The education sector was mostly on news in the better part of the year – 2022 following the long strike declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in February 14 due to failure of the federal government to implement the 2009 agreement with the union and other demands bordering on welfare, infrastructures among others.
The strike which lasted for eight months grounded activities of both federal and state universities in the country.
While the strike lasted, it resulted in a feud between ASUU and the federal government, through the ministries of education, labour and employment and office of the Accountant General of the Federation at some point.
ASUU on one side insisted that the federal government must meet its agreements on funding for the revitalisation of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances, reconstitution of the FGN/ASUU 2009 Renegotiation Committee, University Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, and withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off due, while the federal government on the other side insisted that most of the demands had been met and only refused to pay the union their salary for not working for six months, a decision that led to further extension of the strike by the union.
The federal government also registered the Congress of University Academics (CONUA), a splinter group from ASUU, on October 4 in an effort to break the union, but that didn’t stop the union from pressing harder.
After all attempts to get the striking lecturers to go back to classroom failed, the federal government resolved to “no work, no pay” threat, which also did not deter the union, thus, leading the government to head to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) to secure an injunction ordering ASUU back to class.
ASUU appealed the NICN ruling at the Court of Appeal, but the court insisted the union must obey the lower court order before filing its appeal. The union therefore ended the strike on October 14.
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, bemoaned the union and other associations within the university system for not reciprocating her investment in education.
He said in the last one year, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund committed about N400 billion to the development of infrastructure in the tertiary institutions across the country, which is different from the N1.3 trillion the present administration has spent on capital expenditure in the nation’s tertiary education.
He lamented that despite the huge commitment by the administration, ASUU had been on strike for almost a year over the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) but was excited that the strike had later ended.
However, the crisis is yet to be completely resolved as the union and government are yet to come to terms with the issue of salary backlog.
ASUP, COEASU joined the strike
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) also were not left behind as they went on a strike in May.
ASUP went for only a two-week warning strike and the government swift action and intervention to the group’s demands which resulted in the strike ending in the same month.
But COEASU also pushed for unmet demands and the strike dragged till they called off on August 12.
The rise, reduction of out of school children
The year started with good news from the federal government when the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, on January 21 announced that in the last one year the number of out-of-school children in the country had dropped from 10.1 million to 6.946 million, as a result of several activities undertaken to ensure increased enrolment.
During the annual ministerial press briefing, Adamu said: “As today, we have recorded impressive school enrolment figures in 17 states of the federation where BESDA is being implemented. I can however tell you that through the BESDA initiative, we have reduced the figure of out-of-school children from 10.1 million since May last year down to 6.946, 328 million.”
Also, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said through their partnership with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom (UK), they have enrolled 1.5 million girls in schools in the North in ten years.
However, with all the interventions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) latest report tagged the number of out-of-school children in the country to 20 million.
Approval of more universities, others
In spite of the cry for paucity of funds to cater for tertiary education in the country, the education sector also witnessed the approval of more universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. This according to the government was to meet up with the challenge of access.
Nigeria currently has a total of 220 universities, with 20 federal universities, 59 state universities and 111 private universities. For polytechnics, there are 36 federal polytechnics, 48 state polytechnics, and 48 private polytechnics.
And there are 27 federal colleges of education, 96 state colleges of education, and 120 private colleges of education in the country as announced by the minister in August.
The Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, had said the number of universities in the country cannot meet the present demand for higher education in the country, adding that despite raising the numbers, it is still not enough when compared to the over 200 million people in the country.
JAMB cut-off marks
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), July 21, announced 140 as the minimum cut-off point for 2022/23 admissions into universities across the country.
The registrar of the board, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, said 100 was approved as a cut-off mark into polytechnics and monotechnics while 80 for colleges of education.
Though he explained that the aforementioned points are the minimum, it does not mean institutions must comply wholly with it, as “institutions have the liberty to determine their cut-off points but must not be below the cut-off agreed at the policy meeting.”
The announcement did not go well with many who believed it was too poor and as a result lowering the standard of education.
This led to some advocating for an increase in the cut-off marks while others called for the scrapping of JAMB.
Failure to implement new teachers’ salary
President Muhammadu Buhari failed to implement the newly proposed teachers’ salary, two years after it was announced in 2020 at the event to mark the World Teachers Day.
Speaking at the 2022 World Teachers Day with the theme, “The Transformation of Education Begins with Teachers”, he said the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission has completed work on the reviewed remuneration package for teachers in basic and secondary schools including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers’ allowance and peculiar allowance.
“Implementation is awaiting conclusion of consultations with state governments and the National Assembly,” he said.
Other activities in the sector
Nigerian varsities ranking among world’s best
Despite the incessant strike bedeviling Nigerian universities, the Times Higher Education 2023 Subject Rankings cumulatively listed 48 Nigerian universities among the world’s best in 11 subjects/disciplines in 2023 ranking.
The ranking which was released in October is coming on the heels of the impressive ranking of 12 Nigerian universities in the world university rankings published on October 12.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Universities Ranking Advisory Committee (NURAC), Professor Emeritus Peter Okebukola, who disclosed it, said it is very encouraging news for the Nigerian university system.
“Nigeria was singled out and publicly announced at the summit by the management of Times Higher Education World University Rankings as having made one of the most significant improvements in ranking within a year. From five universities in the top band in 2022 to twelve universities within a year is a remarkable feat,” he said.
Non-literate rate reduces from 38 to 31%
The federal government said the extant statistics of 2022 based on estimations captured Nigeria’s non-literate population to be about 31 per cent of the total estimated population of non-literate Nigerians, saying this shows a significant reduction from the previous statistics of 38 per cent non-literate Nigerians in 2015.
Unveiling of new curriculum for universities
The National Universities Commission (NUC) unveiled a new Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) with 17 disciplines and 238 academic programmes to replace the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) used in Nigerian universities.
This is even as it has approved the emergence of three new disciplines in the Nigerian university system, namely Allied Health Sciences, Architecture and Communication, and Media studies.
The new curriculum addresses the knowledge and skill gaps in the curriculum it is replacing comparably in contents to similar curriculum in the best university system in the world and relevant to Nigeria’s social cultural context.