The Role of Government in Education Policy Making Masterclass with Mr. David Andrew Adejo

Miva Open University Masterclasses are among the many amazing offerings that set the university apart from other universities. Our Masterclasses provide students with an exceptional opportunity to learn from and engage with industry experts and accomplished professionals. These engaging and inspiring conversations bridge the gap between academic knowledge and real-life experiences, reshaping students’ perspectives and igniting a newfound motivation to excel.

In this masterclass, Mr. Adejo shares his insights and expertise on the role of government in education policy-making.


Aniekeme: Good morning, everyone.

Andrew David: Good morning.

Aniekeme: Thank you so much for being here today, and thank you so much, Sir, for being here today. This is Masterclass at Miva specifically focused on public policy and administration. We are so grateful to have Mr Andrew David Adejo, The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education here with us today. In his over 34 years of working as a Civil Servant, Mr. Adejo has worked in different government agencies, including the Federal Department of Forestry, the Federal Ministry of Finance, and as a Special Assistant on Infrastructure and Energy. He has also worked with International Development Partners, including The United Nations Development Program, UNDP. Mr Adejo possesses a degree from the University of Jos as well as an MSc in Crop Science from the University of Maiduguri. Mr Adejo’s civil service career has taken him across several fields of public administration to the ranks of Federal Permanent Secretary, and we are so honoured to have you here to deliver a Masterclass at Miva. Thank you so much.

Andrew David: It is also my honour to be here, and a privilege for me to be here. It’s just that at least you can give me the benefit of knowing only your name at least. I mean everybody here knows my name so that I can talk to you face to face.

Aniekeme: Definitely. I mean, you are our honoured guest, so the introduction must begin with you. My name is Aniekeme Umoh, I’m the Vice President of Operations here at Miva Open University.

Andrew David: My pleasure.

Aniekeme: Thank you. So I have a couple of questions, of course, for you. And then the students who are joining us online and those who are here with us will also have some questions. So we’ll just go through it…just have a conversation.

Andrew David: No problem.

Aniekeme: Alright. Wonderful. So to start off, I’m always curious to know, did you always want to be a civil servant, especially given what you studied, in undergrad and in your MSc?

Andrew David: Honestly, I never wanted to be a civil servant. I wanted to be a lecturer. After my first degree, specifically, I wanted to be a geneticist. After My first degree, I finished my youth service. My university gave me the position of a very good assistance, and that was in 1988. That is when the country started having issues financially. As at then, Civil servants were more comfortable in terms of pay than the lecturers. I am from a family of about ten

I’m a 1st child. So I decided that it would be unfair for me to go into lecturing or to have academic pursuits because my father used to be in the army, and he was one of those that was just thrown out of job due to one policy or the other. So I felt as a first child my responsibility, no I can’t continue in lecturing because it’s sacrificial as then not now lecturing is no longer…I’m sorry to say. So that’s what brought me to civil service. When I got to see into civil service, I made up my mind. I’m gonna stay in service until I’m 50-55  then I will find my way out. But you know man proposes, and God laughs at us…

Aniekeme: And here you are, 34 years into civil service.

Andrew David: Almost 35 right now. By December, I’ll be 35 years in service. So that is the story. So, yes, I didn’t set out.

Aniekeme: Well…so since you’ve been in it, even though it didn’t set out to be, I’d be really curious to know what are some of the core principles that underscore, public service and governance in general, maybe specific to Nigeria as well.

Andrew David: I’ll take you through on 2 levels in terms of what are the core principles, and how are we applying these core principles? 

But first thing for a civil servant is that he must be impartial in any judgment. Irrespective of what the situation is, you must show impartiality. You must realize that civil service is seawatch. It’s the service and that’s how it was construed from the days because the Chinese gave us what we know today as the civil service, they are the building blocks of the civil service.

Then you must also embrace transparency. You must be honest either to yourself or your subordinates as well as your principals. You also have to be professional in your job, whatever you do. And that is why for me a scientist doing administrative functions. 

Then I think the most important one is that you have to be accountable. Accountable because it’s a service. So you need to let the people you are supposed to deliver those services know how you are doing it, why you are doing it, even if you don’t like it, you have to tell them. So I think broadly speaking, these are the principles you have to hold on to as a civil servant.

Aniekeme: Okay. So you had mentioned how the economy and the landscape of Nigeria in general changed from when you were younger to even now. I’m curious in your years of public service, how have the rules and expectations of a public civil servant evolved over time?

Andrew David: Thank you. First, if you want to look at the evolution of rules and expectations of public civil servants over time, we’ll go back a little to, well I won’t go to pre-colonial, but take it from colonial…independence. The role of a civil servant has always been the same; Providing guidance to government in developing policies for effective delivery of services. If you look at all our constitutions from 1960  till now, there’s something it says that you have to provide services to the people in this and that. So the role of the civil service is to make sure that whatever policy has been put in place by the governments of the day, whether it’s military, whether it’s political. Your goal is to make that policy light to people. So the roles have never changed. But what has changed is the expectation. And the expectation has changed because of dynamics of economics or social or what they call political economy. Why that expectation has changed is first it is expected from independence till the economy started fumbling that as a civil servant, you need a conducive atmosphere to do your functions, to perform your work. And one of those is that you are assured of a house, you are assured of your living wage. And you get to a stage,  you are assured of cars or whatever.

And that was why immediately the colonians left, we discovered that top civil servants were staying in what they call European quarters. A civil servant was never bothered about leaving, feeding, all those things. But little by little, especially after the Murtala Purge where you have to take out Civil servants, core, dedicated that did their work without thinking of how my tomorrow is because his tomorrow is assured. They were all purged out. So the people following said if this can happen, I have to take care of my children. So it started changing the mindset of those people that are now getting to top positions. And that for me, the reaction to that purge that was ordinarily supposed to be cleansing, started putting the building blocks for corruption in service. Because take it or leave it, we work for 2 things – to satisfy ourselves and in satisfying ourselves, we have to be sure that you finish school, you graduate, you should be able to get a job, and when get a job, you should be able to go to the market, buy food, and so on. So that expectation started changing for the civil servants, and that affected their behaviour. But the good thing is that somehow, God adjusts the system or system adjusts itself. We the civil servants started developing mechanisms that he is not going to be corrupt, But he is going to live sustainably, and that led to reduced quality of service delivery. 

I’ll give an example. The federal government by our constitution is not supposed to be directly involved in the implementation of certain things. Now, for our responsibility as federal government in civil services to provide policy guidelines for operation of any sector and to monitor the implementation of those policy guidelines by the states. But you discover that because the dysfunctionality created a system, if the federal government says it will just do the policy and sit down, the state will never implement it. So the federal government now got into direct implementation and that led to the establishment of various ministries, ministerial departments or agencies – If you will, parastatals.

And in doing that, those parastatals basically took off functions that should have been done by state governments. And were directly implementing it and because the state government completely advocated that responsibility. So I think those are some of the things I think are wrong with it. The role of a civil servant has never changed. It’s only the fact that because of the expectations of a civil servant who is no longer guaranteed of a comfortable life either when working and after work that has led to some tinkering off the roads of a civil service.

Aniekeme: Understand. To the accountability and the trust…

Andrew David: Transparency, yes. That is why for instance especially in a political era, the politician comes. I’ll talk to the minister for education. I want a university in my village. What a civil servant does is, what population do you have that can attend that university? How accessible could it be? What are the possibilities of expansion? Many, many considerations start to determine. And if it doesn’t look great, he says, okay. No, this university can’t be established. 

But what happens today, National Assembly passes the legislation, XYZ University is established. And it comes down to the ministry. If the permanent secretary is not strong to say no this cannot work, the pressure will be so much that he will say, okay go and establish a university there. But at the end of the day, you sink a lot of government resources that should have been used better somewhere else. And people don’t need to school there for whatever reason. So those are some of the things that one could say it’s a dysfunction in the system.

Aniekeme: I’m so glad that you for making the segue into education because that’s the next line of questions I’d like to dive into. So I think all of us here really would love to know about the key educational policy trends and innovations that the federal government is currently focused on.

Andrew David: Okay. Thank you. First, you look at the transition of policy formulation in the education sector. Before 1969, before 1977, there was no policy on education nationally. So by 1969, there was what we call a national curriculum conference. And that conference came up as a result of the fact that people in education sector then, felt that, the curriculum being used in school is not appropriate for national development. So they gathered a seminar of experts in 1973, which led to the national bodies in 77, revised in 88 with the last one being 2004. And the key trust of that policy was aligned with our national goals.

And the key thing about national goals as at then in the first, second, third and fourth national development, was to have a Nigeria where we live in unity, no segregation, sovereign nation. So the trust then had been further captured in our constitution. If you look at Chapter 2, the one that talks of fundamental objective and directive principles on state policy, Section 18 states that government free education and primary level.

So first, there’s a universal primary education. There’s free education for Nigerians at all levels. That’s what the policy is. So as it is today, whether it’s primary, secondary, tertiary, no Nigerian is expected to pay tuition fee for education.

I remember my 1st year in school. I think with 50 naira, I was having fantastic breakfast, another 50 naira lunch, 50 kobo (sorry) so education in Nigeria has been free until the economy showed up. And when economy showed up, political economy showed up in 84 I remember before we went on strike, Babangida decided to remove I can’t remember any score. So I don’t know whether it was subsidy or what but he stopped the feeding. So it brought in private caterers to provide feeding so you go the caf and stuff like that

Aniekeme Umoh: At the university?

Andrew David: Yes. Okay. So, eventually, because the caterers are business people, they are not into social services, and also cost of maintaining university started increasing so university started introducing 1 service charge or the other – pay for fuel, pay for this. So from then till now, the policy has been for the federal government to provide free education. As a matter of fact, it has been running with a vision to create an economic model for the country that provides opportunity for every Nigerian to achieve what they can achieve.

Over time different administrations pull out their own policy to guide education but it has never deviated from those basic principles. The last set of administration for the 2 years, 2 terms they stayed, ran on what we called Ministerial strategic plan (2016 to 2019) and (2020 – 2024) and those were anchored on what we called 3 major objectives:

1 is to increase access to education.

2 is to improve the quality of education, and

3 is to strengthen the systems for delivering education. 

Within those three key objectives rank through From out-of-school children to basic and secondary education, to science technology engineering and mathematics, technical vocational education and training, tertiary education curriculum development, education planning and information services, integration of ICT into education and all. When this administration came again, Minister of Education Tahir Mamman is an educationist and Minister of State decided that, no, we need a road map. That the problem with all this former sectorial policy, there’s no practicality. And you don’t go to school because you want to say I went to school.

You go to school because you want to work, so to say, and in working, you are contributing to national development. But today, we have Close to 75% of people that went to school outside of that work. So the focal point is that we need to focus on employability to make sure that Nigerian universities train much. So we set up a committee that has come up with a report. That report was subjected to stakeholder engagement on October 19th in Abuja Sheraton hotel and it came up with 13 core issues to focus.

It included entrepreneurship and education for out-of-school children. So we now looked at those and said, look it’s not gonna be safe thinking you want to carry the problem of people, problem of your world that’s not so great. So we are working towards this. It is not out in the open yet we are having a retreat for key education players in Uyo between November 30th and 2nd ; we want to focus on only 4 critical areas.

Aniekeme: Out of that 13?

Andrew David: Yes. And because if you want to take the 13 at once, it is not going to be..

So the first is out-of-school children. Out-of-school children also include girl child education. The second is employability of our graduates. The third is technical education. That is to be able to make sure that we have curricular that uses the German model of education.

From primary school, these things have to be done. Of course, the fault is shattering because the honest truth is that we don’t have teachers in quantity and in quality. For the past 15 – 20 years. Everybody that goes into teaching, goes into it as the last choice. And immediately they get an option, they leave. So we want to bring back that commitment. There are a number of incentives that have been put in place.

Aniekeme: Okay.

Andrew David: So I think those are the 4 focus we want to push out. Of course, that does not mean other things will not be done. You will discover that once you deal with that, the other little things like curriculum, we are going to be reviewing it but it’s not introduction of other language and all those things will join because there’s already a national policy of the use of mother tongue in our junior and senior secondary.

Aniekeme: Okay. So amongst the things that will join that,  would you consider the student loan program? Can you speak a bit about that?

Andrew David: The students loan fund is already running. What I mean running is that what is delaying is, we don’t want to run into the problem previous ones have been running into. And that is people collect loan, and they disappear. So it’s no longer revolting.

Aniekeme: Yeah.

Andrew David: So that’s why we are working with the central bank, the chief of staff office is leading that. The initial plan we had was to roll it out in October. We have a bursary system already; a Scholarship system. Let’s just use whatever principles is there for 1 year so that we can come out in October exclusively. For the scholars, we’ve not witnessed up to 1% leakage.

So hopefully by January, the students loan fund will kick off but it’s not gonna be an all-comers affair. For instance, my child cannot benefit from it.

Aniekeme: There is a policy against it?

Andrew David: Yes, because you see what happened before, even till now, we give scholarships to people to go and do studies overseas. And you discover that most of the people benefiting are children of permanent secretaries, ministers…They should be able to train their children.

So what we are trying to do is and that was one of the slacks we have, and we now changed tactics. We need information on your parents’ status. Once that information is in, there’ll be a cross-referencing with the university students affairs department. So it’s those kinds of connections, and for instance, you must have gotten admission. Not first-year admission. You must have gotten admission to get it. We’ll cross-check with jamb, there’s that interconnectivity because jamb already has a system that is very secure. So we need to connect it with the system that is being developed. We all know what computers are these days, it can hack anything.

So those are things they are guarding against because for now that jamb system is, if you now introduce the student loan fund, it’s exposing the system to more threats. So the student loan fund is on and you recall that the money that was prepared for it was small, and in the supplementary projects, the international assembly had to take money out of somewhere and say no instead of buying the story of the yacht which was wrongly presented in the press anyway, it should be added to the students loan funds – 5 billion.

Aniekeme: Great. I think this would be a good time for us. We want to make sure that our learners also get the opportunity to ask you questions. So if you have any questions here. Yes, please.

Andrew David: Innovation, I will take it from 1st Republic. 

Innovation has become something that we can call the federal civil service strategy and implementation plan. Each ministry has been active. We now have the reform coordination and service improvement department  in all ministries, and each ministry has been asked to set up an innovation mission. For the past 3 decades, we’ve been building competitions for civil servants on innovation. What we want there is to bring up innovative ideas. For instance, that will ease the workflow of enormous civil servants. And in doing that, at least we have been able  to get some good innovations that we are testing.

One of them was managing the pool system of vehicles; they’ve done that manually before. So they developed a software that can be used to monitor vehicle movement. While that cannot be pushed further is because of the cost benefits. Now federal government doesn’t have too many official vehicles. So if you put into another, it’s something that’s gonna look like we are wasting resources. Another one that was very striking was for waste conversion, and right now what the head of service is doing is helping the lady that developed it to look for investors to buy into it.

At the civil service level, we are serious with innovation. At the National level, one problem I see we have in Nigeria is we always want to do what the other person is doing because he’s making money. I challenged the polytechnic sector when I first came; I said look, what you do with your knowledge of technology gives you more comfort than what those professionals do but you are busy pursuing that polytechnics don’t award degrees. You should pursue the fact that as a polytechnic you can bring out a product. Link up with a private investor that will sell these things out.

The opportunities are there. I’m sorry to say, our tertiary institutions are no longer doing research. So that’s what the government is doing is that we are encouraging universities to get grants from overseas anywhere.

So resource is there, and I think at the in-between level or across all board. There is this Israeli firm along Airport road, they are training Nigerians that have good innovation. It is just like a boot camp; when they do their screening, they invite people, and they’re training them for innovation. So I have the personal experience with somebody. That’s where the problem is, we are not truthful.

This young man came with a fantastic profile. It was a personal investment. He’s an Abuja citizen and was in the news for some time. So I said let my team get him and we got him. And he said this is his problem he needs to get certification from us. And As I said, okay. You are from Abuja, your village is where we will set this up, we agreed.

So that means I’m not going to pay for the land. Your land is your father’s own. So what I’m going to pay for is to do an assessment and we have to go into a partnership. I will be responsible for funding, you have the technical brain. Yeah but because he so young he cannot manage, he’ll look for a manager. We agreed. When it now came to putting naira to kobo,  the first thing he threw at me was that he needs to buy a land for 5 million naira… So that just put me off, I said this person is not serious.

I remember for a time if you watch your advertisements, you see a lot of South Africans doing local adverts. You know what happened then? Nigeria…..they were charging dollar for naira rates. So that is why you notice that, Nigerian faces gradually started disappearing from our adverts. Some of the time we’re not truthful. The dollar has gone gaga. You go to the market to buy garri, the woman will tell you dollar has gone up.

You are just like… So those are the things that fuel our innovation. If you have a sincere heart, I guarantee you, there are Nigerians that are ready to support innovation. But when you see someone to help you, the first thing that comes to your mind is you want to first make some money. No. Some of these points require a lot of sacrifice.

By the grace of God, if you hear my personal story, you will not think I’ll be in service till now. I have people that went through the same thing and they just left. So the government is serious about innovation and as a ministry, unfortunately….But I know that as the ministry, that is what they want. This minister now is coming from the private sector so he understands the rush for innovations. I hope I have tried to answer your question.

Emmanuel (Miva Staff): Yes, I have another question. What do you think about reducing the use of papers in our offices?

Andrew David: Yes, one of the policies of the civil service now is all offices should become digitalized. The office of the head of services is digitalized. I started an experiment with digitalization in my ministry. The problem is the service provider I got gave us a solution that was not going to meet our needs. And for you to do digitalization, you need an electronic content management system. 

I said no, I am an above average computer user so if I have difficulty in leaving my work environment to go and work outside, then as far, it doesn’t work. So what we are doing now is we are exploring the laserfiche technology. Laserfiche is an electronic content management system that will help in digitalization. Ministry of transportation is almost digitalized now. The Water resources is trying. We started something. We are going back because all these ministries, their staff strength is less than 40% of my staff strength. So the civic service is digitalizing our work processes.

Aniekeme: We have some questions from the online audience. So I’ll just give them to you one at a time. Okay. So the first one is what were the key considerations in terms of Policy development put in place by the government for the student loans scheme?

Andrew David: The student loans scheme did not come as a policy decision. It came straight as an act of national item. When the president chief of staff was the speaker of the house of reps, he pushed for the bill that was made into an Act and on June 12th, it was a symbolic day where I was with the President, that was when it was signed. Now the key considerations in the Act are one, every Nigerian student that wants to get a loan will get a loan.

Two, there must be a governance structure to guide the loan. There must be conditions to be satisfied before you can benefit from the loan. One of the things that happened when the idea first came out is what people were seeing outside was the bill that was submitted to National Assembly. As I speak to you today, the Act is not in public domain because when we looked at it from the reaction to the bill, as government we got some bugging…we need to revise this Act, which is already ongoing. And one of the things we needed to do because initially, what was there has got to do with the payments. And we looked at it that this payment period cannot be feasible because it was then looking at payment after graduation. So after graduation if you don’t have a job, so what do you do? So we are taking that in link the payment to getting a job. And we’re also looking for a strategy or means that is acceptable to the beneficiary in making sure that when you get a job from day one you start repaying, There’s no breathing space, from day one you start to pay it, so the strategies and all those things. I’m sure when the revised the new Act comes up, it will answer most of those questions.

Aniekeme: Okay. So this is kind of on the thread of that; how will the policy be communicated to the public and how will they actually be, enforced? And are there any incentives that are put into place to ensure compliance, particularly with the payments?

Andrew David: Well, I think…we don’t put incentives to ensure compliance. We put in a consequence management system.

What that is; first, before the loan comes out, once it becomes in operation, for such things, there’s always a communication strategy. And that communication strategy will deal even the national orientation. Like I said, the team working on it is looking at strategies and the Act was to contain consequence management to make sure that if you take a loan, you will pay. Because your guarantors will go beyond you; people that will sign off that you are a student in their university.

I don’t know yet but there must be something that you cannot have the original copy of your certificate until you finish paying the loan. There are things like that. I don’t know what will come out yet, but those are things that are being looked at.

Aniekeme: Nice. Sounds good. So this is another question from the audience. So it ties to this concern about jobs after you graduate. So how are we trying to train directly to solve the economic problem? So the person gave an example, will we engineer our curriculum, for example, to solve the problem of food insecurity.

Andrew David: You see, if first like I said, that we are trying to make sure that what people learn in school from primary to university is what we need to… and all this stuff. So these are things that from primary, secondary, and you know the idea of basic education…so by the time you finish your JS,  if for any reason you cannot afford to go to senior secondary school, you have already learnt a skill.

So that is what the curriculum will fill for. Junior secondary school has been filled. It is the senior secondary school that we are working on now and the National Secondary School Education Commission did a draft but they are yet to send it; so that would take care of employability to some extent in terms of making sure that we train people for the economy. 

Specifically, for food security. I don’t think we need any special training in that. I say that because first, we know most of the problems. Most of our farmers are small-scale farmers. Most products they produce perish because of lack of storage. So what do we need to do? The ones we even produce, let’s learn how to process them first. And I don’t think we need training to process. What we need is resources. 

Resources first to increase our farming size areas, there are researches. A small-scale farmer cannot do 25 hectares if he doesn’t have support. So for food security, I think what we are doing is to move more into mechanized farming. By the time we move into more mechanized farming and have resources, a bag of fertilizer, I think it’s NPK costs about 25-30,000 now. 

Aniekeme: Alright. I’m just cognizant of the time that we have. I just want to ask this one last question from our online audience. In terms of civil reform, how do we ensure more innovative and experienced person gets the job done?

Andrew David: Thank you. So to me, I understand that the civil service has a structure to realize, to put in the best in the best but the problem depends on the person; it’s attitudinal. For instance, I was the level 10 officer giving instructions to level 12 and 13 in the UNDP program. I never felt bossy to my superiors. So because of that, even when I’m giving them directive… I say oga abeg na you go help me do this one... I even became the national coordinator level 14, I had level 16 deputy directors working under me. So what the service is doing now, we have 2 sets of scholars.

1 is called the peace scholars. All around is done by competition. It’s a leadership enhancement and advancement program that is what is called EP. These scholars are sent to different ministries to work for 6 months.

While they’re there, it depends on their outputs, The perm secs make sure they are sent to job departments where they can contribute. We have what we called AIT scholars. Every year it’s competitive process. So long as you are in the civil service, every year, it trains some Nigerians. Fortunately, I am a mentor to 1 now who just joined. So they go for a 1-year program…so we train those people, they come back to service then now place them in offices that are strategic, encourage them.

And 2, We have the target management system. Plus, we have a policy now on leadership management as succession plan. We discovered that people that are now level 15 to 17 especially 16 and 17,  they don’t have any desire to learn. Their own is let me join, kill and go. So we are concentrating on some of the 15s because you can grow up in a muddy environment without being influenced by the mud. By the grace of God, that’s some of my experience. When I tell people I grew up in Ajegunle they say no there’s no Ajegunle in you.

Like I always say, some of these things depend on you – what do you want in life? So anywhere you are, whether civil service, public service, or private sector it is what drives you that shows how…Because nothing will always be good. We just take the good of it and keep working.

Aniekeme: Thank you so much, sir. Even the way you just ended this last question, I almost didn’t want to ask the wrap-up question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Yeah. I mean, we have our 1st cohort learners here with us at Miva. You know we are doing pioneering in the education space. Is there any advice that you would give to the learners who are joining us online, learners who are here in person as regards education, continuous education

Any final thoughts?

Andrew David: Alright. The advice I gave is that, forget what you see, nothing beats learned mind. Nothing beats that. Till today, I still read. So you must love reading. Don’t worry, it’s not giving you benefits in your mind but you have knowledge. But you are not getting knowledge because you want to be blowing big grammar, you are getting knowledge because you want to see how you can improve yourself, impact your society. 

And one thing that has helped me which I keep telling people – Don’t compete with anybody. compete with yourself. My standard has always been 110%  anything I do. I compete with myself. And as learners, you will never miss if you are a reader.

Even if you don’t get a job immediately when you finish or while doing the degree, you can write books. I started writing books when I was in secondary school. Unfortunately, I got myself involved in too many things that I never completed anymore.

If you learn from older people in terms of some people that have documented their experiences; you learn from there. so please; and the last is have an unshakable faith in God not in your pastor, not in your imam. No

Anything you see that happens to you, like I said if you know my history you will be amazed. Don’t let it get to you. Yeah as a human being, you will feel it but the question you will ask yourself is what am I learning from this? 

I wish you all the best and may you have your heart desire if it is for the good of humanity.

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