Former Minister of Education, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike, in an interview, draws a stark comparison between the national services of the 1970s and 1980s and the current state of affairs. He characterizes the preceding era as marked by a military regime’s squandered opportunities and misguided governance, leading to incomplete projects and a neglect of economic sectors. The sentiment of successive military administrations, according to the minister, was focused on entrenching societal inequalities, prolonging their regime, and overlooking corruption and the weaponization of poverty. He concludes that this generation failed the citizens by pursuing a wrong mission, and upon returning to Nigeria in 1977, he observed a country with a highly centralized government, bloated civil service, and insufficient attempts to heal post-civil war wounds.
In contrast, the former Minister highlights the paradigm shift initiated during his tenure in the 1979-1983 period. This period saw a revitalization of the National Universities Commission, the establishment of mission-oriented universities in Science and Technology and Agriculture, and the reintroduction of private sector participation in education. Policies were implemented to ensure equity in education, allowing each state to have a federal university, and the creation of the “University without walls” or the Open University. The minister emphasizes that the brief period in power during this timeframe was guided by pure patriotism and a commitment to recovering lost years. However, he laments that the military’s return hindered further civilian corrections, contributing to the current state of state capture and impending failure. The distinction lies in the clarity of purpose and the commitment to citizens’ welfare during the minister’s brief tenure.
Politicians determine their own pay, but teachers are paid very low.
Furthermore, Madubuike addresses the prevalent perception among Nigerians that political appointments are seen as opportunities for personal enrichment. He acknowledges the common practice of celebrating appointments with parties and merriment, highlighting the stark contrast in his own approach. When he received his first national appointment, he refrained from throwing a party, emphasizing that his qualifications and track record spoke for themselves. The minister, who had a distinguished academic background and prior political experience, asserted that he did not need a ministerial appointment for survival or comfort, emphasizing his dual address as an elected representative and commissioner in Sam Mbakwe’s administration.
He also sheds light on the dismal state of teacher compensation in Nigeria. He challenges the notion that teachers’ rewards are in heaven and advocates for treating educators well, considering their role in shaping the nation’s future. Expressing concern over the low pay for private school teachers, some earning less than ₦30,000 per month, the minister calls for a contextual understanding of the teaching profession. He suggests that improved education, higher performance outcomes, and better emoluments can enhance the social prestige of teachers. In a broader societal context, he criticizes the prevailing situation where politicians, who often determine their own emoluments, are among the few well-paid individuals, emphasizing the urgent need for amelioration in a society where a disproportionate share of public wealth is concentrated in the hands of a minority.
Comprehensive review of teachers’ compensation needed.
During the period when the professor served as the Minister of Education, there is an acknowledgment of a prevailing sentiment that teachers’ compensation was perceived as inadequate, as reflected in the notion that their wages are metaphorically stored in heaven. This perception raises concerns about the historical and systemic issue of teachers not being remunerated in a manner commensurate with the significant role they play in the educational system. The minister suggested a comprehensive review, implying recognition of the need for addressing the long-standing injustice in teacher compensation.
Additionally, the minister raised questions about the standard of education during that period, emphasizing a broader perspective that extends beyond formal education to include traditional forms outside the formal sector. This neutral analysis recognized the multifaceted objectives of education, aiming at both character development and academic learning. The minister’s inquiry into the adequacy of the curriculum, its relevance to contemporary needs, and its alignment with skills acquisition and modern learning practices indicated a thoughtful examination of the educational landscape. These neutral observations highlighted a concern for the broader goals and adaptability of the education system during the minister’s time, without explicitly expressing personal opinions.
A critique of government spending in this regime.
Finally, the former Minister critiques the hypocrisy of governors who champion state-of-the-art hospitals but seek medical treatment abroad, deeming it a height of self-deceit. Reflecting on the current economic situation, he expresses the expectation that President Bola Tinubu fulfills the oath of office in 2024 to alleviate the hardships faced by citizens. When addressing concerns about reducing the cost of governance during his ministerial tenure, he details measures taken, such as appointing ministers from every state, limiting the use of assembled-in-Nigeria vehicles, and maintaining financial transparency. The former minister highlights personal financial responsibility for luxuries and underscores the stability of the naira during his time.
Ihechukwu MIT: Website