Education: Roadmap to 2011
YET again, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) has unveiled a comprehensive reform agenda. This time, 2011 has been set aside as the year of fulfillment for some critical aspects of that agenda. However, in this first of a three - part report, ROTIMI LAWRENCE OYEKANMI deconstructs the 150 - page document along realistic lines, and examines the document's plan of action for the basic education sub - sector. The second part will be published next week.
An ambitious comprehensive Roadmap for the Nigerian Education Sector was last week tabled before delegates at the extra - ordinary meeting the National Council on Education (NCE) held in Abuja by Education Minister, Dr Sam Egwu.
The 150-page document was a fulfillment of the promise made by the Minister a few months ago that he would, within reasonable period, come out with a document that would point the way forward for the education sector.
Explaining the rationale behind the document, Egwu stated that the need to clearly articulate targets, against which outcomes for states and agencies could be monitored, evaluated and compared, informed his resolve to put the document together.
The Minister admitted to accomplish the goals in the document, a greater collaboration among federal, states and local education authorities was paramount. He also underscored the need for a clearly articulated accountability system through which states and agencies which meet their targets could be identified and commended.
His words: "The process of developing the Roadmap began, with a comprehensive review of previous efforts undertaken by past administrations. The intention was to build on the achievements already in place, instead of duplicating efforts, while also avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes of the past.
"Through a careful appraisal, it became clear that the major problem that has hindered progress in the education sector is not lack of good ideas, but lack of a focused, practical and actionable implementation effort. This problem of lack pf sustainable improvement can also be traced to a lack of political will to carry out the needed reforms, as well as inadequate funding to support such reforms."
On the level of inputs, Egwu noted that the document had been distributed to all directorate - level officers of the FME, head of parastatals and Principals of Federal Unity Schools a a retreat in Abuja on March 20. "It will please you that useful points were made by this group which have been incorporated."
Egwu also revealed that the document was presented to the National Stakeholders' Forum held on March 27, where, according to him, more value was added to the Roadmap through "useful inputs and constructive criticism."
"In addition," he continued, "realizing that the retreat and the National Stakeholders' Forum might not have provided sufficient opportunity for critical stakeholders to make in-depth contributions, I directed that critical stakeholders such as SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board) chairmen, development partners, unions in tertiary institutions, NUT (Nigeria Union of Teachers), ANCOPSS (All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools) and other Civil Society Organisations be invited for a Focus Group Interaction with the Roadmap Technical Team."
The cornerstone of the document is its implementation strategy, Egwu assured. "The strategy is to use a representative sample of schools and institutions across the country as demonstration projects that will benefit from an intensive and focused implementation of the turn-around strategies. This is based on the theory that what works in representative sample will work in other similar schools and institutions across the country."
In the document, the overview of the education sector was focused along four priority areas: Access and Equity; Standards and Quality Assurance; Technical, Vocational Education and Training; Funding, Resource Mobilisation and Utilisation. Under the first theme the challenges posed by Out-of-School Children, Lack of Essential Infrastructure, Gender Disparity, Poverty and Almajiris were considered.
Under the second theme, factors considered include - infrastructural needs, teacher development, motivation and retention, curriculum relevance and review, and Information and Communication Technology. With regard to Technical,Vocation Education and Training, the dearth of qualified teaching staff, low societal estimation of vocational education and inadequate number of technical and vocational colleges were considered. And under funding and resource utilization, factors examined include: budgetary allocation, inadequate funding of schools, poor management and utilization of funds were undertaken.
Specifically, the document established that wide disparities in enrolment still exist. It stated that in Early Childhood Care and Development Centres (ECCDE) only two million children find their way there, with a whooping 20 million others in the lurch. Under primary education, the document noted that while 24 million children were already enrolled, 11 million others were not. In junior secondary schools, six million children were still roaming the streets while only three million are in school. Under the Nomadic Education Scheme, according to the document, over three million nomadic children are still out of school.
In view of the wide disparities between expected and actual enrolments, the document listed three turnaround strategies. The first is the unleashing of a national campaign on access. This is intended to create national awareness, with the timeline fixed for between May and September. The second is "sensitisation, advocacy, and mobilization in support of enrolment and funding including using such initiatives as READ Campaign." The last is a review of the Universal Basic Education Act, to enforce provisions on compulsory enrolment and retention. The timeline is 2011, and the target is to have 3.1 more children in ECCCDEs based on an estimated 54 per cent enrolment this year at 3.67 per cent growth rate, and 27.9 million children in primary schools, from a projected 92 per cent enrolment this year, at one per cent growth rate.
With regard to Nomadic Education, the plan is to have 1.379 million nomadic children enrolled this year, based on an anticipated 30 per cent increase, and a projected growth rate of 2.32 per cent. For Mass Literacy, an increase of 50 percent in enrolment is anticipated, but, curiously, there is no mention of what the role of the National Mass Literacy and Non Formal Education Commission (NMEC) will be.
On the challenge of inadequate and inaccurate infrastructure, the plan s to restructure and decentralize school census to make it state-driven, to be jointly coordinated by both the federal and state Ministries of Education. This is projected to take place within six to 12 months. On poverty, the strategy is to promote state-driven incentives and mid day meals among others, the aim of which is to achieve increased enrolment and improved health and nutrition of pupils.
On infrastructure, about 4,000 classrooms are to be provided per annum for the pre education sub sector, while 22, 000 classrooms per annum would also be provided at the primary school level over the next two years. At the Junior Secondary School level, some 10, 160 classrooms will be provided, while 714 classrooms are anticipated for nomadic education also within the next two years.
Interestingly, the document showed some concern about the distance pupils have to cover to get to schools. It stated that the establishment of neighbourhood and open schools will be encouraged, and that schools would be established within three to four kilometers radius of pupils' homes.
Concerning the teacher factor, the plan is to recruit teachers for Colleges of Education from the pool of secondary school leavers, through recruitment campaigns that would depict teaching as a honorable profession. Incentive structures to motivate teachers and attract the high quality students to take up teaching are to be established. For this aspect, the timeline is between 2010 and 2011, and the anticipated achievements include the attainment of: 124, 696 care - givers for ECCDE by 2010, 797, 166 teachers for primary schools also by 2010, and 110, 177 teachers for the JSS segment.
But where is the funding for all these ambitious plans come from? The document relies heavily of the federal budget for 2009, 2010 and 2011 and this is where the problem lies. How much really is needed and what will the budget for each of the years ahead look like? What will be the contributions of the states? It was also not stated whether there are adequate experts in the Federal Ministry of Education to implement the plans step by step, especially those that need professional handling. Then the big question: what if, by 2011, Egwu is no more Education Minister? Will the FME continue with the plan nevertheless? No one at the FME has the answers, at least for now.
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