Francis Sardauna examines the role played by Governor Aminu Bello Masari in improving performance of Katsina State students in the yearly West African Examination Council’s test.
The annual West African Examination Council (WAEC) test has been characterized by mass failure in Katsina State due to what education analysts attributed to inability of successful administrations to provide the needed apparatus of learning in both primary and secondary schools. The reoccurrence of the scenario has remained a source of concern to parents, government, teachers, stakeholders and even the students in the state.
The performance of students in the WAEC examination has been fluctuating over the years and the problem has been attributed to so many impediments faced by students in the state. These impediments includes, but not limited to, poor incentives for teachers, lack of qualified teachers, students’ inability to study and get set for the exams, inability of successful governments to provide suitable learning environment and lack of teaching and instructional materials in schools across the state.
These challenges have been bedeviling the success of WAEC examination to the extent that the previous administrations gave room for the existence of “miracle” centres in the state where teachers synergized with supervisors to write answers for students on chalkboard. Accordingly, the previous administration of Ibrahim Shehu Shema introduced the payment of WAEC fee to students of state origin but despite the huge amount of money paid, the result always put Katsina State as the last or second to the last in terms of performance across the country.
For instance, in 2014, according to data obtained from the Department of Planning, Research and Statistics of the State Ministry of Education, only 30 per cent of the sponsored candidates were able to obtain five credits and above in WAEC and 46 per cent in National Examination Council (NECO).
However, Governor Masari, in a swift reaction to the release of the 2015 results by WAEC on assumption of office, expressed displeasure over the dismal performance of the state’s students and declared a ‘State of Emergency’ on the education sector with immediate effect with the aim of revamping and repositioning it for optimum performance and better outcome. The Governor, during his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, noted that, “the rating reflects the systemic and steady decay in the education sector triggered especially by the immediate past administration’s shameless relegation of education, one of the pillars of development of any society.”
A visibly disappointed Masari declared that his administration would do everything humanly possible within its powers to improve the performance of Katsina students in both WAEC and NECO examinations, starting with a total overhaul of the basic education system in the state. The governor therefore came up with short, medium and long term strategies that had fast tracked the repositioning of the education sector and raised the position of the state among its peers in terms of pass rate.
One of such marvelous strategies was the introduction of qualifying examination for students who want government to sponsor them for either WAEC or NECO examinations. These measures have yielded positive result and ensure proper utilization of public funds. Aside the proper management of public funds, the qualifying examination also enable secondary school students to read harder as it is the only prerequisite for state government to sponsor them for their WAEC or NECO examinations.
This, perhaps led to what stakeholders, parents and education analysts in the state termed excellent performance of students in both WAEC and NECO examinations. For instance, in 2019, the state government expended over N208 million on the payment of WAEC examination fees for 21,589 candidates. 7,276 out of 21,589 candidates that sat for the examination scored five credits and above, including Mathematics and English Language, which represents 50 per cent.
While 14,481 candidates who sat for the same examination also scored five credits and above in other subjects – Geography, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Literature and Marketing, representing 66 per cent.
These successes, according to the State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Badamasi Lawal Charanchi, is as a result of the commitments of the administration to enhancing infrastructure development in schools, teachers recruitment and training, as well as provision of instructional materials, among others. The commissioner in a chat with THISDAY revealed that the performance of state candidates had been improving since inception of the present administration in 2015.
He said from 2015 to 2018, no fewer than 245,126 candidates sat for WAEC, NECO, NABTEB and NBAIS, adding that 158,908 candidates obtained five credits and above in other subjects.
According to him, A total of 96,334 candidates scored five credits including Mathematics and English Language during the period under review.
“For easy comparison, it is important to note that, we took over from a government in 2015. Between 2011 and 2015, a total of 417,756 candidates sat for all the four examinations. During the period under review, 79,044 candidates got five credits and above in any subjects. So, we can say that the present administration has improved performance of students in examinations conducted.” He, therefore, lauded the 12 Zonal Quality Assurance Offices in the state for the job well-done in the area of monitoring, inspection and evaluation, which he said assisted significantly in recording the successes.
Charanchi said that the state government had earmarked over N20 billion for education in the 2020 budget, adding that does not include payment of salaries of SUBEB teachers. He affirmed that the Ministry of education under his leadership had designed a One Inspector, One School Approach system so that every school in the state would be monitored effectively. While describing the performances of the state as “Grade A” achievement, the Commissioner maintained that the education sector had recorded tremendous achievements in the present dispensation compared to the 16 years of PDP administration in the state.
He said: “If you compare 2015 till date, that is five years of examination, including the three public examinations under review, Katsina State had a total of 319,374 number of candidates who sat for them. A total of 217,835 representing 62.8% scored five credits and above, while 138,074 representing 63.3% including English and mathematics.
“In the five years tenure of the present administration, 319,314 representing 68%, which is B plus, scored five credits and above in all subjects while 63.3% scored five credits and above including English and Mathematics.’’
He further compared the administration of Shema from 2008 and 2014 with the present administration of Masari which took off in 2015, saying that 417,576 candidates sat for the public examinations in the period under review for Shema, out of which 79,044, representing 18%, scored five credits and above, while eight years later, in 2015 under Masari, the pass rate was 63%.
The commissioner urged parents to reciprocate the gesture by continuously sending their children, especially females to school and support the government policies.
Meanwhile, in the case of deficiency of teachers, the administration recruited about 1,957 teachers for primary schools and transferred some that have teaching qualification in the local government system into classrooms.
The administration is determined to salvage the situation on the shortage of teaching personnel as it had recruited additional 7,500 teachers through it social investment programme (S-power) and government has continuously embarked on quality in-house teachers’ training programmes in synergy with global partners and donor agencies. The educational strides of the present administration in the state had significantly changed the dilapidated structures and lack of manpower it met in 2015 as testified by Governor Masari.
Charanchi said: “The average population was about 99 per class and there were some cases they had up to 200 and above as reported in a class that was designed to take maximum of 45 to 50. At that time, we needed additional 19,000 classrooms in order to accommodate all the children. We all have deficiency in terms of qualified teachers who were 13,000. We had lack of chairs and desks of 28,000.
“We really started from an informed position. We say okay, what we will do in additional to provision of classrooms is first, let us rehabilitate existing structures and see that they become schools because then they were not schools.”
The governor added that the administration was able to rehabilitate 1,620 schools and constructed 464 new ones to tackle the menace of inadequate classrooms that hitherto bedeviled the education sector. He has also strengthened the state’s partnerships with relevant government agencies, development partners and donor agencies concerned with education in his quest to improve the quality of education.