Obiageli Ezekwesili is the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN). Below are her thoughts on fixing Nigeria’s university curricula and vocational education.
Upgrade of university curriculum
Our entire wealth, growth and poverty reduction strategy is hinged on getting education and human capital development right. Our government will upgrade the curriculum in our schools to align with 21st century needs. We are still stuck in the past as things stand. Our university curriculum, for instance, needs to be directly linked to the labour market so that as we notice sources of present and future growth of the economy, we immediately think of the kinds of skills that must be deployed.
My administration would also prioritise early childcare for those at the bottom of the pyramid. We will innovate with public and community funded schemes to enable the children of the poor have solid early child care and pre-school education. One of our signature programmes when we get elected next year would be TwentyToTheRanking which targets the transformation of 20 Nigerian universities to ensure that they feature in the rankings of the top universities in the world in seven years.
Our government will grant full autonomy to public universities. This cowardly control of universities does us no good. We would continue to fund our public universities with grants that will be linked to performance, results and accountability. As the universities begin to be innovative with how they raise money, the federal government under my leadership would develop a solid financing model to support students that will be a combination of financial aids, scholarships and student loans.
My administration would also integrate accomplished Diaspora Nigerians who would serve on the faculties of our local universities. They do not have to leave their current employment. But we would enter into partnership programmes with their institutions abroad such that they could teach in several Nigerian universities at once with the help of multimedia and teaching assistants.
Human capital development does not revolve around acquiring a university degree alone. Not everyone can or will attend universities, but every single Nigerian can get a skill. That’s why our @ACPNHOPE government would be launching a massive national skills program called Get-A-Skill (GAS). The target of GAS is to train at least 900,000 Nigerians annually in diverse skills.
In my time as Minister of Education between 2006 and 2007, I was already extremely worried about the mismatch between youth burgeoning, unemployability and limited economic opportunities, such that our team designed a major skills development programme that introduced a new level of certification to our education system. We designed and added Vocational Enterprise Institutions and Innovation Enterprise Institutions as national certifications accredited and regulated by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
There are currently over 200 Vocational Enterprise Inst. (VEIs) & Innovation Enterprise Inst. (IEIs) which are imparting skills in areas as diverse as cosmetology, welding, fashion design, electrical installation, paralegal studies, film & TV production, hospitality, among others. However, 200 VEIs and IEIs are not nearly enough for a country as large as ours, especially as it has become so difficult to get skilled hands to drive important areas of our economy.
The government has to be more actively interested and invested in training and skills. Whereas in 2007, our goal was to produce a minimum of 300,000 such market-sensitive skills annually, we shall be bolder in pushing an agenda to triple that number to 900,000. My government will push the GAS programme in partnership with the private sector to ensure more such institutions come on board. We need more schools to meet the needs of the construction sector; more technical schools to meet the needs of the telecoms sector; science, technology and IT, more schools to meet the needs of the agriculture sector; oil & gas, financial services, trade & logistics, and many others.
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, vocational education