Francis Sardauna writes on the interventions made by Governor Aminu Bello Masari in revamping the education sector in Katsina State
The place of education as the surest and most secured social capital and basis for sound economic and social development is incontrovertible.
Perhaps, Katsina State has gradually become a discerning reference for where a very clear and pragmatic attempt is being made to address education from a broad and multidimensional point of view as against what obtained in the past, through the efforts of Governor Aminu Bello Masari.
The governor has, since assumption of office in 2015, left no one in doubt as to his resolve to revolutionise the ailing education sub-sector in the state.
Before now, the sector has been bedeviled by a retinue of problems ranging from administrative and operational deficiencies to quite a lot of others that can easily be linked to lack of consistent political will in standardising the system’s administrative cum structural components for optimal efficacy of teaching and learning.
Interestingly today, the governor has taken the education sector by storm through his empirical result-oriented approaches which he initiated and has continued to implement throughout the state.
Masari strongly believes that without subjectivity there would be no objectivity, which is why he has painstakingly subjected himself to the complete standardisation of education through the provision of critical learning infrastructures across the state as well as training and retraining of teachers.
This initiative is tremendously metamorphosing into a tactical silent game changer in the way schools were run and most profoundly the definition of critical intervention before now in the state.
Masari has practically demonstrated what critical intervention means in its simplest form through the erection of story buildings in both primary and secondary schools in the state.
It has been estimated that, so far about 200 of such schools have been given total facelifts, these infrastructural renewal has equally been complemented with fresh construction of additional classrooms and hostels for selected boarding schools in each of the three senatorial zones of Daura, Katsina and Funtua.
Recruitment of additional teachers in all categories of schools, upgrading and renovation of some schools across the state, deployment of qualified local government personnel to classes, increased budgetary allocation to the sector up to 19 per cent, provision of text books and other instructional materials to primary schoolsâ€™ pupils.
In an effort to increase the number of Katsina state students enrolled in various institution of higher learning, the governor recently approved the sum of N444,743,100.00 for the payment of WAEC, NECO, NABTEB and NBAIS registration fees for 36,941 students that “qualified”.
This, is in addition to the sum of N60,175,500.00 earlier released by the state government for the payment of female teachers trainee special scholarship scheme for NCE I, II and III students.
In his quest to improve the standard of the state government owned tertiary institutions, the governor approved the recruitment of both academic and non-academic staff for Isa Kaita College of education Dutsin-Ma.
Considering the present security challenges confronting the nation, particularly in boarding schools, the state government under the watch of Masari also approved the employment of 1,000 watchmen for all the secondary schools across the state to safeguard the students.
Today, beyond this reform, the administration developed a mechanism to address the dearth of manpower in the educational sector through the recruitment drive targeting no fewer than 2,000 additional teachers for both primary and secondary schools in the state.
In December, 2017, the administration disbursed the sum of N80 million as refunds for candidates whose payments of WAEC and NECO examination fees had been previously initiated, the intervention, according to government sources was targeted at candidates with at least five credits and above.
One of the most critical policy gaps which this unprecedented feat can solve, is the recurring and often embarrassing issue of girl-child enrollment.
According to a survey by the Federal Ministry of Education, Katsina State is third among the states with lowest girl enrollment in school. This gross imbalance manifests more in a larger social problem of exposure of girl-child into early economic activities and other engagements alternative to pursuing education.
The Masari-led administration conceived of more scientific approach to tackling the problem by reviewing the institutional framework, converting all girlsâ€™ secondary schools in the state into boarding institutions.
It has been a considered opinion of many educationalists in the state that, this is one sure footing in addressing the gap which has placed the state on a notorious position in the national education index scale.
The critical issue of staff motivation and welfare cannot be treated in isolation regarding the enhancement of capacity of students-to-teacher ratio, as well as the disengagement and consequent disenchantment from service and the associated trauma of unpaid retirement benefits.
In Katsina, the story is different, and there are more indicators showing that, the overall decline in the priority accorded welfare of teachers in the state is being steadily reversed by Masari.
In order to attend to the envisaged and planned phased-development of the state-owned university, (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University), plans have reached advanced stage for the establishment of a teaching hospital for the Faculty of Medical Sciences. With the take off, the Faculty will offer programmes leading to the award of degrees in the fields of Medicine, Human Anatomy, Physiology and Community Medicine.
Similarly, the administration has also approved the establishment of the Faculty of Agriculture at the old Agricultural Training Centre at Layin Minista in Malumfashi Local Government Area to keep pace with the development plan of the university.
In line with what is obtainable in other universities of the country, the state government is in the process of amending the laws of the university in order to domesticate the elongation of retirement age for academic and non-academic staff to 70 years and 65 years respectively.
These gestures have now provided a serene environment for objective teaching and learning as opposed to the usual dilapidated structures he met in various schools in the state when he came on board as governor. This has left even hardcore critics with no options than to give Masari kudos for achieving a rare feat in that direction.
In order to give the education sector a wholesome treatment, Masari found a reliable ally in Lawal Buhari Katsina, the Executive Chairman of Katsina State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in his pragmatic interventions.
The SUBEB chairman has been consistently integrating methodological changes in teaching and curricular content improvement where necessary, which is in tune with modern realities and taking into consideration the peculiar needs of Katsina State as an isolated case in the production and provision of instructional materials.
Consequently, the state government through SUBEB, has been updating on a continuous basis, the teaching skills of teachers on modern realities of acquiring and imparting knowledge to pupils and students through workshops.
Despite the dwindling oil revenue allocation accruing to the state, Masari has taken measures to relieve parents, especially indigent ones, from the burden of paying school fees for their wards, he made provisions for the payment of bursary and scholarship allowances to students from the state studying at various higher institutions outside the country.
In the same vein, students living with one form of disability or the other were not left out in the scheme of things as the governor has continued to show deep empathy and warm regard for them at all times. This is why he provided this category of people with special educational needs, making their educational pursuit almost 100 per cent free.
Despite these numerous achievements, Masari needs to provide additional infrastructural facilities at both primary and secondary schools across the state, payment of WAEC and NECO school fees for the secondary schools students in the state and as well improve the welfare package for teachers.