HEADLINERS 2010: EDUCATION
They made headlines in the education sector, in 2010, for good or for bad but mostly for good.
Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i:
She was one of the three new female ministers sworn in last year, after a minor cabinet reshuffle by President Goodluck Jonathan. Thereafter she was asked to take care of the nation's education sector as the Minister of Education. Before then she had been a Commissioner for Education in Jigawa, her home state. But that's not the news. The news rather is that she hit the ground running in education sector with concentration on four main areas within the Education Roadmap agenda prepared by her predecessors like Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Dr. Igwe Aja and Dr. Sam Egwu.
Those four main areas she indicated her intention of focusing attention on are: (1) access and equity, (2) standards and quality assurance, (3) technical and vocational education and teacher training, and (4) funding and resource utilization as part of her plan to revamp the education sector, working within the context of the Education Roadmap to meet the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015. From the way she operated in 2010, she worked like someone who knew that she has little time left on her hands and needed to do as much possible within the limited time available not just to write her name on the sand of time but to leave a legacy. 'I don't like us planning and planning all the year round… the bottom line is output,' she told top officials of the ministry shortly after assuming office. Looking back at her achievements in the education sector in 2010, her parley and directives to public exam bodies like NECO and WAEC to release withheld results, her hosting of education summits, one can say without fear of contradiction that she lived out her creed.
Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi
Gbagi, the Minister of State for Education seems, since after his appointment, to have been the official spokesman for the Ministry of Education or the education sector. A sort of Minister of Information in the Federal Ministry of Education, if you like, because on his shoulders fell the duty to announce to the public the Federal Government's positions or policies on many education issues. And he did that extremely well in 2010. Recall his announcement of the release of the N9 billion approved for the provision of facilities for the initial six new universities announced by the Federal Executive Council, his launching of the Ministry of Education's Housing for All Teachers Scheme, and his announcement recently of the closure of schools, public and private, to give room for the voters registration exercise. But he provoked Nigerians when he as a guest on AIT programme in August, last year, advocated a hike in tuition fees in tertiary institutions with the argument that if Nigerians can afford to go overseas for education, they can also afford to pay the same fees here. He argued that government alone can no longer continue to bear the heavy burden of providing education for Nigerians.
Hon. Farouk Lawan:
The three-term member of the House of Representatives for the Bagwai/Shanono Federal Constituency of Kano State, and Chairman, House Committee on Finance under the former Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari is, as at today, Chairman, House Committee on Education. Lawan who as the leader of Integrity Group, forced Honourable Patricia Etteh, the first Nigerian female Speaker of the House Representatives to resign over some allegations of some financial misdeeds, gave all he could to further the cause of education in 2010 by not only visiting some parastatals/agencies under the ministry of education to ascertain the true state of affairs as a part of his committee's oversight functions, he also commended genuine efforts made by concerned stakeholders to give education a facelift in such parastatals/agencies. 'I wish that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had the opportunity to attend the Open and Distance Learning Programme before his presidency and not after his presidency perhaps he would have been a better president,' he remarked at a forum for Commonwealth of Learning on distance learning organized by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in Abuja.
Professor Julius Okojie
For founders and owners of illegal universities, from Calabar to Kafanchan, from Yenagoa to Yola, the fear of Okojie, the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC) was the beginning of wisdom in 2010. He showed that he could not only bark but most importantly, that he could also bite. He shut down many illegal universities and in some cases took their operators to court for legal prosecution. Hate him or love him, the Uromi-born Professor of Forestry Resources Management was a force to reckon with in 2010. Married to Erelu (Mrs) Oluremi Okojie, Principal, St Louis Grammar School, Ibadan and blessed with many children, one of whom, Ehimen, wedded recently to Valerie, daughter of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), University of Agriculture, Abeokuta(UNAB), Professor Christopher Onwuka, Okojie is a man you can ignore only at your own risk as far as qualitative university education in Nigeria is concerned.
Professor Promise Okpalla
The Professor of Science Evaluation throughout last year sat on a hot seat and found himself in the eye of the storm as the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the National Examinations Council (NECO). And, there's nothing to show that this year will be any better. His crime? In 2010, he reportedly failed many Nigerian students seeking for admission into the university through the clean bill of health certificate supposed to be issued by his public exam body, NECO. Okpala, while expressing dismay on the result, believed it has brought to the fore the need for reassessing of learning and teaching in secondary schools.
'The results are a wakeup call and I am happy that so many stakeholders are now much more keen in reassessing the state of the rot in the education sector', he said in a newspaper interview. 'We should be much more interested than before in what happens in the classrooms. Are the children actually learning? Is somebody really teaching? how ready is that learner? Does the child have a reading table at home? Does he really sleep conveniently? Are the parents interested in what happens in schools? Are there people at home who can say let me see your school bag and know what is there? For us to improve the quality of learning, all hands must be on deck.'
Other personalities who made the headline either for good or bad in 2010 includes Dr. Iyi Uwadiae, the Edo-State born Head of Nigeria National Office of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), who, like Okpala, was unjustly vilified for mass failure of students in West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), a situation he blamed on 'lack of equipment and teaching staff,' Professor Olugbemiro Jegede, the pioneer Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria who retired last year after serving out a successful but stormy tenure, Professor Babs Fafunwa, former Minister of Education under General Ibrahim Babangida between 1990-1992 and Nigeria's foremost educationist, who passed on to glory at the age of 87 and one Professor P.O. Otubu of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, who was accused of engaging in an illicit sexual affairs with one of his female students, something that later became a shame of show through the posting of its video recording on Internet worldwide.