Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazak refocuses Kwara’s priority to emphasise on knowledge-based economy, pulling experts, policy wonks to Ilorin to chart a new course for the State’s education sector writes NICHOLAS UWERUNONYE
The significance of an all-out summit on education put together by Kwara State government may be lost on many. But for World Bank’s Senior Education Specialist, Dr. Tunde Adekola, the event can only be timely and fitting. Tagged Kwara Education Futures Summit, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said the summit was called to “analyse the current state of education in Kwara State and develop actionable plan to build a new generation of leaders who can hold their own anywhere in the world.”
The event held in Ilorin, the state capital, drew the crème de la crème of policy wonks across the country because the state has made a commitment of funding more than 25 percent UNESCO budgetary funding to education in the state.
A brief recap of the roll call showed that the summit was attended by the Governor; Deputy Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly Raphael Adetiba; Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments Mariam Uwais; state cabinet members; Permanent Secretaries; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Education Interventions Fela Bank-Olemoh; Prof Lasiele Yahaya of University of Ilorin; SUBEB chairman Prof. Shehu Adaramaja; TESCOM Chairman Taoheed Bello; Dr. Kunmi Wuraola of Africa-New Globe Education; Nigerian Country Director of Nexford University Olamidun Majekodunmi; Michael Oglegba of Study Lab; Rector of IVTEC, Dr. Ade Somide; top educationist, Philip Adigun; Bola Lawal of Come Learn AM & ScholarX; traditional rulers; and several other educationists and other dignitaries.
“Government has to invest wisely and smartly to be able to secure the future of our children. There is also the need for a coalition between the state and non-state actors to chart a sustainable course for an improved education system. Teachers have to go through proper training and retraining to raise them professionally,” Adekola said.
The expert wasn’t speaking empty words at the event, given studies that link education with prosperity. In 2003, for instance, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, an international organisation that focuses on building better policies, improving opportunities and quality of life, and the UNESCO revealed findings of a 43 year study on ‘Financing and Education- Investments and Returns’.
It focused on 16 emerging economies at the time:
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. According to the finding, investments in human capital (education) over the past two decades somehow translated to about half a percentage point in the annual growth rates of these countries.
Between then and now, unilateral bodies have managed to distill into monetary units dividends from every dollar spent on education and its commensurate dividend to the country, its populace and individuals. For instance, research shows that for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, society gains up to $7.30 in economic returns over the long-term. This is because economic development starts with early childhood development—and the best investments ensure all children, particularly those from low-income families, have access to high-quality early childhood education.
But the OECD and UNESCO study finds that access to secondary and tertiary education is key to building a skilled and knowledge-based workforce. Apart from increased national wealth, the report also confirms, without surprise, that education also benefits individuals. Better educated people, it states, fare much better on the labour market.
Financing Education – Investments and Returns analyses the link between the level of education of the labour force and economic growth in 16 of the countries taking part in the UNESCO/OECD World Education Indicators programme (WEI), which tracks and compares their education development.
These findings, coupled with the fact that India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand and Philippines are among top-performing economies in the world forms the basis of the all-important summit in Ilorin.
With the global economic trend swiftly moving farther away from resource to knowledge-based, most governance planners have no choice to invest more on education. In this sector, Kwara has so much going for it. Kwara State has the highest number of basic schools in the whole of north-central. Kwara State has the least number of out-of-school children in the north-central zone of Nigeria. Kwara State is one of those states that are investing more than 20% of its budget in education.
Kwara State is one of those states that is coming up from behind in accessing all the funding in UBEC and is now investing in infrastructure and learning materials. All these things do not come by accident. That is what is called leadership. That is what we need at all levels in the state. That is why the governor brought all of us here to share knowledge and information, to see how we can make things better.
But according to Adekola, World Bank expert on Education, there are quite some challenges. “We all have to rally round a shared vision and shared mission for inclusive education and secure the future of our children,” he said, while calling for the resuscitation of the regime of accountability in the schools, including key performance indicators to measure performance and adherence to rules.
Even the governor admitted this much while making his address at the event. “Huge gaps still exist,” he said.
“For instance, our recent school census across four local government areas shows that 41 percent of our teachers are absent at their duty post. No single teacher was seen in 54 of the 368 schools sampled, while 23 percent of students on head teachers’ record were not in school during the census. Only 15 percent of the schools sampled were rated as needing no repair, implying that 85 percent of our classrooms require various forms of rehabilitation. The picture is bleaker when you consider availability or adoption of technology in our schools. The gender parity index for ratio of girls to boys in our schools is another source of worry.
“So, we need everyone on board. We do not have all the answers. And we certainly do not have enough resources that will provide the right environment for every Kwara child to thrive in the new world, irrespective of their social standing,” the governor said.
But compared to where the education was two years before he became governor, there are basis for hope in the task ahead. “We have restored our relationship with key partners after years of blacklist. We have reshaped public perception about teaching by engaging the best minds into the system. Work is ongoing in some 600 basic schools to give our children a befitting learning environment,” the governor disclosed.
“Our goal is to make public schools the first choice for all in terms of the quality and relevance of our infrastructure and teaching staff in the digital age. As a show of our commitment to education, we have recently surpassed the UNESCO budgetary threshold of 26%. Even so, it is clear that the government cannot do this alone.
“Already, we are building a legal framework to support our efforts. We now have a bill for a law to establish Kwara State Education Trust Fund. When passed, this fund will supplement the sector’s finance, promote technologies, and leapfrog the sector’s development through our Kwara Education Transformation Agenda (KWETA) plan.”
Uwais called for collaborative efforts among traditional rulers, civil society organisations, governments and religious scholars in addressing the issue of out-of-school children through facilities in agriculture, sports, and creativity sectors.
“The children who are out on the streets without education, without any skill and many of them now going to young adults are the ones easily exposed to violence, to crimes and other forms of abuse. This has led the federal government to take decisions on how to support states to curb a lot of these challenges. It is very important for states to lead giving the mandate in the constitution since primary education, primary health care and agriculture fall within their purview. For that reason, it is important for states to take the lead in addressing many of these challenges that these children have,” she said.