The Federal Government is certain, next month, to declare a national state of emergency which is coming rather late in the day. But we say rather be late than do nothing at all. It goes without saying that the comatose all important education sector must be raised to life. The National Economic Council (NEC) hinted at a national state of emergency during a meeting Oct. 1 in Abuja. The meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and attended by governors of the 36 states of the federation.
Addressing State House journalists afterwards, Mr. Philip Shaibu, Deputy Governor of Edo State, said “a final decision”, whether or not to declare a state of emergency would be taken during NEC’s next monthly meeting in November. That decision would be based on the report of its ad hoc committee that worked on strategies to revive the sector, drawing mainly from a presentation by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on June 28, 2018, entitled “National Education Policy, Prospects, Challenges and Way Forward”.
Shaibu said the ad hoc committee recommended wide ranging measures, including “a multi-frontal approach” to tackle the various factors militating against the achievement of the nation’s educational objectives in view of the multi-dimensional nature of the crisis in the education sector.” It suggested that the Federal Government, state and local governments “collaborate to vigorously implement, and sustain action on the 10 pillars of the Ministerial Strategic Plan developed by the Ministry of Education. It also recommended that greater attention be given to issues such as of out-of-school children, adult literacy and special needs education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Others are technical, vocational education and training, strengthening of basic education, prioritising teacher education, capacity building and professional development, ensuring quality and access in tertiary education, promoting ICT in education, boosting library services in education. Besides this broad outline, the committee specifically asked the three tiers of government to allocate “a minimum of 15 per cent of their budgets to education in order to revolutionalize the sector.” The funds should be managed by special taskforces.
We believe that to “revolutionize” the sector – which is what is required – demands that stakeholders think outside the box. This means taking measures that have not been tried before – to avoid the pitfalls of the past. This is what they have failed to do so far. For instance, how about the federal government saying it would no longer set up its own colleges and universities? The states should take over, but with a substantial increase in their share of the federation account. Another problem we have is the proposed budgetary allocation. Certainly, the 15 percent recommended by the ad hoc committee is a marked improvement over the 8 percent the governments are spending on education today. However, the proposal is still lower the 25% UNESCO benchmark.
There are, however, some goodies from what the deputy governor said. One is that the recommendations are being “reviewed”. We do hope that this review will include a substantial increase to the sector over and above even the proposed 15%. Another is that all the states have welcomed a revolution in the sector. “We are all unanimous in addressing it (the crises in the sector) and all the states have agreed on this,” said Mr. Shaibu. More importantly, there is an assurance that the final document “is not going to be one of those documents that will be kept aside.” We pray so.