MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
A senior lecturer in the Department of English Studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State, Prof. Chijioke Uwasomba has attributed the endless spate of banditry, insurgency and other forms of violence pervading the Northern parts of the country to high level of illiteracy among the youths who have been marginalised over the years by their political leaders.
According to him, “the problem in the North today is largely because primary education which is the bedrock of knowledge has been neglected for too long. Many children are not enrolled in schools while great numbers continue to drop out of school with the northern leaders not showing much interest as they would not want to be challenged in future by the same youths once they are educated.”
The University don who was the guest speaker on Friday at the public presentation of a book titled “In Lieu of Excellence: The State of Public Primary Education in Lagos State” said that since Independence, successive administrations in Nigeria have not done much in funding education especially at the primary level which ought to lay the foundation for secondary and tertiary education.
He noted that the foundation of knowledge needed for development of any society comes through primary education but regretted the abysmal state of the country’s public primary schools which has given room for the emergence of mush room private primary and secondary schools.
The book which is largely a report of research activities carried out by a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called The Maroon Square, in selected public primary schools in Lagos is an attempt to understand the numerous challenges facing primary education and how best to go forward.
Commending the NGO for the effort in bringing to the fore issues that border on primary education via the research, Uwasomba said “anything academic has to be encouraged because as the country is today, we need people with sound education to change the system.”
He emphasised that “unless we are educated, we will not be in a position to fight the forces in the political arena which have made the country to be in tatters. The country is not making developmental progress because retrogressive elements have hijacked the political system.”
The OAU lecturer who spoke on the theme; “Education Funding in a Globalized World: The Case of Nigeria,” noted that globalization has provided information highway through internet, phone etc and has allowed people to belong to one world from wherever they are.
However, he emphasised that though globalization is good but has also brought under- development in African countries and other third world nations. He posited that there were efforts in such countries but “capitalism with its sophistication has brought about under-development through corrupt practices in the system.”
The corrupt practices, Uwasomba argued, have permeated every sector of the political system such that development has been stalled in a manner that Nigeria has become absolutely import dependent nation. Due to this scenario, he could not hesitate to say that “naira can never find its value until Nigeria stops depending on importation of goods and services.”
He advised Nigerian youths to embrace education, believing in themselves without much expectations from government as it was evident that the nation’s political leaders have not done enough to bring positive development in spite of different ideologies they have always come up with.
The University don emphasised that “there have been reforms in the education sector but the reforms have not helped, adding that government has failed to provide good education especially at the primary education level.”
He advised that even though globalization is ideal, Nigeria should not take every culture hook line and sinker but only on the aspect that would truly bring development.
The event which was held at the Federal College of Education, Technical FCE(T) Akoka Lagos, attracted some personalities from the education sector and scores of students from the FCE(T).
Speaking at the event, Chairman of the FCE(T) Chapter of the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Mr. Ijadunola Thomas said it was regrettable that many of Nigeria’s contemporary policy makers were beneficiaries of free and qualitative education at government expenses, but regrettably they are responsible for the poor funding of public education in present time. He added that the neglect given to public schools was the reason for the emergence of private schools which are regrettably charging expensive fees.
The COEASU Chieftain also deplored the system where there is no subject specialisation teachers in the primary schools. He wondered why a subject teacher with specialisation in Christian Religious Knowledge for instance, should be made to teach basic science, technology and other subjects outside of his core knowledge. He called for a paradigm shift.
On his own part, Comrade Agbeniga Adebayo who represented the Lagos Wing of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) disclosed that in some Lagos schools, non academic staff were given classes/subjects to teach. He added that the monthly allocation to primary schools as running cost was N25,000 per school. He described this scenario as deplorable.
The National Coordinator of Maroon Square and event host, Barr. Onyeisi Chiemeke while appreciating the presence of guests at the Book presentation, explained that the research which gave birth to the material was necessitated by the fact that public primary schools do not exist in many Lagos communities while the existing ones were poorly funded and managed. The research which he said was carried out by a team of experienced journalists had covered every local government area in Lagos State.