The greatest factor responsible for the sorry state of Nigeria’s education sector is her inability and that of her ruling class to see education as an investment in the citizens, participants at a civil society session held last month in Abuja, said.
The session with the theme, “Revitalizing Nigeria Tertiary Education for 21st Century Challenges” also observed that government’s measures to improve the sector are episodic and have failed largely due to the lack of political will.
Participants at the session advised policy makers to focus more on developing the educational sector as the focus of the world is beginning to shift from a resource based economy to a knowledge based one.
They frowned at restrictions and politicising of academic positions in tertiary institutions:
“The lack of genuine autonomy for tertiary institutions, politicisation of appointments into critical governing and accountability structures in the tertiary education sector, muzzling of independent students unionism and abridgement of students to independently organize ,harassment of industrial unions in tertiary institutions and refusal of Government to honour agreements it entered freely with stakeholder unions in the sector has contributed greatly to the spate of industrial unrest in the tertiary education sector,” the groups said.
“The designation of the offices of the head of tertiary institutions as political appointment has greatly contributed to the lack of transparency, accountability, dictatorship by heads of tertiary institutions, cronyism, political patronage, poor governance as well as corruption in the tertiary education sector,” they added.
While praising agencies such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) for their efforts at addressing the challenges in the tertiary education sector, participants observed that “there exists a major gap that can only be filled when the relevant levels of government become alive to their responsibilities especially in the area of the vexed issue of funding rather than abdicating such to the interventionist agencies.”
Participants, therefore, called on the government to make more investment in the education sector. They also called for more transparency and accountability within the university system as well as granting autonomy to tertiary institutions.
“Tertiary institutions including the council, senate, faculty and departmental boards of tertiary institutions must be strengthened and appointments into such be de-politicised in order for them to be alive to their responsibility of ensuring the integrity of tertiary institutions in terms of its management and services provided to the larger Nigerian economy,” they said.
Present at the session were members of the civil society community, media practitioners and members of the academia.