Extra year a short time relief for a long term pain – Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu

Of great concern to everybody, is the quality of graduates Nigerian tertiary institutions are sending out. Employers are not left out in the worry and parents are soaked in concern. This issue has called for The Federal Government to nurse plans for parents and their wards to pay for its clumsiness and that of the education system. As contained in a machinating proposal of the federal ministry of education to include a year post -NYSC (National Youth Service Scheme) period, tailored to engage Nigerian youths for attainment of academic excellence. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL gives a cross examination

In recent times, the debate has constantly erupted for closure of the National Youth Service Corps. People not in support, as gathered, had always lamented on irrelevance of the scheme. Regardless of these remarks, Federal Government has actively engaged in its funding

It has however come to light, the extent to which it has boosted national integration, which is evident in the life pattern of students who at some point enrolled for the programme.

In a continued bid to re-instate the value of the scheme between the public and government, some formulations are raised in the education system so much so that decision makers in the federal system are considering adjusting the national policy on education to add  a somewhat fruitless year to the time table of academic students of higher learning

The least expected idea was initiated by some intellectuals at the Ministry of Education invariably under the governance of a learned figure.
In agreement, The Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, believes that there would be a head way, not only to make students competent, but  ready for real life challenges.

Prof. Anwukah, has tendered a proposal for addition of extra year to Nigerian students in specialized institutions following the completion of undergraduate study.

The proposal by the minister, was presented  for deliberation, at the recent retreat for Governing Councils of Nigerian Federal Universities, flagged off  by the National Universities Commission (NUC)  captioned , “Elements of Statutory Governance, Procurement and Financial Accounting in Nigerian Universities”, as the Theme.

Of a truth, not many employers can boast of the competence of their employed. They revealed that subsequent retraining of graduated students they employed, and exposure to wider scope of knowledge not attained during undergraduate academic work, costs them much. This ugly trend, Anwukah has frowned at, not to continue, admitting many university graduates are not ideal for employment

Trying to elaborate his view, this literally creates an imagery of employers having him in hail and applauds while on the other hand, parents and guardians aim him with arrows to chase him and his ideas away

But in his words, “Law students attend Law School for one year before going for NYSC and medical students go for one year housemanship before they are allowed to practice fully. So, it will be necessary for (students who study) other courses to also go through this process.”

He seriously went further, suggesting that parents and the students needs to tighten up their financial belt unless the federal government will offer sponsorship for the one extra scheme when he said, “The Lagos Business School can also serve as one-year after-school training.”

A thorough review of how the NYSC, which has rather entrenched core values of unity in diversity, has performed will provide some inspiration into the relevance of the one year extra proposed by  Prof. Anwukah.

The National Youth Service Corps was created through decree No. 24 of 22nd May 1973 by the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon and it is one–year compulsory programme for students below 30 years who graduated from any Nigerian tertiary institutions or Nigerian students abroad that  plans  to work in Nigeria.

The mandate of the scheme is aimed at supporting national unity and overall development, and explains the scheme as “an organization that is well motivated and capable of bringing out the best qualities in our youths and imparting in them the right attitude and values for nation-building; an organization that serves as booster to national development, and a source of pride and fulfillment to its participating graduate youth’’ as to a state drawn from a statement on its website.

Besides, the organization’s mission is to “be at the fore front of national development efforts, as well as serve as a profitable platform for etching in our youths values of nationalism, patriotism, loyalty, and accountable leadership.”

More so, shoving students to the embrace discipline, national integration, tradition of work, norms and values, ideals of national development, developing skills for self-employment/realization, unbiased attitude  and  more.

However so many still uphold claims that to sustain a programme which ordinarily was set up to bridge some differences which led to the civil war for 44 years, is like deceiving oneself. This is in line with rampant killings of corps members within northern territories in Nigeria Hence, many has reacted for a close of the scheme.

Other reasons, not in favor of sustaining the programme, includes that the programme has led to loss of lives of serving corp members in areas where crisis are easily triggered, funds have been lost, immoral values are encouraged as many youths live indecently, and misappropriation of skilled labor as most graduates with no teaching certification usually find themselves in the classroom of schools in rural communities.

Consequently, the heat of the argument, has it that fair posting of crops members has often times been maneuvered as prospective corps members with some forms of relationship with highly placed personalities manipulate their postings to their preferred states for the programme.

Election periods have also been known to have high record in deaths of corps members who are hired as ad-hoc INEC officials, this leaves corps members in fear, and in the light of  proffering solution to this as it concerns parents and wards,  freedom to choose place of the national assignment, is now been given to prospective corps members. This compromise the goals of the programme as initially designed

However , strong supporters of the programme have a yes for an answer in response on whether to retain the programme or not. Coming from Prof Olurotimi Ajayi, the Vice Chancellor, Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State , he said the scheme should be protected and preserved, since its objective was to boost  national unity among Nigerians, which it has been fulfilling.
The Vice Chancellor added that government should throw more attention on insecurity, revisit packages attached to the programme for intending participants  and general welfare of the corps members, instead of entertaining jingles to scrap it.

It is well known that Nigeria spends billions of naira each year to pay allowances of  thousands of graduates who enroll for the NYSC programme across the country. The Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development was allocated in 2016, was allocated the sum of N75.47 billion of which N66.83 or 86 per cent was for NYSC. As it is, it is not enough to cater for the enormous graduates who wish to participate in the programme hence they are paid meager N19, 800.

More so, the slots available for the programme are also not much to accommodate all the students awaiting mobilization. This clear picture came into play few years back when Kwara State University, made its recent graduates, who were to enroll for NYSC mobilization the following year, to know that 500 slots are available, in spite thousands of graduating students and factually, most students who serve, do so, not necessarily because they want to, but to fulfill the compelled requirement from employers notwithstanding that they plough little or nothing into the job when engaged.

Not relenting, the minister of state for education insisted: “The universities are producing products that are not matching the needs of the industries. I urge the committee of pro chancellors and committee of vice chancellors to end the decline in the standard of education. The SIWES projects introduced for a year’s industrial attachment for students has failed in the universities. It is not doing its role in bridging the gap between the universities and the industries.”

For his idea to win nationwide acceptance, due consultation from experts would be made. But however, the erudite in the academic sector still hold that even if the idea gains acceptance in eventuality, that it would only leave a surface washing of the critical state of the education system.

Anwukah also said  “We are trying to sell an idea, the proposal is to get into our university system the re-schooling concept – that is, you finish your university degree –may be add one more year as a finishing school project. I don’t know how it is going to sell.

“But the idea has come as a result of the failure of SIWES system in the universities. We try to address the relationship between the universities, the industries and the graduates: how they can fit in and we introduced the SIWES project and it is not working and it is not providing that bridge between the industries because the most industries are unwilling to accept most students on the SIWES programme.”
So, the minister unveiled that plans are under way to see whether an extra year can be added, “When a student finishes from the university he can now go out to industries for one year internship for that job”.

To further explain his point, he gave an example: “The law department has one extra year; after the law programme they (graduating students) go to Law School – doctors go for one additional year.”

One thing remains obviously true in his idea, which is a need to reposition the country with the right system of education to be able to produce quality and employable graduates for quality employee seekers

So, he asked: “Are we going to continue with the SIWES experiment which is not working or we are going to brace up to introduce an additional year of re-school whereby you spend that one year in any industry?”
The question is not thoughtful and similarly, the proposed idea is like a race after a fowl. A more intelligent step would be on the path of government as to carefully analyze the issues surrounding the education sector and proffer solutions where necessary.

 

 

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