Politics

Education only way to ensure national development – LASUBEB boss, Alawiye-King

Digital transformation has been identified as one of the ways to enhance learning in schools. In this interview with Oladipupo Awojobi, Chairman of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King spoke on why the state allows private intervention in the sector and other matters. Excerpts…

As the Chairman of LASUBEB, what have been the highpoints of your office and what are the efforts being made to make basic education available for the children?

We are being guided by our mandate to provide basic, qualitative, all-inclusive, compulsory and relevant basic education for the students. It is our desire to ensure that the dream of having access to education by every Nigerian child is achieved. To do that, we have been working with other stakeholders to ensure that the basic education sector is transformed, not only in Lagos State, but in Nigeria in general.

Talking about public schools, what are you doing to ensure standard because a lot of people prefer to send their children to private schools now and how can we restore the lost glory of the sector?

You can see that we have been having constant growth and as such the demand outweighs the supply. We need the private intervention to bring that sector to equilibrium. That is why the space is opened up, but that is not to say that we will compromise standard. We monitor what is going on in the sector regularly. I don’t know about lost glory, we have been doing everything possible to ensure that Lagos State excel. For instance, you can see the Eko Excel Project, and the Digital Transformation programme that Mr. Governor put in place to ensure that the sector is transformed and strenghtened. That has been the major highpoint of this government. We are leveraging on technology to ensure standard in the education sector in the state. We equally want to enhance access, quality, standard, equity, which is the only way we can guarantee that transformation we are talking about. Education is the acquisition of knowledge and facilitation of necessary skills that are required to develop a person that will translate to national development that we are talking about. National development is the summation of personal development in the society. So we must ensure that basic education is given the necessary requirements that will make it more solid.

How are you working on expansion based on the population of Lagos State?

I have told you that education is not only a social good, it is also a merit good. It is not only that individual that is getting it that benefits from it, the society also benefits from it. As a merit good it has certain characteristics. One of this is that you cannot exclude anybody from getting education. They must have access to it. That is what the mandate says, you must give free, compulsory, and relevant education to all and sundry. It must be accessible to all. Education is free, you cannot exclude anybody, you cannot separate anybody. The fact that I am having it does not mean that you should exclude others. You must open up the space, which is why we have allowed the private sector to come on board. The private sector participants are doing some intervention and they must ensure that the intervention does not lead to interference. If intervention is not properly monitored, structured or organised it may further aggravate the system and bring more chaos into it. So, the government must come in to monitor the system despite the fact that the space is opened up.

Can now say that your parastatal is curtailing quackery in the sector because we see a lot of schools springing up everywhere?

That is what we are saying. In Lagos State, for instance, we have about 1017 public primary schools and over 15,000 private schools. That means we have an enormous task before us to monitor, and to ensure there is standard. These are some of the things we do.

But, do you have the manpower?

Yes, we have a special unit in the state ministry of education that is saddled with the duty to monitor what is happening in the private unit. They are called “Private Unit,” they monitor what is happening, they write reports and impose sanctions where necessary.

What are the challenges of the office and how are you collaborating with the relevant agencies on funding and others?

Several studies have shown that it is not the enormous amount of resources that matters, it is the management and appropriation of such resources. You can have an enormous amount of money but it depends on how you manage it. As managers and administrators of the sector, you must be able to prioritise whatever you have. That is what we call it strategic leadership; ability to forecast, ability to think ahead and do things in a way that is being guided by what you have projected. There are competing usages for what you have projected to do. You have to appropriate the resources in a way that you can achieve what you have outlined to do.

Do you agree that standard of education has fallen in Nigeria because in those days holders of secondary school certificates are like universities graduates of today?

I am not going to subscribe to that. What is the yardstick of measuring this. I am a product of public school and even going by what obtains now, primary schools and elementary schools pupils are being trained with modern techniques for learning in their classes. This is the era of robotics, and artificial intelligence. A primary school pupil can now operate computer. That did not happen in our time, so how do you measure that standard of education is falling. The children are being exposed to modern ways and techniques of doing things in our classrooms now. That is the essence of Eko Excel and Digital Transmission. Eko Excel is an all-inclusive dimensional approach to changing what is happening in our classrooms. We have departed from the traditional ways of teaching in our classrooms by complementing and ensuring that learning in the classrooms is enhanced. Standard and quality require monitoring.

Do you support the proliferation of private universities in Nigeria?

The demand in the sector outweighs the supply, so there must be private intervention so that people can come to complement what the government is doing.

What is your advice to the government on budgetary allocation to the education sector in Nigeria?

There is need for the government to increase the percentage of the budgetary allocation to the education sector. Like I told you, several studies have shown that it is not about the quantum of allocation of resources, it is about the management of what you have. How you manage your resources will translate to the outcome of what you require.

People talk about corruption in the system, is there any relationship between corruption and standard of education?

There are several monitoring agencies that ensure that what we are supposed to do is being done. We are getting funding from the Federal Government in addition to what we get from the state government. There are several agencies of the Federal Government that monitor what we are doing. I don’t see how corruption comes in. We ensure that there is transparency, accountability and probity in everything we do. For instance, our procurement processes are open and that confers legitimacy and authenticity to what we are doing in Lagos State SUBEB.

 

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