60th Anniversary Of Grange School
How We Plan To Improve Educational Outcomes, School Enrolment In The Coming Years, By VP Osinbajo
*Adds: School-feeding Programme raises enrollment by 30% in many cases
*Every Child Counts is name of new education policy
“Every Child Counts” is the name of our policy which means we have democratized our vision of a qualitative and relevant education to reach every Nigerian child.”
“Every Child Counts” ensures that all children especially the numbers reported to be out of school now, and in those areas where children tend to drop out of school much faster, get a decent education and are reached by this programme. And this is one of the real aspirations of the programme.”
“We are embarking on a massive nationwide teacher training project which will ensure that our educators of the minds of our young people are trained in the most current ways and technology.”
SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF GRANGE SCHOOL, HELD IN LAGOS ON 30TH OCTOBER 2018.
I am extremely honoured to have been invited to flag off the ceremonies marking the 60th Anniversary of the Grange School – this pre-eminent citadel of education. I have known Grange School practically all my life since I am only a year older than the school. I have been asked to speak on “academic excellence as a tool for nation building” and I will speak for a very few minutes.
As you already know, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and like the rest of the continent, it is a nation of young people; half the population is below the age of 20. By the year 2050, we are told that we will be the third most populous country in the world, exceeded only by India and China, in that order. 60 per cent of that population will be made up of young people, an average age of about 17.5 years.
So, we are going to have a large youth population that can be a tremendous blessing for economic growth and prosperity; it can also be a problem especially if we don’t plan well and in advance. Poverty, extreme poverty further complicates the problem for a country like ours.
In the last poverty survey which was done in 2012, that is the last cycle of household poverty survey done, we are estimated to have about 112 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty. And so poverty is both a cause and consequence of our poor educational attainments.
Currently, we have 9 million children out of school mostly in the poorest parts of the country; of those in school, only 20% of those who completed public primary education could actually read; girls constitute the majority of those out of school children. So, there will be a lot of arguments, some of us may be familiar with the arguments about how crucial education is to reducing extreme poverty, and some will say it may not be entirely true to say that education will always reduce poverty.
But I think the statistics especially from those who have done credible studies, the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report and the Education Commission’s Learning Generation Report, show that education actually has a major impact on several aspects on what will constitute good living or raise the standard of living in a society. So, there is evidence showing that individual’s earnings will actually grow if people are well educated.
So, education, we are told, reduces poverty by almost 60%. 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all children left school just with basic reading skills – that is equivalent to a 12% drop in the world total. Absolute poverty would be reduced by 30% just by improving basic reading and from learning skills.
The other point they say is that education increases individual earnings. Education increases earnings by roughly 10% per year of schooling. For each $1 or N360 invested in an additional year of schooling, earnings increased by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle income countries.
Another is that education reduces economic inequalities. So, if workers from poor and rich backgrounds received the same education; disparity between the two in working poverty actually decreases by 39%.
They also found that education promotes economic growth. And there are all sorts of other statistics.
One of the critical things is that we have a huge population and that population continues to grow. Part of it is because those who live in extreme poverty have far more children than those who are better off. So, the average person who lives in extreme poverty has five children while those who are much better off will have an average of about three children. With education, you actually have a reduction in the number of children and a reduction in population which of course makes it more manageable to run a society especially when it comes to providing the required services for the people.
So, there is a three-fold plan to improve educational outcomes and that plan is one that was worked out between the Federal Government and the state government. I am sure many of us are aware of the fact that education, especially at the primary and secondary levels is run by the state government. For secondary schools, you have a few unity schools owned by the Federal Government. But the main bulk of all the work that is done in education is done by the state governments. The Federal Government sets the tone and the standards and it can also assist and work with the state governments as effectively as possible which is what we have tried to do.
I chair the National Economic Council, and one of the critical issues we have been looking at is how to develop a new curriculum for education and we have gone very far with the Ministry of Education.
So, like I said we have a three-fold plan. The first aspect of that is to ensure that we attain all of the outcomes specified in the Sustainable Development Goals and those targets include school enrollment, quality of education, adult literacy, and quality of teaching and all of those we intend to meet them.
Also, we intend to work on the 9 million out-of-school children, a lot of that has already been done, anyway. And this, of course, is a complex process because it involves the full cooperation of state governments and religious authorities in some cases and of course public-spirited individuals and groups. The whole idea is to properly equip and train, properly equip and train educators across the country.
We also need to increase school enrolment, already, school enrolment has increased in many cases by over 30% in the last 2 ½ years, largely on account of our school feeding programme. Under the programme, we give, in public schools, in 26 states at the moment, lunch every day, and about 9.2 million children who enjoy that facility now. And that has increased enrolment because many children from poor homes hardly ever eat a complete meal a day, so the meal is a major attraction. It also increases the learning abilities because one of the chief problems, when you are hungry, is, of course, loss of concentration.
Aside from that, malnutrition is a major problem, that actually stunts growth, and some of the stories that you hear about malnutrition and how they stunt mental growth are usually heartbreaking. You find that especially at the ages of zero and five if children are not properly fed, mentally, they are much weaker than those who were well fed within that same period of their lives. So, the school feeding programme, is for us, very important not just for improving enrolment, but for improving the ability to learn.
The third plank of that programme is that we recognized that we are not just dealing with a rapid population growth. We are also dealing with rapid changes in technology and rapid changes in the way things are being done with innovation and all of that. So, the educational challenge before us is a radical one, we simply cannot educate in the ways that we used to educate 10 years ago.
Besides, to eradicate poverty our education must equip the young to be productive. This is why we are currently working on far-reaching skills-based curriculum on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. This is the curriculum for primary and secondary schools.
The core skills the programme will provide include: (1) Coding and Computer Programming; (2) Design Thinking and Computer Generated Imaging, Animation and Graphics Design; (3) Robotics, Networking and basic engineering applications. We have a programme called the N-Power programme and about 3000 of them are currently being trained in animation skills and techniques and we found that people take so easily to learn some of these things. In fact, the younger people are, the easier it is for them to learn all of these technology skills. So, we think that to develop the kinds of young people who will be able to take on the kind of challenges of the 21st century and get the kind of work that the 21st century is producing already, we simply have to change the way we teach and what we teach.
And we are working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oracle Academy, Microsoft Cisco Academy and IBM. They are working with us in developing this curriculum. Of course, the Federal Ministry of Education and the respective states are also working with us. And the immediate plan is to reach, with this sort of education, at least 2 million pupils in the first year. The plan also envisions a new classroom structure that permits the cultivation, expression and early adoption of skills that will function in the environment that is already being created – the technology environment that is already being created.
The next question we asked is, for whom do we plan? The answer is quite straightforward – it is the Nigerian child. Not just the ones in the urban areas or the few that are privileged to afford decent schooling above the weakened standards of public schooling generally. The real slogan for us is “Every Child Counts” and that is the name of the policy which means we have democratized our vision of a qualitative and relevant education to reach every Nigerian child.
“Every Child Counts” ensures that all children especially the number reported to be out of school now, and in those areas where children tend to drop out of school much faster, all of them deserve to get a decent education, all of them must be reached by this programme. And this is one of the real aspirations of that programme. So, we are looking at how to ensure that these children not only get a decent education but it also means that classroom by classroom, school by school, our public schools become really the place where young people can learn and set an objective standard for how we educate the average Nigerian child regardless of class, gender and ethnicity. We have an ambitious plan to reach and equip at least ten thousand classrooms every year under this programme.
The question, “who do we plan for”, also takes into account our teachers. To impart the relevant, qualitative and excellent education of our vision, teacher training must be overhauled by wide-scale and disruptive methods. So, we are embarking on a massive nationwide teacher-training project which will ensure that our educators of the minds of our young people are trained in the most current ways and technology.
As part of our plan, our education system will also promote and develop skills that are key to nation building such as hard work, discipline, cooperation, unity, respect, honesty, service, leadership, accountability, integrity and the civic skills that are key in developing a nation. The work of changing the story of educational failure in Nigeria is not just for governments alone.
I must say that I am extremely proud of the way that Grange has enthusiastically collaborated with my office in some of the important work we are doing at the learning centre in Maiduguri where we have a world-class education and boarding, free of charge to children who are victims of the conflict in the northeast.
So, we have a facility that will take about 1,200 children and we have all manner of facilities which will be useful in their education. They have also committed to working with us on teacher training especially in the conflict areas and that is also a very important part of the work that we are doing. In many parts of Nigeria, many teachers simply don’t have the required skill to pass on the sort of knowledge and human experiences that will benefit the children. So we really need to do extensive training. For us, the whole work of changing the educational story in Nigeria is an important and ongoing one and it involves all of us coming together to do this work. Giving back is so crucial and I am glad to see that the example has been set by the Grange School just to show that is entirely possible by taking some of what we have to better the lives of so many especially those who cannot give us back.
So, I want to urge all of you especially the young people who are here that there is so much that can be done in terms of supporting the work that is being done to educate others and to better the lives of others. I met a young man (who has not been to the university yet) who does a lot of work with teaching English in some parts of the north and doing this largely by creating graphics and designs that are useful in teaching. It is not a big thing but it is so tremendously impactful.
So, again I just want to congratulate the board, students and staff of Grange on your 60th birthday, and to wish you very more happy and fruitful years. God bless you.