The first recorded success of Ibrahim Shekarau, former Kano State governor, after he was appointed minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, was his ability to convince striking lecturers in Nigerian polytechnics and colleges of education to suspend their industrial action and return to their classrooms. He should not, however, be carried away by the euphoria of this initial achievement to relax till another industrial action begins.
Being a former Mathematics teacher, and then a principal and later a governor, the minister, as a stakeholder in the Nigerian Project, understands many problems that are threatening to annihilate the Nigerian education sector. Therefore, his appointment to manage this crises-ridden sector is a big challenge he must overcome in the shortest possible time, even though the rot in the sector has festered for several decades.
It is a fact that many Nigerian tertiary institutions are mere glorified secondary schools. This conclusion has become obvious in view of the half baked graduates churned out by the institutions year after year. Most of these graduates, according to employers of labour, are unemployable. Where some qualify for employment, they must undergo specific training to be able to perform the tasks assigned to them. Some are so poor in spoken and written English to the extent that one wonders how they graduated.
Isn’t it ridiculous that Computer Science students graduate from tertiary institutions without seeing or touching a computer except, where they are fortunate enough, they learn about it outside the walls of their schools? This challenge also characterise most courses in Nigerian universities and has been part of what the various unions have clamoured for rectification over the years.
Shekarau should be aware that a major part of the blame for the rot in Nigeria’s education sector rests with the government for underfunding the universities and polytechnics and the discrimination between certificates issued by the polytechnics and those issued by universities, resulting in the desperation by Nigerians for mere paper qualification.
Another challenge is the poor output of teachers in the various schools as a result of their poor qualifications. As against other fast-growing nations where teachers are picked from those who have excelled academically, in Nigeria, a teacher is employed based on who he knows at the helm of affairs. His qualification is secondary.
There are also issues of government policy flip-flops concerning education which the new minister must address apart from poor funding of the sector. To us, the liberalisation of the education sector has become a major undoing for public schools, turning the latter into an option for only the downtrodden in the society. Many past and present government officials now invest in private schools thus killing the sector for personal gains.
With many public schools becoming an eyesore, and almost comatose, it is very important that Shekarau draws up a roadmap to revamp the sector. Serious overhauling is what is needed now to restore the lost glory of Nigeria’s universities and polytechnics.