Sokoto was the first state to have declared a state of emergency in the education sector. Presently it addresses the issue of girl child enrolment. ANKELI EMMANUEL writes.
No doubt, Sokoto state is rated far beyond any state in the federation as the only state that has the highest budgetary allocation for education. Its equally on record that, Sokoto was the first state to have declared a state of emergency on the education sector in the contemporary Nigeria.
The quest to make education a top priority gains unimaginable momentum in the Seat of the Caliphate since governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal became governor in 2015.
This was even as the governor having realized that, no nation can become great by mere wishful thinking, hence his resolve to evolve, institutionalise and promote a people-oriented development policy in an irreversibly holistic manner that is backed by action in multiple ramifications.
The first most important step the governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s led administration took was to constitute a committee solely charged with the responsibility of ensuring that, all the hidden measures capable of turning the education sector around were unearthed.
And as expected, the comiittee headed by the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodiyo University, Professor Arabu Riskuwa carried out a genuine excercise of bringing up all the likely hidden impediments towards achieving a viable education both in the basic and secondary education of the state.
The committee, named “Technical Committee on the State of Emergency on Education” brilliantly developed a framework for the efficient implementation of the emergency so declared.
To accelerate his resolve in that regard, the governor bluntly but succinctly devoted the largest chunk of the state’s budget to education since inception till date.
In 2016, the state education sector got the highest budgetary allocation of 34.5 billion naira which was 29 per cent of the year’s total budget. Prominent amongst the achievements of that year in the education sector were the payment of over 2 billion naira as scholarship to Sokoto indegenes and catapulting of pupils enrollment to as high as 1, 200, 000.
Others include Right to Education bill which was considered by the State House of Assembly and subsequently signed into law by the governor. This law provides not only for free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 to 18 at government’s expense, but also goes a step further to criminalized refusal to send children to school or stopping them hence such parents will be liable for criminal prosecution.
Maintaining his priority for education, Tambuwal again in 2017 allocated 38.4 billion, (27.3 per cent) of the total budget to that sector. As expected, diverse milestones were recorded that year.
Notable amongst them were the 1.2 billion naira contract for the construction of a Senior Secondary School in (Gudu) the only local government in Nigeria that has none. The construction of additional 54 secondary schools across the state.
However, in a bit to address one of the most critical areas that constitute disparity in enrolment, the Tambuwal led administration created an agency for Girl Child education whose mission was simply to supervise and implement targeted policies aimed at assisting the girl child to achieve their potentials.
To speedily facilitate results, the government sponsored 250 female teachers for specialized training at the Shehu Shagari College of Education with the aim of posting them back to their respective communities to ultimately serve as role model for the girl child in their areas.
The government disbursed 158 million naira to 10.544 families across the state to allow their female children attend classes uninterrupted. This was more so as additional 1500 primary, 180 Junior and 200 Senior secondary schools were renovated
These dedication to revamping the state’s education has no doubt led to the construction of several schools, renovation of many others, a handsome number still under construction while many more are at there incubation stages.
The success story of Sokoto state and it’s governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in the areas of education has undoubtedly attracted national and international commendations, hence Sokoto remained the only state that devotes larger part of her annual budget far above the UNESCO bench mark of 27 percent to education.
The result of this is practically being felt by the appreciable quantities of learning and teaching materials worth billions being supplied to most schools since State of Emergency was declared on the education sector.
In the recent 2018 Democracy Day celebration, the governor, flagged off the distribution of furniture to schools across the state in a colourful ceremony held at the Giginya Memorial Stadium.
At that occasion, Tambuwal divulged that, he has procured additional 10, 000 of 2–Seater Students Desk, 5000 Double Bunk-beds and Matresses, more than 2000 Dawers, Teacher’s tables and chairs to be distributed to schools across the state.
Much as the procurement remained commendable, what however remained of greatest concern is the fact that saboteurs within the system still continue to thwart the governor’s drive for a revamped education.
The activities of such saboteurs will better be felt when one takes a fact finding visit to some schools outside the metropolis.
One of such schools visited by LEADERSHIP Sunday is the New Rimawa Model Primary school in Goronyo local government area of the state.
Rimawa is a community situated some few kilometers away from the popular Goronyo Dam which till date remained one of the biggest in the country despite it’s recent depletion.
Blessed with a sandy topography, New Rimawa Model Primary school is one amonsgt the many has benefited from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other donors cash transfer initiative.
The programme as designed by these donor agencies was aimed at boosting girl child enrolment through payment of stipends to the care-givers to help cater for some of their basic education needs.
Located at the northern fringe of the State, about 90 kilometres away from the metropolis, and 20 kilometres from Goronyo Dam, the community has three government Primary schools.
Though, the donor agencies for this Cash Transfer programme chooses New Rimana Model Primary School probably because it’s the biggest both in terms of structure, landscape and population.
While in the school, it was discovered that 11 of the surrounding communities register their children there to at least acquire basic education.
The school according to investigation was established in 1970 hence it has expectedly produced few prominent personalities from that axis.
Narrating how far the school has fared, a source within the community who prefers anonymity for fears of victimization said, one serving Permanent Secretary in the State Civil Service as well as the current local government’s chairman of the area were all products of the school.
New Rimawa Model Primary School as at the time of the visit has a total number of 1100 pupils, with boys numbering 575, while girls are 525 from primary 1to 6.
The most amazing metaphor was however not only that the 1100 pupils were being taught by 10 teachers and an Head Teacher, but that the pupils were all learning from the comfort of the floor. These therefore means no single chair or desk in any of the classrooms.
Another spectacular angle of the metaphor is the fact not even a single mention of a classroom chair, desk or office table provided by any of those prominent personalities that passed through the school.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also oberved that there is the urgent need to intervene in terms of deploying more teachers to the New Rimawa Model Primary School, hence a single teacher cannot teach 110 pupils and guarantee quality education.
This is even more so that, only four of the teachers were said to have a minimum qualification for teaching, while the other six are with less qualifications.
Speaking on how the UNICEF Cash Transfer Programme has unimaginably propelled enrolment in the New Rimawa Model Primary School, the Head Teacher, Yusuf Abubakar, said prior to the intervention, the school has less than 600 pupils.
According to Yusuf, “UNICEF started the work by initiating the Cash Transfer Programme which increased both enrollment and attendance in the school.
“Before the Cash Transfer Programme came, our school had less than 600 students. However, a few months into the programme, we already have over 1000 pupils.
“Though, these increased enrollment came with its attendant consequence as it has brought about a serious challenge for us in terms of how best to manage the increased population.
“That not withstanding, we are however hoping that this Cash Transfer Programme be sustained because it has triggered our girl child interest in going to school. Therefore, it’s without doubt, a good development for our education should it’s sustained”.
In his show of appreciation and like the celebrated “Oliver Twist” who always ask for more, the Heat Teacher further appealed for sustained teachers intervention.
“Although, UNICEF has given us training on leadership, but the teachers really need training to be able to conform with model teaching skills and we equally need more teachers because the population is soaring courtesy of the Cash Transfer Programme” He noted
Recalled that the Cash Transfer Programme as designed by donors and being executed by UNICEF Cash was aimed at addressing some of the poverty-related reasons which hitherto prevents most families from enrolling their female children in schools.
The stipends being given to the care-givers via the Cash Transfer programme helps in addressing some of the basic direct opportunity cost encountered by the families hence becoming a sure leeway for triggering girl child enrolment, retention and completion.
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