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African countries must give education priority – Julius Okojie

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A former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Abuja, Prof. Julius Okojie, has said African countries must give urgent priority to addressing issues in education at all levels.

Okojie said this would guarantee a critical mass of skilled work force at all levels, which would deploy knowledge and skills in research, development, innovation and entrepreneurship in national development.

He added that all the indices for measuring national development emphasise education at primary and secondary levels as very important.

“The millennium and sustainable development goals also emphasise this, hence the need to give education the priority in every African country,” he said.

The former NUC secretary stated this while delivering the 10th convocation lecture of the Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, with the theme: “Education for Sustainable Development and Prosperity for
Africa.”

He added that an educated populace is a requirement for sustainable economic development and that is the reason African countries must address the problems in education progressively from primary to the tertiary levels.

He said, “Our culture must value education and only the best and most qualified should teach our children at all levels. The quality of teachers should be as required in medicine, engineering and other top professions.

“African countries must also continue to address the issue of the out-of-school children, a problem which has been accentuated by insurgency, wars, conflicts, poor investments in education.”

Also, he said constitutional provision for the development and management of primary and secondary school education in Africa should be very stringent and the parliaments should be alive to their responsibilities.

In the case of Nigeria, Okojie added that state governments must become more responsive in providing counterpart funding for the available Universal Basic Education Commission intervention.

“Enrolment is not a lone issue, it must involve quality of teachers, relevant curriculum, learning and teaching facilities. As in Finland, only the best graduating students from the universities should teach our students.
The Federal Government should make the teaching profession attractive through scholarship, special salaries, allowances and training programmes,” he stated.

The ex-NUC boss, who was also the pioneer vice-chancellor of the university, said Nigerian universities’ curriculum should be geared towards addressing national issues, problems and streamline the goals’ objectives into their research endeavours.

“Also, there should be a ministry of higher education at national and regional levels, appointment of the heads of ministries or commission and heads of parastatals should be on merit and non-political,” he said.

To adequately address sustainable development as prescribed in the MDGs and SDGs, Okojie said all such efforts must be coordinated by the relevant bodies at all levels and streamlined with global prescriptions.


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