THE leadership of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) has said that the only way for Nigeria to get out of the current quagmire is to fix the education sector and ensure its proper funding across all levels.
COEASU president, Dr Smart Olugbeko, speaking at a workshop in Abuja, condemned successive administrations in the country for neglecting teacher education, which he considered as key to development of any nation.
He, therefore, urged the new minister of education, Professor Tahir Mamman, to give teacher education a priority in his transformation agenda.
He noted that education in Nigeria is at the very low ebb, adding that the current administration would not get it right if teacher education is not accorded its proper place.
“Everybody knows that education in Nigeria is at its lowest ebb. There are lots of problems and the minister needs to settle down and look into the various issues. He will discover that these are issues that must be resolved urgently,” he said.
Olugbeko noted that President Bola Tinubu appointed Professor Mamman, knowing that he is capable of fixing the problems because of his antecedents, saying that the union believes that Mamman has the capacity to turn things around.
“For us, we know that a lot of things have gone wrong and we are not happy with the state of education in Nigeria. The worst of it all is that the government has wilfully abandoned teacher education. And today, we no longer trust in our education system,” he lamented.
The COEASU president added that Nigeria is currently facing numerous challenges because teacher education has never been given proper attention, as it is commonly said that “no nation can rise above the quality of its teachers.”
He stated that: “What COEASU wants is better teacher education in Nigeria – teachers who can produce graduates with the right skills; who will not only drive the nation’s economy but also provide solutions to societal problems.”
COEASU has been in the struggle for the welfare of its members, revitalisation of colleges of education and proper funding of teacher education, among others, which has led to the degeneration of colleges of education in the country, as the teaching profession also suffered neglect over the decades.
Olugbeko did not mince words while sending the representative of the Federal ministry of education at the workshop to the minister of education, saying: “Apologies to our new minister, whenever lawyers or doctors hold their major events, the president of Nigeria will grace the occasion, but when it’s teachers’ turn, even the minister of education will not attend, let alone a director, but someone will be delegated to attend the event. What this portends is that teachers are not recognised and education is not given priority.
“Really, we want things to change with the new minister. We want him to give teacher education the priority attention it deserves.”
According to him, some of the key demands of COEASU which the Federal Government is yet to address are the release of N478billion revitalisation fund, being the outcome of the 2014 Presidential Needs Assessment across public COEs; revision of Federal College of Education Act 1986 and 1993; rejection of Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS), among others.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Professor Paulinus Chijioke Okwelle, said that the commission is continuously engaging the government to ensure a conducive atmosphere for teachers in the country.
Meanwhile, the Director, Colleges of Education Department, Federal Ministry of Education, Uchenna Uba, who represented the minister of education, said the ministry is aware of the agitations of the union and is working towards addressing them.
According to him, the ministry has worked to make sure that the payment of the Needs Assessment fund commenced with all the beneficiaries receiving about 50 percent of the fund, adding that the government has commenced the process of mainstreaming the staff of demonstration schools in line with the minimum standards.
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