COVID-19: Group Faults Education Ministry’s Military Approach to Making Decisions

Adamu, Education Minister

The Jeunesse Youth Empowerment Initiative (JYE) has faulted the Federal Ministry of Education’s (FME) penchant for announcing decisions on the education sector in what it describes as a military-fiat style without consideration for affected stakeholders, stating that a responsible government should always have plans and endeavour to communicate them to enable everyone to plan accordingly.

According to a statement issued in Lagos and signed by its Team Lead, Mr Ridwan Sulaimon, the organisation said, “The idea of announcing a decision in a military-fiat style regardless of whose ox is gored and without considerations for affected stakeholders should not be an approach of a civilian government”.

The organisation added that: “The education sector needs to be approached holistically during this critical time and there is no easy way out. Government should not be found addressing problems only as it comes without putting the whole sector and the bigger picture in perspectives.”

It said that transparency, accountability and inclusiveness especially during the COVID-19 pandemic was more in the interest of the duty bearers as it helps to build the needed trust and enhances  effective feedback processes that would aid the government in solving problems.

“To successfully manage the education sector through this pandemic without creating another crisis post COVID-19, the FME needs to be more forthcoming with transparency, accountability and inclusiveness.”

While commending the ministry for reopening exit classes on August 4, it urged the Ministry to take a holistic approach; ensure inclusiveness, accountability and transparency in managing the education sector during this pandemic.

It said, “While the decision to reopen schools for exist classes is commendable, it raises pertinent questions and poses some other challenges for the education sector generally. Therefore, the Ministry should not only communicate its decisions but also proactively provide the rationale for such decisions and the plan to cushion the effects of the decision in other areas of the sector. This will enable better feedback process and effective planning by all stakeholders.”

The organisation added, “Although we appreciate the fact that delaying SSCE for instance until another year may impact negatively on the results as such exam which covers virtually everything learnt in secondary school is better written when the knowledge is still fresh.  With the daily reported cases of COVID-19, students who have lost about half a session already may end up losing another half, thus implying that they may end up remaining in their current class after a year, while those in the exit classes would have moved up in the ladder.

“Therefore we urge the FME to address the following questions in its subsequent communications: What are the plans to balance the system such that if the students in exit classes write SSCE or similar examinations, what will be the implication for JAMB and the universities who will have to deal with a double number of admission seekers as those who wrote the UTME for this year may have to be merged in the admission process with the current SSCE students who will write UTME next year? If we have two sets of students in the admission process when the tertiary institutions already do not have the capacity to fully absorb a set, how do we deal with the existing corruption that this tough race will further trigger in the admission process?

“How would the Ministry address the issue of vacant SSS3 classes when the SS2 counterparts are not promoted? Is there a plan for mass promotion or rushing to finish the remaining scheme of work for the session across boards and what will be the implication of such for a country with falling standards of education?

“Is the Ministry planning to redesign the schools calendar to accommodate these gaps? What are the specific safety protocols that will be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus among students, teachers, examiners and parents?”

In addition, the group said the education ministry should “proactively disclose through its website, press releases and social media platforms, its financial details during this pandemic including but not limited to details of all the financial and material resources received and or expended towards managing the education sector during the COVID-19 pandemic; the amount of funding and resources received and or expended for the development and implementation of the “Nigeria Education Sector COVID-19 Response Strategy,” the “National COVID-19 Education Response Centre”, the “Ministerial Task Team,” e-learning activities, teachers’ training, conferences and all other activities of the Ministry aimed at responding to COVID 19 pandemic in the education sector.”

It added that the ministry should provide the details of beneficiaries reached by the Ministry’s alternative or continuous learning activities such as e-learning including the number of schools, students, teachers, parents and pupils directly reached and estimates of those indirectly reached as well as other relevant details of the beneficiaries.

It noted that such proactive disclosure and accountability will help the ministry to build the needed trust during this time.

According to the organisation, it is a shame that academic activities remain halted in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions due to COVID-19, adding that just like various other countries, including in Africa, the level of technological advancement globally is sufficient for serious governments to be able to sustain learning even without physical contacts between students and teachers.

JYE Initiative, therefore, called on the Federal and States governments, FME and other education stakeholders not to miss the key lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic as per the need to radically invest in technological infrastructure in the educational sector to facilitate continuous learning at all times to all students across the board regardless of the social class, status, geographical location or disability.

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