Some brilliant minds converged on the main campus of King’s College Lagos and through teleconference to deliberate on the challenges facing the education sector, especially in the COVID-19 period. The event was the 111th anniversary of the foremost institution. JILL OKEKE reports that the consensus at the Founders’ Day event was that tackling the issues within the education sector is a challenge for all.
DRAWING from humanity’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic that engendered crises in all sectors of the economy, several efforts are being made to navigate critical aspects of Nigeria’s economy out of the conundrum.
Beyond being a global health challenge, the socio-economic implications are far- reaching in some sectors of the economy, especially that of education.
Before the Coronavirus disease set in, the education sector had been bedevilled with certain challenges which the pandemic worsened.
In the midst of grappling with these challenges never had the need for government to provide quality education for all received earsplitting support than now.
The above gave impetus to the convergence of some crop of brilliant minds on the main campus of King’s College Lagos and through teleconference to deliberate on the challenges in the education sector and the future of education, even as they proffered solutions.
The meeting was part of activities to mark 111th anniversary of King’s College whose theme was “Education: The way forward.”
The Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said the lecture was not about looking back, it is about the future, and the future is now. “We have to acknowledge that the main endowment of any country is its people.”
He noted that this generation of young people needed to be prepared for a world that thinks and operates differently from what we are used to.
Osinbajo said. “Every nation that has prospered was convinced that education lifts the mind of the people beyond self. There must be a demonstration of well-established moral standards. Corruption and deviance must be the exception, not the rule.
“The commitment we show in educating and empowering our people will determine the outcome of our economic aspirations, and how we are able to compete globally.”
The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Mrs Amina Mohammed said the priority must be toward getting students back into school.
According to her, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 260 million children have been cut off from e-learning globally and 5.9 million learners in Sub-Saharan Africa may never return to school due to the time lost. This, she said further widens the gap in the education system.
She said. “This is an opportunity to reimagine education and make educational technology and digital capability available and accessible to the most vulnerable societies, including teachers.
“Education cannot depend on technology controlled by the private sector; the education system cannot develop without trained and motivated teachers, who need to deliver a system that teaches how to respond to the work and societal demands of the future.”
She implored all to use the recovery of COVID-19 to build a better world where the human relationship between student and their teachers is not lost but where required digital tools for open access is paramount.
The President of King’s College Old Boys’ Association (KCOBA), Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim –Imam regretted that Nigerian education system was ill-prepared for the ongoing pandemic.
He, however, said the association rose up to the challenge by sponsoring the E-learning for students and paid allowances to the teachers that developed the content.
Continuing, Alhaji Ibrahim –Imam, who was represented by the Deputy President of the association Dr Leke Oshunniyi noted that despite the enviable contributions and impact which KCOBA has made to their Alma Mater, there is still much to be done.
He said: “There is still a long way to go towards the provision of more facilities and training that is required for a sustained technology-driven school system in Nigeria.
“In King’s College, there are a lack of adequate facilities and regular breakdown of existing infrastructure due to overpopulation, poor staff welfare and training, falling standards, health and hygiene for students and members of staff, among others, made the intervention of KCOBA inevitable.
“In a bid to address some of these challenges, KCOBA designed direct rehabilitation and maintenance intervention programmes to the tune of millions of Naira in the last decade.”
He regretted that “despite concerted efforts and interventions, KCOBA national executive is aware that we are only scratching the surface of the problem.”
He noted that over the past two decades, it has become evident that the burden of funding more than 100 unity schools has become increasingly substantial for the Federal Ministry of Education.
“We resolved that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is the panacea to the challenge of education funding because “it provides a balance between the ever- increasing social demand for access and the need for quality education.
“Beyond rhetoric, the government needs to embrace the PPP model of education funding and bring in critical stakeholders to the system. Typical examples of successful PPP funding model exists in many developed and developing countries.”
During a discussion session moderated by the Chairperson of the KCOBA 2020 Founders’ Week, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo and in which National Security Adviser Gen. Babagana Monguno, Minister of State for Education Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education Sonny Echono, President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr Olumide Akpata; former Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Mr. Hakeem Adeniji-Adele and President, Queen’s College Old Girls’ Association Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru as discussants, issues hampering the development of the education sector were deliberated upon and solutions proffered.
Most dominant factor during their discussion was that education is the most powerful weapon that can be deployed for human capital development and that government resources alone cannot drive the quality education needed for Nigerians. The panel agreed that “all conversations on education will be futile if we fail to adequately carry along all cadres of society, especially the poor, underprivileged, and the girl child. The need for funding to adequately equip the sector could not be over-emphasised.”
Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru focused on the girl child and the need to instil not just academic skills in our children, but consciously build the right behavioural traits. She said. “Teachers and parents need to encourage curiosity, self-worth, self-confidence and courage in their children and wards.”
Adeniji-Adele stated that “there is the need to adequately empower students of today in order to shape the world of tomorrow. The digital divide is widened so much so that children that cannot access digital learning tools may never catch up with their peers who have such access.”
Mr. Akpata pointed out that discussions on Public-Private Partnerships for unity schools have been in the works for almost 15 years, even as he insisted that it is an elixir to funding for the education sector.
“The King’s College Old Boys’ Association (KCOBA) boasts eminent personalities that can set the college on the track to being one of the best in the world and altruistic investments from private investors can help raise the bar,” he said.
The Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari Representing the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari said: “The Federal Government is interested in the outcomes of these deliberations.’’
As noted by Mrs Mohammed “the future of education and the future of society are inexorably linked….and tackling the issues within that sector is a challenge for you, me and the collective whole.”