In its annual tradition of focusing on topical issues affecting young people all over the world, the United Nations, this year, has again chosen a very apt theme: Transforming education. This theme focuses on “efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, including efforts by the youth themselves”. This theme is pursuant to Goal 4 of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Many societies are beginning to acknowledge that quality education is the most potent weapon for transforming the world.
Educational transformation is very dear to me; having been active in providing tertiary education for over 30 years. I have also traversed our educational system as a student, a teacher and as an administrator at various levels. As an ardent stakeholder, I can state unequivocally that all hands are required on deck to harness our vast human and capital resources towards achieving educational transformation at the local, regional and national levels. We must urgently proffer remedies for the current monumental infrastructural deficit, inadequate funding, irrelevant curricula, inadequate staffing, warped orientation of learners, dismal student performance, and the resultant dysfunctional system among other sectoral deficiencies. The consequences of poor education in Nigeria over the years is already evident in extremely high unemployment of educated youths, gross dependence on foreign technology, and lack of technical expertise for even simple tasks.
The world has become a global network with its attendant opportunities and challenges. Opportunities, because knowledge has become largely democratized, and challenges, because mediocrity no longer has a chance of survival in today’s dynamic competitive world.
To fully explore the potential of our intelligent youth populace, all stakeholders in the educational sector must agree on curriculum and delivery strategies that would elicit innovation, cooperation, and ingenuity in educational spaces that guarantee practicality. We require the government at various levels to provide infrastructure and funding commensurate to the urgency and extent of the transformation we need in the educational sector. The government must actualize the tenets of its recently declared state of emergency in the sector. Our brand of education must deliver development and social progress all over the country in alignment with the nation’s developmental priorities.
Our strategy must be all-inclusive and we must endeavour to engage our people and indeed experienced adults throughout the implementation. We can no longer ignore the unfortunate statistics showing that Nigeria currently houses over 10 million out-of-school children. Activities of the Universal Basic Education Commission at the national level must be complemented by the prompt release of counterpart funds by states.
For us to elicit maximum productivity from our students, learning must be technologically-driven, participatory, resourceful and adventurous. There is a need for top-notch facilities to support active learning in our educational institutions. Closely linked to this is the cardinal issue of welfare of teachers and all other professionals that make up the school system. It is certain that a poorly motivated workforce is unlikely to produce world-class graduates. The only way to attract and retain the brightest brains in the educational system is to remunerate well and ensure that workspaces are functional and comfortable.
While we must insist that it is right and necessary that the government increase its funding of education in the country, it is also wise that we explore additional funding models. What is needed are some measures of creativity and fresh vigour. For instance, funding and infrastructural strategies could include Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP), Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), and Build-Own-Operate (BOO) models. It must be emphasized that subsidies, scholarships, endowments and study loans from various sources are still highly required given the economic inequalities in the country and the fact equality does not necessarily guarantee inclusiveness.
More than at any other time in history, it is crucial for the government to increase its effort of equipping citizens; especially the young ones for the realities of a fast-paced knowledge economy. We particularly need the government to incentivize the educational process and develop requisite curriculum in tandem with national aspiration for human development needs of the nation. While the government may not be the only spender, we must know that they still need to show leadership accompanied by the requisite policies to enable the buy-in of other stakeholders, especially the organized private sector.
Our teachers must become effective enablers of the new model of education, with emphasis on learner-centredness, technology, innovation, and social responsiveness. We must find a way of making learning stimulating, enjoyable and attractive for our students because they hold the key to the kind of future that awaits us. To ensure that policies are made to work and that all stakeholders do what is expected of them, we need to put in place well-motivated and thoroughly equipped Quality Assurance Units in our Ministries of Education and our educational institutions. This is to ensure that the education given to our children conforms to the best global practices.