Below is the communiqué issued at the end of the maiden Awoism Conference themed “Reversing the trend of poor WASSCE performance in Southwest States” at House of Chiefs, Secretariat Ibadan on March 9, 2016.
The Southwest zone of Nigeria, the homeland of Yoruba people, was synonymous for good governance, particularly the education policy.
Fifty years down the line, it is obvious, as indicated by the consistently poor WASSCE performances, that we cannot maintain the foundation laid then, not to talk of improving on it. More so, there are now worrisome signs that the trend may continue, painting an unfavourable situation for a large number of Yoruba youth and children in terms of socioeconomic competitiveness in a dynamic 21st century globe.
The Yoruba Academy, a think-tank research institution, was therefore commissioned by the Afenifere Renewal Group to conduct a participatory research in selected public Schools in Oyo State to further identify, beyond the obvious ones, the unseen factors responsible for this ignominious and seemingly insurmountable problem.
This was done in collaboration with the Oyo State ministry of education. Consequently, the conference was called to deliberate this report and all education stakeholders across the six southwest states were invited – NGOs, ANCOPSS, NUT, SUBEB, NERDC, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Commissioners, and Chairmen, House Committees on Education. They were also required to submit a brief paper on the top three challenges facing the education sector and top three recommendations.
Without prejudice to the commendable drive to revive and improve public education by the southwest states, the conference agreed that public education is comatose in Southwest because only the privately owned and missionary schools are doing well. If this trend continues, the larger masses will be priced out of quality education and the entire Yoruba nation, which rests on a cultural custom of equality of opportunities, will be worse off. The political leadership, though thinks otherwise, appear to have lost focus. There is therefore the URGENT need for collaborative effort to resuscitate public education in Southwest states.
The resolutions below are an expression of deliberations at the conference and a review of all the papers submitted by participants.
1. POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT
a. The Conference calls for a total restructuring of Nigeria in a manner that allows for total
devolution of responsibilities, particularly socioeconomic responsibilities like education, health, transportation etc that are more efficiently managed at lower levels to the federating states. It is impossible for people to sit in Abuja and think they mean well by putting forward policies that determine what happens to child in Okeho, a town they may never visit throughout their time in service. They are too far from the child to see how they can help him/her.
b. The conference calls for six regional bodies, established and funded by the states in each of the six geopolitical zones, that will be responsible for the curriculum and quality of primary and secondary education. Such bodies may not even need any major subvention as it can generate its own revenue.
2. POLICY MAKING
a. The Conference calls for a new, well defined overarching vision of education that is compatible with 21st century’s information and creative economy. In this age interdisciplinary career, there is more focus on skills acquisition rather than profession and a child no longer needs 22 years of education before he/she can start living a meaningful life. Our education system is just not in conformity with this global trend.
b. No government/agency should wake up one day to call for education summit/policy review. The entire education system, instead, should be subjected to holistic review at periodic intervals, may be every TEN years and this review process should involve ALL stakeholders.
c. FUNDING: The conference calls for a framework for inclusive funding of education and that UNESCO’s 26% benchmark should be the MINIMUM budgetary allocation for education all Southwest states.
d. QUALITY ASSURANCE: In addition to government’s monitoring mechanism, the conference calls for an independent quality assurance mechanism that will involve all stakeholders – parents, NGOs, professional bodies etc.
e. The Conference calls for the use of mother tongue, particularly in primary school.
3. TEACHING PROFESSION
a. The conference calls for professionalization of teaching career. This is not just mere registration with the Teachers Registration Council but a periodic evaluation/recertification scheme.
b. There should be proper employment, training, and retraining policies. Politics has an annoying way of choking merit with regards to employment of teachers and their promotions/welfare.
c. The teaching profession must begin to attract only the BEST QUALIFIED and the MOST COMMITTED. The conference calls therefore for a review of teacher training/certification process and also a periodic recertification mechanism for practising teachers.
d. The Conference calls for role-modelling and mentoring in the teaching profession. Every newly qualified and employed teacher should first be under the mentorship of an older teacher.
a. The Conference calls on all parents to wake up to their responsibilities as the first teacher and role models of their children/wards.
b. Henceforth, our society will no longer be kind and permissive to parents that cannot instil acceptable standards of discipline in their children/wards.
c. The Conference calls of re-institutionalising of communal parenting that once defined our society. Parents/guardians should not think they only can raise their children/wards in a manner compatible with our society’s values and norms.
a. Exposure to Information Technology should be only for pedagogical purposes.
b. The conference calls on students to think of themselves responsibly and begin to behave as such. 6.
Special thanks to the Oyo State Ministry of Education for its support. The full report of this conference will be made public soon and the organisers will begin to organise and mobilise support both from the public and private sectors for its implementation. It is our hope that we can count on all well meaning Yoruba people, both at home and in diaspora, as we begin to COLLECTIVELY, reengineer our society. We must remember that “Ajoje o dun bi enikan o ni” and that “Agbajo owo oun la fi n so’ya, ajeji owo kan ko gberu d’ori”. The great labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. Oodua a gbe wa o. Signed by All participants