The outbreak of Covid-19 brought a new normal in the way things happen around the world. Every sector of the economy was forced to adapt to a new way of living in order to save humanity from the ravaging effect of covid-19. National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) devised a strategy which has helped them to adapt to the new normal. The director in charge of information, legal and corporate services of National Commission for Colleges of Education, Dr. Mainasara Kogo Umar explains to news men how the commission has been coping with the pandemic. Excerpts:
Let us meet you officially
Mainasara Kogo Umar is my name, I am the director in charge of information, legal and corporate services of National Commission for Colleges of Education.
Q. Colleges of Education in Nigeria, now we have short break and will be resuming any moment from now. What are the experiences you have had during the Covid-19 lockdown?
A. You know Education sector or college sector or Nigeria as a whole cannot isolate itself outside the global elements. The Covid-19 is a global issue it is something nobody envisaged. It just came and forced us to go into certain adjustment. In the Education sector the main adjustment we were forced to go into has to do with this issue of adoption of information and communication technology, because social distancing is the order. We must respect the decision of the World Health Organization and Federal Government of Nigeria in institutionalizing some of the Covid-19 protocols:
For example, the issue of general closure of schools. We generally closed the schools in compliance with the Federal Government directive.
Secondly, we set up monitoring team to go around all the colleges of education to ensure that there is absolute respect and implementation of the Covid-19 protocols in all the colleges of education as well as teacher education institutions.
That is, those institutions that are offering teacher education courses and this team went around and monitored and ensured that we have isolation centers. Apart from isolation centres, we have positioning of wash hand equipment, hand sanitizers, enforcement of facemask, application as well as restructuring of instructional facilities as well as classes environment so that there will be space. Apart from that, we ensure that we have a coordinated committee who will be giving rapid response regarding any incidence of the symptoms of Covid-19 so that it will be rushed to the nearest centre for clinical trial as well as area we can get response especially, If it is addressed as covid-19.
But so far so good because of the measures we have taken we have not seen record number of covid-19 victims.
I think I should commend provosts of colleges of education, the support we have gotten from teacher education committees across the country generally by abiding by the preventive mechanism imposed by the government regarding the covid-19 pandemic.
Q. Soonest schools will be reopening, so what do you expect to sustain the result we had, before the season’s break.
A. Yes, when the schools are reopened, we have not gotten the instructions yet from the government, we are waiting for the federal government to determine when to open for the federal institutions, and the state government for state institutions. As soon as we get the alert we will swing into action to again rush and monitor to ensure that what we know has been in place is serially invigorated and standardized, so that it will not just to establishing those things but getting them up to standard by ensuring that there is absolute compliance.
What we expected to see is, we have lost almost one session, but the lucky side of it is that the education sub-sector happens to be the most; I don’t want to use ‘the word that it is the one to be praised but really, we are nationalistic remains in our operations.
We didn’t go on strike like in the case of the universities, in case of the polytechnic system.
We have very sound good understanding of the working mechanism, in other words the spirit of sacrifice for national interest is the driving force of the unions in our colleges of education system. So, we really teamed up with them, we will continue working as a family to see how we can look at our curriculum to see whether the academic calendar can still be sustained the way it has been or whether it shouldn’t be sustained.
Luckily, most of our academic activities have remained undisrupted.
And we will continue with them. Where there is the necessity for us not to be in the class we have already gotten adequate ICT devices to be doing Tele-teaching, Tele-instructions.
We don’t have much problems really in the education sector especially in our colleges of education. We have the problem of funding, the inadequacies of fund which is everywhere.
Q. The university are going to lose a session, does it mean that you are not going to lose anything?
A. We are not going to lose anything because we have abridged our system. Right now, universities are not in session. Though the universities own are different from our own; they have to really work hard to see whether they will bring up abridged strategies to be able to recoup what has been lost or whether they should just close the line, then think of new plan. I don’t know and we cannot speak for them.
But the area I know is that of our colleges. Everything is sound, on a forthrightly basis we interphase with leadership of various institutions to be able to be projecting the interest and aspirations of those colleges members and leaders to the government; as regulatory agency between the government and the colleges.
Q. You said your organization has some challenges, continue from there.
A. The main challenge we have; let me say three main principal challenges. The first we have is the challenge of encroachment into the area of our constitutional mandate. NCCE was established by act No.3 of 1989 and the colleges were established by different individual acts, different from 1967 – 64, down to date. Each college has its own act establishing it. The main challenge we have has to do with, like I told you encroachment into our mandate.
You will discover some institutions that are not colleges of education offering NCE. For example, National Teachers Institute, for example some universities, for example some polytechnic you will discover them running NCE programmes.
And you will discover as well, even as much as encroachment, I will talk about overzealousness on our own family members. Some of our own family members, some of our own colleges too. You see them offering degree course too. So, you can counter me on that too. That is one area there is difficulty in restricting ourselves within the confines. But I am glad to inform you that we have presented a bill before the National Assembly for the amendment of the act of NCCE itself and the colleges of education.
This bill will be a revolutionary legal framework, that will go as long way solving most of our problems, for example, number one we will have the mandate to superintend on all aspect of teacher education.
In other words, even university or polytechnics, any institution; we will be the ones to go and accredit the courses related to education. We will be the one to give you the license to run those courses; to accredit and ensure the resource or quality control of the facilities as well as enrolment.
Number two the emendation if approved by National Assembly and the president will give our colleges of education the latitude to run degree courses. In other words, what we call dual mandate; concurrent with the NCE we will run degree courses. In other words, you can go to the college finish your NCE and start your degree straight ahead.
Number three, we are proposing to be insulated out of TERTFUND so that we would have what is called teacher education fund.
It is this teacher education fund that will give us the ability to have adequacy of resources to expand the scope of our own educational hemisphere.
In other words, we will be able to have enough funding to upgrade the infrastructural capacity to be running degree courses; more laboratories of higher magnitude, since what we need for NCE is quite different from what we need for degree for laboratory test and capacity building for the members of staff. The lecturers themselves will have the latitude to rise up to professorial level and may be later come to raise the bar of minimum qualification for you to become a lecturer in the colleges of education.
As of now its master’s degree and teaching education, a membership of a teaching profession.
By the time we get that funding we will be able to embark on capacity building for our teachers. And then we will be able to be at par with global norm, in other words, the ICT.
Globally speaking, you cannot succeed if you neglect ICT. We will look at avenues where we will have international linkages and cooperation through which we will be able to be having international support, international exchange of manpower, resources, equipment. That is the reason why NCCE have restructured departmental settings; instead of five directors we now have ten directors.
One of the departments newly created is called educational support, which will have the latitude to scout anywhere in the world to be able to do peer group comparative kind of analysis that is why Singapore is progressing, that is why Japan is progressing, that is why Sweden is progressing. All those third world countries that are supposed to be our mates, why are they developing in industrial setting, educational attainment.
We will be able to now do what we call peer group comparative analysis and we will be able to use the funding to see how we can upgrade in line with challenges of the 21st century.
Another area of challenge we have is inadequacy of enrolment. Most people don’t want to go for NCE. I must be bold to admit this problem we are having.
Everybody will like to go for degree, but gratefully the President, Mohammadu Buhari, last year October 5th during the international teachers’ day, unveiled quite a number of fantastic packages. One of which is new salary scale for teachers and the second is scholarship bursaries for anybody that want to undertake a course in education.
And the third one is a provision of housing or building accommodation for those that want to go into teaching profession. And the other one is special pension package for teachers. Then there is a special retirement age increase in the retirement age of teachers by five years. Whether it is the birth or age in service, it has been increased by five years.
There is the issue of automatic employment which will solve the issue of unemployment in the sector.
So, all this and many other things the government unveiled will attract patronage for us, so that more people will be interested to become a teacher. Instead of the popular adage that reward of the teacher is in heaven, the president is telling us that the reward should be here.
It is my humble optimism that all necessary legal framework and administrative arrangement should be quickly made. I am glad that in the 2021 budget estimate of the government, the president approved some of these incentives in the budget.
So, it is hopeful that there will be honest implementation of those promises made by the president
Q. Thanks you sir for your time.
You are welcome.