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Abigail Anaba: The APC manifesto on education: Is this progress?

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Abigail Anaba: The APC manifesto on education: Is this progress?

by Abigail Anaba

When the All Progressives Congress announced their manifesto just over a week ago, it caused quite a stir. Finally, here was a document that would point us towards where and how the ‘progressive’ party intended to lead Nigeria. Ahead of the elections, it was necessary to have such a document. If the APC had any chance of convincing a majority of Nigerians to say no to the People’s Democratic Party in 2015, it was necessary to have, not just another alternative, but a healthy and viable alternative. Except of course, we are trying to root out the PDP just for the sake of.

The APC manifesto seems to have everything covered. Going from constitutional review to tackling security woes, job creation and the economy, agriculture, industry, infrastructure, foreign policy, environment, women empowerment, senior citizens, youth, sport, culture and education, healthcare, oil and gas, in fact every sector of the economy. It was indeed an all-inclusive document.

I was drawn to the provisions as far as education is concerned. It has been opined that at the core of most of the problems facing the country is the low standard and quality of education from primary to tertiary level.

This is what the APC manifesto has to say about what the party plans to do for education:

EDUCATION: APC will

  • Fully implement and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on gender equity in primary and secondary school enrolment whilst improving the quality and substance of our schools;
  • Targeting up to 15% of our annual budget for this critical sector whilst making substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of the educational system;
  • Implement performance based education as against the current certificate based qualification;
  • Enhance teacher training and improve the competence of teachers along with vigorous national inspection;
  • Make learning experiences more meaningful for children and make education more cost-effective;
  • Develop and promote effective use of innovative teaching methods/materials in schools;
  • Ensure a greater proportion of expenditure on university education is devoted to Science and Technology with more spaces allocated to science and technology oriented courses;
  • Establish at least six new universities of science and technology with satellite campuses in various states;
  • Establish technical colleges and vocational centres in each state of the federation;
  • Provide more conducive environment for private sector participation in all levels of education;
  • Establish six centres of excellence to address the needs of special education;

These all look like laudable plans.

But let’s go through this with a not too fine tooth comb.

  • Fully implement and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on gender equity in primary and secondary school enrolment whilst improving the quality and substance of our schools;

First let us note that the UBE act was signed into law in 2004 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, a PDP president and is still the working document through which education from the primary to junior secondary schools are run to this date.

The UBE act 2004 makes no provision for senior secondary education. This level of education is actually in limbo. Does the APC really want to continue with these same provisions?

Then again, what does the UBE Act 2004 say? Let’s take excerpts from Part 1 Section 2 of the UBE Act 2004:

(1) Every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.

(2) Every parent shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his—

                (a) primary school education; and

                (b) junior secondary school education,

by endeavouring to send the child to primary and junior secondary schools.

(3) The stakeholders in education in a Local Government Area, shall ensure that every parent or person who has the care and custody of a child performs the duty imposed on him under section 2 (2) of this Act.

(4) A parent who contravenes section 2 (2) of this Act commits an offence and is liable —

                (a) on first conviction, to be reprimanded

                 (b) on second conviction, to a fine of N2,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of one month or to both; and

                 (c) on subsequent conviction, to a fine of N5,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of two months or to both.

The past 14 years has shown that ‘free education’ is only good as a political campaign promise. A case can certainly be made for the fact that one of the biggest problems that we have with our education sector is the lack of adequate funding. ASUU lecturers are on strike partly or wholly because they want more money to be invested in the sector. Is this the time for the party of progressives to be touting free education? Did you say it’s a constitutional matter? Well, the APC promises constitutional reforms so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Education can be made compulsory without it being free. Nothing free works. Come to think of it, has free education stopped us from having over 10 million out of school children? The balance of getting children into the classrooms without over-tasking their parents only takes a little thinking and ingenuity. I want to believe that the progressives score highly on both counts.

Yet, I wonder what the APC will do about the redundant teachers in the system. True, they have promised training but I dare say that training can only work if you have trainable materials, A situation where teachers can’t even read what kind of training would you offer? Will there be an upgrade in salaries of teachers to attract the right talents to this sector? Again, where will the money come from when education is to remain free for the first 9 years?

  • Targeting up to 15% of our annual budget for this critical sector whilst making substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of the educational system;

This definitely is a right step in the right direction. Last year, education was given priority by the GEJ administration receiving an 8.7% allocation of the entire budget. APC proposes 15%. This would be great to see. It would be good to know where the APC hopes to free up another 6.3% to allocate to education. Which sectors do they hope to pay less attention to in order to achieve this?  Will there be job cuts or will the over bloated salaries of the legislature finally be cut?

Yet, this allocation is still far short of  UNESCO’s 26% stipulation and will remain far short of what countries like Ghana and South Africa budget to education.

  • Establish at least six new universities of science and technology with satellite campuses in various states;

I still do not understand how establishing more universities will solve the problem with the education sector. The present government, in January, announced the establishment of three new federal universities in Gashua, Birnin Kebbi and Gusau in Yobe, Kebbi and Zamfara States respectively. These universities will still be fed by the same quality of students churned out by the senior secondary schools that are travelling the education waters, rudderless. They will be educated by the same set of lecturers with the same mindset.

Perhaps though, these other plans set by the APC will help solve the educator problems:

  • Implement performance based education as against the current certificate based qualification;
  • Enhance teacher training and improve the competence of teachers along with vigorous national inspection;
  • Make learning experiences more meaningful for children and make education more cost-effective;
  • Develop and promote effective use of innovative teaching methods/materials in schools;

Only time will tell.

I choose to be optimistic rather than scream out the first word that comes to my head ‘turenchi”!

The APC also hopes to:

  • Establish technical colleges and vocational centres in each state of the federation;
  • Provide more conducive environment for private sector participation in all levels of education;
  • Establish six centres of excellence to address the needs of special education.

In all, The APC manifesto on education does not look like a totally bad document. There are bright spots. Yet, it would have been great to know how long the APC hopes to spend in revamping the education sector. Would this happen within the first four years of their being voted in or is this a 10 year plan?

This  manifesto raises questions and we hope that as the elections draw closer, the APC would take out time to make further clarifications.

– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Anabagail

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