Friday, January 16, 2009

Egwu’s reforms

DR. Sam Egwu, former Ebonyi State Governor, was a most unlikely candidate for a ministerial seat. He told the Senate, during his screening, that he farmed out electoral materials to members of the National Assembly during his party's primaries, without which, he said, some of them would not be in the National Assembly.
An allegation elicited this revelation. Someone said Dr. Egwu, as governor, did not relate well with members of the National Assembly. He flatly denied it, and used the electoral assistance he provided to some of them as a perfect score of his chumminess with national legislators from his state.

Many Nigerians were embarrassed. Today, he is the Minister of Education and decidedly taking wobbly steps in an important assignment.

This brief is part of the story of the man, who in his first meeting with a delegation of our university vice-chancellors, threatened to sack some of them. He said they were clogs in developments this administration wanted in education, something he called the reform agenda of this government.

What is the content of the education reform that Dr. Egwu would commence with sacking vice-chancellors? Would his new vice-chancellors come from places other than the same universities that endure the systematic destruction most of our public institutions face?

Universities have degenerated. Which of our institutions is sound? What specific reforms does Dr. Egwu have in mind? Which vice-chancellors are the obstacles to the reforms?

The most memorable thing about this government’s agenda for education is its mismanagement of a nationwide teachers’ strike last year. Many of our children missed their school certificate examinations over the strike. A government in which the President, Vice-President and the former Minister of Education were once teachers nibbled at some contrived constitutional provision as its reason for not negotiating with teachers. It still negotiated with the teachers after wasting everyone’s time.

Dr. Egwu, who taught agronomy at a university knows that even if universities run without vice-chancellors, government must fund them properly, discipline the workers who are its employees and ensure that university products are educated.

A wholesome condemnation of vice-chancellors and the belligerent attitude of the new Minister of Education are not solutions.

Unless Dr. Egwu has programmes to make education meaningful again at all levels, his tenure would end in anonymity like his predecessor’s. Changes are necessary in the educational system. Without changes, the system may finally collapse. However, the changes must be relevant to the needs of the people, otherwise they are useless.

If Dr. Egwu is perceptive, he will soon discover that sacking university leaders is the least of his challenges.