Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has blamed the rot in the Nigerian education sector on poor leadership over the years, saying Nigerian leaders must act with courage, conviction and be decisive to stem the rot in the sector.
Oshiomhole who was Guest Speaker Thursday at the 20th National Economic Summit in Abuja with the theme “Leadership & Ownership in Nigerian Education in Focus” said “leadership is about courage, about conviction and being able to act. We do need our political leadership to go back to the basics and not the symbolism we currently witness.
“At the heart of the question is the issue of leadership. From the 50s to 60s Nigeria produced the best brains. I think as the quality of the Nigerian leadership deteriorated from the days of the Military up to the moment that we got our priorities wrong, that we began to see the kind of rot that characterized our schools.
“The way forward is for us leaders to go back to the basics and ask ourselves what are the issues”, he said.
He wondered “there was a time in this country when students threatened to shut down their schools and the authorities had to engage them not to boycott classes.
“We have moved from that era to one in which our universities were shut for over six months and it was not an issue. The response of the Nigerian elite is to find privatized solution to the problem.
“If we don’t have fuel in the country for six months, Abuja will not be at peace and Edo will not be at peace, but Polytechnics have been shut for over six months and it is not featuring in this discussion.”
The Governor said returning to the basics would mean checking the quality of the teachers who are to impart knowledge, saying “In Edo State we have built beautiful schools far more attractive than the private schools, but the missing link is the quality of teachers.
“And to know who is a teacher, we must do assessment test for everybody who is a tutor in the classroom. And there are challenges and that is where leadership comes in.
“Somebody said to me election is coming and I am antagonizing teachers. And I asked myself why should I be a Governor if I cannot take difficult decisions?”
He asked: “Must we allow the Nigerian child to be in the class room being taught by a teacher who does not understand how to spell the word teacher. Should we invest our political capital to identify those who cannot teach and replace them with those who are willing to teach?”
“How can we continue to live with the paradox of people who are trained to teach and they have no jobs and those who were never trained to teach and we do not have the political will to send them out.”
Oshiomhole said, “the crisis of what we are saying now is the consequences of the fact that 20 years after, Government has looked the other way. We know as we speak that there are many States which have not paid their counterpart funds and as a result their children are studying under the trees.
“I’ve argued that we cannot boast of a state-of-the-art Government House, State-of-the-art bullet proof cars and yet our children are studying under the trees. So, leadership is about courage, about conviction and being ready to act. We do need our political leaders to go back to the basics.”