By HARUNA ALIYU USMAN
A visit to public schools in Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi state capital and its environs will move one to the point of tears. Education, which is without doubt the bedrock for development and economic growth, because it is from schools that Doctors, Nurses, Engineers and other professionals are produced. The story of education in Kebbi is a sordid tale; it is in a state of ruins, not only the structures put in place but even the manpower is grossly inadequate.
Successive governments in Kebbi State before Nasamu claimed to have spent colossal sums of money to revamp the near-dead education sector, but to all discernable minds such monies were either misappropriated or they were a fallacious claim from the government, as policies enshrined by the government aimed at revitalizing education went to the pockets of various committees set up by the government to see to the success of education in Kebbi State thus relegating to the background those with the know-how on education revival. As a result education in Kebbi State is facing at the moment what many describe as financial and policy suffocation, as long as committees leave behind the core professionals and true educationists in favour of mediocrity, the story will remain same in Kebbi State.
Nasamu government truly built many schools in Kebbi State with the aim of bringing education to the doorsteps of the down-trodden, but implementation, maintenance and workability are often the stumbling blocks for education to thrive in Kebbi State. The Governor in many public outings narrated how he suffered to get education because he is not from a well-up family. True to his words he has been paying for W.E.A.C and N.E.C.O especially for the children of the have-nots.
His policy on education hit brick walls because the main problem of education is still not addressed by the government. Those ingredients needed to propel education and to give it the quality it deserves are missing i.e. enabling environment for learning, teachers welfare, adequate furniture in all the classes, de-congestion of pupils and improved manpower of staff, quality of food in secondary schools and teaching aids such as chalks, books, black boards and other equipment needed in science colleges.
To buttress the above claim, DESERT HERALD visited some schools. In Government Day Secondary School, Makera Gwandu in Birnin Kebbi, the Principal, whose name was given as Saidu Buhari Warra, said Nasamu government deserves commendation, adding that in the next ten to fifteen years there will be nothing to add in terms of facilities. He said facilities such as teaching aids, Black Boards, Furniture, schools are now adequate, as if you travel from somewhere you will see schools before another ten kilometers. These schools are equipped with plenty of books and laboratories; therefore Nasamu deserves applause in that aspect, according to him.
On lack of adequate furniture the principal said that such question is for commissioner of education or director planning to answer. He however admitted that furniture problem is peculiar to almost all public schools partly due to high population of students. He said in some classes you find up to five hundred or one thousand students and added that annually government supplies furniture to all schools.
Warra said since they are not operating as private schools, he will not use his money to buy chairs and tables but the government do supply them annually.
He however blamed some heads of schools for their lack of maintenance culture, even as he commended the government on the recruitment of five thousand teachers across the state to man the schools constructed by Nasamu administration.
Similarly, a visit to Abubakar Nadaniya Model Primary School Badariya Area in Birnin Kebbi revealed that Nasamu’s first tenure in office saw to the renovation of some schools and classes. The Headmaster (name withheld) called on government to add classes in order to decongest classes and supply more teaching aids.
He said in classes two and four there are no furniture at all as pupils sit on bare floors to study which is not encouraging. A child, he says, sitting on the floor cannot comprehend because he is not comfortable.
The Head Teacher added that in class one alone you can find up to hundred pupils while in class four up to four hundred pupils. He lamented that under-staffing is slowing down their drive to optimum performance in the discharge of their duties as teachers. He then used the medium to appeal to government to recruit and post enough teachers to his school and other schools across Kebbi, adding that structure is no longer their problem but in adequate staff.
Hajiya Kubra Model Primary School Illela Yauri has an agonizing story. On visit it was noted that classes are without doors and windows, while some classes do not even have doors not even have cement floors as the pupils sit on bare ground with their uniforms.
The Head Teacher who begged to be anonymous told DESERT HERALD that his assessment of education in Kebbi State is poor, citing his school as example saying only two classes have furniture while the remaining are without furniture. He decried that even his teachers don’t have seats.
The head teacher was quick to conclude that from what he can see there is no achievement, adding that achievement is when the schools are equipped.
He observed that a situation where a child will leave his home to school but could not see seat discourages the child. Like other schools visited Hajiya Kubra also said lack of adequate staff in every class, instead of three or four teachers he is using only two teachers, in a class where pupils offers nine subjects which he said the two teachers shared four to five subjects respectively. He said they cannot cover the subjects only two of them.
In addition according to him population of pupils is on the increase. In some classes you get up to fifty, seventy, eighty or even hundred in particular class. The Head teacher called on government to personally visit the school to see what is happening so as to avoid accusation that they are criticizing the government. He said what he can see is what he is saying.
Views were sought from the union angle, where the state chairman of National Union of Teachers, Alhaji Comrade Sanusi, distanced his union from the teachers recruitment, saying “N.T.U is not part of it, they heard from the media that government is employing teachers numbering eight thousand (8000),” he added that “such recruitment will go nowhere. You cannot employ teachers without offers and no salaries.”
Comrade Sanusi affirmed that government is building schools everywhere but no equipment, no teachers and teaching aids, and the structures are not up to the standard. On government policy on education, Sanusi said education policy is same everywhere in the country therefore heaped the blame on poor or no implementation at all.
In addition Comrade Sanusi stated that ministry of education requires a lot of money asking the government not to compare Ministry of education to Ministry of Agriculture where government will quickly see its investment, he said in education it takes time.
On the welfare of teachers, Sanusi confirmed that government had increased the salaries of primary schools teachers but the increment did not meet the National minimum wage, even at that Sanusi said salary increment alone cannot improve performances if the structure is not good and there are no furniture in almost all primary schools so how can that work?
He called on government to see teachers as civil servants, citing example with the allocation of housing units, he said teachers were not given allocation, even soft loans that were disbursed by government did not reach primary school teachers. Comrade concluded that government should do good things to teachers and to her people if it wants history to remember it.
Similarly a visit was made to Salamatu Hussaini Girls Day Secondary School, Abdullahi Fodio Day Secondary School and Nagari College but all the principals were not on seat to comment on the issue despite several visits. From the government angle permanent Secretary Ministry of Education Kebbi State, T. Yeldu was contacted on phone but declined to speak instead referred to the commissioner who could not be reached.
On the whole Kebbi State Education sector under Governor Nasamu has had a fair turn-around but much more is still needed to be done in terms of manpower and teaching aids to give education the real overhaul and face lift it truly deserves.