By Stanley Nkwocha, Abuja
No doubt, the Military under President Muhammadu Buhari has clearly made huge impact in the battle against insurgency in the Northeast where its gallant troops reduced to the barest minimum the capacity hitherto possessed by the Boko Haram sect to unleash mayhem. But as things stand now, constant rehab and restitution must be pursued towards bringing the zone from the precipice.
To be sure, narratives on the state of the Northeast in the aftermath of the terror attacks have dominated the past months from the exhilarating to the exasperating. While successes have been recorded, needless to state that the major concern of all stakeholders at the moment is how to rehabilitate the Northeast and repair and replace what has been destroyed.
Aware of the effort the government at the centre have been making in this regard, the governor of Borno State, Alh. Kashim Shettima, has taken it upon himself to rehabilitate and reset development in his state. In achieving this, he has employed a most laudable and emphatic strategy: educational empowerment of Borno people.
Defying the threat and ideology posed by the dreaded sect, the Kashim Shettima administration has embarked on a massive multibillion naira educational revolution in Borno State. Under the #Rebuilding Borno agenda of his administration, what could best be described as the greatest investment in the educational sector in any part of the country has seen the Borno State government investing heavily on the building of 20 new mega schools, which are being built for 54,000 kids orphaned as a result of insurgency in the state in its first phase. The schools which will comprise both primary and secondary schools are spread across the three senatorial districts in the state.
With a minimum of 20 classrooms that have been designed to enroll at least 2000 pupils in each of the schools, all buildings boast of state of the art facilities in classes and can best be described as sophisticated. It suffices to also state that the schools are rare works of architecture in relaxed English educational style of building. The schools are modern, yet user-friendly with sporting facilities and incorporating traditional structures.
The quality of materials used from start to finish such as roofs, doors, tiles, air condition systems, lights, parapets, boards, underline the seriousness of the Shettima administration to making life meaningful for the orphans in the state. All schools have a nature-influenced airiness achieved with brick, lofty windows, marbles, colourful paints and sometimes terracotta. A visit to the schools underscores the seriousness with which the Borno State government attaches to acquisition of education for the underprivileged.
For instance, at the Modern Mega Orphanage School, located in 202 area of Maiduguri, majestic might just be a word but it aptly captures the ecstatic beauty and ambience that characterizes the imposing structure located few meters opposite the University of Maiduguri. With separate hostels for both male and female pupils, expansive dining halls, comfortable classes, common rooms, kitchen, toilets etc, it is clear that the school which is almost 95% complete will address the dwindling fortunes of education in the state by boosting enrolment in schools.
Shettima, whose achievements in Borno State despite the challenges and setbacks caused by insurgency remain legendary and beats the imaginations of Borno people and vistors, said except the present generation of leaders look to the future and invest heavily in education, the quest for sustainable nation building would be lost.
“Our vision and long term plan is to make private schools in Borno less attractive than the public schools . And the strategy for us is to ensure that the environment for learning is not only conducive and attractive but one that also adds value to the lives of the pupils there such that as they grow, they begin to appreciate society and brace up to challenge their peers from other parts of the world as the facilities we are providing are world class.
“I am particular about education as I know that it holds and remains the key to tackling poverty, emancipating people and of course creating wealth in the long run. Lessons have been learnt from the past and there will be no gaps whatsoever for anyone to take advantage of our people. And we must begin to be futuristic. If we do not invest for instance in quality education for these younger ones, imagine what the future holds for the society too. We will feed them, clothe them, accommodate them as they are our responsibilities and it will cost us funds but in the years to come I tell you , one can only look back and have contentment as the positive impact it would have would then not be measurable in terms of money spent”, Governor Shettima emphasized.
The mega schools designed to accommodate 54,000 school children displaced by Boko Haram is not just an ecstatic beauty but clearly a project that depicts a paradigm shift to the ‘the new world’ in Borno’s educational strides.
“We have an official number of over 54,000 orphans in Borno State. Unofficially, the orphans may number over 100,000. Half of them may be in Maidugiri. Without educating these youths, they will be monsters that will consume all of us. It is a very huge challenge but we shall overcome it”, Shettima added.
And to further ensure that the educational projects deliver the desired results, the state government, with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has trained about 7,169 teachers who are now set to take education in Borno to the admirable level.
At a meeting with USAID officials recently in Maiduguri, it was revealed that the teachers had undergone tutelage on healing classroom and pupils-centered teaching methodologies in five local government areas of Borno including Biu, Jere, Kaga, Konduga and Miaduguri Metropolitan Council. The exercise was supervised and monitored by the Borno State commissioner for Education, Musa Inuwa Kubo.
While the revolution in the education sector is no surprise at all following his promise during the submission of the then 2017 budget to the State House of Assembly wherein education got the largest share of N33billion, Governor Shettima had promised to leave no stone unturned in revamping the sector.
Presenting the 2017 budget then, Governor Kashim had said, “Education is the sector which captures our attention the most. It is the area that has suffered the worst onslaught of the insurgents. Our experiences have shown that its (inadequacy) could be risky and it’s neglect could also be recipe for insecurity even in the future. It is for this reason that the education sector alone, excluding the primary level, is allocated N33billion for secondary and tertiary schools. The amount allocated is to enable us continue with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the educational infrastructure and facilities at the secondary and tertiary schools”.
According to the governor, the need to entrench western education in the whole country, especially the Northern region cannot be overemphasized. He said that his access to Western education saved him from being doomed to a life of abject poverty and nothingness.
“If not because of our access to western education, I might have been rearing goats or been a Qur’anic scholar somewhere in Maidugiri. I am the first generation graduate of my family and that why my administration remains resolute in supporting western education”, Shettima added.
As Borno’s 20 New Mega Schools for 54,000 kids orphaned by Boko Haram is celebrated across the nation by all and sundry, including experts who have described it as a potent weapon that must be advanced and utilized in neutralizing what Boko Haram stands for, it is also pertinent to call on other states to embrace the Borno example as it is proving to be a major weapon in fighting poverty, creating wealth and in the long run the much needed stability and intellect needed for the nation’s development.
While Malcolm X in one of his teachings asserted that “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”, Kashim Shettima might have further chosen to spend Borno’s hard earned billions in education believing in the postulations of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who submitted that “the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”, .
As the 54,000 kids orphaned by Boko Haram in Borno begin a new march to self-sustainability in life, it is important we acknowledge the efforts by the Borno State governor in making this possible. For having the heart, zeal , foresight , passion, determination and political will to change the lives of these orphans, it is worthy to state that the history books will forever be friendly to him.
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