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My initiative, IREN is improving education quality – Academic, Bala

Engr. Abubakar Bala, 29, a first class graduate of engineering from Bayero University, Kano (BUK) is one of the founders of the Initiative for Revival of Education in Nigeria (IREN). The Kano born academic who is pursuing his PhD in Malaysia, spoke about IREN and its visions for Nigeria’s education sector.

What’s your assessment of the education sector in the country?

Any keen observer of the Nigerian education sector would admit that we are performing far below par. We are operating an obsolete and isolated system. We have unfortunately failed to move with the world. Our contemporaries like Malaysia, Singapore and India have enhanced their education sector. I think more is to be expected especially at the tertiary level of education where I have been as a student and a staff for over a decade.

What’s the idea behind the formulation of IREN?

The Initiative for Revival of Education in Nigeria (IREN) with registration number CAC/IT/NO 87299 was formed in 2014 by a quartet of myself, Abba, Ameer and Dahiru, and have since steadily grew to almost 35 active members and counting. Most of the members are working in academic institutions. While studying abroad at that time, the quartet was concerned with the wide gap in the quality of education between Nigeria and that of our host countries. Thus, the NGO was formed in an attempt to revive education within the country.

IREN’s main vision is to become a think-tank group in giving policy advice to Nigeria’s governments. We have executed some projects which include a school debate conducted at government secondary school stadium in Kano. We have also written numerous articles concerning education on our blog at http://irenonline.org/blog/

How can IREN make the required impact in Nigeria?

We believe that efforts such as that of IREN can be a driving force in fixing the problems affecting our institutions of learning and help restore us into our rightful place in the world.  We are also pushing for the constant revision of curriculum by tertiary institutions. We have recommended infrastructure development especially the student hostels, which unfortunately looks like overcrowded prisons. Moreover, we also recommended that the accreditation team of the NUC should involve some external/foreign panel members and should be carried out as unannounced visits. We believe that if NGOs such as IREN speak loudly enough and also use its resources to make some impacts, Nigeria will be a better place for us all.

Is there any sort of assistance you’ll need to succeed?

Most of IREN’s activities have been sponsored from the pockets of its members.   IREN’s activities would be greatly improved and make more impact if we get sponsorship from governments and other NGOs alike.

Where do you see IREN in the years to come?

In the future we see IREN becoming one of the main policy advisers to governments within the country.  We wish to have a chair at the NUC and also committees of education at the upper and lower chambers in order to give needed inputs. With enhanced funding, we also envisage that IREN would be able to assist in infrastructural development in schools and organize more inter-school debates.

There’s still a gap between school enrolment in Northern Nigeria and its southern counterpart, how can this be bridged?

Many have attributed this gap to our failure to accept the secular/western education early. Because it was mainly promoted by Christian missionaries and Islam was and is still predominant in the North. Yes, this is partly responsible. However, free education and free school meals would only temporarily improve enrolment. We need to look beyond that.  We need to create a social orientation. The governments should organize yearly essay/spelling bee competitions and reward winners handsomely.

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