he eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency have left different imprints in the education sector, with opinions diverse on his administration’s performance.
From the establishment of many more universities to the level of support given to tertiary institutions to improve infrastructure through the intervention fund, and the school feeding programme to encourage more intakes, the administration is credited with its share of positive imprints.
Some others also point to the presidential approval for a new retirement age of 65, and length of service of 40 years for teachers in public basic and secondary schools as heart-warming.
The approval of the six new colleges of education in the six geo-political zone of the country and the eight new federal polytechnics, the Better Education Service Delivery For All, also attract many as being among numerous achievements of the Buhari years.
The administration, on its part, prides itself with the provision of funding intervention through TETFUND for the completion of the National Library to enable all public Tertiary Education Institutions to develop ICT infrastructure.
It says this also supports the migration to e-learning, maintaining that ICT support intervention has recorded the successful completion of many websites, upgrade of projects and the training of thousands of staff in tertiary institutions nationwide.
This is among numerous other achievements it boasts of in the sector in terms of quality, standards and training, to put the sector where it truly belongs.
The state of infrastructure in many federal public institutions and the long drawn Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike which kept students at home for months, among other union industrial actions, huge number of out-of-school children, to unresolved funding challenges, among others, on the other hand, draw knocks for the administration.
Prof Rahamon Bello, former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, says Nigeria has the capacity to be one of the best nations in the world going by its vast human and natural resources.
He, however, believes it has not been able to reach such height in the last eight years for various reasons.
“In the education sector in the last eight years, though some progress was recorded in some areas, there were more challenges that did not allow things to flow the way they should, particularly in tertiary institutions.
“This is especially when these tertiary institutions are in the purview of the Federal Government.
“Just try to look at the various issues we had concerning lecturers’ salaries, the prolonged ASUU strike, overstretched facilities, obsolete equipment in most of these institutions and a lot more,” he said.
According to him, there has been a lull in the education sector in the last eight years.
He posits that though there was the approval of several private universities, it could be an indication that things were not going well in the system.
“So, left to me, I did not see the kind of progress that was expected in the sector in the past eight years.
“The education sector has been gradually put in the back seat in the scheme of things.
“The universities are now being run like parastatals of government, where they have to seek approvals before employing an academic staff and unfortunately, rather than move forward, we have retrogressed.
“This same development is also evident in the lack of autonomy of universities.
“And quite sadly too, with this kind of development, the role of university councils are eroded. We indeed look forward to a better future in the sector with the incoming administration,” the don stated.
He called on the incoming administration to hit the ground running by overhauling some policies in the education sector that were not adding value to the system.
Mr Monday Ojo, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), YABATECH Chapter, on his part, rated the Buhari administration as having performed fairly in the sector.
Ojo commended President Buhari for his achievements, noting that for the first time, his administration gave intervention fund running into some billions of naira to Polytechnics to improve their infrastructure.
The chairman said that the fund would be gradually increased, as there was already a promise to upgrade it to N50 billion by next year.
“In this aspect, the president tried, but the implementation is slow,” he said.
He, however, decried poor salary structure for staff, which according to him, led to series of strikes by the ASUU, compelling students staying longer than necessary on their academic programmes.
The union leader also expressed displeasure over the inability of the outgoing administration to sign the bill for an Act to abolish and prohibit dichotomy and discrimination between Bachelor’s Degree and Higher National Diploma (HND).
According to him, the issue has remained a challenge for HND graduates in the field of employment and rise in Grade Levels, especially in the Nigeria Civil Service, as against their bachelor’s degree holding counterparts.
“At the entry level in Civil service, Polytechnics graduates are placed on GL 07, while university graduates are placed on GL 08, also HND holders cannot rise to GL 17; it is unfair.
“It is commonly said that education is the bedrock of development in any society, but the sector didn’t enjoy the best in this administration as it did not get the required attention,” he said.
The chairman believes the incoming administration should do the needful to improve the general state of the education sector as it comes on board in the next few days.
A parent, Mrs Folakemi Titilope, says the Buhari years in the presidency have seen the good and the bad in the education sector and government is continuous.
” He has done his part and is on his way out. It is left for the incoming administration to build on the gains and tackle the areas not well attended to.
” For me, I look forward to the universities running normal semesters devoid of strikes so we are not put at the mercy of private universities, where fees hit the roof and are difficult to reach for some of us.
” I wish the incoming administration the best in the sector and in other areas,” she said.(NAN)