For many university students and their lecturers, the year 2022 would be deemed gloomy due to the longest strike ever embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its implications. Yet, as every cloud has a silver lining, the year is ending on a pleasant note based on some policies that are capable of revolutionalising education in Nigeria if faithfully implemented. Three of them in the last two months are striking.
First, on November 3, 2022, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu, directed the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) to expunge Sex Education from the education curriculum. This is a welcome development because teaching sex education in the school system is injurious to the traditional and religious values of Nigerians.
That sex education should be removed from the school curriculum is not new. On May 16, 2014, the now rested “Daily Newswatch” newspaper published a report captioned, “Expunge sex education from curriculum in Nigeria – UN”. In the report, the Federal Government was called upon “to remove sex education from the academic curriculum and replace it with another subject that teaches morality. This, the UN believes, will by extension curtail or eradicate moral decadence in the country.” Apart from the United Nations, the same advocacy was made by many groups and individuals in Nigeria, including this writer.
But rather than do the needful, the reality is that the moral health of the society was sabotaged by those who should know and do better. The situation has ever become worse as some teachers use the school system to poison the innocent minds of the pupils with materials that promote homosexuality and its associated pervasions that are alien to our cultural and religious values.
Then, on November 30, 2022, the Federal Government approved a new National Language Policy that makes the mother tongue a compulsory medium of education from primary one to primary six. This is significant though symbolic because the implementation is fraught with problems. The Minister of Education also acknowledged this implementation bottleneck while making the announcement. How do we teach over 600 Nigerian languages?
The issue of mother tongue education has been long in contention and it is laudable that the Federal Government has taken that bold step in that direction. As far back as 1965, the late activist and educationist, Dr Tai Solarin, had canvassed for the use of indigenous languages as our media of instruction emphasising that the “Nigerian child will NEVER imbibe to the fullest every strand of education” as long as the medium of instruction is a foreign language.
A former Minister of Education, Prof. Babs Fafunwa, was also a vocal advocate of mother tongue education and his six-year Ife project remains a watershed and evidence that education through a Nigerian language is possible. The project, which involved the teaching of a group of pupils in Yoruba throughout the primary school, recorded a huge success with the performance of the pupils in secondary school and later years.
Perhaps, the mismatch between formal education and indigenous values is traceable to the adoption of the English language only as foreign culture is what is embraced most by students. Though I believe that a bilingual system of instruction in which both English and the mother tongue are used together is better, the symbolic gesture of promoting Nigerian languages is heartwarming.
Lastly, on December 1, 2022, the Federal Government directed polytechnics, monotechnics and similar institutions to stop awarding degrees. If the tertiary education ecosystem in Nigeria is considered chaotic, part of the chaos lies in what the Federal Government has addressed. Each tertiary institution has its purpose and the attention of those institutions should be focused on their mandates.
While colleges of education offer certificates and polytechnics offer diplomas, universities offer degrees. But the reality of today is that some colleges of education and polytechnics in Nigeria offer degree programmes for the simple reason of attracting students who are more interested in degree programmes. In doing this, attention is diverted from the purposes for which those institutions were originally established.
If proprietors realise that the demand for university education is high and they are motivated by number, there is nothing stopping them from converting or upgrading their colleges, polytechnics and monotechnics to universities. Colleges can easily become universities of education while polytechnics and monotechnics can become universities of technology and specialised universities respectively.
With these three policies, Mallam Adamu is leaving fine legacies at the concerned levels of education specifically and the Nigerian education system generally.