Prof. Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), says there is need for Nigeria to strengthen its education system through technology.
According to him, the use of technology will improve teaching and learning through the Open and Distance Learning (ODL).
Okebukola gave the advice while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos in support of the Federal Government’s projections for education sector as the country celebrates its 60th independence anniversary.
”If we take Nigeria’s education sector for a ‘health check up’ on its 60th independence anniversary on Oct.1, there are at least indicators that can be reported on.
”Data inadequacies inhibit such comprehensive report, so we must pick from the menu those indicators that we can conveniently derive some passable data.
”This check up also shuns the tendency of focusing only on what the Federal Government does in the education sector, leaving the over 80 per cent of the sector that is constitutionally covered by both the state and local governments.
”If we highlight the successes and failure stories of the sector as at September 2020 and telescope into expectations for the next 10 years, we will commence with its successes which shows that the national literacy rate (15 years and older) made gains over the years estimated at about 67.3 per cent in 1960 to 75.03 per cent in 2019,” he said.
According to him, the primary gross enrollment ratio improved from estimated 69.2 per cent to 84.73 per cent in 2019, while the secondary gross enrollment ratio also improved from estimated 36 per cent to 42 per cent.
Okebukola said the tertiary level also experienced an increase from an estimated 6.3 per cent in 1960 to 18.16 per cent in 2019.
On quality front as measured by the percentage pass in public examinations, he said there was notable improvement in the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) results conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and NECO.
Okebukola said that within the last 10 years, and as reported by the NUC Digest of Statistics, the universities recorded 18 per cent increase in the number of graduates who made first class.
According to him, the number of the academic programmes that earned the commission’s full accreditation status increased by 10.8 per cent in 2018.
He said that it was striking that in 2017 and 2018, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) processed admission into the country’s higher education system of about 1.7 million candidates within one month from 1.6 million processed in 2016.
”The figure is the highest ever recorded in 40 years.
”At the 2017 UNESCO General Conference, where education report cards of over 190 countries were rendered, keen watchers from other countries applauded the remarkable strides made in both the basic and higher education in Nigeria relative to other countries in Africa.
”From 2000 to 2020, the Nigerian university system added over 100 new universities (state owned and private) and enrollment in Nigeria universities is about the highest in Africa.
”My research group had documented an 80 per cent drop in reported cult cases on university campuses from 2010 to 2019 and a significant improvement in the use of technology for teaching, learning and research.
”In September 2017, the NUC launched the first of its kind in Africa, the Nigeria University System Open Educational Resources, with a national policy to back it up,” he said.
Okebukola said that in the last two years and as reported by several global organisations including UNESCO, the NUC under Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, had initiated and was implementing over 60 innovative practices that were now being modelled across Africa.
On the performance in the sector at the state level, the former NUC boss said overall, notable gains were recorded in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
”All the states added more public schools (basic) through the establishment of more private schools.
”The school feeding programme has taken root and was implemented from the federal side even during the COVID-19 lockdown. More states deployed technology for teaching and learning.
”During this COVID-19 lockdown, a few states such as Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Kano, Rivers and Kaduna engaged pupils via e-learning protocols,” he said.
According to him, in spite of these gains, a number of dark spots continued to blight the education sector in 2020 as the country celebrates it’s 60th independence anniversary.
He said that at the state level, teachers were still being owed months of salaries, describing it as a sad situation that would be compounded by the COVID-19 depression of the economy.
The former NUC scribe added that there were still huge deficiencies in teaching and learning facilities from the basic to the higher education levels.
According to him, the poor state of public schools in most states of the federation continues to be a source of worry.
He said that teachers’ capacity deficit was still high, adding that teachers’ quality across all levels of the system had remained generally low.
”Strikes have continued to truncate the academic calendar of colleges of education, polytechnics and universities by the ‘aluta’ actions at different times by different categories of staff unions.
”Corruption in education in all its forms is yet to abate including those perpetrated by parents, teachers, students and government officials.
”The large number of out-of-school children is still a national and global embarrassment.
”As we march beyond 60, both the government and the governed, as collective stakeholders, should put hands on the plough to re-prioritise education in a bid to draw from the power of education for faster development,” he said. (NAN)