June 3 2017: The Kaduna State Government under the leadership of Governor Nasir El-Rufai administered a competency test on its primary school teachers.
The test according to the state government was aimed at examining the teachers for competence in literacy and numeracy, through reading, writing and calculations. However, there was considerable shock nationwide when Governor El-Rufai announced the results while receiving a joint delegation of the World Bank and DFID, some of the partners of the state government’s efforts to take education to the next level in the state.
The results showed that only 33.9 per cent of the teachers scored at least 75 per cent in the competency test. The release of the result and attendant opposition by the Nigerian Union of Teachers, (NUT) and its mother body the Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC) paralyzed education activities for close to two weeks in the state before the teachers called off the strike action embarked upon to protest planned disengagement of the teachers.
While many praised the courage of El-Rufai in tackling the issue of the decay in the education sector head-on, especially his insistence on replacing the teachers that failed to reach the 75 per cent benchmark, others suggested training and retraining of the teachers that failed would still have been in order.
However, one thing is clear, the fact that the education sector in Nigeria as a whole like every other sectors is in a sorry state cannot be over stressed. It is not uncommon across the land to see dilapidated school infrastructure, blown off roofs, pupils sitting on bare floors and even lacking basic hygiene facilities.
It is because of this that barely five months after assumption of office in Kaduna State in 2015, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai immediately declared a state of emergency in the education sector in the state.
According to El-Rufai: “Education is freedom from want and the provision of free basic education in decent schools, with skilled teachers is one of the priorities this government will accomplish in its four-year term.
“We have spent the past few months planning school repairs, the provision of school furniture and training of teachers.
“Today, we move to declare a state of emergency in education. We ask for your support as we begin to implement extraordinary measures in the education sector.
“We are determined that one legacy of the rebirth of our country will be the restoration of education as a tool to free our people from the fetters of ignorance.’’
The then state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Dr Shehu Usman, said steps were being taken to overcome the legacy of 16 years of neglect that the educational sector has suffered, revealing that “about 80 per cent of the 4,200 public primary schools in the state are dilapidated. More than half of their 1.106m pupils sit on bare floor.”
Following this discovery, New Telegraph asked the immediate past commissioner of education, Late Professor Andrew Jonathan Nok, the way forward especially on those sitting on bare floor.
Nok had said, “We are hopeful that in the next few months, all our schools will be with chairs, most of the schools in Kakuri, Kabala you will see what we are doing, all the schools there have chairs now.” he said.
According to him, “We have ongoing project to equip the whole school in the state with chairs. Right now, we have started from Lere, Saminanka and most of the contractors have been given specific schools to produce and distribute to after approval by the consultants.
“We have covered a lot of schools even in Sabo, even the Government Day Secondary School, Sabon Tasha and other schools in the area have been provided with sits.
“As am talking to you, my Director of Projects and others are taking inventory of the schools in Kaduna metropolis and environs, to Zaria, Chikun, Kachia and other local government areas.
“Also we have completely stopped students from sitting on the ground to write exams.”
He lamented that before the coming of this administration, “In Government Secondary School, Kaduna alone, 23 classrooms were without furniture. Rimi College was the same, but go there today nobody is sitting on the floor or window. In the case of Rimi College, in a class, there were only two chairs and only the bully and his friends sit on the chair, others sit on the floor. That was the pathetic situation we met on ground.
“We have also banned the use of blackboard. We are using magnetic boards now just to ensure that teachers don’t get affected by the chalk. As I am talking to you, we are expecting over 75,000 desks, for primary and secondary schools in the state,” he said.
Government also put in place other measures to encourage pupils and parents.
For instance, government introduced the policy of school feeding where it fed not less than 1.5 million primary schools pupils on a daily basis.
Speaking at the launch of the Programme at the Aliyu Makama Road Primary School, Barnawa, the Governor said, the initiative would also boost the economy of the state by creating jobs for 17,000 food vendors that are engaged for the project.
According to him: “We are conscious that the feeding would save parents break-time money, empower the women within the community, who have been selected as the catering vendors and expand the market for farm products. In fact, the school feeding programme is directly creating 17,000 jobs for catering vendors, each of whom will need to employ workers to help them deliver.”
The state government also threatened to arrest parents of children found hawking during school hours as part of measures to make sure almost all pupils are in school. El-Rufai had said the move has become paramount as basic education would become compulsory in the state.
Speaking at one of the monthly Town hall meetings in the state, he insisted that, “any parent that sends their children to hawk during school hours will be arrested.”
The government had also embarked on infrastructural rehabilitation in many of the schools. Recently, members of the Kaduna State Union of Journalists embarked on a tour of some of the projects in the state. Among the projects visited included, construction of over 110 classrooms to tackle increased school enrolment in Rigasa, Igabi Local Government Area of the state, which has reached an advanced stage.
The classrooms, government said, became necessary following the school feeding program which led to increased enrolment in the schools. The other projects included the construction of a one storey building block of 20 classrooms at UBE primary school at Shawai, Hayin Damani, one storey building block of 30 class rooms at LEA primary school at Lokoja road, one storey building of 20 classrooms each at Mashi Gwari , Bilyaminu street and Boka Daji primary schools all in Rigasa.
At the Universal Basic Education, (UBE) Primary School, Ungwan Shawai, the Head Teacher, Yahuza Yaro, said the project will go a long way in accommodating the over 21,009 pupils in the school.
He said: “Due to inadequate structures, we are presently using temporary classrooms. Once, this is completed, it would improve our learning condition here.
“With the new students, we have over 21,00 pupils. We use to have 19,350 pupils before now.”
He also disclosed that, “we have about 400 to 500 pupils each in class and one class is from primaries 1A to E.
“We thank the government for the intervention. The governor was here himself and embarked on the project. He promised to add more classrooms.”
He however called for assistance from government, saying, “we have toilet challenges. Only three are available for now.
“After the building is completed, we believe government will also provide the furniture and other teaching aids,” he said.
On his part, Adamu Hayatu, Special Assistant to Commissioner, Planning and Budget Commission, who was the tour guide, assured the citizens that the projects would be ready soon.
Emboldened by the way and manner government is going about tackling the issues in the education sector, the Nigerian Union Teachers recently commended the governor for his efforts in repositioning education in the state.
In a letter signed by Adamu Ango, the Assistant Secretary General of the union, NUT commended Kaduna State government in five areas.
The commendation praised El Rufai for the “distribution of instructional materials to all primary and secondary schools in Kaduna State, ranging from textbooks, white boards, teachers manual, chalk and other library materials. In addition, NUT commended the government for providing motorcycles for monitoring and supervision of schools in all 23 local governments in the state. According to the union, El Rufai also deserves accolades for the “construction and renovation of public primary and secondary schools throughout the state.”
The teachers’ union also praised government for providing furniture in primary and post primary schools as well as providing “continuous teachers’ education programs, training and workshops for our teeming teachers in the state.”
Those conversant with the situation of education in the state would recall that the state governor and the teachers union had been at each other’s throat some months ago, but all seems to be well now and the education sector in the state is the best for it.
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