Commissioner: Why Kaduna Education Reform Is Focusing On The Primary Level
Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Muhammad Usman, in this interview with MIDAT JOSEPH, speaks on The effort The state government is making to revamp Education in The state. He also speaks on The proliferation of illegal schools and The strategies The government is adopting to contain them, among other issues.
Is Kaduna State really making effort to revamp The educational sector?
For people to appreciate our achievement, one needs to know The challenges that were on ground here. Some of The challenges we met on ground were so many. One has to do with The teachers we met on ground; they posed a lot of problems - problems of fake certificates, under-qualification, lack of training. Second is The issue of infrastructural decay of many of The schools, both Primary and secondary. There was also The issue of low enrolment rate in The Primary schools. There was The issue of poor performance of students WAEC and NECO. And with that we drew up a road map of what we intended to achieve within The tenure of this present administration. The first thing we did was to flush out teachers with fake certificates, and about 1,800 teachers were flushed out. Secondly, we also realised that about 50 percent of teachers in Primary schools were under-qualified; they did not have The minimum teacher’s qualification. We identified them and gave them a time frame within which they should upgrade their qualification. The third was The issue of capacity development of teachers: so many of them had never attended any training, so a lot of teachers were subjected to one capacity building or The other so as to enhance their capacity and to really build up our teachers’ efficiency. The government has instituted so many reforms at The Primary Education level, because The Primary Education Level is very important. We know that if you get your Primary Education right, The secondary and tertiary Education will also be smooth and we will have firm Education at every Level in The state. We embarked on The educational Reform programme to enhance The capacity of teachers and administrators so that we can have a solid base. And one of The reports which has been introduced has to do with The appointment of local government Education secretaries which were more political. So, now The appointment of secretaries has to be on merit. It has to follow The modalities of appointment. Any vacancy of educational secretary will have to be advertised in The national dailies and any qualified candidate within The local government can apply with qualifications. The essence of this is to ensure that nobody compromises government directives.
Again, we are dealing with The rehabilitation of both Primary and secondary school. We are currently renovating The schools, taking them local government by local government. Over 100 schools in The state have been renovated, cutting across The 23 local governments. We have also embarked on The provision of furniture to The schools, including text books. We have also embarked on The renovation of secondary schools across The state. We want to ensure that every citizen of Kaduna State is educated before 2015; that is Why we introduced The Almajiri system of education.
How ready is The state to handle The issue of Almajiri boarding school?
We are ready, we already started it, and we have since completed The process of running and maintaining The schools.
Some of The Primary school teachers were said to have been wrongfully sacked during The verification exercise; what is their fate now?
Yes, a committee was instituted to carry out The exercise and it made recommendations to government on The issue. Later, there was public outcry that some of The teachers were wrongly dismissed, so The government appointed a sub-committee to really review The claims, and The committee discovered that about 139 of them were wrongly sacked and government had since given directives for such teachers to be reinstated.
Is The state government really concern about The proliferation of illegal private schools?
We have recently deliberated at The executive council meeting and have come up with certain policies, which we are in The process of implementing. We allowed The Ministry of Education through The Private School Board to supervise The activities of The private schools. So many of them are operating illegally; they are not even registered with The state government, and they are below standard. Some of them are operating in garages, while some operating within one classroom or two. This is unacceptable. So, we have come up with a certain policy which we are going to implement to these illegalities. We are going to close down The schools that are operating illegally.
What are The statistics of these illegal schools?
They are many. If for instance a school has not come to register with The ministry, such school is operating illegally. There are so many of them that do not have government approval and we are working hard to trace such schools.
The state government recently reviewed The levy charged on private schools; can you explain The reason for this action?
Yes, when we came on board we discovered that The state of things was not in tune with The current realities. In fact, The highest amount that some of The schools paid to The government as levy under The old system was N50,000 a year. And many of The schools charge above N60,000 per term; some even charge above N500,000 per term! Yet, such schools hardly paid The N50,000 levy. We then realised that things must change to meet The current realities. We know what is obtainable in Kano, Lagos and The Federal Capital Territory. So, if they must operate, they must pay certain dues to The government.
But, you did not consult The proprietors before reviewing The levy?
Consult? In what form? I know how much many of The schools charge students as fees, from their record. We studied their record and what is happening in other states before we deliberated it at The state executive council before an approval was given.
The argument is that The increment of The levies would have a wider effect on poor parents and their children?
But, we never increased The levy for years. The issue of increase in school fees by The private schools should be heavily debated by The parents. If The parents agree that The school fees should be increased, The school authorities will write to The ministry and attaching The minutes of The meeting and The resolution to increase fees, then The ministry will now investigate as to whether due process was followed before it finally gives approval. We know that so many of The schools today arbitrary increase their schools fees without following due process.
How do you intend to tackle this, because so many of The schools have taken advantage of The new levy to hike their schools fees?
Well, as far we are concerned, we want parents to let The ministry know if any schools have made any increment without following due process. We have had serious reasons to close down schools because of these sharp practices.We are also sensitising parents to let The ministry know this. It is their responsibility to find out what is happening in The schools. If they allow The schools’ owners, they would do what they want. But, now, we are really out to deal with such schools. In fact, we are in The process of reviewing The law so that The Private Schools Board will be made to carry out evaluation and sanction such schools.
The mass failure in WAEC and NECO exam; does it worry The state government?
Of course, that is Why The government had to initiate reform. The problem in The Education sector is The problem that has been there for so many years. Because The foundation has been week, The only way we can standardise school performance is to make sure that The Primary educational Level is strong. If a child has a weak Primary start, definitely, it is going to affect his growth. That is Why The quality of our university Level is falling. It is in this regard that The government of Kaduna State is making frantic efforts to get it right from The Primary level. The improvement might not be now but in future. We have to start from The teachers, then to The pupils. The teachers must be qualified to teach. We are paying attention to recruiting qualitative teachers.
There has been public outcry over The return of mission schools to The original owners; what is your ministry doing regarding that?
Well, as far as I am concerned, nobody has come to The ministry with such request since I came on board. But if people so much believe that returning mission schools to their original owners is in The better interest to The people of Kaduna State, we will be obliged to do so, because The government is a listening government that would analyze The situation to do what is in The best interest of The people. Our doors are open to anything that would move The Education forwards in Kaduna State.
Commissioner: Why Kaduna Education Reform Is Focusing On The Primary Level
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