Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday said the development of human capital was key to the progress and prosperity of any nation.
Osinbajo made the remark in Lagos while speaking at the “40th Anniversary Re-Union Symposium’’ organised by the 1979 Economics Class of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the symposium was “Alternative Approach to Financing Public University Education for Effective Human Capital Development in Nigeria’’.
The Vice-President said what separated the developed and the under-developed countries of the world was the high quality of the human capital of the former.
He added that the development of the Western countries, as well as the Asian Tigers was not by accident but by massive investment in human capital.
Osinbajo said the government was committed to a knowledge-driven economy, hence its increased investments in the education sector.
The Vice-President added that the government was also implementing programmes and policies to improve access to education, to catalyse the country’s progress.
He described the 10million out-of-school children as an undesirable situation, saying the Federal Government was collaborating with the state governments to address the problem.
The Vice-President said the Federal Government was investing massively in the free and compulsory education for children, for the first nine years of their lives.
He urged the state governments to complement the efforts of the Federal Government by showing more commitment to basic education.
Osinbajo said the government’s school feeding programme had improved enrolment by about 40 per cent and that the government was strengthening the programme to record more gains.
The Vice-President said the girl-child education was strategic to development, saying the government was giving it all the attention it deserves.
“Some studies have shown that girls are smarter than boys.
“Any nation that does not educate its girls is doing itself a great harm.
“How do you solve your problem when you lock up your best minds?
“So educating the girl-child is not only sound economics but can also help to reduce the problem of population growth.
“One of the reasons we have a large population is early marriages and it is because many of these girls are not educated.
“When you educate these girls, you can actually reduce population growth rate. We are committed to the girl-child education and we are doing a lot to get our girls in schools,’’ he said.
On teaching quality, Osinbajo said the government was revamping Colleges of Education to provide the needed manpower for especially, basic education.
He added that the government planned the redesigning of the school curriculums to ensure that education meets the needs of the times.
The Vice-President said the government was also investing in education infrastructure at all levels, to improve teaching and learning.
He commended the OAU 1979 Economics Class for organising the symposium, saying that it would add to the discourse on the need for better education.
Osinbajo urged the class to sustain its advocacy for a better education sector.
The Vice-President said nation-building was a collective responsibility and urged all citizens to contribute their quota to move the country forward.
Delivering the keynote address, a former Vice-President of the African Development Bank, Chief Bisi Ogunjobi, called for increased funding of education to make it functional.
He expressed regrets that the education sector had continued to nosedive owing to poor funding and other issues.
“We used to have a university system that was working. I attended the University of Ibadan, and in those days, the facilities were excellent and the faculty members were great.
“UI was a university of diversity because students from all over Nigeria, including so many countries like Cameroon and Zimbabwe were there at the time.
“What we have now is the “catchment areas’’ system where universities attract their students mainly from particular areas and this has really affected the system.
“Things used to be good, there is need for a revamp in the sector to drive development,’’ he said.
Ogunjobi said the proliferation of universities without commensurate funding had negatively affected the sector.
The one-time Pro-Chancellor of the Adekunle Ajasin University, added that the establishment of many universities to get bragging rights by states was not good for the country.
He said there was need for all stakeholders to initiate alternative ways to fund university education, to guarantee affordability and quality.
Ogunjobi said the academic exploits of Nigerian students in foreign universities showed that with a good learning environment, there would be better outcomes.
He commended the Class for the symposium but expressed the worry that economists were not doing as much as accountants to shape policy formulation in the country.
Ogunjobi, therefore, urged members of the class to join the relevant professional body so that they could contribute more to the nation ,just like ICAN.
The Guest Speaker, Mr Chinedum Nwoko, faulted the use of strikes by university lecturers to make demands from government.
He said frequent strikes had affected the university system negatively and undermined standards.
Nwoko, a Consulting Executive at Policy Associates, a policy advisory and development outfit, urged university lecturers to find better ways to engage the government on issues.
“Also, the government should stop throwing money at ASUU whenever there is a strike. That is not sustainable; you cannot throw money at a problem to solve it.
“There must be practical solutions to the problems of the university system, instead of giving money to lecturers anytime they are on strike,’’ he said.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of the Class, Chief Mark Dike, said the class was concerned about the state of affairs in the education sector.
He said that it was in view of the concern that the class organised the 40th Re-Union symposium to give input to the question of how to improve the sector.
Dike said the class would forward the recommendations of the symposium to the Federal Government for necessary interventions.
NAN reports that renowned academic, Prof. Bolaji Aluko; Vice-Chancellor of OAU, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede and the president of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, were some of the prominent personalities at the programme. (NAN)