While other presidential candidates declined the demand by stakeholders in the education sector to present their policies on education, three: Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, at the weekend, presented their programmes on how to tackle the challenges facing the sector.
The presidential hopefuls made their presentations at a meeting of the Joint Education Stakeholders Action Coalition (JESAC) in Abuja.
The JESAC is a voluntary association of eighteen (18) education unions, associations and organizations that cut across the entire gamut of Nigeriaâ€™s education sector.
Its membership cuts across academic and non-academic staff in all our educational institutions. These include the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, and the Association of Primary School Head Teachers of Nigeria.
The group had invited presidential candidates, including President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, to make presentations at the meeting . Only three did.
Ike Onyechere, the national coordinator of JESAC, however, absolved the other aspirants from any blame in not attending the conference.
â€œYes, we sent invitations to everybody (the presidential aspirants). But they donâ€™t all have equal time. When we are doing the third one (conference), we are going to take it round the zones so those who did not present their policies will have the opportunity to do so.â€ Mr. Onyechere told NEXT.
The three candidates condemned the decay in infrastructure and promised to take Nigeriaâ€™s educational institutions to a greater height if elected.
The areas where the candidates stated as needing urgent attention include funding, infrastructure development, staff training and welfare, research, science and technology development, regulation and inspectorate services, as well as education for the less privileged and physically challenged.
Different ways of addressing challenges
The candidates, however, differed on how to tackle the challenges facing the educational sector. Some of the areas where they differed include university funding and provision, funding of research, and the role of the federal government in education.
While Mr. Buhari and Mr. Ribadu in their policies stated that the FG would continue to fund all its universities, Mr. Abubakar stated that if elected President, the federal government would only finance and own one university in each of the six geo-political zones.
While Mr. Buhari stated that educational research funding will be carried out by the private sector, former EFCC boss stated that he would establish a National Research Fund with funding both from government and the private sector.
Mr. Onyechere, the JESAC boss, however states that his association is not limiting its conferences to presidential hopefuls alone.
â€œItâ€™s not only presidential aspirants that will address our conferences. There are other conferences coming up around the zones in Nigeria. Governorship aspirants and local government chairmen will all be called upon to come and tell Nigerians what their plan is to revamp our educational institutions,â€ he stated.