Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai is perhaps one of the most committed to getting school children educated in the North based on policy implementation approaches. Yet, people deliberately or ignorantly vilify him as part of the Northern Nigerian leaders denying their masses education.
His government’s “sack” of teachers in 2017 was greeted with criticism from opposition quarters. How could 21,780 of the workforce preparing primary school children for a brighter future be unable to pass a Primary 4 test? El-Rufai’s government therefore got them redeployed to other sectors where they didn’t have to use their limited knowledge.
To ensure that the girl child completes secondary school education, El-Rufai introduced the free education programme for them all. He also instituted boarding schools for girls too. Anyone familiar with the situation in many sections of the North knows that early marriage is a common thing and that may stop the girls from continuing to school. This measure guarantees that the girls are likely to complete their secondary education, at least, if not proceeding thereafter.
For the first nine years of schooling, education is free for boys and the entire twelve years of primary and secondary education is free for girls in Kaduna State. These are meritable for the future the government believes the young children deserve.
To also ensure that school aged children are in school ready to learn attentively, Kaduna has its own school feeding programme aside the National Home-Grown School Feeding programme. Children well fed would be more at alert to learn.
The government also provides learning materials for the children in forms of pens, exercise books, textbooks and other materials. The equipment of laboratories and provision of instructional materials are also there for learning to be smooth.
As at the time El-Rufai became governor in 2015, 4,200 public primary schools were in dehumanising conditions as at least, 50% of pupils were taking lessons on the floor because of lack of furniture. But much of that has changed today. The Schools Rehabilitation Programme of the Kaduna State government has been providing decent classrooms, furniture, water and toilet facilities. It’s a work in progress.
Enrolment rate had doubled to about 2.1 million within two years in Kaduna under the El-Rufai administration due to decisive plans and implementation by the state government and its officials.
After the so called sack or redeployment of teachers who couldn’t pass with an A in a primary school test, 25,000 new teachers were employed. Out of these, some 4000 were sacked again due to basic incompetence.
The National Policy on Education already stated that “a nation cannot rise above the quality of its teachers.” We cannot minimise the importance of qualified teachers in our classrooms. If only other states could follow through with checking teacher quality, we’d be better off as a nation.
The government also did some sort of restructuring in its teaching service that had teachers redeployed to rural areas where they’re needed. A majority of teachers ordinarily prefer urban centres. The government provided incentives for teachers posted to rural areas so that they may stay there to do their noble jobs. Thus, the quality of learning is felt across the state.
In its recruitment exercises, the government allows Nigerian applicants who do not necessarily have to be indigenous to, or be previously based in Kaduna State to apply. This is based on what it considered getting the best teachers Nigeria had to offer. I can attest that some of the people eventually employed had nothing to do with Kaduna prior to their appointments.
To check the incidence of truancy, the Kaduna State government under El-Rufai is working with an organisation that formed the Kaduna School Marshals. They ensure that no child within the school age is left out of school during school hours. They “arrest” such children on the streets and get their parents involved so as to keep them in school to learn.
Note that the Kaduna State government is the first in Nigeria to present an in-depth analysis of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) data and strategy for implementation before the United Nations. That was at the 72nd UN General Assembly. Quality Education is one of the SDGs and failing to plan is planning to fail, as popularly said. The data helps it track its progress across various sectors of the economy.
Beyond education, the government of Kaduna has other initiatives towards attracting investment to the state thereby creating jobs and encouraging industry. The Kaduna State Development Plan and the Infrastructure Master Plan and Industrial Plans are propelled towards achieving economic outcomes that would make Kaduna State a leading investment destination in Nigeria and make the state globally competitive.
To be able to achieve something much impactful in the education sector and beyond, the government had to make some sacrifices. It had since 2015 reduced number of political appointees by close to 50%. The government also scaled-down on other spendings in traveling, governor’s entourage, and training programmes seen as mere jamboree.
There is still more to do beyond the ones not stated above. Whether the electorate in Kaduna consider these worthy of commendation is part of the decision to be made during the March 9 Gubernatorial Election.
Abdussalam Amoo writes on education for EduCeleb.com.