Abeni Aso-Oke

States’ emergency declaration on education and the Buni vision, by Hassan Gimba

States’ emergency declaration on education and the Buni vision, by Hassan Gimba

Abeni Aso-Oke

Abeni Aso-Oke

In the past few months, there has been some incessant din over the plight of education across the country, how deplorable it has become and concerns over how to bring it out of the shambles it has been shovelled into as a result of long-term negligence by those who should nurse it after benefitting from it.

Many of us who were in this part of the world before 1980 knew what schools were and how governments went the whole hog to make them qualitative while making the academic environment so conducive.

Abeni Aso-Oke

The managers of education  did not compromise quality and standards for they were aware that any pupil with the right foundation in primary and secondary education, can venture into the world and be a huge success. And funds for that were adequately utilised.

We had our primary and secondary education almost free. Uniforms, books and meals were provided. Mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, detergents, soaps, pocket money and even transport fares were provided for secondary students. No student bought his chair, desk, or bench.

There was adequate power supply, and pipe-borne water was taken for granted. Nobody knew of boreholes because the central water supply was functioning. There were generators in case of power failure and the maintenance culture was commendable as well. School children were encouraged to engage in wholesome extracurricular activities.

Up to the mid – 80s our primary and secondary schools were bastions of excellence while our tertiary institutions were citadels of learning. We were prouder to gain admission into a Nigerian university than to go abroad to study, then.

I recall that going to the School of Basic Studies (SBS) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU) was more prestigious than even going to study in America. Any student you saw in ABU Zaria then had passed his General Certificate of Education (GCE) with flying colours while only those who failed the West African Examination ran abroad, where in most cases admission criteria were lower than obtainable here. And so we took the entrance examination to SBS and left our mates who failed their GCE to japa out on a scholarship to study abroad.

But since then, the reverse has become the norm; now studying abroad confers on one a status that studying at home does not. And all this is no thanks to those in charge of our education who deliberately allowed it to get rotten while profiteering from it.

What do you make of a situation where a person superintending education would take his child to a private school or abroad? What do you make of a situation where a student here may score nine credits but fall short by a few marks in JAMB to secure admission to study medicine while his classmate with three credits and zero points in JAMB can go abroad to study medicine and return to Nigeria as a medical doctor?

Perhaps, alarmed by the negative trajectory education has taken in this country, a lot of stakeholders who know what education should be like have started declaring, or calling for the declaration of, emergency in the education subsector.

For instance, six months after he was sworn in as governor of Zamfara State, Dauda Lawal declared a state of emergency on education, because, according to him “the neglected education sector in Zamfara affected all levels, from primary to tertiary, with poor learning environment and personnel.”

Similarly, the governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf, on Friday, 14 July, about two months after being sworn in, also declared a state of emergency in the education sector. The declaration was intended to “hasten actions in delivering services to guarantee access to quality education for all in Kano”.

Likewise, lending a voice to the forum of the wives of state governors who, among others, called on the federal government to declare a state of emergency on education, the International Ford Fellowship Programme Alumni Nigeria (IFFPAN) recently urged President Bola Tinubu to immediately declare a state of emergency on compulsory basic education programmes across the country.

The IFFPAN, an independent, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, private, nonprofit, social justice organisation for Nigerian Alumni (Fellows) of the International Fellowship Programme of Ford Foundation, United States, urged the president to spare no effort in ensuring that young Nigerians have a solid footing for the realisation of their dreams.

However, long before all of them, Mai Mala Buni, the governor of Yobe State had declared a state of emergency on education in his state. He said that the decision was to consolidate the solid foundation put in place by his predecessor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam.

Unlike others who waited months into their tenure before declaring what is in the interest of their people, he made his declaration in his first inauguration speech as governor on 29 May 2019.

And perhaps they, especially the northern governors, may have some takeaways from his vision. This is because all the states have witnessed a fall in their standard of education. But, significantly, almost all the states, in one way or the other, have witnessed either insurgency or banditry.

Having known what education used to be and realising its fall in the state, aided by the onslaught of insurgents, Governor Buni wasted no time in establishing new schools, renovating and building new hostels and classrooms in existing schools, building and equipping laboratories and ICT Centres.

His vision led to the recruitment of over 4,000 education staff and the retraining of almost 30,000 others, rather than sacking them and compounding the problem of unemployment and insecurity in the state and nation.

There has also been a significant increase in the number of Yobe undergraduates studying at home and abroad due to improved scholarship programmes. The governor’s policies led to a drop in the number of out-of-school children by over 75 per cent, according to Dr Mohammed Sani, his former commissioner of education, who oversaw the transformation of almajiri schools into modern tsangaya, as a result of which he is now heading the National Almajiri Commission.

Hassan Gimba is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Neptune Prime.

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