Politics Of School Reform In Nigeria: Informing Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu’s Vision For Education In Nigeria

by Sadiq A. Abdullahi

School reform everywhere is a complex undertaking. The complexity is seen in the politics and processes of school improvement. Those individuals, who believe that education is the key to improving the quality of life and the social class, have argued perpetually that the current system of education in Nigeria needs to be reformed. And they continue to argue as such. Some of them are agents of and employed by the federal and state governments. Others represent interest groups such as the parent, student, and teacher associations. Professional organizations too have vested interest in developing education in Nigeria. All of these groups will continue to push their personal and organizational agenda for school improvement. They want to see the nation improve student achievement, close the achievement gap, and reduce inequity in society. Public schools, therefore, provide the avenue for the dissemination of competing ideologies and philosophies, of how schools should be reformed.

The new Minister of Education, Dr. Nwachukwu must be cognizant of the internal politics as well as the myriad of problems facing Nigerian schools. He must not only work with these interest groups, but must work within the framework of the Nigerian Constitution and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) to reform our schools. The NEEDS core values, which are aligned with the Vision 2010 report, offer some hope for school reform. Other reports, which include the Kuru Declaration and the Ezekwesili Vision 2020 report, could also offer guidance. For example, the Vision 2010 report, which recognizes the importance of respect for elders, honesty and accountability, cooperation, industry, discipline, self-confidence, and moral courage, could be incorporated into the Minister’s master plan. The Minister must endeavor to shift emphasis to implementation, monitoring, and commitment to the process of continuous improvement. This will be a sharp contrast in thinking.

To illustrate: there seems to be lack urgency in improving the Nigerian education system. There is a continued widening of the gap between poor and rich children of Nigeria. According to the former civilian President, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari, there is a deep dissatisfaction with public education in Nigeria. He said that too many young and old graduates are roaming Nigerian streets aimlessly. Dr. Nuhu Yakubu, the Executive Secretary of National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) agrees. He said the high level of unemployment among graduates is alarming. There is a need for a new curriculum to be designed to change the mindsets of secondary students towards creativity, innovation, service, and enterprise. Many people have written in Nigerians in America that the education sector has failed to meet the demand of Nigerian youths. This failure has put them at a disadvantaged to compete locally, regionally, and globally.

The Minister knows that the world we live in today is faced with difficult economic, cultural/religious, technological, environmental, and political problems. Since September 11, 2001, political leaders around the world have adjusted their foreign policy to respond to national security threats, while educators and teachers are adjusting their instructional objectives to meet the needs of their students and respond to the forces of globalization. According to Friedman (1999), nations are responding and those nations not responding will pay a heavy price. Nigeria must respond. There are indications that the nation is responding, but how effective is the response. If we go by the above comments, the nation is indeed failing many Nigerian youths. It has been suggested that global and entrepreneur education will offer the curriculum that will address issues and problems related to human rights, local and global terrorism, regional, and global conflicts, global warming, environmental degradation, population growth, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and globalization. As trends in globalization, technology, and economic liberalization across the world become a reality, and leaders of the world recognize the need to prepare and develop the global knowledge and capacity of their youths to innovate and compete locally and globally, and Nigeria partakes in the process, we shall see a big transformation in thinking and in action. The Nigerian youth today is growing up in a world that is not only shrinking, but more interconnected and interdependent.

We know that Dr. Nwachukwu will face a daunting task in reforming the education sector, a sector which has been plagued by poor conception, inadequate planning, a weak implementation, a shortage of skilled manpower, limited resources, mismanagement, corruption and malfeasant. We have written countless articles offering suggestions and recommendations for change. State governors must support the federal government effort in reforming the schools. The state and federal governments should implement, monitor and develop strategies jointly to increase student participation and student achievement in internal and external examinations, in rigorous preparatory courses, hold individuals accountable, and ensure students graduate from secondary school ready for the university or the workforce.

The implication for national development, growth and prosperity is clear. The Minister must show national pride and commitment to his vision for education and to the vision of No Child Left Behind Act as expressed in the America. I am confident that Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu knows the what, why, how of school reform, and more importantly, where we need to begin. By re-evaluating the recommendations in the Education Reform and Intervention-Vision 2020: The Role of the Nigerian Education Sector report, the Minister is sending the right signal.

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