2020: Year of lull in educational aspirations

As the 2020 runs to an end, UJI ABDULLAHI ILIYASU highlights some of the important events in educational development in Nigeria.

The Lockdown

In December of 2019, there had been news of emergence and spread of the dreaded Corona virus in China. The virus spread across continents and soon to Nigeria, leading to the lockdown of institutions and educational facilities in March 2020.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in March, announced a lockdown of major cities worst hit by the pandemic in his address to the nation.  Buhari ordered a ban on social and economic activities and gatherings of people in the capital, Abuja, the commercial hub, Lagos, Ogun state and the surrounding cities to stem the spread of the virus.

“I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11 p.m. (2000GMT) on Monday, 30th March 2020.

“This restriction will also apply to Ogun state due to its close proximity to Lagos and heavy traffic between the two states,” he said.

The pandemic which seemed to be going away is now returning, especially in this cold season.

School feeding in a lockdown

The closure of schools occasioned by the lockdown did not hinder the feeding of school children by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. Although the home grown school feeding had been criticised by opposition parties and many stakeholders as uncalled for, the programme went ahead. Later, a huge sum of N2.67bn went to private pockets as alleged by Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

ICPC said in September, 2020, that  it had uncovered the sum of N2.67bn being payment made to federal colleges during the lockdown, ending up in private accounts. Up till now, no one was prosecuted. 

JAMB lures CBT centre operators to police net

On Jan 29, 2020, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) lured some operators of Computer Based Test (CBT) centres involved in alleged UTME registration scam to their headquarters and handed them to security agents for prosecution.

This happened at JAMB’s corporate headquarters at Bwari after cross examinations of the operators by JAMB registrar, Professor Is-shaq Oloyede, who doubled as the prosecutor and the judge.

Oloyode had invited the unsuspecting operators to stakeholders’ dialogue in the office only for them be interrogated on various degrees of fraud they had committed in the registration process.

The overwhelming evidences JAMB officials had tendered against their CBT partners included sets of laptops that the JAMB supervisors had earlier confiscated from the centres.

 Earlier, JAMB had revoked licenses of 11 CBT centres and blacklisted them.  The operators of those centres probably thinking that JAMB was going to resolve the issues with them, came all the way from the six geopolitical zones and 36 states of the federation and FCT only to be arrested.

According to the statistics presented, JAMB officials seized 25 computer sets from the South-south; 8 from South-east; 5 from Southwest; 9 from the North-central and one from the North-east.

The registrar said that in the 2019 UTME, their attention was focused on fraudulent activities of students but they found that the activities of the operators were more important in 2020, therefore, beamed their search light on CBT centres and found massive fraud in the registration process across the six geopolitical zones and 36 states and FCT.

“Last time we devoted our time to arrest students, but this year we will focus on CBT centre operators

“We can track fraudsters even to their fathers’ houses,” Oloyode said.

New registrar assumes duty at NECO

On May 15, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of Professor Godswill Obioma as Registrar/Chief Executive of National Examinations Council (NECO).

A letter dated May 15, 2020, with reference No: FME/PS/396/C1/1/134 and signed by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, stated that the appointment which was for an initial tenure of five years, took effect from May 14, 2020.

 According to NECO’s Head, Information and Public Relations Division, Azeez Sani, in a statement, Obioma, a professor of Education Measurement and Evaluation, took over the affairs of the council from the former Acting Registrar, Malam Abubakar Gana, at the council’s headquarters in Minna.  

Unilag, Unijos, 10 others, get TETFund’s Centres of Excellence

In Novermber,Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has selected the University of Lagos (UniLag) University of Jos (UniJos) and 10 other federal universities as the pioneer Centres of Excellence to define the trajectory for the transformation of tertiary institutions.

Executive Secretary, TETFund, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro, at the inauguration of the 12 maiden Centres of Excellence said the objective was to address a specific national development challenge through preparation of professionals, applied research and associated outreach activities to partners, especially community services.

Bogoro also disclosed that the board would fund the 12 centres with a grant of one billion (N1billion) each for five years to enable them attain national aspirations.

The TETFund boss said the two selected centres in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country were expected to ensure the strengthening and sustainability of the centres beyond 2025.

In the Northcentral, University of Abuja and  University of Jos have been selected as Centres of Excellence in Public Governance and Leadership and Food security respectively. “Northeast has Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, as TETFind’s Centre of Excellence in food security as the University of Maiduguri is Centre of Excellence in Arid Zone Research and Development; while Northwest has Usmanu Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, as Centre of Excellence in Urology and Nephrology and even as Bayero University, Kano, is Centre of Renewable Energy.

“Others are: in Southeast are Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, in Root Crop Research, Development and Agriculture Transitional Studies respectively,” Bogoro said.

In Southsouth, University of Benin and University of Uyo got Centres of Excellence in Aquaculture and Food Technology, and Computational Intelligence and Multi-Disciplinary Studies respectively, while the Southwest has university of Ibadan and University of Lagos in Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management respectively.

Bogoro said the first batch of the institutions was carefully selected while reassuring the board’s unflinching support towards the realisation of the objectives of the initiative.

 “The conceptual framework for Centres of Excellence is unlikely to be unfamiliar, alien or even novel to most of you here. Nevertheless, a Strategic Framework and Establishment Guidelines for TETFund Centres of Excellence, as approved by the TETFund Board of Trustees will be made available to all of you.

“Each selected institution is expected to implement its own approved TCOE, with the objective to address a specific national development challenge through preparation of professionals, applied research and associated outreach activities to partner, especially community services.”

Education standard nose dives

On December 13, at the Federal College of Education (FCE) Yola, Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, stunned Nigerians with his remark on fallen education standard in Nigeria. He said Nigerian graduates cannot express themselves in simple English.

The minister decried the continuous fall in the standard of education in the country. Adamu, who spoke in Yola, the Adamawa state capital, during official commissioning of completed projects in the college, lamented a situation in which graduates can neither read nor write in a simple English.

“Some graduates of tertiary institutions across the country cannot read or write applications,” the minister who was represented by the director of tertiary education in the Federal Ministry of Education, Hajia Rakiya Gambo Iliyasu, said.

The minister elaborated that students and even graduates had been found to be unable to write one full sentence without multiple corrections. He thus urged all stakeholders in the education sector to sit up to ensure that the decline in the value of education was bridged within the shortest time possible, adding that the situation was a cause for concern, so students and teachers need to sit up and face their tasks squarely if the situation was to be reversed.

“Some graduates of tertiary institutions across the country cannot read or write applications,” Adamu said. But stakeholders said he must first blame himself for the downward trend as the blame stops on his table as education minister for six years.

NDA honours NYSC DG

The Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Department of History and War Studies, on November 22, presented a book titled: “War, Society and Leadership in Nigeria,” in honour of the Director-General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-General Shuaibu Ibrahim.

In his opening remarks, the representative of NDA Commandant and Provost, Nigerian Defence Academy, Professor Isa Garba, said the academy was proud of General Ibrahim who is an Associate Professor, saying the book would contribute to literature in understanding the history of wars in Nigeria.

He urged the DG to remain focused on actualising his vision for the NYSC through relentless pursuit of his policy thrust anchored on five cardinal points.

Brig-General Ibrahim, while appreciating the academy for the honour done to him with the presentation, said the military and the academic community could work together to lift the sector to an enviable height, adding that he  appreciated the History department of the NDA because his achievements couldn’t be possible without their support.

“Continue to touch your fellow human being. This is an example of reward for hardwork. Therefore, this  honour will spur me to do more.

“It is a privilege and honour to receive this for my department. I want to use this opportunity to commend the commandant and the provost of the academy. This is encouraging.

“Also, it is a lesson for others that when given opportunity to serve humanity, there is always a reward at the end of the service,” he said.

Oyo govt takes over LAUTECH

In November, the lingering crisis arising from the joint ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Ogbomoso, Oyo state, by Oyo and Osun state governments came to an end.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja on November 20, the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, said the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the two governors of Oyo and Osun states, shows that the main university campus at Ogbomoso had now become the property of Oyo state government, while the teaching hospital at Osogbo, had been taken over by Osun state government.

NUC boss said after the amicable resolution and agreement brokered by a tripartite committee, (which was chaired by NUC deputy executive secretary, academics), was signed by the two governors, each had been trying to see how best to utilise its own facilities. Towards this end, the teaching hospital at Osogbo would be used as teaching hospital for Osun State University, while Oyo state was working round the clock to build a new teaching hospital for LAUTECH.

 “The National Universities Commission  wishes to commend and express its profound gratitude to the Executive Governors of Osun state, His Excellency Adegboyega Oyetola  and His Excellency Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, for their exemplary statesmanship, leadership and tremendous sacrifice by putting the interest of LAUTECH  and its over 30, 000 students above political and other considerations….” Rasheed said.

The NUC boss said over the years the joint ownership of LAUTECH had been characterised by insurmountable governance challenges as it relates to the appointment of vice chancellors, and other principal officers as well as irregular payment of staff salaries.

LAUTECH was established in 1990 by the Oyo state government with its main campus at Ogbomoso and its teaching hospital subsequently was located in Osogbo, Osun state

However, when Osun state was carved out of old Oyo state in 1991, both states became joint owners of the institution, the development led to unending management crises that had affected both staff and students of the institution.

ASUU suspends nine-month old strike

On December 23, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said it had conditionally called off the strike it embarked on since March over the backlog of unmet agreements between its members and the federal government.

The union said it has suspended the nine-month-old strike even as it would monitor the compliance level of the federal government on the concessions it had made.

Speaking at a press briefing at the union’s secretariat in Abuja shortly before the suspension, the union’s president, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, said this decision was reached after its national executive council had previously met,  adding that the issue of IPPIS had also been resolved.

On when studies would resume fully in the nation’s public universities in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country, Ogunyemi said the teachers were ready to resume as long as full health measures were put in place.

“As far as we are concerned, we are ready to resume work. Let the government do what is needed to ensure safety. We insist that the COVID-19 protocol should be observed.”

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