By Yusuf Gusau
Results of studies conducted over the years have consistently indicated Northwestern region of Nigeria have, year in and year out, posted dismal showing in both West Africa Examination Council and National Examination Council senior secondary school certificate examinations.
This obviously informs why the region lags behind in the registration of candidates for Joint Admissions and Matriculation for slots into tertiary institutions.
Try as one would to rationalize or explain this embrassing situation, it is difficult to accept only between 10 to 20 register for JAMB at any given year, and sometimes less, in a state of between two to three million population and school enrollment figure of at least 300,000.
This indeed is worrisome. What are the factors that militate against the development of education in the zone?
Experts say it has more to do with policy approaches, funding, infrastructural development as well as traditional and religious factors.
While the three, namely education policies, funding and schools infrastructure are at the domain of state governments, cultural and religious factors can be placed squarely on parents who harbor ill-informed notions that western education is taboo.
This widely held view especially among the rural populace has refused to abate despite enlightenment programs embarked upon by governments in the region.
The hidden truth however is that the religious factors as held by the rural folks is oftentimes a smokescreen to hide the excruciating poverty they are forced to live under.
These state of affairs and poor education standards across the zone no doubt has contributed immensely to the menace of banditry and other crimes all over.
The elite have a share too in how bad things have become especially in Zamfara. They have offered little or no interventions in this regard. And where they did, past administrations have paid near zero considerations to their wise counsels or ignored them entirely.
In another breath, the elite cannot escape blame. They known to resort to self help at the detriment of the larger society. They don’t enroll their children into public schools, choosing instead to send them abroad paying high fees because they can afford it.
This of course translates to high-paying jobs openly reserved to their foreign trained children. Little wonder, the poorly educated youth and the sons and daughters of the poor have resorted to violence in a vicious class struggle that is consuming the state and the country at large in sectarian violence, insurgency, militancy and rural banditry.
Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle, the executive governor of Zamfara State has declared he has had enough. He reiterates that things must change if not in the whole zone to at least his state.
During the week long 100 Days celebrations in Gusau, the governor announced that his administration’s mission will be to prioritize the educational development of the state.
He reiterated to the applause of thousands that graced the occasion that “For us, our mission in governance is to promote the social and economic wellbeing of our people. In the area of education, arrangements have already been concluded to sponsor 200 indigenes of the State to China, Cyprus and Sudan to study medicine and engineering”.
He disclosed he had recently held talks with the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria where an agreement was agreed to among other issues, “that the Russian Federation would offer scholarships to the state indigenes to study various courses in that country”.
That’s not all, “similarly”, he said “we are committed to ensuring a conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning in our secondary schools. In this regard, very soon we will start total renovation of secondary schools namely Sambo Secondary School, Gusau; Government Secondary School, Kaura Namoda; Government Secondary School, Bukkuyum; Government Secondary School, Tsafe; and Government Science Secondary School, Shinkafi”.
These schools according to him are first among equals that would enjoy government total attention to avert deterioration of the social and moral fabric currently pervading the zone.
He promised that his government will renovate and provide standard infrastructure to all schools belonging to the state, promising that lack of funding of education hitherto common in governments of the past will become history in a short while to come.
The land of Usmanu Danfodiyo and Muhammadu Bello, his son, whose mission under the flag of the caliphate had been to impart knowledge. Their sojourn has indeed left an indelible mark all over the horizon. How it withered with time is what Matawalle is promising to reverse; and citizens of the state must be educated.
This is his promise.
Yusuf Idris is the Director-General, Press Affairs to the Governor of Zamfara State.