By NBF News

• Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to adult working Nigerians to lend a helping hand in raising their alma mater to reputable standard. He said donation of books, writing materials or mentoring of pupils would give those institutions a new lease of life. Jonathan made this appeal in a message posted on his wall on Facebook, a fast-growing social network site where he has a swelling number of fans.

He urged corporate organisations to invest in education as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme by building, renovating schools and donation of other materials.

'I want all adult working Nigerians to find time this year to visit their alma mater and find out the state of the facilities there and what they can do to help. Donate books, writing materials or feed some of the pupils. Do something no matter how small to make a difference in the schools you graduated from. In fact, if it is possible start a big brother/big sister programme where you take out time to mentor a pupil in your alma mater and motivate him or her to be a success.

Write to him or her, visit them at school, look over their homework, talk to their teachers. It is possible. I do it within my busy schedule so I know that no matter how busy you are you can find time to do it if the will is there,' he said.

The President expressed the determination of his administration to halt the negative slide in the education sector by increasing the education budget. He said the proposed 2011 allocation was the largest amount ever devoted to education since Nigeria's Independence. .

'One of the root causes of poverty is illiteracy and if we are to make any real progress in fighting illiteracy, Nigeria will have to educate Nigerians and elevate our thinking to where we all can  collectively change the question from who will change Nigeria?-to the question-how will I change Nigeria,' he noted.

The President, who described himself as an educator, noted the paucity of fund allotted to the education sector as he also lamented the mass failure in public examinations over the years.

'In the past two years we have had an abysmal passing rates in both the WAEC and NECO examinations for secondary school leavers,' he lamented. 'As an educator, I requested for statistics and data on the success rates for those examinations over the years and I discovered that there has been a gradual but steady increase in failure rates. I also requested for and got statistics and data on our national expenditure on education and discovered that allocation to the sector has not matched our population growth. As Nigeria's population has grown over the years, allocation to education has remained stagnant and in some cases has actually reduced year after year and the result has been that our educational facilities have been stretched beyond its capacity.'

Jonathan said his 'Bring Back the Book Initiative' was essentially launched to halt the progressive decline in students' performance. According to him, youths would look up to him and catch the flame of voracious reading.

'It is said that society's grow only when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never enjoy. This is precisely what this administration intends to do. As a government, we have a long term plan for Nigeria's education sector which is to devote the lion's share of our resources to education over the next four years. Now the results will not always be immediate and that is okay. We must not be wary of long term investments whose yields and results would come only after the initiating administration has left office,' he added.

The President explained that the setting up of nine additional universities, with at least one in every geo-political zone would open up admission opportunities for many students. While countering the views of critics on the institutions, he said:

'They have posited that rather than establish new universities the money would be better spent improving those that already exist. I appreciate their profound thoughts but want to remind us all that currently only 10 per cent of qualified youths are able to get spaces in our universities. Now consider this, as a father with many children what would you do if you learn that there is not enough food for your children and so some are starving while some are eating but are not having enough to eat. Would you focus your effort on improving the diet of those who have food only? No reasonable father would do that. The first and urgent thing to do would be to create a more level playing ground as much as is possible and ensure that all children have access to food and when that has been done then you can focus resources on improving the quality of the food.'