Prof Ruqayyatu Rufa’i: A shining light in education sector

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By Bashir Bello Dollars

Sometime early this year when Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai the Minister of Education and her counterpart the Minister of State for Education Chief Nyesom Wike at a summit in Abuja presented a fresh agenda to the nation for the transformation of education in Nigeria, a blue print strategic plan to be implemented over a four year period from 2011- 2015, which is in line with president Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda. Many pundits were actually skeptical about the fresh agenda. But few months into this transformation, the analysts are beginning to see the ray of light in this clear cut blue print, as the minister has within the shortest time been able to showcase her vision for the much needed transformation of the declining Nigerian education sector.
The one-day retreat which attracted the education ministry directorate staff, heads of parastatals and agencies, as well as vice chancellors, rectors, provosts and principals of Unity Collages , no doubt brought about a chance meeting of gurus in the education sector of the country.
It will be recalled that after the appointment of his ministers, Jonathan had tasked them to articulate short-term plans that could be implemented within one year. This prompted Prof Rufa’i to come up with this laudable strategy for the sector.
Taking into consideration the drawbacks of various previous plans by past ministers of education the new roadmap has been drawn from the recommendations of the presidential task team on education with measurable targets and timelines. In addition to access and equity, standards and quality assurance, technical and vocational education, education and training, as well as funding and resource mobilisation as priority areas, two new areas, strengthening the institutional management of education and teacher education and development have been added to the road map, with technical and vocational education and training (TVET), guidance and counseling, as well as quality assurance receiving greater attention. To cap it all and ensure it success, a National Education Quality Assurance Commission was initiated.
One of the speakers at that retreat, Executive Secretary of the Education Trust Fund (ETF), Prof. Mahmod Yakubu, described Jonathan’s education transformation agenda as “very well articulated” and “the most comprehensive in our recent history.” Speaking on behalf of herself and the minister of state, Professor Rufa’i said they “are ready and prepared to provide quality leadership and political will to move the education sector towards the path of growth and development, in line with Mr. President’s transformation agenda and the expectations of the good citizens of Nigeria.” And so far this gracious amazon has not only provided quality leadership and political will in moving the Nigerian education sector; she has equally proved that her vision for the education sector this time around was for real.
Perhaps no one sums it better than the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) Prof. Godswill Obioma who was one of the speakers at the event when he opined that. “We bemoan the past. This is not in the spirit of transformation.” I am sure Nigerians are tired of the lamentations and would want to see the transformation too. Or haven’t we been described as ‘easy to govern’ and ‘people with few needs’?
With the launch of the four-year plan document, it can be held that the implementation of the plan is on course. More than ever, the federal government is now paying serious attention to the infrastructure deficit in most of its Universities. Funds have been released to some of the universities to this effect in the last one year.
The implementation of the strategic plan no doubt will ginger up the lower levels of education in the country. An indication of this was the recent launch of the Almajiri education programme, aimed at removing over nine million Nigerian children of the Northern extraction from the streets; a much needed succor to these long neglected children, who over years have become a pathetic sight across our major cities across the country. The Vice President Namadi Sambo seemed very elated by the successful take-off of the programme, no wonder he advocated its replication with some adjustments in the South East geo-political zone, where he said the rate of school dropout has reached an alarming proportion.
While assuring Nigerians at the unveiling of the plan Ruqayyatu had said that the plan represents the education component of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda. According to her “We must return our institutions to their years of glory when they produced individuals who are today directing affairs in diverse organizations all over the world,” she said with sincerity, adding that. “We as parents are proud of the type of education that we received from our institutions during our school years. I promise you, fellow Nigerians, that the 4-Year Strategic Plan for the Development of the Education Sector, will address these shortcomings.” she promised.
According to the minister, key areas of the plan include guidance and counseling, teacher development needs assessment and teacher professional development, Monitoring of learning achievement, and quality assurance. She added that with the on-going construction of 102 model schools for almajiri’s, the federal government is “moving to the South-East to launch the campaign to target the challenge of boy-child education.”
She said that special schools are already being constructed targeted at girl education at a cost of over N2 billion. In addition to this, Prof. Ruqayyatu assured Nigerians that the document earmarked about N15 billion to the construction of new laboratories and rehabilitation of old ones in the 51 public polytechnics across the country.
If the present tempo of implementation of the strategic plan is maintained and adequately implemented as plan, there is no doubt that the education sector will pilot the way in the overall transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, and bring about the much needed revolution in the country’s education arena, much thanks to Prof. Ruqayyatu and her amiable team, who since her incursion into the nation’s education ministry has stood firm in her resolve to win back our past glory of producing individuals who are capable of directing affairs in diverse organizations all over the world.

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