Published On: Tue, Aug 1st, 2017

There are lots of inadequacies in our educational system –Associate Prof. Irondi

Associate Professor Emezuo  Ogbonna  Irondi is an Educational Policy Analyst. He teaches Comparative and International Education at the Abia State University, Uturu.  His view on Comparative education intensive research mechanism), is that it is vital in the making and implementation of any policy guidelines. In this interview with PETER OKORE in Umuahia, the University don identified a lot of inadequacies and hiccups in the country’s policies and their implementations, and blamed the scrapping of Teachers Training colleges without producing   the needed number of NCE teachers as a major set-back in the quest for quality education in the country.  The don proffered solutions on how to stop the prevailing ethnic agitations for separate existence in Nigeria. EXCERPTS:

 

What is the concern of Comparative Education in policy formulation?

 Comparative Education is a study of how nations formulate and Implement their policies; what problems they encounter in making and implementing policies; their successes and what makes them succeed, where they fail and what causes their failures.

 Relate these to Nigeria’s educational policies

 Nigeria is good in making policies. But at the implementation stage, there are usually hiccups that make it almost impossible for the objectives to be achieved. Take the case of the Universal Primary Education, UPE, which was retired General Yakubu Gowon’s pet-project. That policy started with thenomenclature, U.P.E.  The blue-print for implementation of that policy was produced after they had made attempts to implement it. By right, the blue-print should have come before the implementation. It was later found out that the government, at the time, did not have enough teachers, infrastructures and lacked the wherewithal to make education free. As a result, the ‘FREE’ programme started with was withdrawn. Then it became Universal Primary Education, UPE, thereafter.

Indeed, the making and implementing a policy need a lot of research. You research to find out the antecedents of the problem you want to solve by that policy. You go through a lot of cost benefit analysis and then arrive at the most feasible and profitable approach to solving that problem. Otherwise, there are problems because some things must have been omitted or ignored.

What really do Comparative Education scholars look- out for in a policy?

Comparative Education scholars look at policies made by various nations of the world.  Take for example “Child Education”.  We look at what problems countries like France, Japan, Britain, America, etc. have had in making such policies. What made them succeed or fail?  With varying areas of specializations, how have they improved teaching for example in the Languages, Mathematics, Science, etc. There has to be a procedure of teaching such subjects, using what is available within.

Education in Nigeria is yet to realize that most advanced countries of the world base their practices on what is obtainable within their societies (i.e. ethnologically- derived philosophies, policies  and practices). The time we realize this and change, our educational system will change.

Again, another case of a failed policy is the case of the Internally Displaced People (IDP’s). Many countries of the world have had this experience. Comparative education in this case involves how Nigeria approaches

IDP: What arrangements have been made to solve the problems of the IDP’s. Nigeria is  making efforts. But there is still much to do to improve what they (Nigeria) are doing. They should go further than what they are presently doing on the IDP’s.

 In advanced countries, they have special analysts who draw-up a thorough analysis and later come-up with policies on how to handle it (like the plight of the IDP’s).  Nigeria is inclined to solving problems with fiat which is very bad. It is not enough to give the IDP’s provisions, blankets, food, water, etc. There should be a systematic approach with response to, not only basic needs of life, but more than that.

   How?

 For instance, the IDP’s were all lumped in camps. Before long we started hearing that females were being molested, children not going to school, outbreak of epidemics, fraudsters infiltrating into IDP’s in Camps, corruption amongst Government officials in-charge, etc.  Adequate arrangements should have been made, in advance to make sure that such anti-social behaviours do not happen.

 Again, people who had been detached from their homes should be given what is close to what they used to have in their homes. This is where the Western world stand to beat us (Nigeria), in many ways. They will first carry out analysis and identify those problems.  Before you know it, teachers, nurses, doctors, etc, would be drafted to the IDP camps to work. But here (in Nigeria) we first start doing something mid-way, before we begin to find problems which often are approached by fire-brigade. We often start something without the personnel to handle them being on-ground.

  Now, let’s look at the present educational system in Nigeria. What’s your take on it?

That the country scrapped the former Teachers (Training) Colleges, PTC, etc and HETC is good. It shows advancement in Nigeria’s quest for education. But the problem here is that we had not produced enough teachers with the National Certificate of Education, NCE, before abolishing the Teachers Colleges.  We should have first, had enough NCE teachers on-ground. I see it as ‘mere stupidity’ to have abolished the lower cadre of teachers. Even, the introduction of the Kaduna-based National Teachers Institute (NTI), is not helping matters to produce quality teachers. The programme  lacks the basic skills and knowledge the Teachers Colleges ought to have given in educational foundations, principles, methodology and discipline. That programme is purely for certificate acquisition. The orientation/intention is not there.

 In fact, there are lots of inadequacies in our educational system; there is insufficiency in teaching personnel, infrastructure, teaching materials and the pay is abysmally inadequate to name a few.

 In Nigeria, there are primary schools where teaching and learning are still going on under trees. This is a travesty in education.  It ought not to happen at all.  The same thing is noticeable in secondary schools and all levels of tertiary educational institutions. Inadequate teaching personnel reduce the quality and quantity of knowledge accessible by the learners.

 From the quality of education our citizens get, you can easily find out that it is traceable, to a large extent, to the quality and quantity of our teachers; right from primary schools to the university-levels.

 Do you have regrets for the quality and quantity of education our children are getting nowadays?

I will not address it as regrets.  For, we still find a lot of rooms for improvements.  If you look at educational system in Nigeria, we have young scientists, inventors, technologists, etc, out there, who are designing technological machines, implements, and all. They attend trade exhibitions/fairs   beyond the shores of Nigeria and come back with laurels. These are indications that the education system in Nigeria is not a failure.

 But on the same ground, you see some university graduates who are still illiterates and you ask yourself: Why do such people pass through schools without learning anything?  I see, in most cases, they pass through illiterate teachers. Of course, the fault is not from them. These illiterate teachers are there from primary schools to the universities.

 On the whole, one would not say that the present system is low or has fallen, beyond repair. Most private schools are doing fine; whereas in public schools you see many not doing well.  In summary, I say Nigeria is not tackling the problems of the educational system adequately.

 What should be the right approach towards solving the problems of education in Nigeria?

Nigeria should get Comparative Education specialists to analyse the problems and come-up with solutions.  The outcome of such research will answer the question of why we are getting these problems. To begin with, infrastructures are not maintained.  How can you feed your child on a dustbin, and believe that that child is not going to behave like the rats, cockroaches and animals that feed on dustbins?

 Our schools are very dirty, unlike what they used to be in those days. In those days, pupils came back from school having the big pride of having been in a neat school. This translates into the way they behaved. Children sag their dresses or fly their shirts because they do not see anything good to copy from.

In those days, we dug our ridges, measured them, planted our own crops, took care of them, harvested and stored them. We also kept our individual farm diaries. We left school with the mind that agriculture was very important. Now primary and secondary school products are not interested in agriculture. On Mondays, teachers inspected our school uniforms, nails and teeth to see how clean they were.  All these things we did have been thrown over- board. Children are no longer interested in agriculture or even looking neat and clean.

    As a specialist in education, which you also teach, what do you advise government to do in education?

Nigeria should look into emphasising agriculture at primary, secondary and university levels. We will be doing ourselves a disservice trying to recruit people from the streets to go and do agriculture, till the ground and implement mechanized agriculture. Rather, I suggest that interest in agriculture should start from the primary school to the tertiary levels. Government should ensure that

Agriculture is taught at the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to know what agriculture means. It is here that we get those who would study the subject at the university level.

   We hear you worked briefly in the Voice of Biafra (VOB) during the Nigeria/Biafra war. How do you see broadcasting since after that war?

I believe there had been advancement in broadcasting, especially now that it has gone digital.  But I still believe that a good number of those there have a lot to correct in broadcasting, particularly at Radio stations. The quality of broadcasting is nothing to write home about. It was quality broadcasting and content that made VOB unique during the war. 

For instance, often when I listen to radio, I hear people making noise at the background. Nothing should interrupt the voice of the person on the microphone; not even anything emanating from his own person that makes a noise should disrupt the broadcast.

Often, I also hear some giggling at the background of the broadcast. At times, presenters fail to rehearse their scripts well before going on air.  For instance, no-one at the microphone should be above asking for information from those who know better; how to pronounce place and people’s names correctly. Presenters should find out how to pronounce strange names and places before going on air. 

 What was the extent of your involvement in the Nigeria/Biafra war, which lasted from 1967 to 1970?

Indeed, we were involved in the execution of the cessation. I was once a guerrilla training officer. I helped to establish the Biafra Organization of Freedom Fighters (BOFF) training Camp at Nenu, in company of three French military officers. As a French student, I interpreted into French and English for Frenchmen and the Commander-In-Chief of the Biafran Armed Forces and Head of State, Late General Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.  We met at Ojukwu Bunker every Wednesday to review the situations in all war fronts. But somewhere along the line, I transferred to the Voice of Biafra (VOB), where I worked till the end of that war.

What, in your opinion, has given rise to the present agitation for Biafra, 47 years after the war ended?

What happened to former Biafra nation since the end of the war is the reason for the agitation. At the end of the war. General Yakubu Gowon, then Nigeria’s Head of State said:” No victor! No vanquished!” He also came-up with a programme of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (3R’s). If that statement made by him and the 3R’s he initiated, had been followed and Biafrans received back into the mainstream of the Nigerian nationhood, I believe this agitation could never have arisen.

How and why, sir?

Because most of the agitators are children who were not there when the war was fought!  I believe that they are expressing a feeling that they have been rejected. This is because they have read history from books, seen pictures of marginalised groups, seen killings and the rest of them, about the Nigeria/Biafra war.

 So, they are convinced that it will be better for them to stay in a separate entity, rather than staying in Nigeria. They believe that those of us, who still believe strongly in Nigeria, are deceiving them.

 Therefore, I will be reluctant to blame them.  If Nigeria can go back to “No victor. No vanquished” and regard everybody as a citizen of this country, Nigeria, I don’t believe that the push for Biafra will succeed.

This is my feeling. I don’t play politics!  We merely saw ourselves fighting the war because we saw ourselves in an enclave called, ‘Biafra’, which was beleaguered.  I am a strong believer in Nigeria.

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