Finding Solutions To Challenges in Nigeria’s Education Sector

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By Prof. Danladi Matawal

SEEKING SOLUTIONS TO A LOST ERA OF EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN NIGERIA
(A Paper presented by Professor Danladi S. Matawalat the Annual General Meeting/Cheetah Awards of Keffi Old Boys Association (KOBA), which held from May 19-21, 2022 at Government College, Keffi, Nasarawa state and the Shehu Musa YarAdua Centre, Abuja, respectively.

Synopsis:
Education is widely acknowledged as a key agent of economic growth and vital instrument for supporting sustainable development. However, in recent times, the sector has suffered some extensive decay in Nigeria for many reasons.
This paper seeks to examine the major causes of the decay, the effects of the decay in the educational sector and the role of stakeholders in maintaining high standard in the sector. Through a wide array of consultations and first-hand experience of the author with classical postulations as theoretical lens, it is easily discerned that corruption, insecurity, poor funding and decline of the teaching profession are among the major factors responsible for the decline in the educational standards.
The paper also finds that the most conspicuous indication of the lost era of educational excellence in Nigeria is the abysmal quality of the student intake, especially in tertiary institutions, as a consequence of basic and secondary education decay. Consequently, the educational standard has deteriorated and this has created increasing rate of illiteracy, poverty and underdevelopment, among other effects.
Ultimately, there is need for synergy among the stakeholders with a view to putting in place viable measures to deal with the embarrassing and insidious menace in Nigeria.
Therefore policymakers, academics, opinion leaders and educational administrators should consider seriously the desirability of the rescue of the educational sector from the decay using a model and the efforts of the Keffi Old Boys Association, KOBA, in confronting the dilapidation of its alma mater, the Government College Keffi, as being in the right direction towards lifting standards aimed at tackling and reversing the decline and decay.

1.0 Background:
It is important to begin this lecture with a review of some landmark developments in the history of educational evolution in Nigeria.
In 1976, Nigeria passed a law making education compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 12.
By 1980, approximately 98 percent (15,607,505 students) of this age group were enrolled in primary school, up from 37 percent in 1970.
That may have marked the pinnacle of achievement in the sector as the subsequent military and civilian Governments paid little attention to education as a consequence of which the quality of education deteriorated nationwide.
By 1985, the country as a whole had 35,000 primary schools with fewer than 13 million students, lower than the 15½ million in 1980 though the nation’s population had continued to grow at uncontrollable trajectory. Rather than free and compulsory education, some 3.8 million primary school-aged children lived on the streets. Conditions became progressively worse so that by 1994, the number of primary-aged pupils in school had changed little, even with the country’s high birth rate.
Secondary education fared worse than the other levels of education.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of primary students finishing sixth grade never went on to junior secondary school.
Those who did rarely progressed on to senior secondary school, and for those who were qualified for higher education, very few openings existed in the time. Let us then reflect back on tertiary education which at independence, with about 6,000 students, there were only six higher educational institutions in Nigeria: the University Ibadan, the University of Ife, the University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, and the Institute of Technology at Benin. More universities and polytechnics were built in the 1970s, and more students were able to go on for postsecondary education. In 1971, approximately 19,000 students were studying in institutions of higher education.
By 1985, the number had increased to 125,000 students, but this still represented a tiny portion of the population. Nigeria then struggled through a series of military dictatorships that ended in May 1999 with the democratic election of a President.
The government seemed determined to restore sanity from a damaged educational system over a period of the initial two decades of the twentieth century but the ‘Education is Forbidden’ effect of the Boko Haram conflict on education in North-East Nigeria and other crises spots in the country, particularly kidnapping, banditry and herdsmen scourge has recently meted untold hardships as well as reversed so much gains of decades in the hotspots of sectarianism in Nigeria.

2.0 Nigerian Institutional Educational Statistics:
In order to have a precise idea of the capacity of our nation Nigeria, to deliver on the educational mandate entrusted upon it as a responsibility of a country, let us look at the statistics of educational institutions and probably the number of student enrolments.
At the top is the number of Universities which my memory seems to recall from my last glance at the NUC Monday bulletin to be at a number around 200 in total number. However, a documented 2019 figure reveals that there were total of 170 Universities comprising of 43 Federal, 48 State and 79 Private Universities.
As at September 2019, there were about 1,854,261 full-time undergraduate university students in Nigeria. The majority of them attended federal universities, where 1,206,825 students were enrolled, followed by 544,936 in State Universities and the rest 102,500 in private Universities.
Some of Nigeria’s oldest Universities are the University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, and the University of Lagos. In addition to the number of universities, there are 17 Federal and 26 State owned Polytechnic Colleges.
These are established to train technical middle level manpower, though there are also a large number of Monotechnics and Technical Colleges.
There are 152 colleges of education in Nigeria, consisting of 27 federal, 82 private and 54 state colleges of education.
For the interest of Keffi Old Boys Association, the impact of secondary schools which Government College Keffi belongs is paramount.
The number of mixed public secondary Schools in Nigeria in 2016 stood at 8,930 which rose to 9,015 schools in 2017. Similarly, the number of mixed private secondary schools totalled 12,758 in 2016 and 13,423 in 2017.
The number of enrolment in the public schools was over five million students. Facilities available in schools differed remarkably based on ownership and unsurprisingly, private institutions provided more facilities, such as more libraries, computer, playgrounds, and laboratories. In the school year 2018/2019, there were around 27,000 thousand senior secondary schools in Nigeria, for roughly 5.2 million students.
The official junior secondary education age in Nigeria is from 12 to 14, while the official entrance age to senior secondary education is 15, with study duration being three years.
The breakdown of the senior secondary schools numbers were 9589 public, 17453 private and 27402 total.
As for primary school education, theoretically it is mandatory for children to attend schools up to junior secondary but practically, today Nigeria is said to have the greatest number of ‘out-of-school’ children, which shall be discussed shortly. The official primary education age in Nigeria goes from 6 – 11 years old while the number of elementary schools in Nigeria as of 2018/2019, by ownership was 61921 public, 55004 private and 116925 public. Kano is the top region by public primary schools in Nigeria, which as of 2005, public primary schools in Kano was 3450 that accounts for 5.73 percent of Nigeria’s public primary schools. The top 5 regions (others are Kaduna, Niger, Benue, and Oyo) account for 24.91 percent of public schools. Primary education school pupils enrolment in Nigeria was reported at 27,889,388 in 2018, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

3.0 Devastating Effect of Insurgency on Education:
In an account from compilations funded by the Daily Trust Foundation, the effects of insurgency and banditry on education have been outlined. Over two dozen primary schools were forced to shut their doors to students following attacks by bandits on farming communities in Kankara LG of Katsina state, leading to the desertion of dozens of villages by inhabitants.
Kankara, like a number of other local governments in Katsina and other parts of Northern Nigeria, is bedevilled by an impetuous security challenge which has resulted in mass displacement and made learning challenging in a region characterised as “educationally backward”. The school in Madobai was shut down over escalating attacks meant to wade off the rural communities from their farms.
Residents of the tripartite communities of Madobai, Gidan Adu and Jaga came under incessant attacks orchestrated by a notorious gang leader called Likita.
At the time Madobai prepared to reopen its school, many other schools in Kankara LGA had no date in sight on when to reopen and there were over 15 schools still shut, at least three others in the area ran skeletal operations, with teachers and local authorities battled to keep the children in school by improvising strategies to ensure learning continued. Kankara was shot into greater prominence a year ago when dozens of gunmen raided Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara, overnight on December 11, and herded 344 students into the bush. The mass abduction – the largest yet anywhere in the country, sent shockwaves to communities far and near and resulted in the closing down of schools in Katsina and some of its neighbouring states. The sacking of communities and fear of attacks have made parents to scamper away with their children, thus affecting school attendance.
Aside from the indirect role insecurity is playing in tampering with learning, education in Northern communities has faced more direct attacks in the forms of attacks on schools which are often tinctured with killings of both students and teachers and kidnapping for ransom.
A tally conducted by a reporter showed that 1,893 students have been abducted from schools in northern Nigeria since the first recorded abduction at Abba Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies, Konduga, Borno State, in February 2014, where 20 female students were abducted.
The Campaign against schooling has been aggressive with Boko Haram, leaving no one in doubt about their anti-modernity campaigns, being particularly hostile against modern school systems. Their campaign of violence led to the mass killing of students – the infamous being the massacre of 29 students in Buni Yadi, and the abduction of hundreds of others. Those attacks had necessitated the closure of hundreds of schools in the region.
In Borno State, the epicentre of the insurgency, a 2016 Human Rights Watch report indicated that: “Schools at all levels have been closed in 22 out of 27 local government areas for at least two years, and public secondary schools in the state capital, Maiduguri, only reopened in February 2016, after Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who occupied most of the schools were relocated elsewhere. “Education might have grounded to a standstill in even relatively safe Maiduguri if it were not for some private schools that remained open when state authorities shut down public schools in March 2014.”
While the situation has improved relatively since the report, still hundreds of schools there remain shut as many communities are inaccessible or yet to be occupied again by residents who had deserted them. True to its sobriquet which points to anathema for Western education, Boko Haram has been particularly ravenous in ensuring that learning is truncated. From around 2010, the group embarked on a series of attacks in the North East and other parts of the country. Bombs were planted in schools that killed students and others in places like Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano and Niger, especially between 2012 and 2014. Several schools in Maiduguri were razed in late-night attacks. Some 2,295 teachers, according to the education minister, were killed and 19,000 displaced in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the last nine years. Similarly, he said 1,500 schools had been destroyed due to the insurgency.
What drew the most agony and rage, however, were the series of abductions of students from schools which started with the Abba Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies, Konduga, on February 11, 2014. Two months later, 276 schoolgirls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, on April 14, 2014, which drew international outrage. An international human rights group, Human Rights Watch, documented that over 300 pupils were abducted from Zanna Mobarti Primary School, Damasak, also in Borno State, in November of that year.
In all three cases, according to reports, most of the students are yet to be accounted for as the abductors have held on to most of them.
There was a three-year hiatus in school abductions between 2015 and 2017, which was disrupted on February 19, 2018, when insurgents in their numbers abducted 110 students overnight from Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi, Yobe State. Exactly a month later, in March, the gunmen released 105 captives, with five students reported dead.
The Dapchi abduction is the last recorded school abduction in the North East.
The trend of mass abduction shifted to areas afflicted by banditry, mainly in the North West and Niger State in the North Central, with the first-ever school abduction in the region recorded on December 11, 2020. That night, gunmen led by a bandit leader, Auwalun Daudawa, stormed GSSS Kankara in Katsina and moved away with 344 students. Subsequently, abductions occurred in the same fashion, but on lower scales at Government Science College, Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State (February 17, 2021); Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, Talata Mafara Local Government, Zamfara State (February 26, 2021); Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi LGA, Kaduna State, (March 11, 2021); Greenfield University, Kasarami village, Chikun LGA, Kaduna State (April 20, 2021); and Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area (May 30, 2021).
Other cases of abduction are those at the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Yauri Local Government Area, Kebbi State, (June 17, 2021); Bethel Baptist School, Mararaban Rido, Chikun Local Government Area, Kaduna State (July 5, 2021); College of Agriculture and Animal Science, Bakura, Bakura Local Government Area, Zamfara State (August 15, 2021); Kaya Day Secondary School, Maradun Local Goverment Area, Zamfara State (September 1, 2021); and Government Day Secondary School, Birnin Yero in Shinkafi Local Government Area (September 22, 2021).
Like in the cases of the abductions in the North East, not all students abducted from schools in these other states have been fully accounted for as some were killed or have been kept by their captors despite payment of ransoms.

4.0 Raided Schools, empty Schools: Apart from the presence of one, two or three armed policemen on sentry duties at security posts by the gates of some secondary schools, the gates of many schools conveys the sign of long time disuse at numerous times and locations of insurgency and banditry. Classrooms and dormitories lie desolate in the silence of the compounds, which is occasionally tinctured by distant sounds of lizards rambling through drying shrubs. For varying periods mainly in months and a year plus in some cases since the abductions, schools which housed many students (often in excess of over 1,000 students) at peacetime, remained deserted at different periods in the last 5-7 years because after these ugly incidences, no students step into any classrooms in such locations. Schools in many Borno, Yobe and even Adamawa locations were closed for some periods of ther school calendar and more recently, schools in Katsina and Zamfara states. Once there is an incident, the schools had to be immediately closed down. At a certain stage, the Zamfara State Government shut down all government-owned schools in the state and their gates remained locked up for quite some time. On re-opening, many of the students fail to resume reflecting the trauma of keeping children from school. As example of a school in Tegina, Niger state, half of the population of pupils did not return to school two months after the school reopened, after the wounds inflicted and the outcry generated by an abduction. It was later learned that some parents completely withdrew their children from school because of fear of insecurity. Some children, even if their parents ask them to go to school, they don’t because of the previous experience.
School authorities need to work out plans to meet with parents to enlighten them to see the need for their children to continue with their education regardless of security challenges and past experience. Apart from trying to enlighten the parents, there are needs to teach some of the pupils who are come back to respond to security threats. Elsewhere, in Kaduna, I visited Greenfield University in 2021 on an NUC programme pre-inspection exercise in 2021. The Institution is forced to operate away from its elaborate campus at Kasarami, along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, to a smaller building in the city centre, as terrified staff and students showed no desire to go back to the site, after the abduction of its 20 students with four of them and one staff killed. Even on resumption at the urban campus, not all students were back to the school as some parents withdrew their wards. At the privately-owned Al-Qalam University in Katsina, the number of applicants for the school dropped sharply in what could be directly linked to safety concerns by the parents even with no incident being recorded in the school.
In spite of this phenomenon, which has been primarily rural, institutions in most urban centres in affected states have remained open but even with no recorded attack on students there, but their communities had instances of targeted kidnapping. Nonetheless they are defying terror as learning continues in the universities despite constraints like government imposed telecom shutdowns in troubled local governments as part of containment measures for the security challenges. Of course without communications, it is difficult to conduct smooth educational and social life had for staff and students who would have to undertake some journeys to access telecom services. Furthermore, with many primary schools on outskirts and rural areas shut, there was always a surge in student population in schools located within the densely populated communities and many displaced parents enrolling their children in newfound settlements. All the time, they should be encouraged to take the children to nearby schools, and direct all headmasters to accept any of those children brought to them.
In Kaduna and Katsina states, the governments had taken a decision to move children away from schools in vulnerable locations to safer locations to continue learning. Tough the strategy may help keep children in schools, it has inadequacies, especially because of distance which may hinder many students and some teachers unable to endure shuttling long distances to the new destinations. In any case, governments had to re-adjust their school curriculum, the concept of the security management and introduced the various measures that assist in addressing the new state of insecurity with each school being manned by armed policemen, in addition to local vigilantes provided by communities. Perimeter fencing has now to be provided or enhanced and barbed wire installed with Security lights installed in all the boarding secondary schools and surveillance towers built to monitor threats. In certain situations, government had to provide local dogs in boarding schools to aid policing.
In the end, the menace of out-of-school children has become a major headache leading to Nigeria being pronounced to have the highest global number with the federal government constituting an 18-man Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme (ASP) to work on modalities of closing the learning gap. A new federal government’s Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) Programme, a $611m World Bank assisted intervention is aimed at bringing out-of-school children into the classroom, improving literacy and strengthening accountability for results in basic education. However, with insecurity and other systemic bottlenecks afflicting the system, it is unclear how much result the project will achieve its main goal of mopping up kids off the streets into classrooms in the troubled region.

5.0 Effect of Armed Conflict:
The quantitative impact of armed conflict on education in Nigeria comes in counting the human and financial costs. Open-air lessons with little furniture and infrastructure assistances are the results of maladministration, corruption, poor funding, etc, that give rise to marginalised children, especially girls and children, but the effects become even more devastating in conflict situations giving rise to peculiar education in conflict affected regions that need closer monitoring and evaluation in education development. The numbers of children affected by conflict and the impact of conflict and insecurity on education in terms of direct and indirect costs is enormously dilapidating. Like the Sudan, especially Southern Sudan, DR Congo, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, etc, provide numerous case histories of the accounts of the quantitative impact of armed conflict on education, where counting the human and financial costs, we should try protecting Education in Insecurity and Conflict. The Nigerian situation following closely on established repercussions of instability all over the world of how conflict affects education, gives us ten main channels through which conflict can impact on access to education and learning that include:
• School closure due to targeted attacks, collateral damage and military use of school buildings
• Death and injury to teachers and students
• Fear of sending children to school, and teachers’ fear of attending due to targeted attacks, threats of attacks or general insecurity reducing freedom of movement
• Recruitment of teachers and students by armed forces (state and non-state)
• Forced population displacement leading to interrupted education and emergence of refugee camps with inadequate preparation and facilities for education
• Public health impacts of conflict which reduce access and learning
• Increased demand for household labour
• Reduction in returns to education
• Reduced educational expenditure (public and private) due to overall reduction in resources
• and shifting priorities
• Reduced public capacity to deliver education
Therefore overall as example, we can quantify the impact of the Boko Haram conflict on education in North-East Nigeria, banditry in north-west and north central and many other effects on the country. Individual fixed-effects results indicate that these conflicts have reduced school enrolment with the negative effect being larger for individuals who are no longer of mandatory school age. Ultimately, exposure to conflict reduces years of education completed and it is glaring as we quantify the impact of the Boko Haram conflict on various educational outcomes of individuals living in North-East Nigeria during the period 2009–2022, but very profoundly using individual fixed-effects regressions in selected study schools and exploiting over-time and cross-village variation in conflict intensity, we easily come to the understanding that conflict reduces school enrolment.
The negative effect is larger for children who are no longer of mandatory school age. We do not find differential effects by gender, religion, or type of residential location, except the undue security exposure that rural areas are exposed.

6.0 Overview of General Challenges and Solutions:
The problems of tertiary education sector is major and probably for the sake of a secondary school alumni association, may be left out because it portends a whole arena of discussion that can take volumes of presentation to tackle. As illustration, the Universities in Nigeria have spent 3-months now closed due to the University Union ASUU industrial action in a face-off with the federal Government. We can discuss that during our interactive session but I suggest that we will not have enough time to look into it now. We also know that once the Universities settle the feud with their employer, the Polytechnics and Colleges of education will also join in to adjust the settlement to reach them. So let us presume all things being equal in the tertiary education sector, then make an intelligent theoretical assumption that the quality of inputs from the secondary schools determine the quality of output from the tertiary education sector because ‘rubbish-in’ is ‘rubbish-out’. Therefore we can discuss the general problems of secondary schools and the basic primary schools. Therefore what are the problems of the secondary and primary schools?
Overall, the problems in basic and post-basic education in Nigeria include Inadequate funding, Unlawful appropriation of accessible funding which is corruption, Venality, Cronyism, Lack of adequate and qualified Teachers/employees, Incompetent planning, Improper inspection or supervision and Weak administration.
I have culled and compiled the following list of problems, outside of the current insecurity challenges, from many public sources that discuss the conventional challenges and solutions.
(i) Inadequate funding: Benefits of education are many and promising but it require adequate funds for the achievement of its objectives. Inadequate fund leads to all sorts of dilapidations especially inadequate infrastructure and poor remunerations/welfare as well as lack of innovations especially for support services and cross-border disciplinary engagements. Funding is the key without which insufficient schools are established and put to service leading to many out-of-school children, illiteracy, diseases, societal discontent and social unrests and conflicts. Government must be hardworking and innovative enough to raise funds for education.
(ii) Unlawful appropriation of accessible funding: It is not a surprise that a lot of funds for achievements of numerous educational programmes are misused. This can be deliberate, which is corruption or due to lack of competence and lack of planning as well as misapplications. It then reflects as deficiencies in class equipment with children sitting on bare floors, under trees on stones, absence of teaching aids, laboratory equipment and facilities, at best inappropriate furniture for the convenience of kids because significant part of the funds was misappropriated and misused.
(iii) Venality: This is a vice associated with being bribe-able or willing to sell one’s services or power, instead of acting decently. The problem of corruption is not new not only in Nigeria and in fact all over the world except that in many countries, people behave more decently. And it stops development of educational programmes with corrupt executives who have the responsibility over state education funds misapplying them to their own uses. Corruption is something that is difficult to root out but is one of the main challenges not only in the education sphere but the society in general.
(iv) Cronyism: This is the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority without proper regard to their qualifications and this is both stifling and killing education in Nigeria. We can equate our political methodology to cronyism where we practice tribalism, nepotism, religion, regionalism, etc. where many executives are employed based on the benefits of knowing someone who is in the leading position of authority with little competencies which restrain development and success.
(v) Lack of adequate and qualified employees: Insufficient staffing can result from many reasons like low salaries and lack of incentives that include absence of training and re-training policies leading to teachers exodus to other areas; and loss in self-confidence, etc. In another view, people take to teaching only because they are jobless so that the profession is full of personnel without zeal, commitment and qualification which slow down the whole mechanism of education representing a cog in the wheel of progress of such laudable programmes like the UBE. Qualified and educated staff are a major prerequisite for the realisation of the national plan of nations.
(vi) Incompetent Planning: Everyone knows if you want to have great success, you have to make a plan. Inefficient planning puts the progress and the implementation of the education programmes at the peril of failure. There are often many primary reasons for inadequate planning like wrong demographic data and inappropriate researches. If there is incomplete planning, the system cannot achieve the desired purpose and goals.
(vii) Incorrect and inadequate supervision and inspection: This can lead to poor implementation of programmes. At the level of primary and secondary schools especially, proper inspection can lead to good results and positive impacts and outcomes in educational transformation. For example, if school children are attending classes in a hostile and unfriendly environment, local authorities during the inspection will eliminate this problem quickly. If there are non-qualified personnel, the appropriate control will resolve this in time.
If there is lack or disappearing of local funds from the state budget, the adequate inspection will also eliminate such a gap. So, if such problems as non-qualified personnel, poor class equipment, inappropriate conditions for kids, etc. do exist, then we must admit that there is lack of (or there is inadequate) inspection.
(viii) Weak administration: Weak administration is one of the main issues affecting the realisation of the UBE programme in Nigeria. The various successful plans were interrupted due to inadequate control as well as lack of continuity in government policies. Because of this problem, the activity of many primary schools has rapidly declined which leads to worse functioning of the UBE programme.
(ix) Incomplete projects and Lack of Physical Facilities: When production of the new projects begins, and there are no available funds for its full and successful implementation, it leads to various unfinished projects which slow down the progress of the both primary and secondary education making efforts ineffective.
(x) Unethical Engagements: The majority of employed staff lack self-confidence due to improper training and are lacking in responsibility and sincerity making many of their practices unethical and poor example to the young kids in primary and secondary schools. Such personal qualities are important for both the formal and informal education of the children.
(xi) Lack of Innovation in the system: Lack of innovation leads to absence of interest, attention and motivation to learning. Insufficient and obsolete textbooks, issues of pedagogy in the teacher delivery methods, update of information and methods suitable for etc., can ease the complexities of the narration and correct inaccuracies and provide best expression on controversial issues. Re-certification and advanced training of graduates are required for new challenges, and the process of introducing innovations which, in most cases, are thought out and promoted by young and energetic people, does not occur due to their absence in places of education. The educational process is led by old school teachers who rely on their experience and proven books, rather than the “creative ideas” of the younger generation.
At the moment, the method of making a lesson and the knowledge invested in it is not an effective way to transfer information, due to the extreme lack of interest of children in traditionally knowledge and methods. So, now among the first priorities also should be increasing the motivation for the learning process among pupils and students.

7.0 Solutions using the KOBA Model:
In the heat of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, the national EXCO of this noble alumni association headed by our senior, the President-General Engr Edward Ujege, FNSE, MFR, mni, with such eloquent support of other EXCO members especially Deputy President Snr MB Lawan and the other erudite hard-working EXCO members of which I am privileged to be part of, took the decision to address the aberrations constituted in our national educational quality by attempting to tackle the declining standard of Government College Keffi itself. A letter was written to HE the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State proposing to reposition Government College Keffi with an appreciation of the support and patronage of the government of Nasarawa state which now owns the College.
Of course our alma-mater was established in 1949 attaining 70 years of active service in the provision of secondary education to the nation in 2019.
In the celebrations to mark this 70th anniversary in February 2020, the State Governor undertook to rebuild one of the damaged six(6) houses that provides hostel accommodation for boarding facilities.
Bringing of GCK old boys always evokes mixed feelings of nostalgia for many because the great positive impacts of the past looks rather faded into a shadowy mystery that seems impossible to replicate now or in the future.
Re-assembling at Keffi therefore merely seems to bring both sadness and joy, the latter for being alive with mates and friends but largely sadness at the lost glory of the college. Without so much of any direct effect of insurgency and conflicts, much decay has taken place with dilapidation of the structures, lack of basic facilities as a result of the near collapse in the education sector occasioned by the neglect of public schools by government and stakeholders. How Government College Keffi produced so many of the northern elites and top professionals in various fields of human endeavour, including the President of the nation, calls for reflection.
The old boys therefore are seeking partnership with the Old Boys to raise standards to the enviable level Government College Keffi had established as a culture and aspiration for the School and its products to sustain the highest standards morally and academically.
The old boys promise to build and equip the centre of excellence in Information, Computer and Telecommunications (ICT) is on course but the Government of Nasarawa needs to do more and with synergy, collaboration, understanding and action in a host of areas, efforts can be made to raise the standards of performance in the School so that in WAEC, it can elevate to class of the top secondary schools in the country to be at par with its traditional rivals like Kings College Lagos and Hillcrest School Jos as well as emerging Schools like Loyola Jesuit College Orozo-Abuja, Primiere Academy Lugbe-Abuja and Capital Science Academy Abuja.
Some of the blueprints put forward included acting with the new vision to re-establish an environment for discipline and learning and cultivate the enabling atmosphere to reinvigorate, re-engineer and re-invent scholarly processes to raise and sustain Government College Keffi to the no.1 status in the whole of Nigeria based on the yearly performance of its pupils in WAEC, NECO and JAMB and to establish such disciplinary standards to propel and sustain Keffi Old Boys to the top of their chosen careers in Government, Industry and Academia in the Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Law, Military, Para Military and Police, as well as International Service.
We may all recall that our proposals included:
(i) Discipline And Vocations where the School curricula of learning are to blend well with all disciplines, specialization and subject areas, formal and extra-curricular, that tame the mind and the body. Optimal delivery of literary education in theory through classroom teaching and practically through laboratory and field demonstrations as well as workshop practice and vocations shall be complemented with sufficient and deliberate incorporation of physical exercises. Students to be also exposed to practices in Agriculture, carpentry and other vocational trades, hygiene and sanitation, ICT and Library techniques through workshop practices, competitive neatness inspections, self-help attitudinal endeavours like school farms and cleanliness and neatness engagements early in the mornings, school excursions, cadet force and many others, to make them disciplined and self-made citizens of Nigeria in the future.
(ii) Funding And Fees: Government College Keffi should continue to receive statutory grants from Nasarawa State Government and other sources but the Old Boys Association believes that to give it the competitiveness for a sustainable rise in performance, its funding needs to be reinforced with school fees and a Board of Trustees comprising of the Old Boys and representative of the proprietor, the State Government, be made to oversee administration of the fund.
The admission should be shared like 10:30:30:30 for Special Allocation (including international pupils) : Nasarawa Indigenes only: KOBA : the rest of Nigeria, respectively.
(iii) Calibre of Administration: The Principal of Government College Keffi was always the most senior Tutor in the whole of Northern Nigeria.
This way, the benefit of experience and hind sight was harnessed and harvested for best administration and optimal academic performance of the college and discipline of the Students.
Accordingly, KOBA suggested that Principal 3 VPs be appointed for Government College Keffi (VP Academic, Administration and Special Duties).
(iv) Academic Staff Structure; The School to be allowed to choose the best Teachers in Nasarawa state or from outside with a pool of Teachers for each subject and strict Staff to Student ratio of 1:20 maximum.
(v) Administrative Staff Structure: Appropriate for Sports, Health, Farm, Security, Hostels, Cafeteria, Library/ICT and general administration/sanitation/Hygiene. personnel like Cleaners, Library & ICT Officers, Office Assistants, Store Keepers, etc.
(vi) Physical Infrastructure: Offices, Classrooms, Studios, Workshops, Laboratories, Hostels, etc.

8.0 Conclusion:
 Education in Nigeria was made compulsory up to Junior Secondary where every child is expected to have developed some skills to be self-employed as well as attain sufficient literacy for self-awareness and safe self-piloting.
Tertiary education is currently in turmoil with threats to completely abandon the responsibility of government in providing and sustaining tertiary education completely. This is even more disturbing that the Universities have remained shut with a backlog of two(2) admissions with a third JAMB just about to be conducted without the University calendar being able to cope.
The reasons for this are glaringly being publicised by ASUU always as it embarks on one industrial action after another.
These include physical facilities, poor staffing due to inappropriately low payments and incentives, lack of library physical and ICT facilities and cognate issues.
The system looks threatened with eminent collapse while high public officers and functionaries continue to display so much wealth including the seemingly impossibility of so many possessing N100 million to buy presidential nomination forms and other high sums for other party offices, apart from the corruption in government policy implementations like feeding programmes and other empowerment schemes where N33.3 million was spent per head to train youth in repair of handsets as reported by Punch newspapers.
It is urged that the grievances of university dons be addressed immediately and the institutions empowered to execute their mandates of providing tertiary education to those privileged to get admissions to read for degrees.
Pertaining to the basic primary and secondary education, it is pertinent to note that theoretically education is mandatory and free up to junior secondary school level. In spite the myriad of challenges bedevilling the sector, this needs to be re-emphasized and drummed into our ears so that as we recover from crises and conflicts, we can reflect as we leak our wounds and count the costs, we can mourn how much ground we lost with so many ‘out-of-school’ kids around us and this affects especially the north east parts of the country where there has been the devastating effects of insurgency on education as well as the frustrating efforts of the ‘education is forbidden’ policy of bokoharam. Raided schools have led to empty classes in areas of banditry and other issues surrounding land grabbing and confrontations of farmer-herders conflict also on land.
If we correlate the educational standards of these basic and post-basic educational levels to the tertiary education, we find that the most conspicuous indication of the lost era of educational excellence in Nigeria is the abysmal quality of the student intake, in the tertiary institutions, as a consequence of basic and secondary education decay. Since the computer input-output algorithmic logic tells us and proves always that ‘Rubbish-in, Rubbish-out’, the consequence is that overall the educational standard has deteriorated creating increasing rate of illiteracy, poverty and underdevelopment, among other effects.
Ultimately, there is need for synergy among the stakeholders with a view to putting in place viable measures to deal with the embarrassing and insidious menace in Nigeria.
Therefore policymakers, academics, opinion leaders and educational administrators should consider seriously the desirability of the rescue of the educational sector from the decay using a model and the efforts similar to the recommendations of the Keffi Old Boys Association, KOBA, model elaborated upon in this presentation.
The measures recommended to the Nasarawa State Government for confronting the dilapidation of its alma mater, the Government College Keffi, is in the right direction towards lifting standards aimed at tackling and reversing the decline and decay.
In addition, numerous policy refinements in national governance and especially firm self-assessments in the implementation of previous educational policies, funding, supervision, training and re-training and numerous other improvements are required to both alleviate existing conditions as well as raise that standards of education in Nigeria as discussed in this paper.

THANK YOU, NULLA DEDITIO!

Matawal is a Professor of Civil Engineering, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and an official of KOBA, Class of 1969 – 1973, Katsina -Ala.

 

 

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