On education, Tambuwal chooses the best part

By Sunny Igboanugo on 28/01/2016

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The break of a new nationhood in Nigeria, gave birth to three distinct, divergent and strong models of development under a unique federal structure. The three tendencies, particularly after independence in 1960, propelled by very ambitious and visionary leaderships, led to the rapid development of each of the regions in the most dramatic and enduring way.

The socio-economic and political vibrancy, particularly imbued by the buoyant economy, sustained by the famous groundnut pyramids in the North, the cocoa farms in the West and the palm produce in the East, not only gave rise to why many see the period as the golden era of the country, but bespeaks adequately of the place of leadership or lack of it in the affairs of man and his development in any milieu.

But beyond the economic and political wizardry of that era, there was yet a clincher, which appeared to have made a difference among the competing areas, and still does now, even more than five decades, in those entities, which have now fragmented into different states. It was the phenomenon of education.

Imbued by a singular vision, Obafemi Awolowo, then Premier of the Western Region, saw in it an opportunity for not only creating a major leap in the economic and social wellbeing of his people, but the fastest way to do so.

The future of Sokoto

Not that others did not see a similar vision, but the strategy adopted in pursuing the goal around it, appeared not as workable or fruitful. That mattered a lot. Thus, whilst the Michael Okpara’s East, adopted an approach where education was made available only to individuals who could afford it, sometimes at the most excruciating pains, or through community efforts available only to bright children, and Ahmadu Bello’s North appeared to have favoured the moralistic approach, through promoting religious education, Awolowo practically threw the doors open with his Free Education policy.  

The result! Phenomenal! Long before whole communities in the two other zones produced their first graduates, the West was already boasting of one in every family. Today, that trend has endured, even with the attempt by the others to catch up. The attendant picture in terms of the socio-economic and political development, bears ample testimony to the benefits of that vision, more than five decades after.

It is against this backdrop that the current takings of Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (AWT), can be situated. Like the biblical Solomon, who neither asked for money or riches, when God asked him to make a choice, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, has not left anyone in doubt about his preference for his people while in office. He seems to sleep and wake up education.

Though it was a major item during his campaign, he has since turned it into a major project, driven with a single-minded disposition ever since.

On December, 6 last year, after the State Executive Council (SEC), meeting, the Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Saidu Umar, announced the declaration of a State of Emergency on Education. A flurry of activities had emerged before then and more have followed after to give impetus to this drive, an indication that the governor means business in making education the foundation of the state’s development architecture.

From proposing a bill criminalising parents that refuse to send their child to school, to injecting 500 teachers into the educational workforce; from signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Teachers Institute (NTI) to train teachers in the state, to engaging in peer review mechanism, such as studying the Kano State girl-child transport programme and the Ondo State School free shuttle programme and to the setting aside of one per cent levy for every contract awarded in the state for funding education, the true picture of the governor’s vision and strategy is becoming more apparent by the day.

Ostensibly to ensure that the biting poverty pervading the country is not a barrier to this pet project, the governor, recently caused the free distribution of 8,000 Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms worth N44million to indigent students seeking admission into various tertiary institutions across the country. He has also commenced the building of a teacher's village, while introducing a package of special incentives for teachers in rural areas, as well as ensuring prompt payment of the school fees of indigenes of the state studying in various institutions in Nigeria and abroad.  

However, the most practical step taken so far in this direction, came on December 30, when, during his budget presentation, the governor announced a whopping N34.458billion, almost 30 per cent of the total N174.391billion estimate profile. The estimate, which is above the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is not only an icing on the cake, but appears to have put paid to any form of doubt about the governor’s intention. It was also there that he announced a feeding programme for the pupils, to encourage that the classrooms are filled with pupils.

Hear the reason: “My answer is simple: We have a lot to gain by addressing the challenges of the sector head-on. It is our firm conviction that when the people are educated, they’d definitely be better prepared to be self-sufficient. An economically independent society is the stepping-stone to combined productivity that leads to an economic growth of the nation as a whole. For example, statistics reveal that if the mothers are educated, chances are that child mortality rates would reduce by less than half. In fact, this is a reason why urban, educated women have healthier children almost free of diseases. In today’s competitive world, education is necessity for man after food, clothing, and shelter. Education not only ensures that we will guarantee a productive future for our children, it promotes good habits, values and awareness. Education is the only fundamental way by which a desired change and upliftment in the society can be effected.

“Consequently, we all know that provision of quality education is quite demanding. So declaring a state of emergency in the sector will enable us implement extra ordinary measures within a defined time-frame to achieve desired result. Our objective is to improve enrolment at all stages – basic, secondary and tertiary. We hope to improve quality of teachers by training and retraining, and recruitment of new ones. Any teacher whose capacity did not improve after the training will be reassigned to where his ability will be better needed within the civil service. The ultimate aim is to improve human capital capacity in the sector, eliminate inequality in access and radically improve numeracy and literacy.”

The raison d’etre could not have been better expressed. But there is more to be argued in this direction. What better way to emphasise the knowledge economy argument than the state of Nigeria today, where the futility of reliance on natural resources is staring everybody in the face?

With a simple stroke of fate, the giant has been cut down to size. It took the discovery of alternative to oil, the nation’s economic mainstay, to ensure this. Today, the collective fortunes of the country is not only oscillating dangerously, but its basic survival is practically threatened and hanging in the balance, leaving the future quite bleak.

Yet, countries without as much as a fraction of Nigeria’s natural resources are witnessing growth and economic wellbeing in quantum proportions, the difference, of course, being the advantage of knowledge economy. Yes, how much does Microsoft or Facebook, an invention of just two individuals, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbeg, make in a year? How many states in Nigeria would be combined to rake in such figures? Yet, so much is buried in the soil of every Nigerian state from Damaturu to Uyo and from Kafanchan to Abakaliki, or Iseyin.

Why should Nigeria not be at the mercy of other people even with the huge natural resources when there is no basic knowledge or knowhow on how to tap and refine them into finished products? Even with the diversification that is being trumpeted currently, how far could it go without research and development, which can only come through the needed investment in education?

That is where Tambuwal’s vision finds more expression in real terms. Besides, the current experience of insecurity in the country, owing to terrorism, high rate of crime and other social malaise, has provided another perspective to why the development of a robust and thriving educated populace is not only germane, but critical.

Every single available fact, suggests that the prevalence of a massive and unacceptable cluster of the uneducated population, has remained the nursery through which this ugly and dangerous phenomenon has been fed and nurtured.

The governor is certainly on a good journey. What remains is how far he would be willing and able to drive the agenda and how much energy and resilience he would be able, willing and ready to expend in climbing the hill in terms of the arduous nature of the road.  

He has chosen the best part. The most important.     


Igboanugo, a journalist writes from Abuja



Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on January, 28 2016

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