Minster of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, who said the project is being funded under the debt relief gains to bridge the disparity in Girl-Boy child education, revealed that the Federal Government will soon commence the distribution of 14, 840 Computers (Classmate Personal Computers) to Junior Secondary One (JS1) girls in 106 selected schools across the federation on an average of 140 girls per school, as a way of showcasing this commitment.
Rufa’i said arrangement has been made for the training of teachers from selected schools on the use of the technology to facilitate teaching and learning and noted that the project would soon be launched in the six geopolitical zones of the country.

On the teacher quality, the Minister reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to the training and retraining of teachers, while recognizing the importance of teachers in improving the quality of educational delivery in the country even as she disclosed that the government is making effort to bridge the yawning gap in the high student-teacher ratio, with over 54, 000 teachers trained and distributed to schools in the last two years under the Federal Teachers’ Scheme (FTS) being driven by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).

Speaking at the occasion, the Special Adviser to the President on MDGs, Hajiya Amina Al-Zubair, admitted that there were enormous challenges in the implementation of MDGs programmes in 2010 but commended the initiative of the Ministry to carry out impact assessment of the projects with the view to improving on the implementation drive.