By Cecilia Ijuo
The Federal Government, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Sterling Bank and other stakeholders have promised to partner EDULEAD Development initiative to solve problem of out-of-school children and other educational challenges.
The stakeholders made the commitment at the launch of Education DreamGap Project, initiated by EDULEAD Development initiative on Tuesday in Abuja.
EDULEAD Development initiative is a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) that promotes quality education, sustainable agriculture, good governance and a healthy environment.
The Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, while unveiling the project, assured EDULEAD of Federal Government’s readiness to work with it in ensuring positive change in the education system in Nigeria.
Nwajiuba was represented by his Special Assistant on Project, Mr Adewale Adenike.
He commended EDULEAD for the laudable initiative, saying “what you are doing is a great initiative.
“In education, like we all know, no government can do it all. There must be partnership from the private sector and NGOs ought to be part of those driving our education system.
“I can tell you there are still lacunas. All we do is talk and after that we talk nothing changes.
“From what I hear, you are well focused here. You know exactly what you want to do and they are all itemised,” he said.
The minister stressed that “one thing I can guarantee you is that if you follow this path you have the support of the Ministry.
“What the ministry wants are people who know exactly what they want to do and how they are going to achieve it.
On out-of-school children, he said that the statistics was worrisome but assured that the federal government was working hard to ensure that all children of school age went to school.
“One thing this government has done under President Muhammadu Buhari is to try and focus on the out-of-school children.
“A lot of things are being done to encourage parents to allow their children not only to come to school but to stay in school, to the extent of having to pay people who are looking after the almajiri children for proper education.
“What we are now doing is that we are not asking you to come to school, we are bringing school to you.”
Nwajiuba decried the numerous challenges faced in the sector, adding that some reports had it that in some parts of the country, classrooms were filled beyond capacity, making learning difficult.
“We have a problem. The problem is not wanting to go to school or not wanting to go to school. We need to provide the environment, we need to provide teachers with what they need to teach.
“Teachers were demi-gods in those days, but nowadays if you say a teacher is coming they will tell you to get lost because we do not place value on teaching.
“Would anybody become anybody without teachers? Would you have doctors or ministers without teachers? If we are not going to have that then the teaching profession has to be looked at.”
He further said, “one of the areas we are looking at in terms of reform is, if someone is to study engineering, medicine, accounting, you are asking for all the As. But when it comes to teaching, you are willing to drop that grade to get the Cs, the Ds and Es.
“You expected this C, D, E teachers to produce “A” students. There is something not right. Currently this government is looking at that. In Finland, you cannot teach in a primary school without a Masters degree.
“You will not be allowed to enter the classroom to teach.
“In Nigeria, it is a different ball game. I have been to some classes where you listen to what the teacher is saying and he is saying absolute nothing to the children.
“At the end of the day, we have empty children who are expected to go and take over the leadership of this country.
“So, we need people like EDULEAD to work together with. We need teachers’ training and retraining.
“There are some people who are made to teach and others who love to teach. Some go into teaching because they could not get the course of their choice.”
He further said, “they are not really interested in teaching. They just want to go there to earn a living.
“A teacher who is not ready to wake up on time and go to the classroom to make a change should not be there in the first place.
“For a youth organisation like yours to come up with this then there is hope for us and the ministry of education would love to work closely with you.”
Nwajiuba said that the partnership would go a long way in solving challenges in the sector, decrying that, “you are asking a teacher to teach ICT. Someone who cannot turn on a computer and does not have an android phone.
A representative from UNESCO, Dr Safiya Muhammad, congratulated the NGO’s move to help revamp education in Nigeria.
“I want to congratulate EDULEAD on this very wonderful initiative. I have seen from your presentation of the overview that your dream is very tall as it covers other fields.
“I want to acknowledge most of the statements made by the Federal might, the representative of the minister of education.
“He hit the nail on something UNESCO is really encouraging.
“In the global context, over 30 million children are out of school, but in Nigeria, the statistics mostly quoted is about 10 million or 11 million.”
She disclosed that UNESCO was interested in speaking about the recent trend in education, which is impact of COVID-19 on the sector.
She said, “many children have been out of school and a new normal has been created, where learning has to take place somehow and mostly at home. Now, there are so many problems surrounding that.
“There are those coming from poor countries, rural areas where there is no internet, no electricity, do not have laptops, the teachers have no access to these technological innovations not to talk of parents and students.”
Muhammad stressed that the new normal had affected the girl child more.
She said, “I want to narrow this to the girl child. The negative impact has affected our daughters globally more than any other category of students.
“Girls are now forced to stay at home and shoulder the responsibility of household chores than when they were going to school.
“There are so many early pregnancies, early marriage, sexual violence, affecting our women and girls as a result of the COVID-19.
“How do we bridge the gap for the female gender to catch up with education?”
She said that to tackle the problem, UNESCO was launching campaign on sending students back to school, particularly female students.
She assured EDULEAD of UNESCO’s readiness to partner it in solving the problem.
“In the states you have earmarked, we can work with you in Imo State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We can get the details of what you do.
“Send it to us as quickly as possible and we can discuss how this can be done.
“We need to find out how we can assist the female gender to close the huge educational gap that has been created by COVID-19.
A representative from Sterling Bank, Mr Stanley Ejelue, also assured of the bank’s support.
Ejelue, who cover’s education business for Sterling Bank in Abuja and the Northern region, commended EDULEAD’s effort.
“I want to start by commending EDULEAD. This is a fantastic idea and for us in Sterling Bank, it resonates with what we are doing.
“We are at the forefront of education. Speaking to his project, it resonates with the vision of Sterling Bank.
“One of our visions is to enrich life and we do that by adding value. Our goal is not just to look for deposits, ask you for money but to also add value.
“We are going to collaborate and we are going to take this across the country.
Earlier, in his address of welcome, the Executive Director, EDULEAD Development Initiative, Mr Chinedu Opara, said the project was borne out of the need to help fix the deficits in the education sector.
He said that the NGO had identified some of the challenges in the sector, affecting mostly rural education to include teachers’ welfare, security and result outcomes among others.
According to him, the project tagged ” Education DreamGap Project” will start in April with focus on five states of the federation in its first phase, which will last for two years.
Opara disclosed that the first phase which would concentrate on basic education in 10 schools picked from Kogi, Gombe, Yobe, Imo and the FCT.
“We promote quality education with whatever resource we have. We realised there is huge gap in the education system.”
He further noted that part of the mandate of the NGO was reviewing the education policy to monitor implementation.
The executive director said, “we want to see how the education policy is implemented.
“The policy is holistic; so, we want through this project to monitor schools.”
He stressed that the initiative would further focus on quality of teaching and learning, work tools for teachers, teachers’ training on effective and modern teaching methods and techniques among others.