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Funding Education For Global Challenges

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A revelation by an expert on education sometime ago that Nigerian students have become globally less competitive should be of great concern to the government and indeed, people of Nigeria.
The lamentation came from a professor of Africa Religious Traditions at the University of Ibadan, Emmanuel Obasi, who decried the inability of Nigerian students to compete globally with their colleagues. Coincidentally, the observation was made when lecturers in the nation’s higher institutions were on strike to press home their demand for improved funding of tertiary schools.
While stressing that Nigeria’s culture of learning is in-appropriate compared to what is obtainable across the globe, the scholar said university teachers in Nigeria lack the needed resources to teach the students effectively. He identified lack of basic learning tools and conducive environment as the underlying factors, adding that the students are not effectively engaged with the universal practices.
I cannot but agree with the scholar’s comment that Nigerian students have, indeed, become globally less competitive. This is as a result of appalling fall in the standard of Nigeria’s education.
Central to the professor’s lamentation is the low quality of education in Nigeria. It is no exaggeration to say that by every criterion applied, the learning culture in Nigeria has virtually collapsed under the weight of neglect.
As Professor Obasi noted, there is a serious and fundamental problem with the nation’s education system. Most of these have got to do with the governance, especially the system of education; call it poor education management.
Take the challenge of wages, for instance. With a poor remuneration, how does anyone honestly expect a perennially disgruntled, poorly-motivated teacher to teach with competence, confidence and enthusiasm? In most states in Nigeria where poor revenue has become an issue, teachers bear the brunt, as they are most often, the last to be paid salaries.
The teacher is arguably one of the most important factors in the education system. A competent, motivated teacher may not necessarily be the highest paid person, but his or her infectious enthusiasm to teach and improvise where necessary encourages the students to learn. It is reported that in Finland that ranks very high in the quality of education in the global context, only the best graduates are recruited into the teaching profession. And they are remunerated like other very valuable, senior public officers and top professionals. That is how it should be for there can be no good doctors, engineers, lawyers and journalists without good teachers.
That is why, at all times, the teaching and learning environment must be conducive to teachers and students. If to offer globally competitive quality education to students is really the overarching goal of education, Nigerian leaders and education policy makers at all levels should put education on their priority list. Leaders should not be too busy to supervise facilities that they have funded well in all schools. It boggles the mind that children have to sit on mats and under trees to study in a 21st century Nigeria. This is insufferable!
Is it not tragic that pupils are reportedly chased out of their classrooms by rampaging cows of herdsmen on a rainy day? It happens in Nigeria and no one has been punished for this sacrilege.
Besides, in most public schools in Nigeria, post-primary and tertiary institutions lack laboratories for science, computer and language studies respectively. What is worse, it is hard to come by well-equipped schools let alone worthy public libraries. And so, when deprivation or poverty of teachers meets paucity or absence of facilities in a decrepit school environment, teaching and learning are markedly impaired. The consequence is that aggrieved teachers constantly resort to industrial actions and disrupt the school calendar all the time. The costs of this action to Nigeria are usually very high and unquantifiable, especially in the tertiary institutions where research is necessary.
The knowledge gap, the skills gap and the employability gap between products of Nigerian schools and those from other lands will continue to widen as long as we continue to underfund education.
Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution as amended stipulates that “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels” are provided. Only leaders who know the value of education would be disturbed about the non justifiability of this provision.
This is no time for any blame game. Every stakeholder should accept responsibility for this tragedy that has diminished all of us. What is needed at the moment is not lamentation. Nigerians need to move from rhetoric to actionable policies for the revival of Nigeria’s education. What we need is education that can trigger global competitiveness.
In the first place, we do not need a UNESCO official to tell us that we should earmark more than 26 percent of our budgets from federal to local governments for education. After all, the old Western Regional Government in the 1960s once voted more than 50 per cent for education. And that is why these days, they have this competitive advantage within the context of federalism that marks them out.
Remarkably, there are many experts who are products of this system that once worked in the South-West of Nigeria. We need to tap from their wealth of knowledge and experience on how to revive education.
It is our consistency in funding education and implementing policies that can produce Nigerian students and graduates that are globally competitive. There is, therefore, no doubt that the quality of education is the only known panacea to the ills plaguing the nation’s education.
Toby wrote from Port Harcourt.

 

Bethel Toby

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Opinion

Wike’s 100 Days: A Score Card

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When in 2015, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the then outgoing Minister of State for Education, contested and won the governorship election in Rivers State, not many believed he would remain in office to complete his four-year term.
At that time, many, especially those from the opposition, preferred to call him all sorts of unpalatable and unprintable names.
Some called him caretaker Governor, others called him temporary Governor while some called him Acting Governor.
These names were based on their strong conviction that Nyesom Wike, coming from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party that is not in control of the Federal Government would be removed by the Election Petitions Tribunal.
Surprisingly, his victory was validated by the Supreme Court which ultimately consolidated his position as Executive Governor of Rivers State.
Nyesom Wike has since completed his first tenure and also contested and won his second tenure as Governor of Rivers State.
Although the experiences of the election were not a pleasant one, it is gratifying to note that the event has come and gone and Rivers people are thankful to God for the victory of Nyesom Wike at the polls.
As a demonstration of their thankfulness many Christian denominations across the state held services to thank God for the victory of Governor Nyesom Wike at the polls, considering the peculiar environment in which the election was held.
With the unprecedented level of military involvement in the election, a development never witnessed in the nation’s political history and experience, not many hoped that the incumbent had any chance of winning.
That was why the thanksgiving that heralded his second-term victory was worth the while.
What is most interesting is that the man who was nicknamed caretaker Governor has not only completed his first term in office but also celebrated 100 days in his second tenure.
This is why the celebration that greeted the first 100 days into the second tenure of Governor Nyesom Wike was expedient, especially given the impression that most governors normally do not do well in their second tenure.
With the array of projects inaugurated in the areas of roads, schools, markets and housing, Governor Wike has left no one in doubt that he prepared himself for the task of governance.
He has also changed the notion that most second-tenure governors do not do well in projects delivery.
Just within 100 days in office, Governor Nyesom Wike, according to critical observers, has surpassed the performance of some governors in four years.
According to them, the high impact projects commissioned during the 100 days anniversary have shown that the governor is developing the state for the future.
It also shows the extent to which the governor is committed to meeting the human capital, social, educational, and infrastructural needs of the people of the state.
His interest in the development of sports in the state culminated in the establishment of the Real Madrid Academy while the commissioning of Civil Servants quarters and the Labour House are another mind boggling achievements and a clear demonstration of Governor Wike’s labour-friendly disposition.
No doubt the Real Madrid Academy will boost sports development in the state and consequently take young boys and girls off the streets, while the NLC House would provide favourable environment for labour leaders to articulate labour related issues.
The focus the state Chief Executive has placed on football development in the state is born out of the knowledge that football is a big money spinner.
The likes of Joseph Yobo, Taribo West, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Peter Rufai to mention but a few grew to stardom and attained international recognition through football.
No doubt the introduction of the Real Madrid Football Academy would groom football talents that would step into the shoes of former football stars of Rivers extraction.
To showcase his worker-friendly disposition, the state governor also embarked on the construction of Civil Servants quarters.
While we appeal to the state government to ensure that the houses are allocated to genuine civil servants, we also advised would-be occupants of the quarter to adopt high maintenance standards so that other workers in the state can also benefit when they leave the service.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike needs to be highly commended for initiating these laudable projects within the first 100 days of his second tenure in office.
To state the obvious, Rivers people are very happy with the achievements of the Governor in just 100 days in office.
It is also their expectation that the labour-friendly governor will extend this good gesture to the welfare of civil servants through promotion of deserving staff and payment of promotion benefits as well as payment of gratuities and pensions to retired staff who are yet to be paid their entitlements.
In all, Governor Wike’s second-tenure 100 days in office is a celebration of excellence in governance.
It has also sent a clear message to Rivers people that there will be no dull moment in the state in project execution and inauguration during the governor’s second term in office.
What he needs, therefore, is our collective support and encouragement, not vilification.
Deeyah is of Radio Rivers FM.

 

Paul Deeyah

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Opinion

Why Budget For Generating Sets?

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When the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) constituted and empowered a 23-member Electric Power Implementation Committee (EPIC), the committee was charged with the responsibility of developing guidelines for promoting the policy goals of total liberalization and competition. It also had the task of promoting private sector-driven growth of the electricity sector.
Usually, whenever private sector participation becomes imperative, it is an indication of a gap calling for a bridge. If as posited by Okoro and Chikuni (2007), constant power supply is the hallmark of a developed economy, it implies that our nation whose energy need is epileptic in supply, will not only be prolonging her development, it also risks losing potential investors.
The realization of this fact, I supposed, became a strong justification for the power sector reformation efforts in Nigeria, which culminated in the signing into law of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, on March 11, 2005, by the then President and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ever since, several policies have been put in place by government to strengthen the sector for enhanced productivity, and probably actualize the federal government’s target of achieving a whooping 20GW of available electricity capacity by the end of the year 2020 .
That was exactly the begining of the unbundling of the Nigerian power sector. The eventual loss of the monopoly of the Nigerian Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) over the operation of the Nigerian power sector in 1998 was testimonial of the effort of the committee in this direction.
Just two months ago, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the federal government’s power sector reforms are already yielding results as steady progress is being recorded in power generation, transmission and distribution capacities on the national grid.
Osinbajo, who said this at the commissioning of a 2 x 60 MVA, 132/33KV substation and associated 132KV transmission lines in Abeokuta, Ogun State, views the substation and transmission lines, built by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), as an important part of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s efforts to improve the supply and quality of power reaching the homes and businesses of Nigerians.
He ascerted that Nigeria at the moment has 13,427 MW of installed capacity, and an available capacity of 8,342MW, an achievement he attributed to the efforts of the government/ private sector partnership in the rehabilitation/commissioning of turbines in Shiroro, Egbin, Delta Power, Sapele, and Gbarain.
Expressing high optimism, he assured of a new generation of energy in the tune of Gbarain (Extra 115 MW); Kashimbilla (40 MW); Afam III Fast Power (240 MW); Gurara (30 MW); Dadin Kowa (29 MW); and Kaduna (215 MW).
“In the long term, several solar plants will come on stream; the national grid, has the capacity to transmit 7,000 MW an increase from less than 5,000MW in 2015, this is due to the completion of several transmission projects like the Ikot Ekpene switching station and the completion of the Ikot Ekpene-Ugwuaji-Makurdi-Jos loop done by the NDPHC in 2017.” He added.
Of course, as a key stakeholder in both urban and economic development, nothing short of a vote for private sector involvement could be apt at this moment in the country’s power sector given its place as a major contributor to national income and the principal job creator and employer.
With the number of both electricity generating and distribution companies now operational in the country’s power sector, it becomes questionable should the federal government’s target of 20GW of available electricity capacity by the end of the year 2020 be not realized.
Surprisingly, amidst the achievements of the federal government in this sector, as potrayed by the Vice President, the inclusion of the purchase, fueling and maintenance of electricity generating sets across ministries, departments and agencies in the country, coupled with the whopping sum of N9.05bn assigned to it by the government in its 2020 budget proposal, tends to send a misleading signal towards the realization of the federal government’s target of 20GW of available electricity capacity by the end of the year 2020.
The foregoing rather recalls to mind the words of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that “if we insist that by the year 2020, our economy is expected to join the world’s twenty largest economies in GDP size, then the electricity issue must be considered the top most of priorities. If we fail in this sector, we can as well bid farewell to any aspirations towards 2020.”
According to reports from a national daily on the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the sum of money earmarked to be spent on generator might be much more as some agencies like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which have offices across the country.
The paper reported that the N9 billion earmarked for generators by the Federal Government is more than the Internally Generated Revenue of Bauchi, Abia, Zamfara, Kogi, Anambra, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Borno, Taraba, Yobe and Gombe States in the first and second quarters of 2019.
If the achievement so recorded in power generation by this administration as announced by the Vice President could be taken for real, how then do we justify the outrageous amount captured in the 2020 budget proposal for generating sets alone? Is it that we generate without distribution?
Given that 2020 is our target year, I think the leadership of this great nation will be doing a great disservice to the led if it continues to place high premium on generating sets instead of looking for ways to distribute the energy so generated.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

Appraising The Legal Profession

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If I say that I want to be a lawyer, it will perhaps raise a smile or doubts concerning my sanity. Nevertheless, it is a fact that even today the Bar has a strange fascination for me.
Many people denounce the legal profession because of its seeming tendency to compromise practitioners. I don’t agree with those persons because I believe for every profession, there is the right person who is bound to succeed in it.
Of course, there are many who castigate the law profession, whether one succeeds in it or not. These ones say that the profession serves no practical purpose; that lawyers are unnecessary in a society where there is a perfect adjustment or better still, where Plato’s utopic ideals reign supreme.
But I consider it an abstract approach to the question. What if that perfect society does not exist – as surely it does not exist just at – why shouldn’t a man enter a profession which is a necessity in an imperfect society?
As society remains constituted, there is no doubt that lawyers perform the most useful function. Indeed, I cannot imagine any society in which there will be no lawyers. If there is civilization, there must be law; and if there is law, there must be lawyers. Disputes occur even in the most nicely adjusted society, and they must be settled in terms of the law that prevails.
Law exists for this reason that when there is a quarrel, it will not lead to what is called in logic the argumentum ad baculum, which means having recourse to force. In a civilized society, the law has superseded force and to assist in the administration of the law is to help civilized life to operate.
But it is usually said that the legal profession is such that honesty is impracticable. This argument leaves me cold. For the dishonest man, there is dishonesty in every profession. If I keep to the straight path, I do not think I can do any harm, even the temptation to be dishonest cannot affect me.
My business as a lawyer, as I understand it, will not be to falsify facts or twist evidence, but to explain facts and interpret the law in relation to such facts. I am sure if the client knows that I will not advise him against the trend of the law or the evidence available, he will have all the greater respect for my advice and will come to me with redoubled confidence.
It is more difficult for me to answer the economic arguments against joining the legal profession than the moral. It is said – and rightly so – that the law profession in Nigeria is over-crowded. But there is always room at the top for the best. That is to be among the best.
I have seen new entrants to the legal profession idling away their time instead of applying their minds whole-heartedly to the onerous task of preparation, which is always and in every profession very difficult. I mean to spend the first few years when briefs are few and far between in reading hard, thus familiarizing oneself with the technicalities of the profession.
The legal profession is a highly intellectual trade. It requires a keen and intellectual mind. It has no end of charm for those who delight in pursuing the truth through a labyrinth of complicated facts. Concerning the study of law, Edmund Burke said:
“This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in attack, ready in defence, full of resources”. And of lawyers, he said that “they augur misgovernment at a distance and sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze”. Surely, lawyers are the custodians of the people’s rights and liberties.
The evil side of the legal profession is often a little too much advertised. I don’t deny the existence of this aspect of the profession. But at the same time, one must not be blind to the great good that lawyers have done. They have been the guardians of law and liberty. They have protected the individual from the tyranny of the high and mighty.
Examples abound in this regard. Men like late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, etc are known to practice law for more social than economic reasons. They fight for the rights of the down-trodden and oppressed. They have also insisted that the government must also keep within the limits of the statutes.
In all countries, it is the lawyers who have taken the largest share in protecting political rights and in denouncing executive tyranny. In our country, some of the greatest names – living or dead – belong to the legal profession.
In joining such a profession, therefore, I feel that I am not doing anything unwise or improper. On the contrary, I believe that I will be upholding the highest traditions if I can make good my ambition to be a member of this noble profession.

 

Arnold Alalibo

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