Zamfara’s attempt at fighting poverty, illiteracy

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By Yusuf Abubakar Hamadani

The official flag off of contract award ceremony for the construction of 313 blocks of classrooms at primary school level in the state was a clear turning point in the development of primary education in the state. And in other aspects of the economy, the award of the contracts would also serve as an important factor to address the issue of poverty amongst the people of the state. For government to be responsible and successful, it has to demonstrate some level of commitment to the fight against poverty.

Therefore, learning history, the Abdul-Aziz Yari’s administration had resolved to run a purely peoples’ government in its policies and programmes as well as implementation. Apart from designing people’s oriented projects, it also pledged to be engaging the services of the people in the state to execute such projects.

It was really on record that the emergence of the ANPP government in Zamfara State was total rebellion against the self centered and capitalist oriented policies of the PDP administration under Mamuda Shinkafi.

Prior to the defection of Shinkafi to the PDP in 2008, the administration under the watchful eyes of ANPP leader in the state, Sen. Ahmed Sani, Yariman Bakura, started very well, with its “Mu Gani A Kasa”, but unfortunately, as soon as he pulled out of the ANPP and joined the mighty PDP, the laudable policies and programmes crumbled.

The developmental projects started by the administration were abandoned. Apart from abandoning projects, it also showed no commitment to human development, as the poverty level was high amongst the people, as the state resources were being cornered by few individuals. As the saying goes “A hungry man is an angry man”, the people of Zamfara at the lowest level associated themselves with the Yarima’s ANPP.

Despite series of blackmail, intimidation, harassment and detention people of Zamfara were determined to replace the unpopular PDP administration of Shinkafi with the ANPP gubernatorial candidate in person of Hon. Abdul-Aziz Yari, who promised to address the problem of poverty as well as provide dividend of democracy to them.

In fact it was a fierce battle between the bourgeois and the masses, at the end the table turned against the bourgeois. So with the victory of Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari at the polls came the promise to revamp the educational sector, which is regarded as the backbone of development in any society.

To demonstrate his commitment to the sector, Yari quickly announced appointment of new chairman to the Zamfara State Universal Basic Education Board (ZUBEC), in person of Hon. Murtala Adamu Jangebe.

He thus ordered for series of verifications of the teaching and non-teaching staff of the primary schools so as to checkmate perceived corrupt practices and ghost workers. There were also shady deals involving certain officials of the LGEA that abused their positions in terms of indiscipline and redundancy.

Some genuine teachers and officials of the LGEA payrolls are not being promoted for many years while some who didn’t receive their offers or confirmation were either given increment, sent on secondment or course to various places different from their assigned responsibility.

In the course of the exercise at the board, over 1000 ghost workers were detected, in addition to salary inflation to various degrees. Yari’s government efforts never end there, as they invited academicians of state origin in various tertiary institutions of learning and other educational administrators, resource persons and other stakeholders to come to the aid of the state to go round the state to securitize the true situation of the education sector at primary level.

The Professor Tukur Adamu of Usman Dan Fodio University led committee was tasked with the responsibility of censuring all teaching and non-teaching staff as well as paying visit to all existing primary schools.

In the course of the committee’s findings some staff or teachers were verified to be connected with certain powers that be or married to very influential persons who seek favour for their employment not because they are qualified or attend any teaching training. The exercise was surely aimed at having an authentic number of staff strength and also the requirements in the area of structures to enhance learning activities in the state.

The sacrifice made by those team members and their field operators has indicated their concern and that of the stakeholders to jointly accept the challenges of improving the standard of education in the state.

Apart from sleeping in some remote areas, some of them travelled on foot to difficult and far locations so as to reach many of those unreachable primary schools in order to verify or find out the authenticity of the location and capture the staff data of those particular schools for many days and nights.

Some of the academicians that have sacrificed all their time and luxuries in order to ensure the success of this great service of the Gov Yari’s intention of providing qualitative education to the ordinary pupils of Zamfara State are Professor Tukur Adamu, Professor Ja’afaru Makau Kaura, Professor Muktar Ladan Jangebe and Professor Bawa Hassan Gusau.

Others are Professor Yusuf Adamu Tsafe and Professor Mu’azu Abubakar Gusau and many other Deans, HOD’s and senior management officials across Nigerian Institutions.

Considering the importance of primary education in the ladder of western educational system, any responsible leader would not mind investing very seriously in the sector.

The decision to construct 313 blocks of classrooms, rehabilitation of structures to 50 most selected dilapidated primary schools in the local government headquarters, 41 computer centers’ and one in-service teacher’s training centre was a welcome development.

This would no doubt create an enabling environment for learning activities at the primary level. Also to be provided at the schools were 14,000 set of chairs. Other requirements for learning, in the primary schools were also set to be provided such as boreholes and toilets.

In fulfillment of the campaign promises of empowering people of the state, Yari decided to publically launch the award of the contract to the people of the state. At the official launching Yari was categorical on the issue of the contract, which was awarded to 1000 people.

The idea of allocating the contracts to the ANPP supporters was clearly to empower them economically. According to him, such contracts were awarded at the cost of N4.7 million but considering the economic situation, the government now awarded each at the cost of seven million. While, stressing the need for fairness and honesty in the discharge of the contracts, Yari explained that the government was highly concerned about the plight of the people and is ever ready to support them economically.

The beneficiaries after the completion of the project could have reaped sufficient capital to set up another business in order to carter for their families. The concept of the ANPP leadership was clearly to improve the welfare of the people, and therefore, those yet to be picked this time around should wait patiently for another opportunity, as the plan will go round, as all those who suffered humiliation for supporting the ANPP will now smile.

Consequently, as demonstration to transparent approach in governance, Yari engaged the services of three consulting firms for effective supervision and monitoring in the execution of the projects, namely Akhafiyi Nigeria Ltd., ZAM Builder Nigeria Ltd., and Buildright Global Services Nigeria Ltd. The consultants would effectively monitor progress of work and ensure that bill of quantities of each was strictly adhered to by the contractors.

The consultants will be feeding the board with weekly progress reports up to the period of project completion.

For the overall success of the entire scheme on the development of the primary education, traditional and other religious leaders were enjoined to extend support to the exercise, through intensive mobilization on both enrolment of children and the conduct of the teachers.

Hitherto, traditional rulers were known for effective supervision of teachers posted to the domain, but unfortunately, in recent times, such concern was abandoned, with the government commitment to the sector, such old trend ought to have been revived, as the state governor emphatically reiterated the need for all and sundry to support the new initiative which was designed critically for the overall development of the state.

On the other hand, Governor Yari restated his determination to deal decisively with any person or group of persons caught in the act of sabotaging government activities towards revamping the education sector, most especially at the primary level.

While, describing the efforts of the University Dons and other stakeholders who partake in the exercise as fantastic, he assured that the present administration would always search for indigenes in whatever projects it intends to execute. He stressed that development of the state lies on all indigenes, therefore, it is time for the people to come together and join forces with the government to contribute their quota.

At the accession, the ZUBEB chairman Hon. Murtala Jangebe expressed satisfaction with the concern and the support government extended to the board to implement its policies and programmes.

While noting the allocation N3 billion to the board, he also commended the Yari led administration for the procurement of 19 brand new vehicles to improve its supervision activities as well as other logistics operation.

With these developments primary education in Zamfara is clearly set on the right track. So the award of the work to the indigenes had no doubt served as a fight against poverty and illiteracy; so the government is now fighting twin evils in Zamfara.

Hamadani Writes from No: 43, Zamfara Plaza, Gusau, Zamfara State

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