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The Universal Basic Education program: Educating the Educators in Nigeria
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The Universal Basic Education program, the essence of Technology, and well trained Educators: Educating the Educators in Nigeria
The Obasanjo civilian administration recently unfolded its strategy for the implemen-tation of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme, which is expected to take off September/October 2000. Another education program, Mass Literacy Program (MLP), which is for adult education, is expected to operate parallel with the UBE. The UBE program is geared towards the education of school age pupils ñ from primary to secondary levels (The Guardian May 17, 2000; June 15, 2000; The Vanguard, May 4, 2000). These programs are laudable, but teachers cannot perform miracles if they are not provided with the tools to successfully implement the programs. Teachers should be properly trained in modern technologies to enable them educate students who would be expected to function effectively in a modern work environment, and to compete in the global market place. This paper posits that for the UBE and the MLP programs to take off and run successfully, the government should make available well trained and computer- literate teachers, books, enough and modern classrooms, adequate funding to monitor and support the "teaching-learning process in schools," and adequate motivation for teachers (The World Bank: Annual Report on Africa 1998).
We may recall that Nigeria had a similar program- the Universal Primary Education (UPE) - in the 1970s, but the program was a colossal failure, because of corruption and the other factors mentioned above. Given the familiar problems (corruption for instance) in Nigerian polity, how are we certain that the UBE and MLP, which are no different than the UPE, other than nomenclature, would not be hamstrung by similar factors? The government should do more to make the programs succeed, than running around drumming these programs to gain cheap political points. It can start this by restructuring our teacher training institutions, equipping them with modern instructional technologies, training of teachers, and making teaching an attractive profession.
As it has been noted by many social scientists, education and advanced technology are important variables in the development of any society. They are equally essential in the survival of democracy in any nation. As we face the realities of the future, it is clear that "technological age is engulfing education," and Nigerian leaders and educators need to address this "paradigm shift" (Ariza et al, May 2000). Thus, any society that wants its citizens to be competent with the use of modern technologies, has to properly educate the people who are entrusted with the function of the education of the youths in the society. The traditional teacher education program in Nigeria, in my opinion, is obsolete. And their repressive wages is not anything to write home about. The government should change the system to reflect and meet the realities of modern teacher training institutions, where modern instructional technologies are utilized. If we expect our teachers to properly train our youths, who are expected to function effectively in today's modern economy, we should "empower faculty to achieve technology integration in their own classes" (Blomeyer & Clemente (in press). This, the society can achieve, by first integrating modern technology in the curriculum of teacher training program in Nigeria. The teachers, in turn, would then integrate technology into their classroom curricula.
A teacher can only teach what he or she knows. Some people tend to blame teachers for the falling standard of education in the country. But critics missed to understand that teachers can become better teachers only when they are well trained and motivated. As it has nicely been said: "No educational system can rise above the level of its teachers..." (Prof. Pai Obanya, as cited in the Vanguard, May 24, 2000). And no society can ripe where it did no sow.
Currently, Nigeria schools lack any formal and serious plan for integrating computer technology into teacher training programs in the society. But this has been the system in many developed (and some developing) nations for some time now. It is proper to underscore the fact that for the laudable objectives of the UBE and MLP to be achieved, the training of teachers should involve integrating the use of modern instructional technologies, such as the computers, access to the Internet, audio-visual equipments, Video Conferencing, projectors, and traditional software used in today's business world - word processing, spreadsheets, databases, etc. Connecting our classrooms to the Internet is not enough. It is crystal clear that proper "use of technology affects the way teachers teach, students learn, and administrators operate" (Norum, Graginger, & Duffide, 1999). The objective is not to make the would-be-teachers (and those already in the field) to become technical experts, but to enable them acquire the basic computer skills and terminologies most often used by teachers, such as CPU, memory, desktop, keyboard, file, drive, save, and input and output devices. The acquired skills would enable teachers to use modern classroom technologies, and impart the knowledge to students. In other words, when teachers become familiarized with computing environment, they would be able to effectively teach our youths.
As I have noted above, the use of the computers and other instructional technologies have become common place in the classrooms in many civilized and technologically advanced nations. This is not to say that all teachers in these countries are computer wizards. From my experience in the classroom, some of them (for instance, in the United States), still do not know how to save a document on a floppy diskette. But there are an alarming number of people in Nigeria (university professors and high school teachers included) who do not know how to simply turn on a computer. This is shameful and an outrage! Granted that Nigeria (a Third World nation) should not be compared with the developed world. But we cannot make any progress if we continue to pretend that everything is well in the society. If we do not change from our sordid past, we will not become active participants in the ever-changing world. Therefore, there is an urgent need for Nigeria to modernize her educational institutions (rehabilitate the creaky buildings, stock the libraries with the necessary books, computerized the schools, connect them to the Internet, and equip the laboratories).
The simple fact is that our youths cannot become computer literate unless their teachers are computer literate. Those teachers who are already in the field (but lack the needed skills) should be encouraged to acquire the necessary skill through staff development (or in-service training). The staff development exercise should be a continuing process, as education is a continuing process. A priori, in Nigeria there are no setup programs to re-tool (re-train) teachers after graduation from college, so as to update their skills. Yet, the society expect them to perform wonders! As an instructor, I have noticed in many instances that 'old teachers' (those who have been in the field long before the advent of the computers in the classroom) are intimidated by the computers. Some would think that the computer would "break" if they "punched a wrong key" or pressed very hard on the keys (Wang, May 2000). But teachers (and traditional students) in the US, for instance, are encouraged to acquire computer skills with moral and financial supports (they are provided with loans to enable those in need to upgrade their skills). Support is a major part in making any changes in life. I would like to recommend the same for our society. It is therefore essential to provide our teachers with moral and financial support in their quest to acquire computer skills. More importantly, those conducting "staff development" for teachers in Nigeria "must consider the feelings, fears, and anxiety of the learners" of the computers (McKenzie 1993). In other words, the educators who are entrusted with providing computer training to teachers should not pose as technical experts, to avoid intimidating the learners. They should try to make the business of acquiring computer skills a fun experience for them. Convention dictates that teachers need to feel comfortable with the computers in other to use them, and to incorporate them in the class-room. As Wang has rightly noted, "In order to get teachers hooked, training needs to stimulate teachers' curiosity and engage them cognitively" (Wang, May 2000). Teachers would normally be motivated once they perceived the computers as useful teaching tool.
Implementation of the Universal Basic Education program
As I have noted, the UBE program is intended to provide universal, free, and compulsory education to every Nigerian child of school age, up to the secondary school level. Given the importance of the program and the amount of resources it would gulp, its implementation should not be left in the hands of our greedy and corrupt politicians, many of who often claim to have solutions to every problem. If we leave this program in their care, we would undoubtedly be pouring all the money earmarked for the scheme down the rat hole. A key issue in the success of the UBE program is that those who are trained in the art of educating the educators should be elected to organize, manage, and supervise the program. In other words, those with proven experience in organizing and managing educational institutions should be given the opportunity to manage and implement the UBE program. As Aristotle has rightly noted:
"... each man judges correctly those things he knows about; it is of these that he is a good judge. In every subject it is the man educated in it who judges correctly, and the man of good general education is the good judge in general" (Aristotle, as cited in Bambrough, not dated).
Again, the UBE program can achieve its purpose only if people of probity are elected to take charge of it. This is because one of the reasons why most of the previous well-intended educational programs have not succeeded in Nigeria (for instance, the UPE) was that the projects were left in the hands of the politicians (and military personnel) who were not trained in the art of organizing and the managing of educational institutions. In other words, they were inexperienced in the practical side of educating the educators. And given our resource constraints and rising school-age population in Nigeria, the government should (to ensure the successful implementation of the UBE and the MLP programs) develop strategies to lure the private sector and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to participate meaningfully in this scheme. The private sector (at least in developed nations like the United States and Britain), as we all know, is a major consumer of the products of educational institutions. In the United States, for instance, Microsoft, Apple Computers, IBM, and other business giants are partners in the educational process in the country. They make constant input on the type of skills the institutions should produce, given their need for such skills; they also assist the institutions by making monetary and computer donations. In addition, for the successful implementation of the UBE program, school buildings (modern classrooms) to accommodate our teaming school-age population, should be made available. Nigeria's business elite can help the program by erecting school buildings in poor communities. And to support and integrate technology in teaching and learning, the government in partnership with the business community, should initiate development plans to rehabilitate our creaky educational infrastructures in which instructional technologies could be supported.
Although all the nations educational institutions in Nigeria are in dire need, the most troubled is the primary education. Currently, there are about 2,015 primary schools in Nigeria with no buildings of any type; classes are held under trees. How can our children learn under this uncomfortable and dehumanizing conditions? There are about 48, 242 primary schools in Nigeria, with about 16,796,078 students in public schools, and about 1,965,517 in private schools. In addition, Nigeria has about 7,104 secondary schools, with 4,448,981 students (Dike 1999). These levels of our educational institutions (primary and secondary), which have creaky structures, are the ones to benefit from the UBE scheme. This, program, undoubtedly, would not achieve its objectives under this condition. We are all aware that good education and useful skills would contribute to poverty reduction, by "encouraging long-term domestic investment and attracting foreign investment on the assurance that the viability of investment would not be jeopardized by macroeconomic instability" (The World Bank: Annual Report on Africa 1998).
To ensure transparency and accountability, which are other important keys to the success of the program, the government should de-centralize the management of our educational institutions. The people at Abuja should not dictate for the local education administrators how to run their own show. The major function of the gods at Abuja should be to setup standard (laws) that would govern the activities of these local administrators, and make sure that they follow and maintain the standard. In particular, the UBE program should be de-centralized for proper supervision. For schools to be properly supervised and taken care off, local and state ministry of education should play major roles. The ministries should be adequately financed and properly staffed to enable them perform their traditional functions of supervising and monitoring of schools. More importantly, for the UBE program to succeed, the government should haste and 'address the diminishing status of teachers' by providing them with adequate remuneration and training. How can a human being work effectively under an unappreciative and stressful condition? Without improving their state, even the most pious and dedicated among the teachers would give up.
The UBE and MLP are programs can make huge differences in the lives our people, if they are well implemented, financed, and supervised. And teachers should be well trained and motivated. In advanced nations, for instance, teachers are encouraged to integrate technology into their curricula to enhance teaching, and improve student learning. But like every other aspect of life in Nigeria, our society is lagging behind in this. Our leaders should know that the technology revolution in education is here with us, and it is here to stay for good. We cannot achieve much at this age of the computers with our old-fashioned and outdated model of chalk and blackboard. All the educational programs in the world with good intentions would be impossible to implement successfully n Nigeria, if teachers are not adequately trained, motivated, and without the necessary resources. With education as an important variable for the survival democracy in any society, it is practically impossible for our citizens to achieve their highest potentials in a thick fog of ignorance. In fact, it is easy to measure the quality of education in any country from the state of things in that society (their homes and roads, the quality of service in their public sector - offices, ports, schools and hospitals). The state of the economy, the political system, the type of politics practiced, the quality of her goods, and the management of its human resources are other measures (Dike 1999). Thus, the Nigerian government should respond proactively to the calls for the socio-political and economic changes in the society. It can begin by first improving the state of our educational institutions and giving our teachers the training and income they deserve.
Ariza, Eileen N. et al (May 2000). "Uniting Teachers to Embrace 21st Century Technology: A Critical Mass in a Cohort of Colleagues." The Journal; Vol. 27, No. 10, May 2000; pp.22-30.
Aristotle (with an introduction and commentary by Renford Bambrough). The Philosophy of Aristotle; (not dated); A Mentor Book; p.287.
Blomeyer, Robert and Rebecca Clemente (in press). Technology Competencies: Implications for Educational Leadership. In R.L. Blomeyer and D.C. Martin [Eds.,] (in press) Teach, train, and transform, Philadelphia: Falmer Press.
Dike, Victor (1999). Leadership, Democracy, and the Nigerian Economy: Lessons from the Past and Directions for the Future, The Lightning Press, Sacramento, pp.54-55.
McKenzie, Jamie (1993). Creating Flexible District Technology Plans, FNO; The Educational Technology Journal, 3 (6), February 1993, pp.2-10.
Norum, Grabinger, & Duffield (1999). "Healing the Universe Is an Inside Job: Teachers' Views on Integrating Technology and Teacher Education, vol. 7, No. 3, ACCE, Charlottesville, VA
The Guardian (May 17, 2000)."Govt. to solve classroom needs for UBE, say minister. The Guardian (June 15, 2000)."Motivate teachers for UBE, govt. told."
The Vanguard (May 4, 2000). "FG organizes nationwide seminar on UBE."
The Vanguard (May 24, 2000). "Children, youths must benefit from UBE ñ FG."
The World Bank: Annual Report on Africa, 1998.
Wang, Yu-mei (May 2000). Training of Teachers Using Computers: A Process of Familiarization, Utilization, and Integration; The Journal; Vol. 27, No. 10, May 2000, pp.66-74.
Victor E. Dike, who is the author of The Reprise of Democracy and Political Life in Nigeria (forthcoming 2000), teaches at the American River College, Sacramento, CA. Please E-mail comments to: email@example.com