States not doing enough on school safety – Minister
What is needed is a strong focus to deliver coordinated implementation – UNICEF
There is rising concern among major stakeholders in the nation’s education sector, under the auspices of the National Council of Education (NCE), to change the dynamics and set the sector on the path of relevance.
REGINA OTOKPA reports
Determined to address the myriad of challenges confronting the nation’s education sector, key stakeholders for one day last week converged on Abuja to assess the challenges, successes, failures and take meaningful decisions in pursuit of adopting policies that will help the country achieve a comprehensive, coherent and consistent education system.
The 66th National Council of Education (NCE) Conference offered an opportunity for all stakeholders in the education sector to chart a new direction that will mitigate the current crises bedeviling the sector.
Meanwhile, the education sector has not had the best of times in the last few years despite efforts to address some of the challenges, particularly rising insecurity resulting in invasion and attacks on schools with its attendant killing and abduction of teachers and learners, and total disruption of school system by bandits, herdsmen and Boko Haram that have continued to threaten the sector with no tangible solutions in sight.
With the theme: “Strengthening of Security and Safety in Nigerian Schools for the Achievement of Education 2030 Agenda,” this year’s Summit was strategic and aimed at figuring out the best approaches in securing the lives of learners, teachers and school infrastructure from insecurity.
Setting the tone of the meeting, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who noted that the provision of safe space for schools was the responsibility of governments, however, said the current administration carried out an effective sensitisation on the implementation of the Safe School Declaration (SSD) Initiative, secured $20 million for accelerated emergency funding for the North-East zone from Global Partnership for Education.
Besides, he also recalled that the Federal Government conducted vulnerability surveys on schools in order to devise robust security strategies, constructed perimeter walls/ fences around schools, as well as installed alarm systems in schools, among other initiatives to tackle insecurity in the sector.
The minister, while applauding the efforts of the Federal Government, some state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in working to arrest the situation, he expressed concern that several other states are lagging behind in their efforts.
Thus, Adamu charged all states to rise up to their responsibilities, and provide a safe and secure learning environment for students and teachers through collaborative efforts. The Minister stated: “The safety and security of all our children must remain paramount.
Therefore, all hands must be on deck to strengthen the security system of our educational institutions. Security is a collaborative effort and should not be left in the hands of the law enforcement or security agents alone.
The states are not doing enough on school safety. I realise that security is a general menace, but states should start doing what the Ministry of Education is doing. “As such, all stakeholders in education sector should interface and be involved through the NCE in order to address the menace of insecurity in our schools, which remains one of our biggest challenges in the country
“The goals of Nigerian education are centred on building a free and democratic society, a just and egalitarian society, a united, strong and self-reliant nation, and a great and dynamic economy.”
However, the meeting recommended some major components in the sector as part of the means to improve the efficiency in the Ministry of Education. These are the establishment of Ministry of Basic Education, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Skill and Entrepreneurship in order to address the challenges facing the youths.
The UNICEF Chief of Education, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, who noted with dismay the short and long-term devastative consequences of attacks on schools and violence within and around schools on the well-being of children and communities, insists that quality education remains the single most effective investment a country could make to ensure safety and security, as well as the economic well-being of the country, and also access to timely and high-quality data and an adequately funded education system.
He said: “Nigeria has a strong policy landscape in support of safe schools. We know what to do to keep our children safe in schools. What is now needed is a strong focus on how to deliver coordinated implementation of the minimum standards on safe school at scale and with urgency. “In this regard, UNICEF is currently supporting the Federal Ministry of Education to develop a national cost implementation plan.
This is being replicated for 11 states with the highest risk profiles. “Getting children into school and keeping them there is therefore critical to end the security challenges in the country. The good news is that we know how to do this well. The GEPIII projects in the North-West showed that over a million girls could be brought into primary school through cash transfers, community enrolment campaigns, fixing the basic infrastructure in schools and improving the quality of teaching and learning. We now must scale this in earnest to dramatically reduce the number of out-of-school children.”
But, besides brainstorming on securing a safe space for teaching and learning, this year’s NCE meeting made some proclamations and decisions proposed by the Minister, as he regretted his inability to solve several of the challenges thrown at his office as education minister for over seven years, directing the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) to expunge all content on sexual education in schools curriculum.
He, therefore, proposed an increase from two to three ministers of education by the next administration. Adamu, who stated that he had more than enough time to have done better, and leave the sector better than he met it, if for nothing, the fact he is currently the longest serving minister of education in Nigeria, he probably had expected his exit from office which is few months away, should have left the trails of positive legacies subsequent education ministers will look up to for direction.
Some of the nightmares, which he had blamed the states Ministries of Education of playing a significant role, include the increasing number of outof- school children and repeated academic disruptions in tertiary institutions due to industrial disharmony Adamu added: “Most of our policies at the federal level pulled children out of the streets back to the school, but evidently, the actions of the states government are pushing the children back to the street. “Few days ago, someone called my attention to the fact that I am the longest serving Minister of Education in Nigeria.
Sincerely speaking, it never occurred to me and I never cared whether I was the longest or shortest serving minister. “My worry was that I came to office as Minister of Education seven years ago to tackle the myriad of issues confronting the education system, particularly the issue of outof- school children. But unfortunately, I failed to achieve all these expectations. For seven years, I was unable to tackle the issue of out-of-school children and several other challenges in the education sector.
“However, there are so many factors that contributed to that failure, but the key one, probably, has to do with the education commissioners in the states. In 2016, I developed the Ministerial Strategic Plan for the education sector, and as required, I presented the document to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and requested that State of Emergency be declared on education particularly at the basic levels. Decision could not be taken on it because education is on the Concurrent Legislative List and such intervention particularly at the lower level is strictly the responsibility of the states government.
“As a fall out, I was directed by the President to redirect the memo to the National Economic Council (NEC) and I did as directed. My thoughts were that if the Council bought into the idea, and being that its members are state Governors, it would have just been a national decision and the expected objective would be achieved. “I made the presentation three times, and up till now, the expected action which is the State of Emergency, has not been declared on education sector.”
Meanwhile, on the Minister’s directive for the outright expunge of sex education from schools curriculum, he insisted that it was doing more harm than good to the students, adding that he personally believes they were other means to impart such knowledge which he listed as instincts, socialisation, religious and cultural instructions.
From all indications, Adamu told the Council that the increasing advocacy for sex education in schools was targeted at undermining and destroying the moral and religious fabric of the society, while regrettably, it is being promoted through the social media and other forms of westernisation.
He noted: “Many Nigerians seem to believe that all that comes from the western world is the best because they have advanced in technology. Even the technology is not totally good. The only thing technology does to our lives is speed. It doesn’t make one a better person or something else.
“We don’t have anything better than the religious beliefs and values we have in Nigeria, and we all love our religions. Unfortunately, religion has been misinterpreted and we have allowed it to reshape our lives negatively.
We can’t afford to lose our religious values, otherwise, we would lose everything and doom would beckon. “NERDC Executive Secretary told me that they would debate on the matter and expunge harmful parts, but I told him outright that everything there is harmful and should be discarded.”
Also, on expansion of the Education Ministry and number of ministers, Adamu, who viewed the work load as cumbersome, however, called for establishment of Ministry of Basic Education, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Skill and Entrepreneurship in order to address the challenges facing the youths.
“I recommended to the President that there should be two ministries of education, ministry of basic education and ministry of higher education, and if they do not want to create another ministry, at least they should have two ministers of state – one for basic education, one should be in charge of higher education. “I hope that whoever is heading the next government will have a good sense to create the ministry of skills and entrepreneurship and if it will not be created, there should be three ministers of state in the ministry of education. We need a ministry for that,” Adamu added.
However, it is not all sad news for the sector; a number of successes recorded in the sector according to the minister include transformation of adult literacy learning spaces with up to 9,810 literate learners through the creation of access to three basic literacy centres in three senatorial districts and one senatorial district in the FCT.