Delta Education Summit: Okowa, Stakeholders Canvass Synergy For Improved Education System

Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) By Albert OGRAKA– 

Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (left) and Prof. Pai Obanyan
Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (left) and Prof. Pai Obanyan

Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has said low oil prices in the global market and attendant decreased revenue also pose a threat to Nigeria’s education sector, stating that the recent economic downturn necessitated the education summit hosted by the Delta state government, aimed at enabling and re-engineering the education system in the state.

Okowa said this during the Delta State Education Summit 2016 at the Events Centre, Asaba, on Tuesday. The theme of two-day the summit is “Leapfrogging Education in Delta State”.

“It does appear we have reached a crossroad in the education sector. The sector is currently being plagued by funding gaps necessitated by the demands placed on systems struggling to cope with increased enrollment, decaying infrastructure, obsolete curriculum, out-dated teaching methods, and generally falling standards in the quality of education.

“In an increasingly competitive global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge, a good education is no longer an option; it is necessary. Hence, a cardinal policy objective of our S.M.A.R.T. agenda is the pursuit and implementation of educational policies/reforms with the overall purpose of tuning out products that will be able to complete and excel in the 21st Century.

The governor, who stressed the need to place greater emphasis on the training and support of teachers, also noted that the huge challenges in funding of the education sector now requires that parents and communities should be more involved in funding education. “This administration has already made provision in the 2016 approved budget for the establishment of a Teachers Professional Development Centre for regular in-service training.”

“Since the adoption of the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals in 2000, Delta State has made remarkable strides in the implementation of the concept of universal participation in education. There are currently 1,113 public primary schools with total enrollment of 370, 611 while the number of secondary schools, inclusive of six functional technical colleges, stands at 446 with a corresponding enrollment figure of 262 242 students. At the tertiary level, there are three polytechnics and colleges of education each and a university owned by the state government.

“As the demand for education continues to rise, we have also witnessed rapid growth in the number of of privately-owned schools. Currently, the number stands at 2,306 comprising 1,548 nursery and primary schools and 758 secondary schools. The exponential rise in the number of private schools means the state government has to regularly strengthen its oversight and monitoring functions to ensure compliance with the extant laws and regulations, and enforce quality standards.

Chief Afe Babalola, legal luminary and President of Afe Babalola University, while presenting an opening address, attributed to the series of military intervention in the politics of the country as disruption to the stabilization of the education sector in Nigeria.

The destabilization of Nigeria’s educational system has been attributed to the series of military intervention in the politics of the country because it disrupted the established and progressing education sector then existing in Nigeria.

Babalola, who was represented by a member of the governing council of Afe Babalola University, Prof Israel Olatunji Olobunloye, noted that the disruption of the educational system by military governments created the problem of poor management of schools, poor remuneration, strikes, dilapidated infrastructure as well as poor hostels, water, electricity, equipment of school libraries and laboratories.

Babalola noted that government’s unnecessary bureaucracy has negatively impacted on the country’s education sector, saying the challenges he faced as a two-time pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos prompted him to establish the Afe Babalola private university in order to help rescue declining educational standards in Nigeria.

He however expressed the need for parents, community and the government join hands in the addressing the critical challenge of funding of education in our respective states and in the country.

Prof John Okpako Enaohwo, in his presentation on “Fiscal Planning and Development in Nigerian Education: The Paradox of Autonomy and Dependence”, decried the continuous over-centralization of the education system in Nigeria.

He suggested the removal of Education from the Recurrent Expenditure in the annual budget of the Federal Government, saying this was responsible for most of the problems

He also suggested that the Joint Admission and Matriculation (JAMB) should be scrapped, because we do not need JAMB because it is an impediment to students desirous of learning or getting higher education, Enaohwo also said.

Similarly, he said that the National University Commission (NUC) should also be scrapped, saying what Nigerian universities really need are the various professional bodies like the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) doing the accreditation which the NUC has been doing even without qualified personnel.

In a keynote paper titled “Advancing Education in Delta State”, Prof Pai Obayan noted that the greatest challenge militating against the education sector in Delta State and Nigeria in general remained the “lack of access.”

He said that access to quality education goes beyond physical access to education or learning saying features like enrollment, participation, success, progress and advancement were all important elements in determining the level of people’s access to education.

Aside the enormous challenges of policy inconsistency, curriculum and funding, the lack of reliable and regular data remains the greatest issue in the education system in Nigeria, Obayan noted.

On the “problem of examination failure, ” he advised government at all levels to to jettison the current over-emphasis on many examinations and instead adopt the model of assessment of educational performance operational in Ghana and five Anglophone countries called “Monitoring of learning achievement” or MLA Model.

Earlier, the chairman of summit’s organizing committee, Prof Patrick Muoboghare explained the objective of the education summit and gave details of the programme, stressing that Governor Okowa had agreed that the discussions should be frank and inclusive of all participants.

The event was well-attended by serving and retired eminent educationists and renowned scholars as well as senior government officials, proprietors of schools, religious and traditional rulers, including the acting chairman of the state traditional council and Obi of Owa, HRM Emmanuel Onyeike Efeizomor, 99-year old Ovie of Olomu Kingdom, Ovie Richard Layeguen Ogbon Ogoni-Oghoro 1, the Ohworode of Olomu Kingdom, and the father of the state governor, Chief Arthur Okowa.
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Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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