Looking at the Rot in Unity Schools
The federal government appoints a committee to study the level of rot in the nation’s unity schools and recommend remedial measures
The federal government is determined to contain the appalling standard and decay in the 102 unity schools in the country. In a bid to address the problem, Kenneth Gbagi, minister of state for education, recently inaugurated a 12-man committee to identify peculiar problems confronting the schools and make recommendations to the government. The committee is headed by Sylvester Onoja, commissioner for Education in Kogi State, and former principal of Kings College Lagos.
The minister, while inaugurating the committee, took members to one of the schools which serves as a model of what the government want to revive. The committee is to identify the sources of Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, in the schools and how it is spent in the colleges; use of appropriated funds; assess the level of coverage of the curriculum; analyse the performance of students in internal and external examinations in the past five years; assess the adequacy of the learning environment and the availability of teachers, among others.
Since the inauguration of the committee, there have been reactions to the efforts being made through it to address the decay in Unity Schools. Olakunle Olaitan, president of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, commended the federal government’s plans to overhaul the 102 Federal Government colleges in the country. Olaitan, advised the committee set up by the federal government to work diligently to ensure the success of its mandate. He said the move would boost education if the problems facing the colleges were tackled immediately.
Michael Olukoya, national chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, commended President Goodluck Jonathan for the vision of setting up the committee. He urged the government to also address the problem of teachers’ poor remuneration which has continued to dampen the morale of teachers in the country.
But Oliver Agundu, lecturer, Benue State University, Makurdi, described the setting up of the committee as a waste of time and resources because it may not achieve anything meaningful at the end of the day. Agundu believes that the government could achieve what it wants to achieve without the committee. He stated that the country has never been in want of ideas but the problem has been non-implementation of the good ideas. He wants the problems of the primary schools tackled first. “Any committee set up to address the problem in the unity schools without taking care of primary education would be counter productive. The problem is not peculiar to unity schools, so if the government wants to address the rot in education, it must be done holistically,” he said.
Marcel Okhakhu, senior lecturer, University of Benin, Edo State, believes that it is right time the government stopped paying lip service to the problem of education in Nigeria and advised that the problem be tackled directly instead of setting up a committee which has limited time. While commending the government for its interest in improve standards in unity schools, he insisted that government must be prepared to implement the report at the end of the committee’s assignment.
This is not the first time the federal government is setting up a committee to address the problem in unity schools. In 2006, the federal government inaugurated a 16-member committee to work out ways and means to introduce Public Private Partnership in the management of the 102 Unity Schools. The committee was headed by Obiageli Ezekwesili, then minister of education. It was tagged: “Cabinet Committee on Public Private Partnership Arrangements for the 102 Unity Schools.” But teachers in the unity schools were not comfortable with the committee at that time as they viewed it as an attempt by the government to hand over the schools to private individuals. This resulted in several strikes that paralysed academic activities in the schools for a long time.
With the setting of the Onoja committee and restoration of junior classes in unity schools which was suspended in 2004, the fear expressed by many Nigerians that the government was no longer interested in managing unity schools has been put to rest.