Connecting the education DOTS

In a press release by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, on April 18, 2024, the aide provided what can be considered as the agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government on Education. This policy thrust apparently rests on four themes, captured as “DOTS”, an acronym representing Data Repository, Out-of-School Children Education, Teacher Training and Development as well as Skills Development and Acquisition.  

It doesn’t require more than a cursory look at the themes to appreciate their relevance. There is no doubt that Nigeria has a huge data problem with education and the broader socio-political ecosystem. Every researcher knows about this data palaver. On many occasions, researchers have to rely on the data provided by foreigners and secondary sources even on our population. Where data are available, they are not reliable as we are not known to pay attention to records and data as a society.

There is also a crucial need to make education accessible to all Nigerians regardless of their circumstances of birth. As Victor Hugo said several years ago, he who opens a school door closes a prison. By not educating children, we are indirectly breeding social deviants.  The children that the society did not educate functionally in the previous years are the terrorists, bandits, unknown gunmen and all kinds of criminals tormenting the country today.

Meanwhile, as the quality of education provided by any society is directly proportional to the quality of its teachers, the significance of prioritising teacher training and education, incentivising education to bring the best out of educators and restoring the positive public perception of teachers cannot be over-emphasised. A society that claims to value education but despises teachers and lecturers only engages in self-immolation. It is axiomatic that without teachers, there is no nation as a country without teachers is like a car without tyres – it can’t move anywhere.

Besides, it requires iteration that education today without skills acquisition and enterprise is useless. Real education is functional educational or the type of education that is relevant to the present and future needs of the learners and the society, a type of education where performing productive tasks is given more emphasis than providing ideological conformity, or that education where practice is accorded more importance than theory. Skills acquisition chiefly makes education functional.

Focusing on DOTS is fascinating partly because the mantra that runs through the DNA of the companies owned by the successful entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is ABCD: Always Be Connecting the Dots (ABCD). We must always collect dots or bits of information and we must always connect them. Collecting dots is easy but connecting them is hard. Identifying policy areas of interest is easy but walking the talk of connecting them to change reality is not a piece of cake.

It is in this regard that all hands must be on deck to connect the identified DOTS and work on them to engender renewed hope. However, in connecting these dots, four issues are critical, which are DOTS: dedication and discipline on the part of stakeholders, openness at the level of implementation, technology and teamwork as cornerstones of achieving results and sense of service and sacrifice by all, from policy makers and educational administrators to teachers and parents.

For context, being dedicated to any matter at hand is a sine qua non to achieving success in it and where this is lacking, the results are often glaring. It behooves all, from government to individuals, to believe in and be dedicated to the success of the agenda. Dedication is not enough, discipline or self control is required and this entails being focused on the immediate issue without allowing distractions. The implementation of the agenda should also be open and transparent in order to build collective confidence in it.

As nothing can be achieved without technology today, leveraging it with teamwork will ensure the success of connecting the dots. Acquiring and deploying relevant technologies is therefore germane to changing the narratives of education and taking it to its deserved lofty status. There is no way we can have smart students without smart devices that are optimised to provide learning experiences, not those devices that only serve as weapons of mass distraction.

Above all, developing education generally and the new agenda for education in Nigeria requires a sense of service and a spirit of sacrifice from the government, proprietors, parents, teachers and even students themselves. Being an investment in the future of individuals and nations, those involved in education must be motivated by higher values beyond the pecuniary.