The strategic role of education as the key to development of any society cannot be over-emphasized. When the citizens are well formed and educated, they are more likely to be easily governed, be patriotic citizens and better equipped to fully develop themselves in realizing national aspirations. It is for these reasons that every nation should ensure that this sector is accorded its deserved attention.
That was the major reason why critical players decided to convene another roundtable, organized by the Worldview International Initiative and the British Educational Suppliers Association, United Kingdom, to look into the state of our education with a view to making it perform its vital role as administrators, academics, planners, teachers and researchers at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels met recently at the African Leaders in Education Forum in Abuja with the theme, Strategic Policies and Structures for the Achievement of Quality Education.
According to Dominic Savage, OBE, Director-General of BESA, the forum was running simultaneously alongside the African Resources and Technology for Education Show because technology was imperative for the delivery of sound education. Savage noted that while teachers would always be the greatest educational resource, equipment, materials, books and technology on the other hand constituted the second greatest resource in the attainment of the greatest possible impact.
During the education commissioners Plenary Session on Regional Policies and Structures, which was meant to highlight the various challenges being faced by state commissioners of education in reaching out to students in achieving quality teaching and learning for optimizing education’s impact in line with national goals, the Benue State Commissioner of Education, Dr. Elizabeth Ugo spoke on, “The Impact of Policies and Structures on Actualizing Educational Development: The Case of Benue State”. She said Nigeria’s educational system was highly decentralised, having passed through various phases between 1951 to date and was now geared towards meeting government’s policies of ‘Education for All’, Millennium Development Goals and National Empowerment and Development Strategy and updated to accommodate recent developments embedded in the Federal Government’s transformation agenda.
Dr. Lawson Alovor, a renowned author, delved on “Mitigating the Falling Standards of Education through the Use of Effective Teaching Strategies: The Teacher Education Factor”. In this lecture, he observed that “the falling standard in education, particularly, in Africa has become an issue of major concern to all well-meaning people of the world and not only to Africans. Hardly a day passes by without the newspapers heralding the woes and lamentations of declining standards of education in our countries. It is no secret that governments, educational leaders, non-governmental organizations, policy makers and opinion leaders have gone berserk at trying to find solutions to this menace”.
He said the hallmark of good teaching was the demonstration of the ability to use effectively, a variety of strategies in the process of guiding students’ learning experiences but regretted that “quite a large number of people take to teaching without undergoing the formal teacher training education. This is often the case in the rural areas and most often in private schools and in our universities, where un-trained teachers account for about 65% of teaching staff”. Alovor’s point alluded to my position during the proceeding when I urged the relevant regulatory bodies to enforce the appropriate legislation that will guarantee that only those trained as teachers actually teach. He, however, observed that one of the ways to address the declining standard of education was to embark on a pragmatic drive through periodic organisation of courses for teachers on the job, to refresh their memories on the fundamental principles and methods of teaching and learning.
Professor Olusola Oyewole, Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and President, Association of African Universities; Professor Adebiyi Daramola, Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Akure; Professor Emmanuel Okoro, Professor of Medicine, University of Ilorin and Ms. Brittney Field of the Bridge International Academies made useful interventions at the Plenary Session on Policies and Structures for Ensuring Quality Teaching Delivery.
Participants also identified the setbacks affecting polytechnic education in the country to comprise of: infrastructural deficits, discrimination against staff and graduates, undue influence in students’ admission and appointment of staff while the Director, Technical and Vocational Services, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Educational Board, Laolu Oguntuyi analyzed the major problems facing technical and vocational education, which are institutional in nature, just as Stephen Amponsah, Executive Director, National Vocational Training Institute, spoke from the Ghanaian perspective and it was resolved that vocational education was an impetus to stimulating economic development.
Far reaching resolutions were made at the end of the forum that would certainly turn around our educational sector and it is only hoped that this time around, unlike previous discourse, outcomes of the intellectually-stimulating forum are expected to serve as a blueprint to developing sustainable educational standards for Nigeria and indeed, Africa.