By; PROF YUSUF AL-HASSAN
In his introduction, Prof Idris Bugaje stated very well that “No nation can rise above its level of education”, I can’t agree more.
He congratulated the President-elect, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu believed his “election had raised the hope of all Nigerians that “the educational sector will be repositioned to become functional in its output, productive to the Nigerian youths and stable in its operations.
Beautiful, again, I can’t agree more. He continued, “It is in this respect and having played some role in both the Ministries of Education and Science and Technology in the past 12 years, his memorandum was written “to appeal to the President-Elect “to make key restructuring of these two Ministries if Nigeria is to rise again” Brilliant. I love it.Restructuring Two Ministries According to Prof. Bugaje, “The Education Ministry is probably the largest Ministry in Africa, with mandates covering both basic, secondary and tertiary education (Universities, Colleges of Education, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Specialized Institutions, etc.). Additionally, “the non-formal education sub-sector consisting of Nomadic Education, Adult Education and the upcoming Almajiri Education Commission, etc, etc, too many to mention. “The Ministry of Science and Technology (recently they added ‘innovation’ to their name), on the other hand, is one key ministry that is still struggling since its creation to give Nation one single innovation technology product that Nigeria can and the rest of the world call it a Nigerian. “It has 17 Agencies and Research Institutes under its supervision gulfing tens of billions of research budgets every blessed year”. While I am inclined to agree with the standpoint of the Professor on the need for the restructuring of the Ministry of education, more so, if the restructuring will facilitate a transformative agenda that will catalyze the reform of the educational landscape in Nigeria. However, the proposed bifurcation of the Ministry into the Federal Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Federal Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education may not be the deliverer that leads the education sector to the promised land.
To be clear, the writer’s exposition for the restructuring is sound, as we strive for a society that thrives on knowledge, innovation, and technology. It is crucial to recognize the importance of a functional and fit-for-purpose Ministry of Education that will take the initiative towards building a responsive and sustainable education system in Nigeria that will address our developmental needs. However, it is rather two-dimensional to espouse for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI) to be subsumed into the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, especially in a time when the developmental challenges bedeviling Nigeria calls for a more dynamic, targeted and multidimensional approach to solving our problems scientifically, and technologically. We are now in the era of the global technological revolution, where societies that embrace science and ICT as drivers of economic development are more likely to thrive in the globalized, knowledge-based economy. As we may be aware, Technology is moving at unprecedented speed, to the extent that it is changing the whole world. Any individual, society, and nation that failed to change with modern technology will be obsolete. You look at nations like the US, UK, Europe, Japan and South Korea. The developed nations such as the United States of America, Britain, France, Germany etc., are nations where scientific and technological advancements are the main drivers of their progress.
The latest prime example of a developing nation is Emirate of Dubai, with a breaking record in Science, Technology and Innovation. Dubai is not a country of it’s own , but, it is One out of Seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It got it’s independence in 1971 from United Kingdom. Despite that, it’s the fastest growing Science, Technology and ICT hub in the world today. It single handedly launched two (2) Satellites into space. Today it has the largest number of FOREIGN RESEARCH SCIENTISTS AND ICT EXPERTS IN THE WORLD. Therefore, in order for Nigeria to BE THE NEXT DUBAI OF AFRICA, it needs to keep up with a renewed focus on strengthening and enhancing entities such as the MSTI that promote ICT rather than subsiding this important function into some mere appendages of an ‘all-encompassing ministry’. Based on its mandate, the Ministry of Science, technology and innovation has the role of facilitating the development and deployment of Science, Technology and Innovation. This’s to enhance the socio-economic development of the Nigeria. In the modern context of development, this is an existential task, any country that relegates the absolute pursuit of science and technology in its development agenda, does so at the risk of its future viability as a nation. It may therefore prove more apt that rather than dismantling the MSTI, we should focus on leveraging its strengths while addressing its limitations. It is strikingly clear that Nigeria is lagging behind in the global scheme of things, despite our God given endowments. We have a huge population, an enviable reservoir of human capital; (the best minds in Africa’s diaspora abroad are Nigerian) and yet the country’s technological prowess is still abysmally low. For instance, on the Global Innovation Index (GII), Nigeria has consistently in the last seven years been ranked very low, Nigeria ranked 114 out of 129 economies in 2019. Our learning institutions have not fared any better. Our Universities are ranked very low in terms of Science and Technology. We have failed to break into the top 500 of best universities in terms of Science and Technology. Our private sector is also grappling with the slow pace of our technological progress. One can painfully recall the near collapse of our ICT infrastructure when the government sought to roll out a cashless policy and how our Technology struggled to cope with the technical demands. In essence, we are in an era where Scientific and Technological advancements drive progress. The existence of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is imperative to serve as the foundation for fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and addressing societal challenges now and in future. I would thus recommend a solidification of the Ministry as against relegation. I would venture to endorse the restructuring of the Ministry of education towards one Ministry overseeing Early-childhood, and Elementary which transcends both basic & Secondary Education. This feature is a mainstay of foundational education in developing countries like Nigeria. The second Ministry would focus on Higher institution and Research, with a view to harness the energies of tertiary bodies towards imparting knowledge that is focused on human capital development as well as fostering research and development in all spheres of human activity. This path if charted appropriately could set the motion for a transformation of education into an enable of development in Nigeria.
Prof Yusuf Al-hassan was a Special Advisor Vocational Education Development to H E The Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje