Our Principal Partner, Professor Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) who is a Lagos Business School Professor of Corporate Governance believes that education has a cost that somebody must bear.
Professor Ajogwu, who is also an Independent Non-Executive Director of Seplat Energy Plc noted also that cost of education is either borne by the student through college loans as is done in the United States or by the community as was the case in the post-colonial era or by the government through subsidies or by corporate initiatives.
Speaking on “Harnessing the Role of Technology in Nigeria’s Education Sector”, at the 2022 Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC)/Seplat Energy education roundtable and Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) award ceremony held on Thursday March 17 in Benin City, Edo State, Professor Ajogwu said that, “What must be avoided is to live in denial of the fact that education has a cost.”
He said: “If we do not fund education, we will pay for it in one way or the other either through strike actions that prolong the set time for academic pursuits or we get substandard education, a big risk on its own. All of these disempower citizens ultimately”.
He told the audience at the event that Seplat Energy Plc has successfully written the cheque for cost of education through the Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) programme.
Seplat Energy Plc implements educational programmes aimed at supporting Nigeria’s effort towards attaining Goal 4 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for inclusive and equitable quality education.
In Nigeria, there is a gap between schools in the urban areas and those in the rural areas, between private schools and government-owned schools, between well-funded schools and those pretentiously “funded”.
The gaps manifest in the quality of the output (graduates), the student to teacher ratio, access to modern curriculum, global acceptance (of the lack thereof) of certifications and certificates, etc.
“Although education at this most basic level is the primary responsibility of government, it is a fact that this is far more than the government alone can cope with, hence the importance of private sector-led initiatives to support education, such as the Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP). I must pause and commend Seplat Energy Plc for the STEP initiative.
“In supporting teachers and providing them with the necessary tools and enhanced skills, they are given the key to reach and teach more based on today’s needs. The STEP initiative is worthy of emulation across different states and by other corporates to be able to create the desired impact and leapfrog Nigeria to the next level of education.
Technology, where properly deployed saves overall costs and bridges the affordability divide for users of educational services. We can leverage the experiences of other jurisdictions and learn from their success stories,” Professor Ajogwu stated.
“I commend Seplat for its energies and time commitment of senior executives in highlighting the importance of education in Nigeria’s development as well as the importance of harnessing technology in pursuit of the education sector. I dare say that this is an ongoing discussion but what is important is the implementation of the resolutions and plans concerning the STEP programme.
“The Seplat Teachers Empowerment Program (STEP) is a proactive step to include technology in Nigeria’s Education Sector. It should realise some of the benefits of technology in our education system and provide authentic learning experiences that will enhance the Nigerian education system,” Professor Ajogwu said at the event.
He further noted that: “In bridging the digital divide between our country and others in the more advanced world, it is important to harness technology in creating an equitable playing ground for students in Nigeria. This would help them compete globally. The use of technology should be built into regulatory requirements for teaching and learning at all levels.”
“Nigeria needs a framework for attracting investments in the education sector and paying the right cost of education. Our teachers need to be well paid, well-trained, and motivated to be able to drive the transformation in education. Harnessing technology for education should go beyond new resources and equipment, to regular assessment of the impact and effectiveness of their deployment,” Professor Ajogwu stated.
Speaking further on cost of education, the renowned Professor of Corporate Governance said “With the strong brand of Federal Government Colleges (FGCs), the State could very well franchise the creation and running of FGCs by investors and bodies corporate (both for-profit and nonprofit). The Government in regulating the schools could be prescriptive of minimum standards such as student to teacher ratio, class sizes, merit-driven regional diversity in the admission of the best from each region, dressing, code of conduct of students and teachers, etc.
“That way, we can encourage the private sector to invest in education provided that they charge the true cost of education. The benefits include the reduction of demand for foreign exchange to pay for tuition and living expenses in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, etc.
By entrenching this new thinking, we could also provide for the less privileged by creating a system where scholarships are awarded to them and the denominator for purposes of calculating the cost of education will be the paying 70percent – thus affording 30percent of students an integrated scholarship system”.
Federal Government Colleges (FGCs he noted was designed to build unity across Nigeria, create a competitive world-class education and a well-equipped workforce of the future based on a current and well-crafted curriculum. “Over the years it built a strong brand. It was proposed that the brand be leveraged to create privately driven FGCs, whilst the Ministry of Education takes on a purely regulatory role, with the franchised schools contributing a fraction of their revenues towards the cost of the inspectorate for purposes of maintaining high standards by the operators,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed that reliance on face-to-face methods of teaching could be challenged at any point in time without notice and hence the importance of access to online learning and teaching resources.
However, this has not been the case for all of Nigeria, with challenges in power supply, the affordability of computers, tablets and other handheld devices and the lag between existing curricula and modern curricula based on innovation and discoveries. Innovation and science provide access to best practices in teaching and the fast-evolving learning platforms across the world. The technological divide between the urban areas and the rural areas must be bridged to provide for equity in access to basic education.
The need to harness technology in research and application and dissemination of knowledge goes beyond the number of computers a school has to the quality of access to data, power (and alternative power) and access to online resources. Harnessing technology effectively means that we enhance the ability to subscribe to different learning platforms and online teaching aids for teachers, to provide optimal education in the context of time and relevance.
“The benefits of technology in an educational endeavour are that it simplifies access to research and the ease of getting current and useful reading materials and other online resources on platforms that are frequently revised. This access to large sources of information on a comparative basis from different parts of the world within easy reach of students and teachers is the highest factor in leapfrogging knowledge,” Professor Ajogwu said.