I got two calls yesterday morning, both from people who had sensed my passion for education and wanted me to hear a live broadcast on the educational reform agenda for Nigeria. One of them even informed me that he would have been willing to listen to the broadcast and prepare a documented summary for me, if wasn’t scheduled to travel. Before I go on to share my thoughts on this programme (Presidential forum on Education) which I watched till the end, I’ll like to remind the readers on this forum of the importance of having a vision, and making your passions clear. People will remember you when opportunities come in the line of your vision. If you didn’t watch this broadcast, you better read this, and if you did, you need to comment.
I listened to the broadcast with rapt attention, shuffling channels to see if I could get clearer coverage from other channels. Unfortunately, only NTA captured the event, and somewhere down the line AIT. I’ll also like to comment on this. I remember being on Funmi Iyanda’s show last week and discussing how our decisions not to watch our own indigineos stations create a spiral that consistently wears down the quality of people and programs in our stations. In her words, we are the architects of our collective catastrophy. I’ll shed more light on this in another post.
First, I was thoroughly impressed by this broadcast. I had heard a lot of perspectives being expressed about the minister ahead of this broadcast, but this broadcast allayed most of those perspectives or comments that were demeaning. It was clear that a lot of thinking had gone into the concept of the reforms. One slide came after the other of well thought out strategies and action plans for repositioning education in Nigeria, for restoring sanity to the ministry, for empowering the parastatals, for public private partnership in management of some of its arms e.t.c. Sincerely at a point I thought she was reading from a proposal I just got in the week before the last :). Summarily I was impressed with the agenda, some of us are so passionately concerned and willing to volunteer our lives to redefine and upgrade education in Nigeria. I was also impressed that many agencies publicly confessed that she (Obi Esekwesili), had consulted with them.
The second thing that tripped me, was Mr. Presidents facilitation of the comments and suggestions session. While Mr. President publicly alludes to being a farmer, I was thoroughly impressed by his detailed knowledge about the activities of the ministry of education both in his present tenure and even in the past. I have heard people with some modicum of respect for the president say that his real intelligence lies in his ability to recognize the people that would do well in a position, while I give that to him as well, I came to see that the president is actually more intelligent and more detailed than many would dare to admit. His interjections, counter comments, and praise of good points left me a bit prouder of him than I have ever been. I’m not one to sing unnecesary praises believe me, but if something is good, lets call it good. Please, Please, Please.
There were some things I didn’t really feel good about though, one of them was sycophants – some people have nothing to say and just enjoy saying it. I hope Mr. President and the honorable minister know and can distinguish between praise for action and praise for praise. I also was not impressed by the contribution of the president of NANs (The national student body), I would have expected more directional thought from him, rather he ranted about how politicians rather than technocrats have overall leadership over educational institutions, in my mind I wondered wether he wasn’t a politician. He also openned his mouth to say that they (students) were against privatization. I wondered if he understood what he was talking about. You know, it pains me when I think we have exceptionally smart students in these schools, who have their priorities mixed up by facing their “education” solely while leaving opportunities like NANs presidency to *******.
One thought that kept ringing my head throughout the presentation however was this. The ideas and visions were good. The problem with Nigeria is not in the absence of good ideas, it’s in the execution of the good ideas. I suggest that the ministry do the following now, when the momentum is still high.
1. Develop a communication document out of the summary of this forum and make sure that this information is available to all stakeholders. I would suggest that this be in print and available online speedily. When the direction is known, execution looses one more excuse.
2. Develop an online journal of this event and type of events, and set up a poll system where people can unashamedly document their alignment, differences and ideas to further move things forward. The objectives are noble, I wish I had a document now that summarizes everything, it won’t take me 1hr to develop an online journal to publish it.
3. Break this overall vision down into subvisions for each of the parastatals. In order to achieve any objective set from the top, each of the functions or units under the head need to have goals that make the overall vision achieved. This state is not achieved by accident, it doesn’t just happen. Organizations are perfectly designed for the results they achieve. To translate this vision into reality, each of the parastatals vision must align with the Ministries. This calls for vision and strategy sessions with heads of parastatals and minsitry functions. These are the people who will carry the vision to completion even if the portfolio of the minister changes. They need to own it. These should further cascade down to the deliverables of the last man in each of those parastatals. When the cleaner in NASA was asked what she was doing in NASA, she responded, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”. When vision and strategy are properly deployed, that’s what happens.
4. The point made about setting up some innovative institutes, these were to include Adire institute of Technology, an institute of Technology for Oil and Gas, ICT institutes e.t.c. Working groups need to be formed for all these immediately that will be public-private partnerships. India’s revolution came from setting up just one institute -ICT. These ideas are nice on paper, but systems need to be set up to ensure that they come to fruitition. One of such systems is to ensure that progress reports are placed in the face of the public. What is not defined cannot be measured, what is defined and publicized usually will get done, I believe thats the power of accountability.
I am a strong believer in the school of thought that information is the bedrock of development. I am not yet in the corridors of power (I’m somewhere around the veranda :)), but if I was, I’ll get these thoughts across to leadership. I believe that our educational system has opportunities, serious opportunities. If with the way things are today, many rejects and averages from our system go out to top their classes in the west and the east, then we have so much opportunities and potentials we need to tap.
If you know anyone who can act on this, feel free to share the information, and if i’m needed, I’ll be more than willing to assist.