Education is a basic human right. It’s the most powerful force that will drive socio-economic development of a nation. It is the mechanism to innovate people and put them on the path of progress and development. In Yobe State, human capital is our most valued asset and we have produced great Nigerians from the legacy of education.
The Nigerian Education system has been experiencing setback and the pathetic situation has been an issue of discourse over the years. However, the condition of education in Yobe State is a story of its own. The sector is in a monumental crisis. My starting point is to commend His Excellency, the Governor of Yobe State, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, for the courage to admit this crisis and declare a state of emergency. The decision of His Excellency must have been informed by knowledge. However, I suggest that government should constitute a high-powered body to interrogate the situation on ground. That would be the basis to lay the architecture for reconstructing the sector. Government should conduct needs assessment to guide the execution of the state of emergency. Knowing what is working and what is not working is very crucial for the state of emergency.
With the assumption that this important exercise will be carried out, it will be unnecessary to bedevil this audience with in-depth narrative of the crisis. That notwithstanding, it will be superficial to go away from here without an inkling of the situation on ground.
Challenges and Solutions
1. Leadership: Leadership is about decision making and implementation. We are gathered today to perform one critical role in the leadership process. We are in the process to redeem our educational sector from total collapse. This is a very good start for this government. Always, if the political will is available, challenges can be conquered. To do that however, it is the duty of government to connect and mobilize all essential stakeholders. Government must get the right ideas, and the right people. It must engage and collaborate with the correct people with the right skills. Attracting the right team is one most important task any leader undertakes. The quality of your team sets the limit to what you can achieve. The 21st century leadership style has moved from command and control, to collaboration and commitment. The State should connect properly with government agencies, private organization, companies, donor agencies, research institutions, and relevant stakeholders in actualizing this new initiative. There is no universal formula to succeed, what is important is for the leader to decide where he wants to go and to go on that journey with the right people. While sustaining legacy, a leader must also build his own legacy.
2. Funding: Yobe State will never have enough resources to finance education and the developmental needs of the State. Funding is a challenge to all the tiers of government. UNESCO recommends to countries like Nigeria to dedicate 20% of their spending to Education. Since 1999, the country has never budgeted more than 12% of its public resources to education. In 2018, the budget of the Federal Government on education was about 7% only.
Yobe State can engage and partner with the right organizations to secure resources and support. The State Government need to set its priorities right. The crisis of our development requires prudence from government. Government can reduce our spending on Hajj and Umrah and re-direct some part to education.
3. Capacity building: The knowledge, skills and resources of teachers must be adequate for correct education to be delivered. This is where our crisis started. There is total lack of capacity and children are not receiving proper education. Teachers recruitment process in the State is faulty because most times unqualified teachers are employed. There seems to be no more monitoring, supervision, inspection and evaluation of teachers. Government should sanitize and re-energize the whole bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education.
The teacher – student ratio is a frightening portion of this problem. The Educational Management Information System in Nigeria gives the pupil to teacher ratio at one qualified teacher for every 46 pupils of public school, one for 29 in junior secondary school, and one for 16 in senior classes.
In Arikime primary school, Potiskum, the total pupil population was 15,600 as at Friday last week. There is a maximum number of 370 pupils in one class. The congestion is the same at Moi Abali Primary School, Bolewa A Ward, which has a population of 10,300, and Moi Umar primary School, Yerimaram Ward with 10,700 pupil population.
In some schools, the person with a degree certificate could only be the headmaster or headmistress. The qualifications of other teachers with NCE or Diplomas are not verifiable. Most schools in the State depend on the services of volunteers and personnel in the NPOWER program of the Federal Government. Government should screen and verify the genuineness of people claiming to be teachers and their competence and qualification to teach.
Arising from the above is the critical need to build capacity for teachers to sustain all the initiatives to be undertaken by the State Government.
4. Infrastructure: When you build capacity, you need infrastructures. There cannot be good education without the right environment. Government must provide classrooms, tables, chairs, libraries, laboratories, staff rooms, running water, toilets, playground, etc.
Our classrooms facilities are in shambles not because government has not been doing anything over the years, but the intervention seems inadequate and other times resources were not properly channeled or there are leakages or breaches in the service delivery system. Pupils still receive lessons under trees. In some places, lessons are received on bare ground. Schools and lessons are shut down and children sent home if there is any likelihood of rain falling because there are no roofs. Some of the schools are flooded in rainy seasons. In Chadi primary School, like other schools, rows of flank wood serve as seats for pupils and students.
Government need to improve its service delivery system. It must improve openness and transparency in procurement system. It must build in our people new attitude to partner with government and protect government properties.
Clearly, the infrastructural deficit is massive and the investment needed is enormous. And for the investment to be effective, the bureaucracy and the architecture to deliver them must be turned.
5. Specialized Education: Science and technology now shape the development and pace of all nations. Our education system must give incentives to science and technology. Government can consider establishing specialized schools, either for remedial programs to correct deficiencies or to incentivize talents.
6. Digital Education: This is a reality we must accept because today routine clerical task, teaching and examinations are getting computerized. Digital technology enriches learning in a variety of ways. It also opens access to wealth of information and resources. I will suggest that Yobe State develops an action plan to incorporate digital technology in teaching system. The action plan can focus on initial education, training system, schools to cover, both in the short and long term. This is one great investment His Excellency can make for the future of Yobe State.
7. Girls’ Education: This is another area the State government can incentivize. I suggest that government considers the possibility of having day schools for girls only. This will encourage the girl child education. There is apathy and anxiety on the part of many parents to send girls to boarding schools.
8. Skills and Vocational Education: There is near total collapse of skills and vocational education in the State. Vocational education will provide people, especially our youth, the knowledge, and skills for self-sustenance and independence. It is a robust means for self-development.
The State Government can rebuild and upgrade one quality skills and vocational centers for each Senatorial Zones of the State. The skills and vocational centers can produce basic materials to be used in our schools. I recommend a strong Government Directorate in charge of this initiative. This proposed Directorate can also take charge and stimulate the growth of entrepreneurship in the State.
9. Tsangaya Qur’anic Education: The Tsangaya Qur’anic education has over time evolved as an option to the formal school system. It is accepted by our people and it has produced personalities in this State. The Almajiri phenomenon is a bastardization of the Tsangaya Qur’anic education. The issue is now a subject of national assessment and scrutiny. I suggest that the State Government should involve in the conversation to reform the system.
10. Sports Development: No educational development will be complete without sports taking a portion. In addition to the popular adage that “all work and no play make jack a dull boy”, sports is a means to develop other hidden talents and could open great opportunities. Government can improve investment in this sector.
11. Building ownership: I recommend Government to rebuild the Parent – Teacher relationship and get the commitment of our people to the MAI MALA SCHOOL INITIATIVE. We can all work together and the starting point is to reconnect with the people.
12. Private Sector Involvement: Private sector involvement can increase financial resources available for education. This can give supplement to the initiative of the State. There are various ways the private sector can contribute. In Yobe State, the contribution of faith based organizations like the izalatul bidiah wa iqamatus sunnah is impressive. The Catholic Church and ECWA had played vital roles in the development of education in Yobe State. Government can revive these legacies. However, a strong legal and regulatory framework is vital for this collaboration to ensure quality and encourage more investment.
Private companies into recycling business can be encouraged to invest in our education and benefit from a recycling initiative. Similarly, NGOs active in climate change can put off school fees for students who volunteer into afforestation and desertification programs.
13. Mentoring system: In tandem with the overall objectives of this new initiative, the State Government should consider a structure of government that will continuously mentor our youth and expose them to opportunities. The structure should be empowered to mobilize and support our youth to find jobs and employment opportunities. Over time, there was no elaborate intervention by the State government to mobilize our youth at home to fill up vacancies or opportunities at the Federal level or other places. Government can create special IT centers in the three senatorial zones of the States to facilitate this initiative.
14. How to succeed: Finally, His Excellency, has taken the challenge to reform our education sector, the secret to succeed will now be determined by our sincerity and resolve to carry the challenge together, and support him. When we do that, we collectively succeed and we all shine together at the end of the day.
Barrister Dala, a private legal practitioner based in Abuja, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org