August 21, 2020, made it exactly a year that current ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet assumed office.
President Buhari was sworn in for a second term on May 29 after winning re-election in February 2019 after which he assigned 43 ministers from all the states including the FCT with their portfolios.
Although the president earlier appointed the ministers on July 23, 2019, they were not sworn in until August 21, 2019.
In the appointment, the president retained some of the ministers who served in his last administration which include the minister of education, Adamu Adamu.
While Mr Adamu was reappointed as the education minister, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba was appointed as the minister of state.
However, Mr Nwajiuba previously served as the Chairman of TETFund Board of Trustees before his appointment as the ‘junior’ minister of education.
Mr Adamu made some promises on projects he intended to embark on to further stabilise the education sector. His promises were contained in the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP 2016-2019) many of which he was unable to fulfil.
Mr Adamu in October last year stretched the ministerial strategic plan blueprint tagged ““A Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) 2018 – 2022” in order to implement and the goals of the MSP in his second tenure.
Some of the promises in the MSP include reduction of out of school children by enrolling 2,875,500 children in schools annually for three years; promotion of community schools; removal of every form of payment (levies) in basic schools; Curriculum and Policy Matters; Tertiary Education; Education Data and Planning, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Library Services in education.
It also included Youth and Adult Literacy; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Basic and Secondary Education and Teacher Education Capacity Building and Professional Development.
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Mr Adamu during the World Teachers Day ceremony promised to ensure the federal government implemented its commitment to the endorsement of Safe Schools Declaration.
Mr Adamu also promised to remove 10.2 million out-of-school children from the streets in the next five years. Currently, Nigeria has 10.5 children out of school which is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa
The minister also directed the Federal Scholarship Board to pay scholarship stipends to Nigerian students studying in Russia.
One of the notable achievements of the education minister is giving the directive that all unqualified teachers should be removed from schools.
The minister also secured funding of N220 billion grant from the World Bank to tackle the problem of out-of-school children.
His other achievements include his consistency in releasing guidelines on school reopening to contain the spread of COVID 19 among pupils.
Mr Adamu reversed the resumption of schools of schools on July 13, 2020, saying schools in Nigeria schools will not open until it is safe to do so. He later announced that graduating classes can resume in order to write their examination.
The minister also released guidelines ahead of the resumption of schools at every level in the country. The guidelines were for the safe reopening of schools.
There has also been a percieved reduction in examination malpractice in schools across the nation.
The minister has not been able to resolve the issues that led to strike actions in the Nigerian tertiary education system. These strikes coupled with the COVID 19 which led to the closure of schools has further crippled the sector.
The major failures are the ripples from inadequate funding of the sector. The funds allocated to education is low against the stipulated 15 to 20 per cent proposed by the UNESCO(links). For instance, only 6.7 per cent of the 2020 budget was allocated to the education sector.
Also, the issue of out-of-school children remains a big challenge which the minister has not been to resolve.
Similarly, there is still a high number of unqualified teachers in the teaching profession. The 2018 personnel audit by the Universal Basic Education Commission showed that over 300,000 teachers in Nigeria are unqualified as they do not possess the prescribed minimum qualifications for teaching.
Experts argue there is a huge decline in the quality of education for the past one year.
Lack of infrastructure in schools is also a major failure of the minister in the past one year. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the implication of lack of facilities and infrastructure in the education sector .
During the lockdown, many students in public schools were unable to learn virtually because there are no facilities and infrastructures in place.
‘Bad to worse’
For the national coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Soweto the education sector has moved from bad to worse under the minister.
“It is particularly worrisome that the increase in out-of-school children is not only due to the insurgency in the North-east but also reflects the worsening economic conditions and the consequence of government anti-poor policy of education commercialisation which is increasing the rate of school dropouts especially in states previously categorised as educationally-advantaged states,” he said.
According to him, “under the stewardship of the education minister, public tertiary schools have been rocked by agitations and strikes due to controversy over the imposition of IPPIS”.
“So also has the policy of increasing school fees beyond what students from poor working-class background can afford. So against this background, it’s clear that the COVID 19 pandemic and the associated lockdown and closure of schools is actually a minute portion of the crisis bedevilling the education sector.
Mr Soweto said the minister performed ‘woefully’.
“So for me, there is no other way to rate a minister that has presided over such a monumental tragedy in the education sector than a failure. The education minister and the anti-education government he serves do not deserve a day more in their positions,” he said.
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