Delivering On The Renewed Hope Education Roadmap

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“When asked to state the purpose of the citizens engagement programme the Hon. Minister was quick to inform the gathering that it was for the purpose of ensuring that the public validates the outcomes of some of the decisions taken in the direction of a better education sector for the country”.

BY AHMAD SAJOH

On the 2nd of April 2024 the Federal Ministry of Education organized an event that is considered the first of its kind under the President Tinubu government. The Hon. Minister Professor Tahir Mamman, OON, SAN supported by Minister of State Hon. Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu and the Permanent Secretary Mrs Esther Didi Walson-Jack held a citizen and stakeholders’ engagement at the Abuja Continental Hotel. The purpose was to present the progress made in the Ministry since the Minister took over, outline the deliverables determined and further interrogate the Nigerian Education Sector Roadmap. It was open, frank, engaging and interactive.

The Minister who dramatically removed his Agbada in order to make his PowerPoint presentation unhindered assumed his rightful position as the “Lecturer-General” of the Federation. He lectured the gathering on the number of steps taken, their impact and made some bold statements that betrayed his background as a teacher and educator in very clear terms. For example, he said anyone who delays progress because there is no money does not know the superiority of ideas over money. For him once the ideas are right, the implementation roadmap is clear and there is commitment to succeed, the resource base will be found. To him therefore, limitation of financial resources should never be a hindrance to service delivery. Rather prudent and innovative financial management practice should be the impetus for high performance.

Another novel idea the Minister expounded was the concept of infusion or integration of skills into the entire education system to address the learning crisis. Many people are used to the concept “skills acquisition” as a means of promoting the inclusion of some level of skill sets in some categories of young people mostly school dropouts or unemployed youth. For Professor Tahir Mamman that is not the way to go. The best way to ensure that skill sets are an integral part of learning is to infuse skills into the entire learning process such that a child at the basic and secondary school level grows up believing that beyond literacy and numeracy, skills are required in order to live a fulfilled life. The net effect of that is that if for instance a child goes to the University to become a professional, with a mindset that recognizes skill set as important, such a child will still consider his professional skills as part of the overall outlook to providing professional excellence. There are three areas the Minister emphasized in his presentation.

First is to build a reliable and authentic Database for the Sector. This is very key in effective planning. Standing before the stakeholders with all sense of responsibility the Minister decried the absence of a data of students at all levels. He said India with its large population has the correct data of people in school from basic to tertiary. He pledged to provide same for Nigeria in the coming months. Secondly Professor Tahir Mamman said he will ensure that the Ministry develops a template for the integration of Skills Development and Acquisition in the overall education curricula of the school system. That is indeed a huge paradigm shift from skills training as a failure option which is what is obtained today. Perhaps it is because skill acquisition is seen as a failure option that most young people never took it seriously. But with the new concept, skill acquisition is infused in the learning culture, making it a core component of learning rather than an option to learning. The third core objective is to reduce by a great percentage, the number of Out-of-School Children. From the very first day in office the Hon. Minister of Education had displayed an uncommon commitment to addressing the out-of-school children menace.

Under the current leadership and in keeping with President Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, The Federal Ministry of Education had developed eight (8) Focus Areas. These are: Equitable Access to education by every citizen, Quality Education and Learning Outcomes in order to enhance value, Skills and Entrepreneurship Education as an integral part of the learning process, Research and Innovation Education for knowledge upgrade, Infrastructure Planning so as to ensure effective carrying capacity, Education Financing and Resourcing in order to have resource back up, System strengthening to ensure effective institutional functioning and Policy Recommendations for the entire education sector. These are indeed revolutionary ideas that will definitely create positive impact nationwide.

Under the Education roadmap of the Renewed Hope Agenda as enunciated by Professor Tahir Mamman and his team, the role of the Private sector has been well understood and appreciated. The Hon. Minister of Education informed the gathering of stakeholders that at the basic and secondary level of Education especially at Urban and semi-urban centres, there are more private schools than public schools. To this end it was imperative to sensitize the private sector on partnership in all aspects of the sector including funding of key aspects such as research and provision of infrastructure.

The establishment of a National Education Repository and Data Bank to collect, collate, and warehouse all education records from 1932 has been prioritized. No nation develops without understanding the institutional memories past activities. In realization of the role development partners play in the progress and development of all sectors, the Federal Ministry of Education under professor Tahir Mamman had focused engagements with development partners on practical impactful projects in Nigeria. The key focus is to ensure that Nigeria determines her needs and intervention areas based on situation analysis and gaps identified.

The Federal Scholarship scheme was enhanced and made more transparent and inclusive. Every aspect of the scheme is based on an open and transparent manner. This is with a view to increasing confidence in the system and ensuring that both the providers of grants and beneficiaries develop confidence in the scheme. So far 345 beneficiaries under the bilateral agreements with Foreign Countries have left Nigeria for those countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. A total 2,889 students studying education have received bursary awards. 51 students have benefitted from Commonwealth Scholarship Awards and 2,122 others are beneficiaries of the Nigerian scholarship awards. The teacher Internship Award is an innovation aimed at providing mentorship to young persons in the teaching profession. It comes with some token grant to incentivize the process. A total of 724 beneficiaries have so far enjoyed the awards.

What all this point to is that with the transparent and inclusive manner Professor Tahir Mamman and his team had handled these scholarship awards, there should be no fear that the proposed students loan scheme will either be abused by the usual Nigerian factors of opaqueness and favouritism. One of the most viable means of ensuring openness and transparency in all operations is Digitization. All Federal Ministry of Education Departmental records have been scanned and digitized into electronic documents. This is no mean feat. In addition, several other processes including certificate accreditation has been automated. Authentication and Accreditation of Certificates can be easily done by anyone including prospective employers on www.ess.education.gov.ng. The Ministry has automated the collation and compilation of admissions into Federal Unity Colleges. A total of 35,000 teachers across the country have been trained in the use of ICT in the classroom in addition to the provision of ICT equipment to produce digital content for all 36 States and FCT.

In a bold effort to intervene in some key areas such as the Non – Formal Level of education including Almajiri and Tsangaya education and some of the interventions required to help girls who lost their first chance at school get a second chance. Grants have been released to 312 Integrated Qur’anic and Tsangaya Education (IQTE) Centers in 24 States and the FCT for the construction of 419 Classrooms, 66 Recitation halls, 25 Recitation shades, 140 Offices, 27 hostels and 225 VIP toilets. This has helped to reduce the number of out-of-school children drastically.

A total of 2,000,000 Out-of-School Children (Almajiris) were enrolled in Basic schools and an Arabic literacy programme with vocational training. Soon the effect will be felt when some of these hitherto neglected children begin to become highly priced professionals and artisans. The Ministry within this short span of time renovated 73 classrooms, drilled 46 boreholes, supplied 55 double bunk beds, 559 lockers, 1,100 mats, 6,585 pupils and teachers’ furniture for the benefits of 62,161 Learners. 28 Second Chance Schools (Girl-Child Community Centers) were constructed to promote Girl-child education and skill acquisition.

In order to encourage the available textbooks with Nigerian contents and promoting Nigerian values, the Ministry facilitated the conversion of academic manuscripts into books, resulting in the publication of 80 textbooks. However, understanding that knowledge is a universal commodity, the Ministry also identified books with contents relevant to modern learning in different fields, to this end, up to 3,118,701 assorted books and 376,262 E-Resources were acquired. A National virtual library was created and can be accessed at www.virtuall.nln.gov.ng. The Ministry also facilitated the implementation of State-of-the-Art National Repository of Nigeria – https://nigeriareposit.nln.gov.ng/.

It became imperative to preserve our heritage through the Documentation of Unexploited Nigerian heritage in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin. This includes an ongoing collection and documentation of all alphabets in mother languages, establishment of 40 Book clubs in Secondary Schools. The Ministry equally ensured the provision of Vacation Skills Acquisition Training for 420 participants in ICT, Shoemaking, leather work, catering, and other sundry. These are done with a dual purpose. First to equip the beneficiaries with skill sets but secondly to study the process and determine learning curves to be used in rolling out the process on a massive scale.

When asked to state the purpose of the citizens engagement programme the Hon. Minister was quick to inform the gathering that it was for the purpose of ensuring that the public validates the outcomes of some of the decisions taken in the direction of a better education sector for the country. Additionally, it was to interrogate the deliverables with a view to creating a reformed education sector that provides access to quality education for all and is capable of producing a highly skilled and educated workforce equipped with entrepreneurial skills to break the cycle of poverty and guarantee sustainable economic growth and global competitiveness. That indeed is the goal of the “Renewed Hope Education Roadmap for Nigeria”

Ahmad Sajoh is the Executive Director/CEO of FutureNow Initiative and one of Civil Society leaders who participated at the Citizens Engagement of the Federal Ministry of Education at the Ladi Kwalli Hall Abuja Continental Hotel, Abuja FCT.

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