Prof. Paulinus Okwelle, the Executive Secretary, National Commission of Colleges of Education, NCCE, says the country’s Colleges of Education, COE, will soon go into extinction if its conversion to universities is not stopped.
Mr Okwelle made this known in Abuja on Wednesday at a National Summit on the Future of Nigeria Certificate in Education, NCE, with the theme: ”Nigeria Certificate in Education: The Way Forward”.
He said that the continuous conversion of COE to universities had continued to pose a major challenge to the existence of the NCE programmes.
According to him, NCE is the minimum teaching qualification in the country and as such must be placed its core value in the teaching profession.
Another challenge to the existence of NCE programme is the spate at which colleges of education are being converted to universities without recourse to the provisions of the National Policy on Education.
”A few states recently converted their colleges of education to universities of education without informing NCCE as a supervisory body on how to graduate those students enrolled into NCE programmes before the conversion.
“At the federal level, there have been bills being passed at the National Assembly for few federal colleges of education to be converted into universities.
“This development needs to be revisited to avoid NCE from going into extinction thereby creating negative consequences for the whole education sector,” he said.
Mr Okwelle said that the parameters and criteria for conversion of any tertiary institutions needed to be well spelt out and commonly agreed upon by relevant stakeholders.
He said that the law establishing colleges of education as practiced in other climes could be amended to allow mature ones to operate on a dual mode, thereby, offering NCE programme and degree in specific courses; the capacities to run the programmes.
He also expressed worry over the proliferation of illegal NCE institutions as well as few universities running NCE programmes without approval.
He said that a committee was set up to look into these challenges and reports drawn from it had been harmonised and would soon be forwarded to the minister for consideration and further directive.
Mr Okwelle also bemoaned the appointment of unqualified principal officers by proprietors of colleges of education, saying that this had also contributed to major challenge in the sector.
“There are established cases of non-educationists being appointed as provosts of state and private colleges of education.
“This does not augur well for the image of those institutions and the country as a whole.
“This summit is hereby requested to come up with a framework that will promote the appointment of only qualified educationists to head the colleges so as to provide needed leadership in all NCE awarding Institutions,” he said.
Also, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu called for collective responsibility in repositioning and strengthening the quality of education in the country, saying “NCE is a strong pillar for the basic education level’’.
Mr Adamu, who was represented by the acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry, David Gende, said that the quality of human development in any nation was dependent on the quality of its teachers through whom government policies were interpreted and implemented.
He, therefore, called for the need to have effective and qualified teachers to be adequately prepared for the teacher education institutions.
He said that this would help in having skillful teachers in the classrooms at the basic education level.
“Teachers we all know, occupy a central place in the teaching/learning process and NCE being the minimum teaching qualification at the Basic Education Level in our country.
“Implicit in the theme is the desire of the NCCE to join hands with other major stakeholders on education to address the disturbing concerns on the consistent waning and fading of the image, value and status of the NCE.
“Thus, making it less marketable today, especially when compared with what it was at inception, extending to the 80s and 90s.
“It is therefore envisaged that stakeholders will provide the needed platform to brainstorm and chart a way that will reinstate NCE to its past enviable old days of glory,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria, like every other nations of the world, is mindful and in tune with the global rapid socio-economic transformation and so reflected accordingly in our Economic Recovery Growth Plan.
“In line with this reality, the ministry remains religiously committed to the implementation of the African Charter Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals 4.
“Coincidentally enough, quality teachers form a critical component for both. This summit could therefore not have come at a better time,” he said.
The minister however said that if the theme of the summit was appropriately addressed, the country would be able to focus on getting it right for primary teacher education.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Dr Aminu Suleiman, said the committee would continue to partner with the commission to give NCE its due attention.
The Director-General, National Teachers Institute, NTI, Prof. Musa Garba called for the need to promote the status of NCE as well as the quality of the product of NTI.
In the same vein, the President of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, Dr Smart Olugbeko, said the union was ready to partner with the commission to get education right.
Mr Olugbeko, however, said that some lecturers in the colleges had not received salaries in the past nine months; a development he said would not advance the course of educational development in the sector.
He, therefore, called for the need to address all challenges the sector was faced with headlong.
The heads of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, TRCN, NERDC, among others were present to deliver their wealth of experiences to advance the sector.