I am delighted to be in your midst on this auspicious occasion of the celebration of the 19th National Productivity Day and the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award, an award designed to identify, recognize and reward productive individuals and organizations in both the public and private sectors, for high productivity, hard work and excellence.

Our gathering and celebration today, underscores the vital and cardinal role productivity has assumed globally. Productivity is a fundamental determinant of rapid economic growth, social progress and improved standard of living.

Whatever sector it may be, productivity remains a key factor that enables societies to generate wealth through efficient and effective utilization of available human and material resources to produce quality goods and services.

Investments in people through education and training is a strategic tool for increasing productivity. Education is a leading determinant of economic growth, employment generation and higher earnings. This is why I am particularly impressed with the choice of this year’s theme: ‘’Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Educational System’’.

Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens. Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion. It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.

Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system.

To address these challenges and set our country on the path of industrialization where our educational system will produce the needed skills and manpower, this administration has taken measures to motivate teachers including timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries, and the review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years while years of service have now been moved from 35 to 40 years to encourage more graduates to join the teaching profession.

I have approved special salary scale for teachers in Basic and Secondary schools including provisions for rural posting allowance, Science teachers allowance and Peculiar allowance, reintroduction of Bursary award to Education students in Universities and Colleges of Education with assurance of automatic employment upon graduation, payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students as well as granting them automatic employment after graduation.

Furthermore, funding of teaching practice in Universities and Colleges of Education by Tertiary Education Fund, creation of a career path policy for teaching profession in Nigeria and ICT training to mitigate the current dearth of qualified teachers in the school system among other measures.

All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, have the right to quality education. Though primary education is officially free and compulsory, a good number of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. To address this challenge, this administration has put in place, the Better Education Service Delivery for All in 17 Pilot states resulting in the drastic reduction of the number of Out-of-School children from 10.1million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, thereby promoting access to quality education.

The Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment programme is another government initiative designed to ensure that adolescent girls who are out of school or have never been in school are trained and financially empowered to enable them to live normal and quality lives.

The Federal Government frontally approached this programme by developing a curriculum in basic literacy and numeracy in the three major Nigerian languages and English. The government has also developed a code of conduct for learning centres for adults and non-formal education. Additionally, the development of literacy and numeracy primers for teaching arithmetic as well as facilitating guide in English and the three major Nigerian Languages has been finalized.

The National Commission for Nomadic Education has also developed training manuals for the operations of nomadic education in the country, in addition to training 100 Nomadic Extension Agents on Nomadic Extension Services to ensure that the children of the Nomads undergo some kind of learning while going about their businesses.

To regulate secondary education in the country, we have approved the establishment of the National Senior Secondary Education Commission, and also established additional six Unity Colleges, bringing the total to 110 Unity Colleges in the country.

The government also constituted high powered Visitation Panels to Federal Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education to access the institutions’ activities for the past ten years (2011-2020).

This exercise has been completed. The reports and the white paper are ready for consideration. In the same vein, the Governing Councils of Federal Universities and Inter-university centres were inaugurated and Chancellors appointed.

Our aim is to strengthen the institutions to enhance governance for effective service delivery, national development, and global competitiveness.

Through Tetfund, we successfully provided funding intervention for the completion of the National Library and enabled all public Tertiary Education Institutions to develop ICT infrastructure and support the migration to e-learning. I am happy to note that the ICT support intervention has recorded the successful completion of eleven websites, upgrade of projects and the training of a total of 12,873 staff in tertiary institutions nationwide.

In our quest to increase access to Tertiary Education, Government approved the establishment of six new Federal Colleges of Education, eight new Federal Polytechnics, two new Universities of Technology and upgraded four existing Universities of Technology. Two specialized Universities for Health, Nutrition and Medical sciences in Azare, Bauchi State and Ila-orangun in Osun state have also been established, while arrangement for the establishment of a National Institute for Technology, (NIT) Abuja is underway.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not oblivious of the numerous challenges bedeviling the education sector. Government is trying, within available resources, to address these challenges.

I am convinced that given the tenacity with which we are tackling them, a better and more improved educational system will be achieved. May I seize this opportunity to commend all our strategic partners and stakeholders for their efforts, and to urge them to sustain the momentum so that the country can achieve the kind of education system needed to raise our educational performance up to the levels of advanced industrial societies.

I want to use this opportunity to call on the Academic Staff Union of Universities to consider the plight of our students and call off the ongoing strike action. I have earlier directed the Chief of Staff, Hon. Ministers of Labour and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU and in fact all other University based labour unions. 

I also call on our students to exercise patience as we try to address the nagging issues in our university system within the ambit of the scarce resources available to Government.

Fellow Nigerians, may I at this juncture appreciate your unflinching support, patience and patriotism in the midst of these hard times in our nation. A lot has been accomplished as I have enumerated but there is still much to be done. I assure you that this administration is committed to the Nigerian people and we are determined to remain resolute in our commitments and shall continue to press ahead with our programmes and plans.

I want to congratulate all the Awardees for their various accomplishments and well-deserved recognition. You have been carefully selected from a multitude of competitors. This award should spur you to greater heights. I must also commend the Chairman and members of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award Committee, including the management and staff of National Productivity Centre for a job well done.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished recipients of National Productivity Order of Merit Award, Special Guests, Gentlemen of the Press, may I reiterate that Productivity must remain our watchword.

This entails making conscious efforts towards continuous improvement of existing situations, no matter how good they may look. To a very large extent, the future of any nation is contingent on the standard of its educational system. Therefore, if we desire to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our educational system should be accorded the highest priority.

Qualitative and durable educational system will not only set our economy on the path of sustainable growth, but will also, guarantee Nigerians a higher standard of living and improved quality of life. We shall therefore do all we can to uplift the standard of our educational system.

Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.