18 November 2012

Nigeria: Yobe - Education As an Antidote

The importance of education to the life of an individual cannot be over emphasised. Several scholars through the ages have found cause to continuously harp on the significance of education on the lives of the people, the community and the society at large.

The relationship between education and development has also been established consistently, as scholars using every available forum, tried to assert that education is the key index of development.

Believing that overcoming illiteracy and ignorance will form the basis for an accelerated national development, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State had hit the ground running in the area of education as in all sectors immediately he assumed the mantle of leadership in the state through an articulated blueprint.

The governor realizes early that the delivery of education in the state as in all parts of the country has suffered from years of neglect, compounded by inadequate attention to policy frameworks within the sector. The literacy rate is very low; significant percentage of the teaching staff is unqualified; there are acute shortages of infrastructure and facilities at all levels; access to basic education is inhibited by several factors. Also there is a wide disparity in educational standards and learning achievements. The system emphasizes theoretical knowledge at the expense of technical, vocational, and entrepreneurial education.

Statistics also indicate glaring imbalances against females in enrolment, attendance and completion rates at all levels of education, due to a variety of socio-cultural and religious factors.

However, Gaidam was determined to confront the anomalies. The onslaught of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, especially on school infrastructure across the state only reinforced his commitment to confront the challenges in the sector headlong.

Realising that basic education is the foundation of every educational attainment, the governor ensured prompt payment of counterpart funds that will qualify the state to access money from the Universal Basic Education Commission to invest in the sub-sector. The end result is the construction of 1,251 classrooms and toilets in different primary schools across the state at the cost of N1.495 billion; the distribution of 1, 111, 808 books and assorted library materials to primary schools across the state; distribution of 21, 048 pieces of school furniture to primary schools in addition to fencing and renovating scores of such schools. Realising that the greatest part of any renewal process in the sector is in the area of manpower training, the governor devoted much attention to the area by investing heavily on teachers' development.

He set aside money for the training of 3,200 English teachers at the basic education level, while also recruiting over 2,000 NCE teachers for primary schools. The governor also procured monitoring vehicles to State Universal Basic Education Commission. And as he had told an audience in the state recently, "our drive is to make education visually and graphically relevant to the child and not abstract that as it used to be."It is also on record he is the first governor in Nigeria to implement the N18, 000 Minimum Wage for primary school teachers.

The same feat is replicated in post-primary education in the state through concerted effort. The governor has renovated and upgraded a number of schools across the three senatorial districts in the state. Schools such as Government Girls' Secondary School Buni-Yadi, Government Girls' Secondary School Ngelzarma, Government Girls' Secondary School Potiskum, Government Girls' College Damaturu, Government Girls' Secondary School Dagona, and Government Girls' Secondary School Dapchi have all received his attention. The governor also bought and distributed 48 brand new 18-seater utility vehicles for secondary schools in the state. Work is also on going in schools destroyed in the wake of violence that gripped the state since 2011.

At the higher education level, significant achievement has been made by the Gaidam-led administration. For instance, the Yobe State University in Damaturu, has undergone revamping and facility upgrading. And despite the security challenges in the state, the institution has held on as one of the best centres of learning in the country. In fact recently, former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Prof Abdullahi Mahdi described Yobe State University as the 'fastest growing University in Northern Nigeria'.

The governor has also spent over 1.3 billion on scholarships to Yobe State students studying various courses in the nation's institutions of higher learning. Just last year, he approved scholarships for 12 students from the state to study medicine at Russian, Egyptian and Sudanese universities. This is in addition to over 200 others under the state government scholarship in other universities across the world.

As scholars after scholars have posited, the North is the most backward in education in the country. The decay in the sector is glaring in infrastructure, inadequate and qualified teachers, lack of instructional facilities among others. And according to scholars, the crisis has unfortunately persisted largely because of the lack of political will on the part of successive governments to seriously tackle this problem. The situation in Yobe despite the security challenges is however changing for the better. Literacy level is steadily and gradually rising.

Statistics also indicate that imbalance against female enrolment, attendance and completion rates has also greatly improved under Gaidam-led administration.

The governor is determined to ensuring that all children within school age have access to qualitative education; eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education with a focus on ensuring girl's full and equal access to basic education of good quality; encouraging adult literacy across the state; fighting gender disparities at all levels of education in the state with a focus on improving all aspects of education, and ensuring excellence for all, so that recognized and reasonable learning outcomes are achieved, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills among others.

The governor recognizes the fact that education is a human right, accorded to human beings, solely for being human. As an educationist, he is well aware that schooling improves productivity, health and reduces negative features of life such as child labour as well as bringing about empowerment and that was why he has shown unequal commitment to the development of the sector in the face of mounting challenges.

Abdullahi is of the Government House, Damaturu, Yobe State

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