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Does Nigeria need two ministries of education?

Re-elected Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan is mulling over proposals to split the West African country’s ministry of education into two, according to media reports.

However, an editorial in the Daily Independent cautioned against more changes, saying ‘‘in the last four years, Nigeria has had no fewer than four substantive education ministers, each wanting to score intellectual points by replacing major policies on ground with his own ideas.’’

Early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary, adult and special needs education are all lumped under one ministry in Africa’s most populous country.

A presidential task team chaired by Pius Augustine Ike (Pai) Obanya, former director of the Institute of Education at the University of Ibadan, suggested a separate ministry for higher education.

The Obanya task team produced a report in May, entitled “Necessary First Steps in Moving Education Forward in Nigeria.”

The report advocated the split based in part on the explosive growth of university education in the country.

However, according to a report by journalist Daniel Inodor of the independent Lagos-based newspaper Vanguard, Jonathan favoured keeping one ministry but appointing two or three ministers with different educational responsibilities.

The task team also warned against the creation of more education parastatals linked to the ministry. The ministry already hosts twenty such bodies, including the National Board for Technical Education and the National Commission for Colleges of Education.

The task team also urged speedy action on the national teacher education policy and the new teachers’ salary scale.

The country’s strongly-criticised 6-3-3-4 system (six mandatory years in the primary school, three years in junior secondary school, three years in senior secondary schools and four years in the tertiary institution) was also scrutinised in the Obanya report.

The report said the system should be made more results-oriented.

However, outgoing Nigerian minister of state for education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, told media earlier this year that the system was a failure. Gbagi said he would introduce a 6-5-4 system this year, which would require six years in the primary school, five in secondary school and four in a tertiary institution.

Last month, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was petitioned to investigate Gbagi in connection with claims that he had given his own company a tender to produce school notebooks.

The Nigerian president submitted a list of 34 cabinet nominees to the Senate for approval last week. It is not clear if Gbagi is on the list.

The country’s president has a PhD in zoology. In the first few weeks after being elected he approved a US$ five million grant to the Nigerian Academy of Science to support its work.