Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday backed the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai’s planned sacking of 21,780 teachers who recently failed the competency test conducted by the state government.
Buhari made his position known at a special retreat of the Federal Executive Council on the challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria.
The retreat was with the theme, “Education in Nigeria: Challenges and prospects.”
The President described as tragic, a situation where teachers could not pass the examination their students should have been taught to pass.
He recalled that a Nigerian who he refused to name, returned to his alma mater about 10 years ago and he could not differentiate between the students and their teachers.
The President said, “I listened to one of the Nigerians I respect. He said after his training here in Nigeria and the United States, he went to his alma mater, his primary school, to see what he could contribute.
“I won’t mention his name but when he went, he couldn’t differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers.
“And what el-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago.
“It is a very serious situation when teachers cannot pass the examinations that they are supposed to teach the children to pass.
“It is a very tragic situation we are in and this our gathering, to me, is one of the most important in this administration.”
Buhari said the summit was crucial to his administration’s desire to improve the lot of Nigerians through the provision of quality and functional education for all at all levels.
He said the national conversation was aimed at refocusing the education sector not only to overcome the numerous challenges, but also to strengthen the Ministerial Strategic Plan that had already been developed by the ministry.
Buhari said the nation could not progress beyond the standard of its education.
He said only those equipped with qualitative education would have the capacity to lead others.
The President said, “We cannot progress beyond the level and standard of our education.
“Today, it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical know-how that are leading the rest.
“We cannot afford to continue lagging behind. Education is our launch pad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. This administration is committed to revitalising our education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive.”
Buhari said Nigeria’s participation in all relevant international education fora and its investment in education as well as collaboration with development partners were indications of the government’s high level of commitment towards ensuring that every capable Nigerian received good quality education.
These efforts, he added, were justifiable only to the extent that schooling was effective in promoting the realisation of national objectives, attaining the Sustainable Development Goals and Education For All by 2030.
He said these targets were in harmony with the manifesto and the change agenda of the ruling All Progressives Congress as well as his campaign promises during the 2015 elections.
“With an estimated 13.2 million children out of school, high illiteracy level, infrastructural deficit and decay, unqualified teachers, and inadequate instructional materials, to mention some of the challenges, we can clearly see the effect of decades of neglect that the education sector has suffered,” the President said.
While vowing to ensure a turnaround in the sector for the better, Buhari said his administration was already making appreciable progress in that respect.
The summit, he said, must therefore, among other things, sharpen the strategies for addressing the challenges of basic and secondary education, teacher training and professional development; technical and vocational education.
Buhari said while there were numerous other competing demands and responsibilities from different sectors of the economy, his administration was committed to developing the country.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in his remarks, regretted the low budgetary allocation to education sector since the return of democracy in 1999.
He said in Africa, Nigeria was trailing far behind smaller and less endowed countries in terms of investment in education.
He noted that there was an urgent need for the administration to fulfil its electoral promise that there would be investment of a minimum of N1tn per annum in the sector after four years.
The minister said all changes, including the ones promised by the ruling party, “must begin with education because it is the sector that shapes, corrects and restores society.”
He said, “From 1999 till date, the annual budgetary allocation to education has always been between four per cent and 10 per cent.
“None of the E9 or D8 countries other than Nigeria allocates less than 20 per cent of its annual budget to education.
“Indeed, even among sub-Saharan African countries, we are trailing behind smaller and less endowed nations in terms of our investment in education.
“There is, therefore, a need for major investment in education in the national interest.”
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