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Education ministries appointment must go beyond politics, says Yinka Ogunde

In: Education

She maintained that government must engage people who are capable of driving the needed reforms as the sector needs great intellectuals that will hit the ground running rather than those that will wait to understand what it is about. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, she maintained that government must engage people who are capable of driving the needed reforms as the sector needs great intellectuals that will hit the ground running rather than those that will wait to understand what it is about.

As the Chief Executive Officer of Edumark, you have been an active player in Nigeria’s education scene, what motivated your activities around education?
Yes, I have been an active player in the sector and one of the things that has really motivated me is the fact that I strongly believe that to transform our nation, we need to start with the kind of education we are giving to our people at all levels.

We can trace a lot of things back to the decay in our educational system, there was a time that people came from various African countries to study in Nigerian universities, now we are the ones running to Ghana, South Africa, Benin Republic, Kenya, and so on, to get educated. It is important to note that no nation can develop beyond its education system that is why the sector should be of utmost importance to everyone.

How has the journey been, and do you have any regrets investing your energy, time and resources around education?
I have had high and low moments, pain, triumph, fulfilment, frustration and so many things put together. Sincerely, I ask myself this question all the time. What impact have I made in this sector? Seems like just a little drop amidst all the challenges. Then I ask myself what if you have done nothing? Unthinkable… I would simply have been complaining.Do I have any regrets? I would say no. I really did not have a choice. Everyday, it appears to be more like a divine assignment for me. Where others see problems, I simply try to come up with a strategic long-term solution.

If you place education in the last three decades side by side with the contemporary teaching and learning, how would you rate the sector?
This is something we have debated in various places. I think the question arose recently for me when a group of professionals were recounting how difficult and challenging it has become to get people in their organisations. They stated that there is a basic requirement, which must be there to enable them put the training process in place. This they stated is also lacking. It puts considerable pressure on a few good experienced hands. What made all the difference in those days was the quality of the personnel in the teaching profession. Today, a lot of people are there not because they wanted to be there. It was just about them managing something pending the time a better opportunity presents itself.

You will recall that it was at that time, a sector dominated by women (still is). Most of them must have wanted careers that will enable them juggle the home front very well. They had strong professional ethics and dedication. What we need to do is to find a well-coordinated programme that will ensure total transformation of those who are imparting knowledge in our schools. Help them become better, and help them see the importance of the profession. That is why I am so passionate about Total School Support Seminar/Exhibition (TOSSE) providing an opportunity for teachers to grow without having to go through the financial stress.

What are your thoughts about policies and implementations in education system?
We need sincerity from government on this education matter. Money is one thing, idea is another. Strategic execution is there too; above all, the willingness to pursue till it is actualised is topmost.No matter how we look at it, the government has a huge role to play in educating the citizens. Private individuals cannot design ways of giving the millions of out-of-school children access to education without government support. So government’s active involvement is key. You know we all say it begins with you, it begins with me, and yes it does. But after years in this sector, I have come to realise that what may take a private organisation 10 years to achieve, a committed government organisation can do much more within a year. We need the government to put in people who will understand the urgency and drive the needed reform.

It was once argued that the right candidates are not heading the education ministries and parastatals, what qualities should education ministers or commissioners posses?
One thing I believe is that education ministry must go beyond politics.Who can help our schools? Who are those that know what to do to advance the sector and align it with the global trend? Skilled, passionate and creative professionals with strong leadership qualities are needed. We need people who know what to do.

The problems are enormous and we need people who can get things done, who can build great teams and inspire them enough to become advocates of the kind of transformation we need. It is not a ministry we can afford to wait for a year waiting for the commissioner or minister to fully understand what is going on. There are major issues to be tackled and they differ from one part of the country to the other.We need people who are ready to work as a team to reform the sector.

As a key stakeholder interfacing with experts in the industry, schools and parents, what are the major setbacks of the sector?
Parents and schools must see that they need to work together in the best interest of the child. There are too many discordant tunes. Parents against teachers, teachers against school owners, and then we have government officials doing theirs.

Everything must be done in the best interest of the Nigerian Child. What is our goal and vision? What must be the outcome we want to see in a child educated in Nigeria? We need to have a unified vision and voice. If the vision is known by all it is easier to run with it.

Edumark is a notable name in Nigeria’s education scene, what is the long-term goal of the organisation?
Our long-term goal is to be a major player transforming education across the African continent. I remember after the second edition of TOSSE, I travelled to Ghana, Gambia and various other African countries checking out their schools and areas of collaboration. Things were a bit too premature at that time but I believe it will happen as we continue to attract more and more visitors from other African countries to TOSSE and our educational institutions as well.

TOSEE is a landmark programme of Edumark, what is its primary objective?
This is the 11th edition. From inception our goal has always been to be the platform whereby educators from all across the nation and the African continent converge to learn, unlearn and relearn. A place to learn what is new in the field of education; meet and network with organisations; and develop innovative products and services for the sector.

What should be expected at this year’s edition?
We have changed the entire scenario of TOSSE and introduced so many new things like the business clinic; personal growth class for educators; legal aid unit; mathematics hub; arts and crafts village; parent/schools forum anchored by concerned parents and educators. We also have a rich line up of speakers.

Why is it that despite several meetings, the sector’s problems still persist?
The problem still persists because we are part of the Nigerian society and we are in dire need of a national reorientation at this time. My advice to teachers and other stakeholders is not to give up. Teachers on their part should endeavour to develop and grow themselves continuously.

Source: The Guardian

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