Education

Kwara’s bold moves to rescue education

Stakeholders: Govt to redesign education system through TEVT

˜  Governor: Ratio of girls to boys a source of worry

˜  World Bank: Involve communities to drive education transform

 

 

SUMMIT

Major stakeholders in the Kwara State’s education sector penultimate week converged at the state’s education summit to chart a new direction for the ailing sector. STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI reports

 

 

 

For one day last week, critical stakeholders in the Kwara State education sector gathered to chart a new direction that will reshape the ailing school system, and reposition the sector for the 21st Century challenges.

 

It was at the just concluded Kwara State Education Summit, tagged: “Kwara Education Futures Summit,” which took place in Ilorin, the state capital.

 

Major stakeholders at the oneday summit were top government officials, led by the state Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Commissioner for Education, heads of relevant government agencies, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Parent Teachers Association (PTA), Vice- Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), staff unions, traditional and religious leaders, community leaders and parents, among others.

 

Part of the objectives and focus of the summit is to beam a searchlight on the numerous challenges bedeviling the state’s education sector, such as funding, the level of rot resulting in dilapidated/decayed infrastructure, shortage of quality teachers, quality control mechanism, access, low school enrollment, dearth of facilities, school safety and community participation in the delivery of qualitative education.

 

Since education is the bedrock of development of any society and the most important resource for human development, and because the government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of funding or providing all the people’s need in education, there is the need for education stakeholders, including corporate organisations and well-meaningful individuals, development partners to effectively collaborate with the governments to rescue the system from rot.

 

Declaring open the summit, Governor AbdulRazaq explained that the summit became necessary in view  of the need to analyse the current state of education in Kwara State with a view to developing actionable plans that will build and nurture a new generation of leaders, who can hold their heads anywhere in the world.

 

Recalling the level of rot his administration inherited in the sector, the governor told stakeholders that his administration had since succeeded in moving basic education from the near state of collapse in 2019 with investments in infrastructure, recruitment of quality teachers, and re-invigoration of the inspection/ monitoring system in the schools.

 

He said: “Two years down the road, my team and I are proud to report that the situation has changed.

We have restored our relationship with key partners after years of blacklist. We have reshaped public perception about teaching by engaging the best minds in the system. Work is ongoing in some 600 basic schools to give our children a befitting learning environment.

“Our goal is to make public schools the first choice for all in terms of the quality and relevance of our infrastructure and teaching staff in the digital age. As a show of our commitment to education, we have recently surpassed the UNESCO budgetary threshold of 26 per cent benchmark to the sector.

 

Even so, it is clear that the government cannot do this alone. “But, huge gaps still exist. For instance, our recent school census across four local government areas in the state show that 41 per cent of our teachers are absent at their duty post. No single teacher was seen in 54 of the 368 schools sampled    while 23 per cent of students on head teachers’ record were not in school during the census.

 

Only 15 per cent of the schools sampled were rated as needing no repair, which implies that 85 per cent of our classrooms require various forms of rehabilitation.” AbdulRazaq further lamented: “The picture is bleaker when you consider availability or adoption of technology in our schools. The gender parity index for ratio of girls to boys in our schools is another source of worry. “So, we need everyone on board.

We do not have all the answers. And we certainly do not have enough resources that will provide the right environment for every Kwara child to thrive in the new world, irrespective of their social standing. “Already, we are building a legal framework to support our efforts.

We now have a bill for a law to establish Kwara State Education Trust Fund. When passed, this fund will supplement the sector’s finance, promote technologies, and leapfrog the sector’s development through our Kwara Education Transformation Agenda (KWETA) plan.”

 

 

Meanwhile, the state’s education sector, particularly basic education was said to have been in total shambles over the years, partly as a result of the blacklist slammed on the state by the Universal Basic Education Scheme (UBEC) for diverting the sum of N450 million being the grant accessed in 2013 by the state government, aside unpaid backlogs of the Commission’s counterpart funds.

 

But for the present administration, led by Governor AbdulRazaq, the state had been able to exit the pariah status in 2019, after the payment of the N450 million alleged was diverted by the administration of ex-Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.

 

Prior to 2019, the state still had an outstanding of N7.1 billion counterpart fund to pay in order to enable the state government to access the six-year backlogs of funds laying fallow at UBEC.

 

Today, the outstanding N7.1 billion counterpart fund, it was learnt, had been cleared by Governor AbdulRazaq’s administration, making it possible for the state to access the UBEC’s N7.1bn, paving the way to invest at least N14 billion in the basic education sector in the state.

 

With schools across the state gradually wearing the required facelift, the governor had at an education forum lamented that the rot his administration inherited in 2019 in the education sector, and indeed other sectors, were daunting but not insurmountable with prudent management of resources, sincerity of purpose and commitment.

 

Determined to change the narratives in the state’s education sector, Governor AbdulRazaq said the education summit was organised penultimate Thursday to galvanise support  from all stakeholders for the development of the system.

 

 

In his presentation, the World Bank Senior Education Specialist, Dr. Tunde Adekola, commended the state government for the initiative, particularly its commitment to ensuring the allocation of more than 26 per cent UNESCO budgetary benchmark to education.

 

Notwithstanding this feat, Adekola admonished the state government to invest in technology, training and retraining of teachers, as well as to create a regime of incentives for good performances, and also involve communities in its drive to transform education in the state.

 

 

 

He said: “The government has to invest wisely and smartly to be able to secure the future of our children. There is also the need for a coalition between the state and non-state actors to chart a sustainable course for an improved education system. Teachers have to go through proper training and retraining to raise and equip them professionally.”

 

The World Bank boss, who also sought the resuscitation of the regime of accountability in the schools, including key performance indicators to measure performance and adherence to rules, however, added: “The second thing that worked for Kwara State before and that can still work now is the coalition. We all have to rally round a shared vision and shared mission for inclusive education so as to secure the future of our children.”

 

Adekola said: “Kwara State has the highest number of basic schools in the entire of North Central. Again, Kwara State has the least number of out-of-school children in the North Central geo-political zone of the federation, and indeed Kwara State is one of those states that are investing more than 20 per cent of its budget in education.

 

Thank you, Mr. Governor for the investment in education for Kwara State children. “Kwara State is one of those states that are coming up from behind in accessing all the funding in UBEC and is now investing it in infrastructure and learning materials.

 

All these things do not come by accident. That is what is called leadership. That is what we need at all levels in the state. That is why the governor brought all of us here to share knowledge and information to see how we can make things better.”

 

Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mariam Uwais, in her remarks, stressed the need for collaborative efforts among traditional rulers, civil society organisations, governments and religious scholars in addressing the disturbing issue of out-of-school children through provision of facilities in agriculture, sports and creativity sectors, among others.

 

She said: “The children, who are out on the streets without education, without any skill and many of them now growing to young adults are the ones easily exposed to violence, to crimes and other forms of abuse. This has prompted the Federal Government to take decisions on how to support states to curb a lot of these challenges.

 

It is very important for states to lead, giving the mandate in the Constitution since primary education, primary health care and agriculture fall within their purview. For that reason, it is important for states to take the lead in addressing many of these challenges that the children have.

 

“It is also important that we have multidimensional approaches for many of these children, especially the older ones. So, how do we support them? How do we get them empowered? It is very important for us to have a data to build community to have child agents and child facilitators within communities.”

 

On his part, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Education Interventions, Fela Bank-Olemoh, called on the state government to improve investments in human capital development and create a model that supports and allows private sector to solve problems in the sector.

 

He, however, praised the state government for committing 25 per cent of its annual budget to the education sector, saying: “That is fantastic, but the government should improve in the areas of human capital development and educational index.

 

Hence, we must commit to improving the quality of education that we are imparting. It is also important that the government should think in different ways by making tough decisions to redesign the educational system. “Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is important to offer our people relevant skills for the 21st Century world of work.

 

We must create a TVET system in Kwara State that makes it impossible for any students to leave primary or secondary school without acquiring TVET skills. It must not happen in order to change educational outcomes.”

 

To Bank-Olemoh, the state must create a “Teacher Learning Network (TLN)” to improve the quality of teachers by providing motivation, incentives, and peerto- peer learning through a faceto- face programme supported by a technology-based learning platform. The ultimate aim of TLN, he noted, is to enhance students’ learning outcomes across the state through improved teachers’ performance.

 

Also, a seasoned educationist, Elder Philip Adigun, stressed the need for capacity building for teachers to improve education quality in compliance with global best practices and industry standards.

 

“There is a need for coherence in capacity building development efforts so that organisations at the state level and development partners are not working at cross purposes,” Adigun added.

 

On his part, the state Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Senior, Ibrahim Sulaiman, said the present administration had been able to create an enabling environment for education to thrive, insisting that it was made possible through the resilience of the governor.

 

“I hereby call on all well-meaning sons and daughters of Kwara State as well as our invited guests to see this education summit as an opportunity to contribute their quota to the development of education in the state. I will like to assure you that your honest and sincere contributions will go a long way in giving education a new leap in Kwara State,” Sulaiman added.

Other resource persons at the Summit harped on the need to focus on value addition, critical mass of champions, quality assurance, partnership among stakeholders, more investments in human capital development, technical and vocational education, as well as monitoring of schools.

 

The sub-themes of the one-day Summit, held under three main themes are “Current State of Education in Kwara State – Navigating the current challenges and successes, deep diving into policy, infrastructure, budget and planning, resources; “Re-imagine Education in Kwara, which defined the potential, possibilities and partnerships of education in Kwara State.

 

How can we ensure quality education and make schools ready for the 21st Century best practices?” and “Education in the future, Innovation and Technology: How can we leverage technology to improve learning outcomes and innovation in education.” Each of the themes was anchored by panels, comprising educationists and administrators and policy makers.

 

While commenting on the education summit, the Chairman of the state wing of NUT, Comrade Olu Adewara described the stakeholders’ forum as timely, saying to us in NUT it was a welcome development.

 

“We appreciate the initiative of His Excellency, Governor Abdul- Raham AbdulRazaq for putting up such a programme that dwelt extensively on the future growth of education in Kwara state.”

 

Other dignitaries at the wellattended summit were the Deputy Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Hon. Raphael Adetiba; Permanent Secretaries; Prof. Lasiele Yahaya of University of Ilorin; SUBEB Chairman, Prof. Shehu Adaramaja; TESCOM Chairman, Taoheed Bello; Dr. Kunmi Wuraola of Africa-New Globe Education; Nigerian Country Director of Nexford University, Olamidun Majekodunmi; Michael Oglegba of Study Lab; Rector of IVTEC, Dr. Ade Somide; Bola Lawal of Come Learn AM & ScholarX; and traditional rulers.

 

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