In this interview with Bunmi Oguns, the Country Manager of Cambridge University Press Nigeria Limited, Mr. Lawrence Aladesuyi, explains the consequences of scrapping history from the Nigerian school curriculum, just as he stressed the need for a holistic review of the educational system in the country. Excerpts:
Scrapping history from primary and post-primary school curriculum has really been injurious to our national identity and memories, do you agree?
It was a serious mistake to have removed history from the curriculum, I have been in the field of publishing for almost 30 years . We told the NERDC then that it is wrong to do that. How can you teach a child who does not know the history of his parents, and upbringing. Government should make history part of the very good subjects that students should learn. If you don’t know your history, you are not likely to move forward. It was an error taking history from the curriculum. These days, you see a situation where pupils do about 18 subjects in primary school. When we were secondary school, all these subjects that they have now balkanized into different units-for instance ‘nature science’ and that was what everybody was learning, including biology, agriculture. We called it nature studies and people were learning. Now they go into some many other things.
What advise do you have for the youths on career development?
Youth should be ready to learn and wait for their time. Mentoring is almost out of our system now. Nobody mentor’s any other person. Once you graduate from the university, you want to start riding a flashy car, you are no more ready to wait learn, they should open their minds read. These days you hear of examination malpractices, it is not new but the rate is too high. Everybody cannot be millionaires. Whatever you do , do it well.
What relationship does your organization have with local authors and curriculum experts since it launched into the Nigerian market this year?
We launched into the market on May 1, but before you launch, products would have been prepared to go there. That means prior to May, we have worked with reviewers in Nigeria who are authors, curriculum departments in the state, Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in printing out books for the primary school and secondary schools. We have been working with them and we continuously worked with them because we submit our books for review in the states where we have business. For instance, we have submitted in Abuja, Ogun and Ondo states.
So far, what has been the results in those states?
The results have been good, we do know that there are quite a lot of publishers in Nigeria , we have our books on the FCT booklist, that means these books have been recommended for use in their schools, so the primary and secondary school levels are able to buy and use these books because they have been found good by the states concerned.
What impact have the books had on the schools?
A teacher once called me from Agbara, and told me about how he went to a friend’s house and saw his children using our books, but in the children’s school, they are not using the books, so he said he wanted to buy the books so that the children can use them at home. He has gone through them and found out that the books are fantastic. In essence, there has been a lot of changes that we have seen in the learning process but we know that changes in the learning process take some time to materialise. Sometimes, it takes months or years before you see the effect of what you have started. Its like planting a seed before its germinates, grows and starts to bear fruits. We expect that this will make a lot of impact on our schools.
What move has your organization made to break into schools that are yet to use your books?
We have education representatives in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Oyo and Ogun states and we are trying to expand everywhere in Nigeria. These representatives will go to schools to introduce the books to the teachers so that they can use it for the students.
How have you been able to improve on the quality of teaching resources?
Measuring the improvement of teaching resources can only be done over time, we need to really access them, but we do know that from the little reactions we have been getting , there has been an improvement in understanding. For instance, our people believe that Mathematics is difficult but it depends on the way you take the subject and also on the type of books you use, and the teachers taking you. When you use some type of books, you will see a complete departure. It is much more relative to what we know and what we intend to do. So when you have good books that explain things in friendly manner, that students will be able to relate with and understand, that will make it better for their learning. We need to measure this over time.
Does the distribution of your books cover the northern part of the country, considering that some states are educationally disadvantaged?
Nigeria is a very big country and we will not be able to cover the whole of the country. For instance, we are working in Abuja and going towards Kaduna. We have some snippet of appearance in Nigeria and we have plans to move far further north.
What new innovation has your organisation embarked on to further impact schools?
There is a project that we are doing to know who the customers is, we need to know more on who actually benefits from an enhanced teaching process and who does what. Do we target the students, teachers or parents? The pupils are very important but how do they learn? These are some of the things we are doing and over time, we will get in touch with the schools, move with them and see how we can enhance the learning process.
What is your view about the revised basic education curriculum recently reviewed ?
We told the NERDC that they were overloading the children. There was a project done some years ago at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, by late Professor Babatunde Fafunwa where they taught everybody in Yoruba before they started learning English. Those who were taught in Yoruba performed better at the end of the day than those who started in English. When you talk to a small child, he first think in the native language before interpreting it to English and then saying it out. We should go back to basics and teach our children what is right.
What do you have to say about a situation where some subjects such as Security Education, are introduced into the curriculum and there are no teachers to teach them?
Sometimes we try to run before learning how to walk, eventually, you will fall. There are errors in most of the things government does. What they should have done is that when you are putting somebody to head the curriculum division, there should be a curriculum expert there. It is not everybody that has done education that will be expert in curriculum, there are some people who do educational measurement like the former JAMB Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, when he was there, he was doing well. When you put somebody who is not an expert there, he may end up failing, and that was what happened. For instance, Computer studies, how many government schools can boast of good computer teachers? How many schools do computer at the NCE or graduate level? Even at the universities, so where are the teachers to teach computer? How much more security education and so many other subjects!
So what should be done in that regard?
What should be done is that there should be a wholistic review of the educational system. For example, why did government cancel grade II teachers, there was no need for it. In some states, it was becoming obsolete while in some other states, it was still very good. There are states that don’t have teachers. They should do a wholistic review of the education system in this country so that people can learn. Some of the things we learnt in primary school, you may not see them next year, and it keeps on going. A lot of effort should also be taken towards improving teacher education.
There seems not to be a budget for teacher training programmes in the country, what is your view about this?
There is budget for teacher training but I think it is not been implemented. In some states, they buy books, they don’t have good budget to train teachers. We want good training systems for them, even when you come out from university as a teacher, are you trained to teach in a primary school? Some of the things you find at the primary school level are very funny and you may not even believe them. When a teacher sets exam for a primary two or three pupil, he sets the exam in English but reads in Yoruba language to them, interprets and answer because even most of them cannot even interpret some of those things. It so sad.
What is your projections for the organization for the next five years?
I see Cambridge University press coming first in the committee of publishers in Nigeria. We want education in every state and schools, the logo of Cambridge is to spread education. So we want education everywhere. To achieve this, we have done a fair survey of schools in Nigeria and have our representatives there so that we will know the number of people we are going to work with, schools we are going to work with , and we know the ministries of education there.
Elumelu Awakens Entreprenueral Spirit in LASU Students
The Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) Group, Mr. Tony Elumelu has called on the youths to begin to display entreprenueral spirit and develop strategies that would make them to achieve success in life.
Elumelu who made this known, recently, at the first distinguished lecture on ‘Entrepreneurship: The challenges and Opportunities for Nigeria’s Future leaders’, held at the Lagos state University (LASU), Ojo, said they have to think about the future and weigh the opportunities, adding that they have to be resilient and think of a business plan for the long term.
According to him, “You can think of an idea for the long tem such that after you have made up your mind, you define what you want to do achieve success at the long run. You can dream big and have a milestone. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
He advised the students not to ever give up in their endeavours, as nothing is said to be impossible, while pointing out that he graduated from the university with a Second Class, Lower Division degree, but that did not deter him from succeeding in life.
“Whether you are leading a team of people, or just yourself, your responsibility is to generate, secure or deliver results. I believe you can be a leader at any stage in your life and career, and in any career path you choose.”
Emphasising on what it means to him to assist budding entrepreneurs across Africa, Elumelu expressed his profound thoughts saying: “What value is wealth or money in an individual’s bank account if we cannot use it to positively impact society? The seeds we plant today will help us move the needle as it relates to the development of Nigeria and Africa. Embrace entrepreneurship, develop yourselves as leaders. For your dreams to come true you need to be courageous, optimistic and bold. There are no shortcuts,” Elumelu who was Guest Speaker at the event said.
He called on the students to embrace entrepreneurship as a career, saying, “If you pursue entrepreneurship, your options for advancement will not be limited to just finding a job. You can create your own employment opportunities and create jobs for others. You can help to transform your communities, and the country.”
He advised them to be disciplined saying that in growing, they have to take opportunities and make sacrifices in order to grow well, adding, “sacrifices are meant to give you experiences that will keep you going.
The chairman also told them to be hardworking, be laser focus which is very important for success, and the hungry to achieve it.
“Hunger drives us to achieve greater success. As an entrepreneur, you must be hungry to achieve more and expand, be disciplined to get things done, be prudent; if you don’t save, make sure you invest and ensure a high level of integrity,” he stressed.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode who was represented at the event by the Director of Creativity in the state, Ms. Toyin Ademuiya, said the choice of the guest speaker and the topic he discussed, underscores the thinking of his own administration in strengthening the capacity of the institution and supporting its mission to mould leaders out of students, while commending Elumelu for sharing his knowledge on entrepreneurship to the students.
He promised to continue supporting the university saying, ” education is the bedrock of Nigeria’s future.”
The Chairman of the occasion and the Chancellor, of the institution, Hon. Justice Adesola Oguntade (rtd) in his remarks, said entrepreneurship is an essential topic of great essence given the current wave of youth unemployment in the country. “The choice of the guest speaker demonstrates the university’s passion and commitment to excellence. Tony Elumelu is indeed an icon of success.”
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Lanre Fagbohun, urged the students to follow Elumelu’s advice, who he described as a ‘serial investor and quintessential philanthropist who has continuously impacted on the continent through the creation of jobs and building young Africans in entrepreneurship.
‘Skill Acquisition: Nigeria Graduates must be Job Creators’
The former Vice Chancellor of Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH) , Okitipupa, Professor Tolu Odugbemi has stressed the need for the country to place more emphasis on acquisition of skills that would make graduates to be self-reliant and job creators.
Odugbemi who made this known, recently, during the book launch/public presentation of ‘Experiences on starting a new university in a developing country setting, Nigeria- OSUSTECH’, in Lagos, said much attention seem to be paid on university education to the detriment of other vocational skills relevant to building the economy.
According to him, “It is economic desperation or no other means of livelihood/employment that push majority to seek employment inn universities. The qualifications, experience, skills and background of applicants for employment and admission do not often count.”
He expressed concern that our university curriculum, does not address how graduates could be employers of labour and job creators, adding that the board members/ governing council appointed by the government sometimes do not have a sufficient understanding of the educational system.
The governing council/board members appointed by the government , the former VC said, sometimes do not have a sufficient understanding of the educational system, noting that the various communities also see universities in their locations as their personal property to treat as they please.
Odugbemi stressed the need for background checks on potential team and governing board members, as well as staff and students.
“There is undue and unacceptable interference by outsiders in the running of our universities. Our universities most of the time do not have steady educational policies, no effective rules and regulations. This allows for abuse of various processes for admission, appointment and promotion. This are the factors that make universities dysfunction.”
He expressed concern that corruption has eaten deep into the country’s polity and affecting our universities which should be seen as true centres for learning, teaching , research and community service negatively.
“What roles are universities playing? Researchers have unbelievable huge research topics to address. Imagine the ongoing stories/ allegations on billions of naira or US dollars being stolen by individuals! What are our university social scientists doing? Are these not potential topics for research with outcome of international prizes like Noble prize?
“What about psychologists? Writers? What are psychiatrists waiting for in researching into these social anomalies? The pathologists should be struggling to have pieces of the brain samples of those stealing to detect defects which may lead to discoveries of new syndromes. This is a serious matter.
It is unfortunate that technology in universities in developing countries is not directed at immediate challenges of making escalators or lift function, getting simple means of transportation, finding alternative sources of energy and fabricating or upgrading tools to cool our homes and offices.”
The Head, Department of Education Foundation, University of Lagos, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren who reveiewed the book said the 10-paged compendium is replete with rich pictures of virtually all the activities and events that took place during the tenure of Odugbemi as the pioneer vice chancellor of OSUSTECH.
She emphasised on the achievements and challenges of the author during his tenure saying, “the positive attitude of pioneer VC and his team to the issues of funding and political climate account for the numerous achievements and successes of OSUSTECH during the early years. How else can it be explained that a monthly recurrent grant of N50 million was received when the monthly is N44.5milion?
“How will the plethora of challenges competing for attention be adequately funded? But that is the hallmark of the prudent management witnessed at the institution during the period under review.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, Professor Rahamon Ade-Bello expressed his institution’s readiness to support OSUSTECH, noting that though the challenges of setting up a new university is much, Odugbemi was able to weather the storm and achieved a milestone with his efforts.
“When you hear somebody giving an account of what he has done, which need s to e documented for posterity , he needs to be celebrated. In Nigeria here, the role of the vice chancellor is everything, he is the one that provides water, electricity and ensure that salaries are paid. It is not a mean feat that Odugbemi has achieved,