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Posts tagged ‘Education’

Lamentation To The Cows Of Bashan – By Izuchukwu Okeke.


By Izuchukwu Okeke

It is 9 am as I stepped finally into the long-stretched passage. It was empty; no teacher, no students; only me. I was late, quite unfortunately. The lectures start at 9 am, and it is expected everyone be in the class at least 8:55 am. And, surely, here, once it is 8:55 the lecturers all file out to the various classes. And once it is 9 am, the classes start. If you arrive a minute past 9, you are late, as I was this day.

The reality of this empty passage sent my mind back to the country I was coming from. I was not even comparing the punctuality of the academic cadre or the standard of education itself. I was thinking of the massive collapse of its essence, its availability and the poverty of its prospects.

The night before, I read it on the Internet that lecturers in the Polytechnics were still on strike. They had been before the University lecturers joined in the middle of last year and continued till early this year. University students sat through 6 months dining with the two worst devils of life: idleness and boredom. The Polytechnic lecturers took few months break and had resumed strike again. And, as it seems, politicians are busy carpeting and cross carpeting; somehow they are not interested in the rants of these distracting academic hordes. So when will the students in Polytechnic go back to class? It is not even known.

I live in Korea, and in this country education is everything. I think it is not necessary to blow anymore horn about the strength of this nation’s economy, standards of their infrastructure and quality of their living standards; all hinged on the power and value of their education system. But it is worth mentioning what I found to be the major discrepancy between these two nations. Here, psyche is the central and most respected national resource; human resources are the strength of the government, the economy and the society, which is why education is everything. Every effort is invested and legitimately dispensed at developing the individual to become a global brand, to earn the capacity to compete with his mates anywhere they are found in the globe.

This country situated on the peninsula betwixt China, North Korea and Japan squat on a total of 100,210 km sq area of land. But unfortunately 72 percent of this land is hills, plateaus and mountains. Meaning that their populations of a little over 50,000,000 people live within the remaining clusters, in relatively higher density, 501.1/km2, higher than most nations of the world. From the shackles of Japanese domination in 1950, this country has risen in leaps and bounds. Among its endearing statistics is the fact that within these decades that followed its independence South Korea economy has been transformed into a G-20 major economy and has the second highest standard of living in Asia, having an HDI of 0.909.

Yes, South Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy and the world’s 15th (nominal) or 12th (purchasing power parity) largest economy. But Korea has no Crude Oil, Tin, Iron Ore, Gold or Diamond Mines. This economy is export-driven. South Korean corporations like Samsung and LG (ranked first and third largest mobile phone companies in the world in the first quarter of 2012 respectively) dominate world markets, among the many beautiful, yet daunting stories of their transformation.

Behind this testimony of exemplary 50 decades of industrial development is an educational and social philosophy that underscores, perfectly well, that the true wealth of a nation is not its natural resources as much as it is its human resources. And each new day as I walk towards the class in Sunkyunkwan University, I am reminded of this philosophy. And also of wholly dedicated, hard-working, cheerful teachers who can go to any length to impart knowledge to the students. How many times I pity the extent of their personal sacrifice to advance the academic goals of their students. But they all work according to this country’s educational philosophy.

The classes are fully equipped with advanced learning infrastructure. The chalkboard a long time ago had given way to a board fully equipped with Power Point presentation facility, digitalized and connected to the Internet. Our test books are online and everything we have to do is online based and of the best standards compared to anywhere in the world.

Here, sadly, a 60 mark/grade after an exam is just a pass! Not even a credit. So any score less than 70, you have to go through a review to step you up and you have to write an exam to prove the review produced the expected result. And this and other factors have driven this nation from the brinks of poverty to industrial heights.

But, somehow, as I entered the class with these thoughts, I began, once again, to nurse that deep gorge of guilt that comes to me when I remember my country, Nigeria. That feeling also comes along with a certain gnawing pain of the advanced nature of ignorance spawned by our system on both the leaders and the lead that seems to suggest nothing will change soon. Since I was born the story has always been that the situation is bad for the common man. It had gone from worse, to worst, until there is no relative adverb to describe the situation now.

I did not cause Nigeria’s problem. I did not steal anybody’s money to be here. My father until his demise was a poor village farmer. My mother is still living off her labour in the farm. I am only a fortunate candidate of a scholarship programme. But this feeling when it comes doesn’t leave me soon. It keeps digging deep hole on my moral fibre. I keep wondering if there is a way I may have contributed to making Nigeria what it is. Leaving over 70 percent of her human population disillusioned and gasping for life, not knowing how and from which source the next meal will come. Seeking miracle in anything mentioned to possess divine power.

I was also keep wondering how Nigerian students abroad whose parents are part and parcel of this system that created the rot feel. How do they feel knowing their parents have left many of the nation’s youths disoriented and confused? How do they feel when their parents pay so much for them to study in this kind of environment, and knowing that this money, by every legitimate standards their parents cannot earn it? How do they feel when they remember that having messed up the system and exported them abroad to acquire the best education their parents left the system back home in total pell-mell. How do they feel to learn that their mates down in the villages are giving up legitimate endeavors and making career prospects in kidnapping and robbery? How do they really feel? Worse than I do? Or maybe they do not feel anything at all?

In the last one-month a drama has been playing out between the Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi on the one hand and Ministries of Finance, Petroleum and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, on the other. As it were the whole nation focused on it, because of the whopping amount of money involved. And as that drama played out, the reality of the hopelessness of the Nigerian situation dawned so much on me. That drama defines us in the mean time. Nobody in Nigeria’s governance system has an alternative thinking—or may be just a tiny minority of wayward thinkers who do not even possess the gut and grit to make it to the positions of governance.

To many of them there now at the corridors of power, be it political or bureaucratic, all they want is money. Everyone is talking money, oil money; how it is stolen, how it is not stolen! No one else is thinking. To Nigeria and Nigerians this oil money is everything. You have it, you have everything, you don’t have it, and you don’t have anything. That charade at the House of Assembly also defines the 2015 and the slapsticks of cross-carpeting that have become a daily news menu. Because everybody, everybody politician, wants to place himself at the vantage position to have a bite of the piece of the cake come 2015. They have been eating, and they want to keep eating.

Google, two regular guys’ idea is about to worth more than our oil. The Facebook founder is just 24 years old. But where are Nigerian youths? Is anybody concerned at the mess we left him or her? Of the frustration we are building up among them? Just education! Give them education, a qualitative one, so that they can on their own change their world, compete with their fellows elsewhere. No! Nigerian politicians do not see the resource in the youth. They are only tools used and dumped during elections.

In this generation Nigerian leaders are wired in pursuit of oil blocks and loots because in our clime ideas do not sell and if ideas sell, regular guys will become threats to Nigerian politicians. May be that is the fear. Because I do not see the big deal in investing 30 percent of our resources in revamping the educational system, and establishing it on the best standards and employ it to eliminate this endemic poverty in our clime.

As I sit in the class this day carrying this feeling and thinking these thoughts, the pain gnaws even harder that nothing will change. What will I write more than have been written these years, and what will I say that that has not been said? Like Amos in the bible called their likes, they are cows of Bashan. But we will keep lamenting to their ears. Even when they refuse to change, heaven will bear witness that we told them, as our fathers did.

Izuchukwu Okeke Job
KGSP Scholar
Sungkyunkwan University
Suwon, South Korea

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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What Hope For Inclusive-Education In Lagos? By Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna.


By Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna

To all intent and purposes, Lagos state still ranks top when it comes to innovations and promotion of education. One of these innovations in the area of education is the running of several inclusive schools across the state. In Lagos state, thirty-two government owned schools run inclusive-education for the deaf, blind, dumb, mentally and physically challenged. The secondary schools operating inclusive-education for the deaf and hearing-impaired are located in Eric-Moore:Surulere, Badagry, Epe, Ikeja and Ikorodu.

Since the beginning of the 2013/2014 academic session, students of Ikeja Senior High School lacks teachers for the deaf class. The population of the deaf students, which was about seventy at the beginning of the academic year, has begun to reduce as some of the students in the senior class have withdrawn from the school.

Investigation reveals that only ten students are left in the senior high school and two have withdrawn, but they may become extinct by the end of the academic year if sign language teachers or interpreters are not employed to teach the students.

One of the teachers at Ikeja High School, who spoke under anonymity said everyday is depressing for the hearing impaired students in the senior class as the teachers who come to teach the students continue to speak to the deaf students. Also a recent visit by one of the officials from the Lagos State Ministry of Education to the school indicated that the state government is not ready to employ teachers for the hearing-impaired students.

Ikeja High School is the only government owned school under Ikeja District 6 operating inclusive education for the hearing impaired. Further investigation reveals that Ikeja High School is been directed to admit students with hearing impairment, but the school has only two sign language teachers for the whole hearing impaired student population.

Also at State Grammar Schoool Eric Moore Surulere that has an estimated population of over 400 hearing impaired students for both junior and senior school, teachers are also in short supply. The school has about ten teachers for the deaf students and only one mathematics teacher for the hearing impaired students.

One of the volunteer teacher who was part of the Lagos state “Eko Project” Mr. Olajide Adeniyi said if not for the Eko project, education in state would have suffered lots of set back. He explained that most of the teachers recruited for the project function as full time teachers but are paid only #15,000. “As at the moment, most schools have stopped paying the Eko Project teachers and this has resulted to lack of teachers in most schools across the state. Here in State Grammar School, I am no longer an Eko Project teacher but I volunteer to teach mathematics to the junior secondary school students in class 3 to assist them in preparing for the junior WAEC exam. If not for my passion for these children, I would have left but they will be ill prepared for the major examinations”, he added.

At Wesley School for the Deaf located in Surulere, one of the teachers who spoke under anonymity lamented that the introduction of inclusive education in 2007 by the Fashola administration was a good concept but it lack monitoring and is gradually becoming a burden. According to him, over ten teachers were recruited from Wesley School for the Deaf to assist other schools that started operating inclusive education but till date none of those teachers were replaced. “The government is not employing teachers for students with special need training. It takes a lot of patience and psychological development to transfer knowledge to hearing impaired students. Most times we rely on students from colleges of education who come for their basic teaching practice experience, if not for them it won’t have been easy for us the teachers to cope with the work load. Though things have changed compared to the past, as students enrollment has increased over the years. We have people enrolling there children from an early age, this is a good for the educational development of the child. Most deaf students don’t like going home after school because their family members don’t know how to communicate in sign language. I will recommend for there to be more schools for the hearing impaired especially boarding school facilities as this help the children to integrate with their fellow classmates and boost their academic performance”, he concluded.

Efforts by Our correspondent to get reaction from the Public Relations Officer PRO Mr. Jide of the Lagos State Ministry of Education proved abortive as he described the lack of teachers at Ikeja High School for the hearing impaired as an allegation that needs to be confirmed.

Access to universal basic education is one of the seven Millennium Development Goals MDG, which member countries of the United Nations are meant to attain by 2015. But these goals of which provision of universal basic education is one have challenges bedeviling it which may hinder it attainment in many states of the country. It is still unfortunate that many top government officials do not see education beyond formal schooling for the able and privileged children. Whereas so many Al-majiri children are scattered across the Northern part of the country who with little exposure to education will make them better citizens. It is in this regard that planning and catering for these children with special needs as well as the Al-majiris should be part of annual state and federal budgeting.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

4 Ways to Respond to the Teen Sexting Problem.


What would you say to the members of your church youth group about sexting?
What would you say to the members of your church youth group about sexting? (Ambro)

Think back when you were a junior high or high school student. What would’ve been the equivalent to sexting?

I’m guessing it would probably be flashing. The only difference between the two (besides the obvious) is that a quick flash would only be talked about after it happened. Sexting pics are forever; therefore, people have visuals to add to the conversation for years to come.

If you think sexting is about students just getting a quick fix of sexual gratification, you are mistaken. There is a lot more going on. Guardchild.com did a very detailed survey on sexting, and the results were interesting:

  • One in five teens has engaged in sexting—sending, receiving or forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text message. And over a third knows someone who has either sent or received messages like this.
  • 38 percent of teens confessed to someone sharing with them what was sent to them.
  • 34 percent of the girls that have participated in sexting say they did it to feel sexy.
  • 23 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys say they were pressured by a friend to send the inappropriate pictures.
  • Most participants say they engage in sexting because their boyfriend/girlfriend ask them to or to have fun.
  • 52 percent of girls said they did it as a present.
  • 29 percent of teens believe those exchanging sexually suggestive content are “expected” to hook up or date.

These statistics say a few things that we in youth ministry need to pay attention to:

  • These statistics change the face of the person who’s sexting. When you think of a flasher, you think of an old pervert who walks around in a trench coat all day. Well, when you think of sexting, you may think of an older, porn-exposed student who’s been a troublemaker for most of their life. These statistics suggest that’s not the case. These statistics normalizes the profile of a sexter to look a lot more like your everyday teen in junior high or high school who may or may have not viewed porn before.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming normalized within boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming more normal and culturally acceptable in the world of teens.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is a gateway to getting into more sexual activity.
  • These statistics suggest that it’s impossible to shield your child from sexting.
  • These statistics suggest that there is a deceptive identity/power piece that sexting gives to girls and guys.

So, what should be our response?

Sexting is a complete lie embedded in the mindset that it’s innocent or that it’s not worse than having sex. Here are four ways I feel we should respond:

1. Prayer. We should be interceding for our students and for the students at our local schools. Prayer in our ministries needs to be proactive, not reactive. Keep your ministry connected to the power source—God.

2. Educate parents on trends and technology. About two out of every five teens say their parents have no idea what they are doing online. So we must take the initiative and help parents become more knowledgeable with trends and technology. Let’s be the support they don’t know they need.

3. Talk about it in youth group. I wrote a post on this (click here). Add sexting to the list because it’s becoming the norm. And right now, students don’t get a choice whether they are exposed to it or not.

4. Challenge your students. I think sometimes we may feel like a good talk is enough, but actually talk is only half the battle. You need to challenge your students to take action and stand against cultural norms that are slowly destroying their generation. Give them action steps that will give them confidence in the stance they take. Teach them how to move in righteous anger. Be creative in what you give them the opportunity to do. I would grab a few students and let them help you shape the challenge. I love getting students involved in stuff like this, because it gives them ownership.

What are some other ways we should respond to sexting?.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ. He’s married with three children, loves family time, sports, movies and all things musical among some other things. He also runs http://www.yoacblog.com.

For the original article, visit morethandodgeball.com.

Nigeria’s 10.5 Million Children Today, Nigeria’s Headache Tomorrow? By Ifeanyichuku Ochei.


By Ifeanyichuku Ochei

On 19 November 2013, I attended the launch of the “2013 Country Visit Report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria” that took place in London. [1]  The report described the observations of two British Parliamentarians who visited Nigeria in July 2013 and covered interesting topics including the Human Rights of Nigerian women and children.  However, in a footnote on page nine of the report there was reference to the recent United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) report which stated that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world at 10.5 million. [2]

I was sad when I read this. But why should I be sad? Should it matter to me? After all, I am not affected. I and all members in my family are educated. Also there are more Nigerian children attending school than those not attending. And the majority of Nigerian children out-of-school appear to come from the northern part of Nigeria, which is far away from where I come from in the deep south of the country. So it has nothing to do with me or my family. End of story, full stop.

But this is a selfish and naive view that misses the bigger picture. Just because I was lucky to have educated parents who could afford to pay for the education of me and my three sisters, does not mean I should ignore less fortunate Nigerian children. It is no Nigerian child’s fault if they are born into poor families who cannot afford to send them to school. After all, no one chooses where they are born.

If the 10.5 million figure is true, then Nigeria must act urgently. There are economic, political and social negative consequences for Nigeria if nothing is done. In this essay I will first give four reasons why I think it concerns all Nigerians and then offer four suggestions that I think can mitigate this sad situation.

The negative effect on Nigeria’s long term interest

Firstly, the economic argument. The education and training of Nigeria’s workers will be a major factor in determining just how well our country’s economy will be. The 10.5 million Nigerian children out-of-school today, will tomorrow become 10.5 million Nigerian young adults looking for work. But their lack of formal education will not prepare them for a future Nigerian knowledge based economy with new technologies in work practices. Their choice of jobs will be limited to unskilled, low paying jobs that will do little to increase and sustain a growing Nigerian economy or improve their individual and family wellbeing. Nigeria will struggle to compete with other countries in international trade and commerce, and Nigerian employers will struggle to attract capable, adaptable and competent enlightened workers. Potentially, Nigeria may suffer a huge skills gap. More worryingly, when the current Nigerian educated work force departs, how many of these 10.5 million young adults will be able to replace them?

Modern history teaches us that successful economically developed nations have a diverse educated work force. The more Nigerian workers that are educated the more that can produce valuable goods and services and adapt easily to new work practices. An educated Nigerian workforce potentially earns more income to spend on Nigeria’s goods and services and provide more tax revenue for governments to spend for everyone’s benefit in healthcare, transport, security, housing and education. Increased Nigerian consumption can also encourage investment, both domestic and from abroad, which can create more job opportunities for Nigerian youth.  This multiplier effect can lead to a sustained economic growth and development for the benefit of all Nigerians.

Secondly, the socio-political argument. Most of Nigeria’s current socio- political problems can be mitigated, and in the long run minimised, in my view, if the majority of the population is properly educated. Education, broadens the mind and gives one the ability to critically view issues. An educated person usually makes decisions based on sound reasoning and logic.  Education can also give a person confidence to question and challenge assumptions.  Therefore, the more Nigerians that are educated, the more confident people there will be to critically analyse government policies and hold officials to account for their actions or inactions.

On the other hand, the more the number of uneducated Nigerians the greater the opportunity for the fewer richer ruling class to exploit their ignorance and manipulate them. Given that the uneducated poor’s living standards are below the poverty line, they are easily vulnerable to such manipulation.

Thirdly, the security argument. It is open to debate whether there exists a causal link between violent crime and terrorism on the one hand, and low levels of education in the populace on the other hand. I believe that there is a link. I appreciate that this proposition may appear simplistic. I also accept that there is no guarantee that if every Nigerian was educated, all social ills and terrorism will be eradicated. After all there have been some high profile educated criminals and terrorists in Nigeria and around the world.

That said, let’s just pause for a moment and imagine I am the head of the recruitment arm of a terrorist outfit or a criminal organization. Would I find it easier to persuade an uneducated Nigerian to join my organization? An educated Nigerian is likely to critically analyze my evil proposal. Also, an educated Nigerian is likely to have more options in life which he/she can weigh up against my proposal.  On the other hand, an uneducated Nigerian may have very few alternatives, if any, and so consider my proposal a risk work taking. He/she may feel they can’t get any poorer. After all, a person who is down need fear no fall. So a poor uneducated person may think he/she has little to lose and potentially all to gain. They are easier to persuade that they can potentially improve their life, or afterlife, and leave their current miserable existence by agreeing to my proposal and committing crime. Therefore, the more uneducated Nigerians there are the greater the risk of recruitment for terrorism and crime. An uneducated population is fertile ground to plant seeds for crime and terrorism. It is no surprise then, that terrorist groups generally recruit from areas where illiteracy and lack of basic education is very high.

But I have often heard it said that this is largely a northern Nigerian problem and does not affect the rest of educated Nigeria. I think this view is wrong.  In the long run it affects all Nigerians regardless of where they are from. I will explain how in my fourth and final reason.

The fourth reason is that we are all in this together. An African proverb says if one finger is soiled with oil, it is just a matter of time before the oil spreads to the other fingers. We delude ourselves if we think the rest of Nigeria is not immune from the security situation in north-east Nigeria. It is common knowledge that the Nigerian federal government is spending vast amounts of money, effort and energy to deal with the current violence being experienced in the north-east states. But this is Nigerian money that could have been invested productively around the whole country to improve healthcare, education and other infrastructures for the benefit of every Nigerian. We are all poorer now because a lot of our scarce national resource is being used to fund an expensive war against terrorism, which, in my view, is exacerbated by an uneducated population in that region.

Similarly, the government’s inability to collect taxes from the north-east states due to the violence there is also a loss to Nigeria as a whole. Estimated figures published in October 2013 by the Nigerian ministry of finance suggest that 400 billion naira was not collected in taxes from the north-east states in 2012 because of the troubles in those states.[3] This figure is more than half of the entire Nigeria 2013 Federal budget figure of N705 billion for Human Capital Development (i.e. Education and Health).[4] This is a an increasing financial loss to Nigeria. Therefore, it is arguable that if, as I suggest, there exists a causal link between an uneducated population and terrorism, then the real cost of dealing with this terrorism is the lost opportunity of using that money to fund initiatives in key sectors for the benefit of all Nigerians.

For Nigeria to address these negative consequences I believe the government and all Nigerians must together intervene quickly. In the words of M. Gandhi, “the future depends on what you do today.” Here are my four suggestions on how this may be achieved.

Suggestions

Firstly, we must make attending schools attractive and worthwhile for all Nigerian parents to send their children, and keep them there throughout school age.  It is not enough to legislate that primary and secondary education is compulsory, or to build classroom blocks all over the land without first building a foundation for these schools to operate successfully. One way of doing this is to provide for each child adequate writing and reading books, healthy school meals and free annual health checks. This holistic approach will assist in improving the Nigerian child’s learning.

The child’s learning experience must be supported by provision of good quality books. This is critical. Good quality education must take precedence over the quantity of school buildings being constructed. After all, what is the point of millions of our children having access to schools if they don’t have access to an education? Our children may be in “school” but are they learning? Provision of adequate learning resources, school libraries and access to information technology for children to use will also motivate children to learn and importantly encourage parents to send their children to school. Teaching and learning will also become easier, enjoyable and more satisfying.

There must be annual health checks for every school child, with proper medical records kept for early detection and management of potential illnesses.  These must be provided free by the State. Equally important is that children with disabilities must be supported at all levels of their education. For example, there should be free transportation to and from school for children with disabilities and appropriate equipment to aid their learning. Equally important, children with “special learning” needs must be identified and supported appropriately throughout their time in school.

School meals must be provided for all school children. We all know that learning is difficult when you are hungry. By providing healthy school meals Nigerian children will understand their lessons better, and they will grow up to become healthy and educated young adults ready to sustain the modern Nigerian economy. Another benefit of this policy is that we will utilize our God blessed fertile land more efficiently and help sustain and develop our agriculture industry. Farming will be rewarding because there would be a ready market. Other subsidiary industries such as catering, transport and power will develop and expand as a result of this policy as well. In the long run we would have a healthy educated society to replace the current generation when they depart.

Providing adequate books, free school meals, health checks and subsidised transportation will lighten the burden of poor parents, encourage them to send their children to school and enhance the child’s learning experience. All Nigerian parents would have peace of mind knowing that their children are being cared for.

Secondly, we must invest in our teacher’s training so they have the skills and knowledge to provide for our children quality functional education. Well trained teachers are critical to a successful Nigerian education policy. Our teachers must be capable of teaching our children relevant skills they will need to compete successfully in the modern competitive world. Apart from basic literacy and numeracy skills, vocational training at all levels must be taught as well as the sciences and information technology. Our teachers must be kept up to date with new and emerging work practices and teaching methods. This will involve investing in the provision of current text books and their supporting teaching texts, reference books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, adequately stocked school libraries, educational DVDs, information technology equipment, and most importantly continuous teacher training and monitoring. Special needs teachers must also be trained to identify and support children with learning difficulties. All teachers must be trained not just to teach but to inspire our Nigerian youth to go onto great things in whatever they choose to do.

But it need not be left to just the Government to do this. We all have a role to play. Parent teachers associations must be galvanized to raise funds to compliment government funding.  Business and local companies should contribute as well as part of their social corporate responsibility so they will have an educated work force to sustain their businesses.  Educational school trips for the children and teachers must be part of the school curriculum, and children working in teams whilst learning must be encouraged. The soft skills acquired from functional education will better prepare Nigerian children for the world of work they will face in the future.

Thirdly, invest in adult basic education. This is also critical. Every illiterate adult in Nigeria should be given a second chance to learn.

The same UNESCO report noted that 35 million Nigerian adults were illiterate.[5] This is shameful and risky. Thirty-five million Nigerian illiterate adults pose a threat to our economic development. All adults who missed out on education when they were children should be encouraged to learn to read and write. An educated parent is able to read to and with their children. When a parent supports a child with his or her homework it aids a child’s educational development as well as strengthens family integration. Also, an educated parent is more likely to raise up a healthy child because he/she can better understand modern healthcare methods and techniques and medical prescriptions.

Equally, an uneducated farmer cannot utilize advances in agricultural practices because they are uninformed. On an aggregate level, an educated Nigerian populace can engage constructively with the government of the day at local, state or federal levels or their representative in the legislature. With education Nigerians will understand their rights and be capable of critically assessing government policies. Arguably, less votes can be easily bought and true democracy in Nigeria will triumph.

But it is not just about sending adults to school again. Like their children, they too must be supported with adequate books and educational materials. Those adults with learning difficulties must also be supported, and those with disabilities must also be given 100% support if they want to return back to learning. Public libraries must be built and adequately stocked across the country. They should be seen as alternative sources of learning and acquiring knowledge for everyone. Trades people must be continually aware of the latest technology in their individual trades. Education for economic growth should be the catch phrase. In the long term all Nigerians and Nigeria will benefit.

Finally, individual and collective aid. By this I mean those of us who are fortunate to be educated, and can afford to, should help others who are less fortunate to achieve education.  There are millions of educated Nigerians at home and abroad who can, with a little self-sacrifice, compliment the Government’s efforts. Fortunately, generous Nigerians and Nigerian led charities are already doing this. But much more still needs to be done in the education sector. It does not need to be expensive or too glamorous. Bit by bit, step by step, if all educated Nigerians contribute a little spare time, and sacrifice a little from their income we can together improve the quality of education for the rest of uneducated people in our local communities, and compliment Government for the benefit of the whole country.

For example, each year I travel from London to my village in Nigeria so I can purchase numerous school exercise books and distribute them free to every primary school child in my village – over four hundred children in number. I have been doing this for six years. I also bring with me as many children’s story books and dictionaries that I am allowed to carry in the plane, and donate these to the two village primary schools so the children can have access to some books to read. I spend two weeks in the village during each trip and attend as many classes I can. I spend a lot of time with the children, reading to them and talking about the stories and pictures in the books. The children love the books and educational posters I bring. I also spend time with the village teachers and parents discussing with them how we can together improve the quality of primary education in the village and the teaching methods. Admittedly, my transport cost from London is far greater than the cost of buying the exercise books and story books. However, without my intervention the reality is that the majority of the children in my village would not have exercise books to write with or story books to read. Such a situation could easily have discouraged them from attending school and they may even have ended up as members of the unfortunate uneducated 10.5 million Nigerian children’s club. On balance therefore, I believe the long term benefits for the children in my village, outweigh the high cost of my traveling from London to my village each year.

But my small intervention in my village is just one example of non-Government intervention. There are many other examples of Nigerians at home and abroad helping to improve the delivery of education in Nigeria.  However, I think we still desperately need more interventions to support the delivery of quality education in Nigeria.  After all, as I have argued, in the long run we all benefit from investing in Nigerian children’s future.

I accept that my suggestions will cost a lot of money and require a lot of planning. But costs should not dissuade us. Nigeria is not a poor country. Together, the private sector and the Nigerian Government can collectively afford to fund my suggestions. It just requires honesty, self-sacrifice, political will and a long term approach to managing our resources better and efficiently. It can be done. We should view education as an investment in human capital which will yield dividends for the country in the long run.  Speaking about the importance of investing in education in the United Sates, President Obama said in a speech he gave in July 2013:

“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century. If we don’t make this investment, we’ll put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades. So we must begin in the earliest years.” [6]

Conclusion

In summary, a “New Deal”, focused on “3 Es” is urgently required in Nigeria. Education that is functional for all Nigerian children; Education that provides all illiterate Nigerian adults a second chance to learn the key skills they need; and Education that includes continuous assessment for all Nigerian teachers so they can effectively teach and inspire our youth. This New Deal will benefit all Nigerians.

With 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school, I believe Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb. Without urgent intervention these children may become economically low productive adults and potentially end up as liabilities to themselves and the country. The skills gap in the future will grow and our economy will be worse off. Nigeria’s education of all of its children is Nigeria’s economy tomorrow. In the midst of Nigeria’s expanding economy, its abundant natural resources and increasing connectivity with the global community, it is ironic that millions of its children are still out of school, and arguably millions more in school are receiving poor substandard education. Nigeria must deal now with this twin problem by investing time and money in creating a healthy educated work force for the future. We all have a collective responsibility to diffuse this time bomb quickly. If we do not, our nation’s economic growth is at risk, our social and political fabric may weaken and in the end, all of us, yes all of us, will be worse off.

My suggestions are not radical or revolutionary. No, they are just simple common sense. I believe that if they are implemented, my suggestions can help to create an enlightened and fairer Nigeria that will be capable to handle future challenges long after our generation has passed on. Not doing anything should not be an option.  Remember, the time bomb is ticking and “evil prospers when good people do nothing”.

Ifeanyichuku Ochei, London

[1] The APPG on Nigeria consists of UK Parliamentarians who are officially registered as sharing a particular interest in Nigeria.  Its purpose is “to create a better understanding of issues relating to Nigeria; to promote links between Britain and Nigeria; and to support development and democracy in Nigeria”.  For more information about the APPG Nigeria see,http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/nigeria.htm
[2] Compared to other countries Nigeria fared badly.   According to UNESCO, in 1999 Nigeria had 6.9 million children out-of-school, the latest figures now show it has 10.5 million.  Ethiopia had 6.1 million children out-of-school in 1999, now it has 2.4 million.  India had 20.3 million children out-of-school in 1999, now it has 2.3 million.  Pakistan had 8.4 million children out-of- school in 1999, now it has 5.1 million.  Ghana had 1.2 million in 1999 out-of-school now it has less than 500 thousand children.  So while other countries managed to reduce their out-of-school figures in the last 13 years, Nigeria’s figures increased. See:http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-… page 3 of the UNESCO report. See also page 62 of the UNESCO report for a graph.
[3] Reported on 16 October 2013 in “Today’s Telegraph”,http://telegraphng.com/2013/10/boko-haram-others-cost-nigeria-n400b-lost…
[4] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-…  page 5 of the UNESCO report.
[5] http://www.fmf.gov.ng/the-media/speeches/129-overview-of-the-2013-budget…
[6] Extract from a speech President Obama delivered at Knox College in Illinois USA, on 24 July 2013.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Beyond The ASUU Strike By Modiu Olaguro.


By Modiu Olaguro

“Its high time ASUU starts being the change it wants to see in the nation.”
I’m writing this piece in anticipation of the call-off to the industrial action by the academic staff union of universities which is evident due to the memorandum of understanding that was signed between the union and the federal government on the 11th of December 2013.

The several months’ old strike like any other that has plagued the country was met with diverse reaction from stakeholders across the country. The lecturers on their part reaffirmed their position on the rationale for the strike as one that was needed to revitalize the ailing education sector. The government was quick to point out that the demands of ASUU if met would only signal the end of the country’s economy.

The interesting aspect of the strike was that the students who have been the direct victim of the “chalk-down” were divided in opinions as a number of us supported ASUU while others, probably due to the extension of stay in school or the presumed benefit they get from it especially the leadership of the National association of Nigerian students (NANS) decided to take sides with the reneged party that signed an agreement, but failed to honor it.

The students that were in support of the strike took that position out of the conviction that in a land filled with abundant human, material and mineral resources such as ours, there should not be a reason why our ivory towers should remain at the very bottom of the Webometrics– below several universities, colleges and polytechnics of other African countries.

This development brings to fore some burning issues that have been a source of concern, worry and apprehension for undergraduates across the country.

First is the fear of rushing students in order to close-in on the lost weeks to accommodate students who take other satellite, part-time and distance learning programs offered by the Universities. Rumors are rife among students that if the strike is called off in December, examinations might be held before the end of the year leaving the students with less than two weeks for lectures and tests though a number of school calendars had at least five weeks to examinations before the strike commenced.

It is pertinent to point out that the aim of education far exceeds the “four-walls, teaching-learning process”, it transcends a rigid, hasty completion of an academic calendar; on the contrary, education should aim to focus on those policies and decisions that are geared towards enabling the students achieve both their innate and manifested potentials as against the old ways of letting them be a victim of not only the strike action but also a rushed examination.

It would do the students and management of the respective universities much good if the councils sit on a round table to make an in-depth assessment and analysis on the best way to go about adjusting the school calendar in order to ensure that the students are not short-changed by making them the grass in the tussle between two elephants. Such criteria that ought to be considered include but are not limited to the number of weeks to examinations before the strike and the psychological effect of the months old strike on the students and lecturers.

It is also imperative for ASUU and the federal government to devise other means to settle their scores because though it appears that the leadership of ASUU is in haste to see that the education sector is revamped (which is a laudable development), the result to incessant strikes do leave a devastating scar on the system. A step in the positive direction was the decision that was reported to have been made that the new agreement be signed by a host of government institutions including the central bank in order not to have a repeat of the 2009 agreement that was not implemented.

There is also a need for ASUU to look inward and get its house in order by not compromising standards as regards the unethical conducts of some university teachers. As a way of justifying the financial and intellectual trust put in its care, the university managers should as a matter of necessity ensure that only qualified lecturers not only in terms of certification but also character remain in the system.

As an undergraduate, I have been involved in discussions with colleagues from the faculty of engineering and environmental sciences who complain bitterly that a handful of their lecturers do not have an iota of practical experience in the construction industry and field work. They give instance where first class students were retained to teach immediately after their undergraduate or graduate studies which according to them, has been inimical to the passing across of practical concepts to them.

The leadership of ASUU while fighting the government on the adequate funding of the sector should not also wait to let others point it out to them that there is an urgent need to put the culture of waste to check by prudent management of scarce resources; the issue of sexual harassment on the part of their colleagues and students still steers right on our faces; there is a need to work with the management of the respective universities in order to provide a clear-cut template for the dos and don’ts binding the conduct of both the lecturers and students.

ASUU and the university managements would also do well by providing and sustaining an atmosphere where meritocracy thrives and its members are checked by the students and supervisory bodies and feedback provided to the appropriate authorities on such yardsticks such as attendance to lectures, knowledge of subject matter, discipline and character. Rewards should be handed out to deserving ones while punishment ranging from query, suspension or termination of appointments should be meted out to erring ones irrespective of status.

The forced selling of handouts and textbooks is also a bane in our higher institutions as some lecturers do take down names of the students that purchase their materials- this is in contrast to what operates in other neighboring and western nations where lecturers produce course notes for the students to download at no fee at all.

It has widely been reported that one of the reasons why cultism remain pervasive in our citadels is because some lecturers and even university managers who were cultists during their undergraduate days still remain apologetic to their secret groups; ASUU would write its name in gold if it sees this as a blemish on its part and fishes out culprits in other to solve this social problem.

The issue of leakage of examination papers ought to be seriously looked into as it as widespread and pervasive as a cholera outbreak. There is a need to put in place stringent measures in order to nail this academic disgrace in the bud. There had been allegations that personal assistants to lecturers and secretary to departments are mostly culpable.

The voices of some stakeholders who called for the proscription of ASUU were loud but the call was not allowed to hold substance because as a trade union with several members, they have every right to agitate and struggle especially in a democratic setting; it is thus unfortunate that though ASUU remains a viable and formidable union in Nigeria, most of her members including professors, PhD holders and even graduate students occupying various position in our citadels have in one way or another contributed to the weakening, dismantling and even the proscription of student unionism across the country.

A good example is the University of Lagos who prides itself as the University of First Choice and nation’s pride but has denied her students the right to participate in a democracy for eight years since the student union government was banned. I wonder what the administrators of UNILAG are afraid of to warrant this abuse of civil rights.

The students cannot be absolved from this malice as most of us stay in the university as though we are strangers begging for favors; on the contrary, the university in all its entirety- the buildings, books and members of staff would not have been in place were it not for the students hence, a need to start cultivating the right attitudes of demanding for a better service and quality education from the government and lecturers.

I’ve been a university student for two years, and since then, I have had cause to remain at home for almost a year: two months on the subsidy protests, a month was wasted during the change of the university’s name, five months and still counting on the ASUU strike which totals nine months.

This is really not a good time to be a Nigerian.

Modiu Olaguro finds “X” at The University of Lagos
Email: dprophetpride@gmail.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

How Do You Use Student Volunteers?.


Do you have your student volunteers in the right positions?

Do you have your student volunteers in the right positions? (Lightstock)

Recently I posted about student volunteers and the consistencies I see in those that are highly engaged in serving. Sarah Dunn from Southpointe Church in Oklahoma City asked a few great questions:

Do you have guidelines for where middle-schoolers versus high schoolers can serve? Do you allow middle school students to lead small groups on their own?

There are a ton of extraordinary kids’ ministry leaders with great guidance on this topic. Here’s what I think.

Authority Gap
When choosing where a student can serve, I think it’s important to consider the gap of authority between the student and they kids they lead. I go by a standard of five years. If there is a five-year age difference between the student and the child, then that’s a good fit. I have a few exceptions to that rule, but the exceptions are exactly that … exceptions.

For example, most middle school students serve in our preschool environments (2 years old to pre-K). This means that an 11-year-old sixth grader would serve in a room with a child as old as 5-6 years old (older pre-K).

There has to be enough of an age difference for the student to be an authority in the room. Five years is a good age differential.

No Student Gaggles
We try to limit the number of students that serve in a room. Things seem to run smoother when there are no more than two students serving in a room together. However, we have to work hard to ensure that our students understand the expectations and live up to them.

Student Volunteers Are the Icing, Not the Cake
We have defined volunteer-to-kid ratios for every age category in fpKIDS. We follow these guidelines to ensure that we have enough supervision in the rooms for the number of kids we see each week.

However, we do not count our students in these ratios until they are 16 years old. That means that when we are staffing our rooms for the average number of kids we expect to see, the number of students we have in that room does not reduce the number of volunteers our ratio requires.

We still place students on our volunteer schedule and expect to see them when they are scheduled. I think students need (and like) that accountability. We just don’t count them in the same way that we count adults.

Exceptions
I have a variety of exceptions. Here are a few:

1. The “not yet a student.” I have a few fourth- and fifth-graders that serve in kids’ ministry. That’s a pretty young age. But (as with any volunteer) we require they attend their age-appropriate worship environment in addition to serving, not in replacement worship. And they must serve with their parent (or a designated mentor).

We require the parent or mentor because a student this young requires more guidance than the adult volunteers in the room can provide without detracting from the overall experience for our kids. The parent (or mentor) is there to provide that guidance. I enter into situations like this very carefully and with a lot of communication with the parent. For anyone that decides to allow students younger than sixth grade to serve in their kids ministry, I highly recommend a trial basis where you revisit the topic with the child and parent to discuss how it’s going.

2. Middle-schooler leading a small group. I do have a few middle school students leading elementary small groups. Some have been highly successful and some have not. And much of the success comes down to their ability to communicate expectations and hold kids accountable. The middle school students I currently have in elementary are successful for the following reasons:

  • Youngest age category. We allow them to lead the younger age groups like kindergarten or first grade.
  • Half the standard. We give these students smaller groups to lead (4-5 versus 8-10 kids).
  • Adult assistance nearby. There is an adult leading the same age group nearby to provide assistance when needed.

All right, ministry leaders, it’s your turn to weigh in.

What do you do? What guidelines do you have for middle school and high school students to serve? Do you let them lead their own small group?

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

For the original article, visit ginamcclain.com.

Written by Gina McClain

Administration Turns to Insurers to Smooth Obamacare Woes.


The Obama administration called on private health insurers on Thursday to make it easier for Americans to obtain coverage and access medical services starting Jan. 1, even if technical troubles or other issues prevent timely enrollment in Obamacare plans.

The administration formally extended its Dec. 15 enrollment deadline for obtaining insurance benefits on Jan. 1 to Dec. 23, and said it would consider further delays if “extraordinary circumstances” prevent consumers from enrolling.

It also set out a special enrollment period for consumers unable to sign up for insurance because of errors with the website HealthCare.gov or other segments of its insurance marketplace technology.

In addition, the administration extended a federal insurance program for people with severe health conditions, and urged insurance companies to provide retroactive coverage beginning Jan. 1 to consumers who sign up for coverage after the first of the year or make their first premium payments sometime in January.

The administration has made major fixes to HealthCare.gov, which provides access to new federal health insurance marketplaces in 36 states, after a disastrous Oct. 1 launch.

However, U.S. officials are still racing to fix and build features on the “back end” of the system that verify enrollment details and process payments to insurers.

Officials said last week that about 10 percent of applications to the main website are not being accurately transmitted to insurance companies, fueling fears that people will believe they have obtained insurance for the new year, only to discover they are not actually enrolled.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

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