Address by the Honourable Minister of Education Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i

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ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF EDUCATION PROF. RUQAYYATU AHMED RUFA’I AT A ONE-DAY CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY THE CENTRE FOR ECONOMIC AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AT THE MERIT HALL, ABUJA, ON NOVEMBER 5, 2010.

PROTOCOL

I am delighted to be with you this morning and to have the opportunity to discuss the challenges in the education sector. This Conference will enable us to proffer solutions to the nagging problems being encountered in the sector.

This conference is apt as it is coming in the heels of the just concluded UN General Assembly where the progress made so far in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) was assessed.

In today’s integrated and highly competitive world, the MDGs are among the few globally focused goals that have been consistently and deeply supported, especially the notion that every child in every country must be given the chance to have adequate access to basic education.

One of the goals of the MDGs is to achieve Universal Primary Education, which is in line with the vision of our great leaders like Late Obafemi Awolowo who declared free primary education in the then Western Region in 1956.  In 1976 the then Federal Government declared free Universal Primary Education (UPE) in the country.

Since that time, the Government had made tremendous efforts to provide education for all its citizens at both formal and informal levels in order to achieve the national and global developmental goals such as EFA, NEEDS and MDGs.  We believe that access and attendance are factors that can determine the success of a child’s education.  Attendance promotes academic performance, and lack of access to basic education could be detrimental to achieving a nation’s developmental goals.

Education for all is based on the fact that all children can learn irrespective of their circumstances.  The challenge has been to find sustainable strategies and innovations that can enable each child to learn what is relevant and important.  A deliberate policy which focuses on female education through intensive mobilization and sensitization of the public towards active participation has been put in place, and its offshoot is the Girl Education Program.

These noble efforts have faced several challenges in the actualization of their objectives.  One of the challenges is how to cope with the rapid population growth, which far overstretches the available facilities.  This brings us to the issue of data for proper planning in our education system.

The quality and quantity of teachers to man the large number of pupils and students in our education institutions which is another challenge, is of great concern to the government.  Poor and inadequate funding is also a factor that has bedeviled the education sector.   These and other challenges lead to mass failure in public examinations and production of graduates that are unable to defend their certificates, and are thus unemployable.

To address these and other developmental challenges facing education in Nigeria, the government came up with appropriate strategies and initiatives.  Thus, agencies like Education Trust Fund (ETF) Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to help fill the funding gaps where put in place.  The National Commission for Mass literacy, the National Commission for Nomadic Education, and other agencies were also set up to make access to education very easy for every Nigerian.  Another strategy is the partnership with Civil Society Organizations (NGOs, CBOs, FBOs), International Development Partners (IDPs), and the Organized Private Sector to intervene and help develop the education sector as government cannot fund education alone.

To fast track and sustain the achievements of the above interventions,  the Federal Ministry of Education developed a One-Year Strategy for the Development of the Education Sector with relevant task teams to monitor the activities and the achievements of mandates, and to re-strategize where necessary.  A two-day Presidential Summit was recently held where stakeholders deliberated on President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and other stakeholders the challenges and strategies to move the education sector forward.  Issues discussed included access and funding; ethics and values; teacher quality etc.

As we forge ahead with Vision 20:2020 – to become one of the top 20 economies by 2020, the Federal Government inaugurated a Committee to deploy e-learning in the education sector.  This is in line with the global trend where e-learning initiative is used as a platform to give a boost to the education sector as evidenced in other E-9 countries such as India, Malaysia, China etc

Another strategy to address the challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria is the reactivation of Community Accountability and Transparency Initiative (CATI) to monitor and track resources budgeted for Education to ensure proper, adequate and accountable utilization.

Universal primary education is crucial for national economic and social advancement.  Universal access to education is Nigeria’s prime target as we are a signatory to World Declarations on Education for All, Nigeria is, therefore, committed to the provision of basic education to all its citizens.  It is a goal that all developing countries are committed to achieving by 2015, but one that will not be reached without a significant acceleration of current progress.  Further progress requires the bridging of substantial policy, capacity, and data gaps in many developing countries, in addition to financing gaps.  With commitment and dedicated effort, it could become a reality.  This we are determined to achieve.

There is no doubt that the state of education in Nigeria as in some other developing countries is lamentably poor as there are a lot of challenges.  But there are perspectives and approaches that can be utilized to turn perspectives and approaches that can be utilized to turn the situation around.  What is needed is commitment.  We need to rise up to the challenges and change the course of events in Nigeria and give education a pride of place in the scheme of things.

Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to realize that “education for all is the responsibility of all”.  I wish you fruitful deliberations as you assess Nigeria’s MDGs performance in education.

Thank you and God Less.