2019 Elections: Why JESAC is mobilizing 24 million members to vote for education-friendly candidates

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Here is the recent JESAC statement to the effect that the education performance and manifestos of candidates for the 2019 general elections will be evaluated and scored during  JESAC Consultative Conference, which holds from 17th to 20th December 2018 at Green Minds Hotels, Utako, Abuja. This has generated positive reactions.
Reactions from stakeholders, including political parties and their candidates, have praised the initiative aimed at objectively identifying candidates who qualify for support of 24 million education stakeholders based on objective assessment of their performance records on education as incumbents and manifestos as challengers. 
About 2% of the reactions related to the methodology of evaluation; and whether or not education stakeholders “should dabble into endorsing specific candidates and into the political process”. This statement provides more facts on the state of education and why involvement in the effort to elect education-friendly leaders is a call to duty that should be answered by every education stakeholder from his or her position and perspective for the sake of our children, born and unborn. 
The core objective of the JESAC initiative is to mobilize its 24 million members to vote for education-friendly leaders with vision, character, competence, courage and political will to commit and manage the huge human, material and financial resources required for transformation of the education sector. This is necessary for TEN (10) important reasons.

1. Beyond administrative fixes

Education in Nigeria has serious deep-rooted, structural challenges that need to be resolved with bold, courageous and visionary political leadership actions, not routine administrative fixes. Education stakeholders have the duty and responsibility of leading the process of identifying of candidates who has what it takes based on their understanding of the challenges.
These challenges are well articulated in reports that are already in the public domain in the internet and virtual libraries of major educational institutions and multilateral agencies.
Such reports include, but not restricted to: Report on Need Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities; Report on Need Assessment of Nigerian Education Sector by International Organization for Migration; Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020; National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy; National Roadmap for Education Sector; Nigeria’s Education Sector Analysis by World Bank; UNESCO Report on Nigeria’s Education Sector; etc. JESAC is interested in knowing which parties and candidates understand and address issues raised in these reports . We now proceed to highlight some of the issues.

2. Access to basic education

The UBEC Act provides for free and compulsory basic education in Nigeria. (Basic Education begins at the age of six and consists of schooling in primary schools and three years in junior secondary). The current reality is that basic education is neither free nor compulsory. Over 15million children are out of school in Nigeria representing a total of 50% of the global out of school children. We see them every day on the streets hawking. What plans do the candidates have for these children?
There are regional disparities in access to basic education between southern and northern Nigeria. The International Organization for Migration report estimated that enrollment was as high as 95% in southern zones and as low as 19.91% in northern zones. The matter has been made worse by insurgency in north east in recent years. What are specific plans of Presidential, Gubernatorial and Legislative for the resolution of this matter?

3. Access to secondary education

The gross enrollment rate in secondary schools in Nigeria is about 40% with estimated 10 million young Nigerians (age group 15-19 years) not enrolled in schools. More than 60% of them are from the eastern zone of the country. They are in markets all over Nigeria. What are the specific plans of Candidates for the resolution of this matter?

 4. Access to tertiary education

Averages of 1.7 million candidates register for JAMB examinations each year. Total available spaces in all tertiary institutions are less than 400,000 each year meaning that over 1.3 million qualified university-age young Nigerians are left out of post-secondary education each year.? What are the specific plans of Candidates for the resolution of this matter?

5. General poor state of tertiary institutions

The situation will be highlighted by quoting directly from the Report of Committee on Need Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities. The situation applies to Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
 
“Students sitting on bare floors or peeping through the windows to attend lectures. Over 1000 students being packed in lecture halls meant for less than 150 students. Over 400 being packed in Laboratory meant for 75 students. Students cannot get accommodation. Where they get accommodated, they are packed like sardines in tiny rooms. No light and no water in hostels, classrooms and laboratories. Students use the bushy areas of their campuses for toilet because lavatory facilities are too hazardous to use. Library facilities and services are archaic and comatose. Many laboratory equipment are only known to students in theory. Broken furniture everywhere.Unkempt building and dilapidating facilities.Over-worked, untrained and inadequate teachers. The list continues…”.
 
“…physical facilities for teaching and learning in Nigerian Universities are inadequate, dilapidated, over stretched, overcrowded and improvised.
“…Less than 105 of the universities have video conferencing facilities. Less than 20% of the Universities use interactive Boards
“University Councils…are more keen to award new contracts rather than completing the abandoned projects or standardizing existing facilities. Universities Manager are always in a tug of war with Governing Councils over role encroachment and contract tendering”.
“Only 10.3% of total student population have on-campus hostel bed spaces across all public Universities in Nigeria… Students are forced to live in “students village” scattered around University campuses. Students are susceptible to extraneous influence and violence including cultism, prostitution, rape, gang violence, armed robbery, brigandage.
 “The Lavatories in most hostels of Nigerian Universities are inadequate and unfit for human use..
“…Most of the Universities rely on water tankers and boreholes. There is no University that has a functional integrated water supply and distribution network. There is no organized market in most of the University campuses resulting in inappropriate use of learning spaces for trade. Healthcare facilities at the Universities are grossly inadequate.
“In the course of our assignment, the Committee found that majority of the Universities in the country are; grossly under-staffed; rely heavily on part-time and visiting lecturers; have under qualified academics; bottom-heavy (with junior lecturers forming large chunk of the workforce ). Only a few Universities attract expatriate lecturers; have no effective staff development programmes; have “Closed” homogenous staff in terms of ethnic-cultural background
“…Teaching staff distribution both by qualification and by rank indicates that Nigeria’s University system is in crises of manpower; 
“…The ratio of enrolment is a reversal of the National policy in Education as the current science to non-science ratio is 68% non-science to 32% science. as against 60 science and 40 non-science. (Even as those studying science related course use “dry Labs” for practical lessons and examinations). There is therefore no relationship between enrolment and the tangible manpower needs of the nation.
JESAC needs to evaluate the specific plans of Candidates for the reversing this situation.

6. Students and lecturers population profile 

Universities all over the world operate as international community of students and lecturers from different countries. This is no longer the case in Nigeria. The first generation Universities attracted students and lecturers from other countries as recent as mid-1990s. Today the reverse is the case. Not only that students and lecturers from other countries have stopped coming to Nigeria, our lecturers are deserting the country in search of greener pastures while hundreds of thousands Nigerian students troop to other countries including Ghana and Benin Republic. What are the specific plans of Candidates for returning our tertiary institutions to international communities of students and lecturers?

7. World ranking of Nigerian universities

 The 2018 World Webometrics Ranking of Universities ranked University of Ibadan as the best university in Nigeria and number 1070 in the world; UNN as number 2 in Nigeria and 2189 in the world; AOU as 3rd in Nigeria and 2232 in the world and North Western University Kano as number100 in Nigeria and 13540 in the world. What are the plans of candidates to reverse these trends? What are the specific plans of Candidates for improving the world ranking of our tertiary institutions?

8. Funding of education in Nigeria

One of the things that clearly demonstrates that our political leaders are yet to come to grasps with magnitude of the challenge is the level of funding. Between 2009 and 2018, the education sector received N3.90 trillion out a total budget of N55.19 trillion or 7.07% ( 2009-7.25%; 2010-4.83%; 2011-6.16%; 2012-8.20%; 2013-8.55%; 2014-9.94%; 2015-7.74%; 2016-6.10%; 2017-7.38%; 2018-7.03%. It has become obvious that this level of funding is not enough to resolve the challenges in education. JESAC needs to know which candidates are willing to commit to the minimum of 26% of budget recommended by UNESCO.

9. The struggle by education unions 

The struggle by education unions for leaders to commit the level of resources required for revival of education should be understood in the context of the facts presented in this statement. The struggle is not about any government in particular as the history of strikes by lecturers in Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Educations dates back to 1980. Between 1992 and 2018, University lecturers in Nigeria have gone on strike 21 times some of which lasted for many months (1992-nine months; 1993-five months; 1999-five months; 2001-three months; 2003-six months; 2007-three months; 2009-four months; 2010-five months; 2011-three months; 2013-two months; 2017-one month; 2018 –one month, one week and counting).          
As I write this statement (10th December 2018), Lecturers in Colleges of Education just called off their own strike while Lecturers in Polytechnics have given notice of starting another round of strike on 12th December. 
JESAC will like to know the plans of candidates for : achieving lasting peace and harmony in the education sector; for stopping the routine shutdowns of educational institutions; and the disruption of academic calendars with all its attendant collateral and tragic consequences.  

10. Payments of teachers salaries and other issues 

JESAC is interested in States that pay correct teachers salaries as and when due. Other issues that will evaluated include plans to promote ethics, integrity and best practices in admissions, training, examination, certification, registration and regulation processes; formulation and implementation of education policies devoid of politicization; safety and security of educational institutions; etc.    
 
It is against this background that the Joint Education Stakeholders Action Coalition, JESAC ( a voluntary political action coalition of 20 critical education unions and associations that span the entire gamut of education sector, from primary to tertiary) is organizing the consultative conference from 17th to 20th Green Minds Hotel in Abuja to formally start the process of mobilization of 24 million members to : move away from being passive political observers to being active political game changers; to actively participate in the political process; to promote free, fair and credible elections;to campaign, work and vote together with a view to deploying the power of their population to elect education-friendly political leaders.
 
The objective evaluation of education performance of incumbents and manifestos of their challengers will enable JESAC to decide on the candidates with the best records and plans. Education stakeholders should hold themselves responsible if, for example, incumbents who owe teachers many months of arrears of salaries are voted back into power!     
The power to transform education is now in your hands. Start by forwarding this statement to other education stakeholders. 
Ike Onyechere, MFR
National Coordinator, JESAC
Founding Chairman, Exam Ethics Marshals
December 10, 2018.
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