In one of his famous quotes, the late anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” However, this cannot be said of Nigeria. Statistics from the United Nation Agency (UNESCO), set up in pursuance of high quality and access to education for every child has for sometimes maintained that “one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria.
The UNESCO report further revealed that even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 11.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are either not in school or have no access to quality education.
The report further stated that only 61 per cent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attends primary school and only 36.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education. If the widely held believe that education is the foundation of any meaningful development is true, what hope is there for a country with 11.5 million out-of-school children?
In a bid to stem this tide, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, upon his appointment, set out what he termed “ten pillars of Nigerian education reform.” He explained that this is targeted at changing the fortunes of about 50 million illiterates in Nigeria.
The mandate of the ‘ten pillars of the education’ road-map involves returning about 11.5 million out-of-school children to the classrooms. “The road-map for education, which we placed before the National Council of Education is based on ten pillars and these pillars are the most important areas. The first is out-of-school children. You know Nigeria leads the world in having the highest number of children who are out of school – 11.5 million.
Few years down the line, one can confidently say that the education minister is working the talk. Slow and steady, the narrative is changing through the religious implementation of the ten pillars of education reforms.
The federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari has also cooperated effectively with the Minister of Education to achieve his lofty dreams with steady increase in budgetary allocation to the education sector.
Through actions, Malam Adamu has demonstrated his firm belief that no nation can rise above the standard of its education, because it is education that serves as the springboard for every kind of development. If education is weak or dysfunctional, society and its development will also be weak and dysfunctional. As he once noted that, “All social change begins with education; because it is education that shapes, corrects and restores society.”
There is an old saying that birds of the same kind flock together. Malam Adamu knew what he wanted to achieve in the education sector; that is why he went for his likes to take charge of parastatal under his ministry. Since he personally influenced the appointment of Prof Ishaq Oloyede as the Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), things have never been the same. Unlike a situation in the past, where JAMB remits less than 300 million annually, Prof Oloyede recently announced that JAMB has generated N20 billion from University and Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) between 2016 and 2019.
In the ancient times, in the determination of the Chinese to build and live in a peaceful society, they built the Great Wall believing that it would keep invaders at bay because they thought it was impossible for anyone to scale it, given its insurmountable height. However, within the first century of the construction of the wall, the Chinese were invaded three times. Every time the invaders came, they had no need to climb over the wall because each time they came, they were able to bribe the guards on duty at the gate, and the gate was opened for them.
The Chinese took pains to build the wall but they forgot to build the character of the guards who were supposed to secure the walls. The great lesson of this story is that character-building precedes wall-building.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing lesson, Malam Adamu is not just interested in repositioning the education sector for the sake of it but wants a functional education, laden with character building because without character, education is useless.
As he has always alluded, If you want to destroy the civilisation of a nation, there are three ways of doing so: To destroy the family structure; Destroy education and 3. Lower role models.”
He told a gathering that in order to destroy the family, all you need to do is to undermine the role of the mother. To destroy education, you should give no importance to the Teacher so that the students despise him. Then, to demean role models, you should undermine the scholars, cast doubt on them until no one listens to them or follows their teachings. For when a conscious mother disappears, and when a dedicated teacher cannot be found, and when role models are ignored, who is there to teach the younger ones values?
The signs of such value erosion and character failure in our young population are already there for us to see. The rise in the incidence of corruption, moral decadence, juvenile delinquency, examination malpractices, cultism and drug abuse among our youth is symptomatic of this malaise, and indicative of such value erosion.
This is enough warning that indeed for our nation, the enemy is already at the city gate. The advancement of this enemy must be checked now. Education alone offers us the tool to confront this enemy, to defeat its armies and bring about institutionalised change. Yes, education offers us the way out of our current vicious circle, and to the emergence of an equitable and stable society characterised by inclusive development and driven by positive values.
Education is our collective responsibility and its failure can well be taken as the failure of the entire country. We are all involved in education because it affects us all. This is how strong Malam Adamu’s conviction in the value of education is, and that is why he remains the right man to lead the revolution in the education sector.
– Ibrahim is the director, communication and strategic planning, PSC