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Education for renewed hope: Examining Prof Tahir’s roadmap

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Education for renewed hope: Examining Prof Tahir’s roadmap

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By:
Ahmad Sajoh

There can be no revolution without the active commitment of revolutionaries. What is unfolding in the Federal Ministry of Education today is truly a revolution. Professor Tahir Mamman SAN Hon. Minister of Education and his colleague the Minister of State Dr Yusuf Tanko Sununu are committed to doing different. Perhaps as a scholar, Prof Mamman understands the import of what Albert Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over again and still expecting a different result. To get a different result, you need a different approach. And that is exactly what the new leadership at the Federal Ministry of Education is doing.

From the 30th of November to the 3rd of December, 2023, the Federal Ministry of Education convened a Retreat to discuss issues around ministerial deliverables and implementation of the Education for Renewed Hope programme of the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR. Essentially the purpose of the intense intellectual introspection was to produce a workable Roadmap for the Nigerian Education sector from 2024 to 2027. The venue was the serene Ibom Icon Hotel in the equally serene city of Uyo Akwa Ibom state.

In most cases the Nigerian experience is that Ministerial Retreats are usually vain talk shops and lavish jamborees devoid of substance. Ministers hardly stay the period of the Retreats. In the case of the Federal Ministry of Education Retreat of 2023 the opposite was the case. The entire exercise was highly intellectual, manifestly practically and intensely engaging. For the two full days of the exercise the Honourable Minister, Professor Tahir Mamman, SAN and the Minister of State Dr. Tanko Sununu were fully involved, engaging during plenary and interrogating issues deeply during syndicate sessions. It was never seen before. The technical team was led by the Permanent Secretary Mr. Andrew David Adejo, OON a very resourceful and committed person who combined Administrative experience with Intellectual capacity effortlessly. It was also a credit to the Minister and his team that they were able get one of the iconic intellectuals Nigeria ever produced to serve as lead Consultant to the project. Emeritus Professor Peter Okebukola happens to be one of the few Nigerian Educationists with a lot of International engagements all over the world. It was a measure of the importance attached to this Retreat that got him to abandon an international engagement to come and lead the process. His presence and the commitment exhibited by the Minister were the impetus required to make the process hugely attractive to the participants and the commitment to get it through manifest.

Talking about participants at the historic Retreat, one is left with a very encouraging feeling that the sector has for once been unified in addressing the seemingly knotty issue of advancing the best interest of Educational development of the country. From the Federal Ministry of Education came all the Management Staff and all Heads of Agencies responsible for driving the Educational development process. The National Assembly was fully represented by serving members and past members. The Presidency was represented by Special Advisers to the President. From the States came all the Commissioners of Education and some of their key officials. From the Higher Institutions came Heads of Schools and practitioners. The Donor community, International Agencies and members of the Civil Society were also fully represented at the intellectual event. It was a gathering of high academic value fully focused on achieving the desired goals.

The structure of the retreat was unique and revolutionary. There were fewer times spent on plenary sessions. Most of the activities were driven by smaller syndicate groups with enough time to dig deep, evaluate much and interrogate further. No participant was allowed to be a bench warmer or a follower. Everyone had valuable inputs to present. In some instances syndicate groups further devolved into sub-groups to narrow the focus and get through the meat in order to get to the bornes of issues under the purview of the groups. It was indeed an exercise intended to make it unique and revolutionary.

In all 13 thematic areas were considered within a framework of four syndicate groups. Group one had ” *Equitable and Inclusive Access to Basic Education* ” as their focus with thematic areas covering 1. _Out-of-school children, 2. Basic and Secondary Education, 3. Girl Child and Education for persons with Special Needs, and 4. Youth and Adult Literacy._ The second Syndicate group or syndicate group two had ” *Education for Jobs”* as their focus area. Their thematic areas include 1. _Technical and Vocational Education and Training, 2. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics and 3. Entrepreneurial Education_ . Syndicate group three focussed on ” *Quality Education and Learning Outcomes* ” with the following as their thematic areas. 1. _Teacher Education, Capacity Building and Professional Development, 2. Tertiary Education, 3. Curriculum and Policy Matters._ Syndicate group four looked at what the organizers termed ” *Facilitating Education”* . Thematic areas consisted of 1. _Education Data and Planning, 2. Information and Communication Technology in Education and 3._ _Library Services._

The lead Consultant Emeritus Professor Peter Okebukola and the Technical team led by the Permanent Secretary Andrew Adejo designed and produced a reporting template that ensures implementable outcomes are the only possible contents that can be captured in the report. The Syndicate groups were to present their reports in a manner that identifies Turn Around Strategies to be adopted, Concrete next steps or Actions to be adopted, Baseline indicators that determine
current situations and Targets to be achieved within Definite Timeframes. In addition to all these the reporting template was emphatic on the need to clearly outline Ministerial Deliverables, determine and outline Key Performance Indicators as well as Responsible Departments or Agencies of government that will drive the process. It was unique, focussed and comprehensive. By actively participating and driving the process personally, Professor Tahir Mamman, SAN had made it crystal clear that failure on delivery was never an option.

Perhaps as observed by the Minister of State on the first day when the exercise closed very late in the evening, that the purpose of the retreat was to provide the leadership a guide, a measurable template and a roadmap to success. Darkness fell before the first plenary ended receiving preliminary reports from the syndicate groups. The next day became tougher. Observations from the lead Consultant Professor Peter Okebukola and the technical team led by Andrew Adejo meant a refocusing and re-evaluation of processes and outcomes. The Hon Minister, Professor Tahir Mamman participated in all four Syndicate groups. The Plenary to receive reports started almost at sunset. When the Honorable Minister closed the session late in the evening it was obvious to some of the groups that more work needed to be done. Most groups went on to continue till very late into the right.

The closing remarks by Professor Tahir Mamman clearly marked him as someone who was on top of the situation. Having participated in all the syndicate sessions, the Hon. Minister picked on all the issues effortlessly. His countenance and demeanor betrayed both his anxiety in seeing to the success of his assignment and the commitment to succeed. No doubt the 2023 Federal Ministry of Education Retreat on the Ministerial Deliverables and Implementation of the Education for Renewed Hope agenda is destined for success.

One unique feature of the Retreat was that all the groups were to determine some quick-wins that will enable the President to hit the ground running in the education sector. Several of such low hanging fruits were identified. While the Minister was emphatic on building a solid foundation at the basic level, a number of the groups identified issues around lack of autonomy in Tertiary Institutions as impediments to effective delivery of mandate by these institutions. Addressing basic education and reducing the number of children out of school was made a top priority by the Hon. Minister. But the Autonomy of Tertiary Institutions was seen as a quick win. Instantly the Minister took the matter up. And the results recorded on Wednesday the 13th of December at the Federal Executive Council Meeting is a huge success story. Many more successes are bound to be recorded within a short timeframe. And such success will surely bring about the enablement of Education as the key to development of the Nation and the sure path to eradicating poverty in the land. That is the promise of the new Education Roadmap.

_Ahmad Sajoh, was a participant at the Retreat and wrote this piece from 35 Oran Street off Olusegun Obasanjo Way Wuse Zone 1 Abuja._