Boldly unfolding his vision-driven agenda to transform the crucial education and health sectors of Kwara State, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has served notice that the lukewarm narratives of past administrations associated with core human development drivers are gone for good. Hammed Shittu reports
Since assuming office as the sixth executive governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, has defined a novel governance template to transform the critical education and health sectors. The reason is not far-fetched as any government that fails to provide qualitative, top-draw education for its people is bound to witness low growth in diverse development areas.
The immediate past administrations in the state had done their best to leverage the two priority human development sectors of the state. But since the government is a continuum, the current administration has left no one in doubt that it is birthing a new paradigm shift in the quest to transform both sectors. This is targeted at making the state a leading light for other states in the region and nation at large to copy.
In Kwara’s education sector under review, the governor quickly toured all the public schools across the 16 local government councils of the state for direct assessment and to know where the shoes pinch the rural areas as far as the education sector is concerned. This will enable his administration to design a new, viable strategy, to tackle the challenges so as to move education forward in the state.
On assumption office on May 29, 2019, the governor took a pragmatic approach to the non-fulfillment of the immediate past administration in the payment of counterpart funds to the National Universal Basic Education (NUBEC), in Abuja, and ordered the fulfillment by paying a sum of over N70 million to the agency so as to assist the state to access to funds that would help fast-track the growth of primary school education in the state.
This payment of the counterpart funding to NUBEC, Abuja, by the present administration changed the status quo of the educational management in primary schools education as new infrastructural development has come up while the needed instructional materials that can aid the teachings of the pupils have increased. This has improved the academic zeal of the pupils across all the public primary schools in the state.
The idea of teaching students under the trees or in dilapidated buildings has gone for good in public schools in the state and this has improved both the morale and academic excellence of the pupils. The pupils now have their teaching in a conducive environment in the state.
The prompt payment of counterpart funding has also assisted the administration to access more funds for the training of teachers which hitherto has long been ignored by the successive governments due to non-payment of counterpart funding.
This training of teachers has exposed them to modern teaching techniques, Information Technology output among others. This also has helped the pupils in their academic pursuits in the state.
Further, the governor set an agenda on the punctuality of teachers in both primary and secondary schools across the 16 local government councils of the state. This has changed the past narratives of the lateness of some teachers to schools and brought a new lease of life to the academic outings of both the primary and secondary school students in the state.
The governor also ensured that unpaid salaries of lecturers in the state tertiary education were paid and this has preempted any strike actions that may have greeted the administration on assumption of office. This singular support to the lecturers has stabilized the academic environment of the affected tertiary institutions in the state.
The administration also ensured the payment of bursary award to over 8,304 final-year students of Kwara State origin across the nation’s tertiary institutions, to boost their academic pursuits and assist their parents, while 89 law students currently at their various law schools in the country were given a bursary to help them pursue their programme with ease.
However, recently, in his passion for the educational growth of the state and to assist parents and guardians of pupils and students of both primary and secondary schools, Governor Abdulrazaq flagged off the distribution of free exercise books and construction of new classrooms in the public schools to boost the academic performances of the students. These efforts, according to him, are to bring education closer to the people and also ensure the students have access to quality education to prepare them as future leaders in the state.
Addressing the mammoth crowd at the venue of the distribution of the free exercise books located at the State Ministry of Education, Ilorin, Governor Abdulrazaq said, “We want to restore this state back to number one in Northern Nigeria. That is our aim.”
In view of this, out of over 100 schools identified for a total renovation, 31 of them have been approved for complete renovations while free exercise books, big notes, and higher education notes have also been printed at the cost of N75 million set to be given out to the students in public schools.
Also speaking, the State Commissioner for Education, Hajia Fatimah Ahmed, a trained teacher, commended Governor Abdulrazaq for the giant strides which include settlement of outstanding arrears of N55,077,00.00 feeding allowance of exchange students owed before the advent of his administration, sponsorship of 1,000 brilliant indigent students of the state for 2020 UTME/JAMB at a cost of N5 million, payment of N30.5 million imposed by WAEC as fine over examination in some schools among several others.
Education Commissioner Fatimah Ahmed also commended the governor for his giant strides in the sector, including the establishment of an ICT Centre in the School for Special Needs.
Ahmed said the administration has also provided N5 million worth of teaching aids and other basic equipment at the special needs school, sponsored the 2019 common entrance, and the recent approval of routine training for teachers on the state. The commissioner, however, appealed to the governor for the approval of N15.5 million still owed various handlers and service providers for the 2018 state joint mock examination.
Governor Abdulrazaq in his address said he flagged-off the rehabilitation of 31 public schools across the state, a step he said signaled the beginning of a new era for the education sector in the state.
Abdulrazaq earlier flagged off the exercise in Baboko Community Secondary School, in the capital city Ilorin, where three blocks of six classrooms are to be fully rehabilitated and fixed with modern information communication facilities.
The rehabilitation of the Baboko School is to last six weeks. The governor explained that the 31 schools are the first phase of the rehabilitation he said is required to gradually guarantee a decent learning environment for the children.
The school rehabilitation flag-off occurred barely one hour after Abdulrazaq supervised the distribution of 932,572 free copies of customized 20, 40 and 80-leave exercise books for public school children in Kwara State.
“The lack of conducive learning environment and longstanding failure to properly fund education – we last accessed UBEC fund in 2013 – can explain rampant incidents of examination malpractices. We are working to end this menace and return Kwara to the top of the table in the North-Central and beyond,” he explained.
Governor Abdulrazaq also said the government will soon hold an education summit bringing together all the stakeholders and private sector players to discuss the challenges and evolve with workable solutions.
Speaking in an interview with journalists shortly after the ceremony, the governor commended the civil servants for their endurance saying, “I also want to thank the civil service for the jobs they have been doing. If you allow the civil service to do their jobs, you will get good service delivery. Keep up the good work and the government is set to work with you to deliver its agenda.”
Abdulrazaq stated, “As you can see in the education sector, not too much has been achieved since 2013. We are starting the reconstruction of our schools with 31 schools though over about 100 schools need immediate attention. It’s sad that all our major schools are in deplorable conditions and it’s a shame to talk about it.
“We have seen the conditions the teachers have been working in but we can’t fix the problems in one day. We thank you for staying on the job and doing your best for these students.”
To the students, Governor Abdulrazaq said, “We wish you had met a perfect system, something to build on. Today we could have been talking about free education but the money we are supposed to use for free education is what are now using in rebuilding our schools from scratch.”
Knowing fully well that the task is enormous, he, however, solicited assistance from other key players in the sector to assist the state government.
He said: “I implore parents’ associations, old boys and girls to also do their best for the schools and assist the government in doing what we want to do. We want to restore this state back to number one in Northern Nigeria. That is our aim.”
Some stakeholders in the education sector in the state who were also in attendance made complimentary remarks about the activities of the current administration since its assumption of office.
State Chairman of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Alhaji Toyin Soliu, in his goodwill message at the ceremony, said, “Sincerely speaking, we have never had it so good. We appreciate His Excellency because he has recognized our profession; education has been taken care of, from the rear to the top. The appointment of a practicing teacher as our commissioner is the icing on the cake for us. You have done well for us.”
Similarly, ANCOPPS state president, Alhaji Toyin Abdullahi said, “Today His Excellency has made history in the lives of our people because you have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you are an epitome of decency and good governance; a silent achiever. You bailed us out of our several crises in our secondary schools. We are very grateful.”
Also, in the area of health development, the governor Abdulrazaq-led administration has taken a giant stride in bringing health care delivery to the doorsteps of the rural populace.
On assuming office on May 29, 2019, Governor Abdulrazaq took facility tours of all the existing health institutions across the three senatorial districts of the state, to assess the situation on the ground and know where the administration would be fair to all in the attainment of good health care delivery to the people of the state. Although, the immediate past administration had done their best to bring health care delivery to the people of the state the present administration believes that more needs to be done to complement these efforts so as to reduce infant mortality and also to improve primary health care.
It would be noted that the administration has recorded a huge success in the area of health development in the shortest time of its governance take-off in Kwara State.
Among the administration’s giant strides in the health sector include the convening of health summit in the state. This effort was borne out of the facility visit of the governor to some of the health care facilities in the state. The health summit which was in partnership with other health stakeholders in the health sector had allowed the administration to fundamentally improve the standard of health care delivery services in the state.
If the summit report is well implemented, it would assist the administration to adapt to the use of telemedicine, better funding, and autonomy for the state’s hospitals to serve as the launch-pad of the 21st-Century medical technology.
Also, the administration ensured that payment of counterpart health funding of N282 million which was allegedly abandoned by successive administrations was achieved in the year under review. The fulfillment of the payment of counterpart funds to related health and donor agencies would go a long way to complement the effort of the government in the health sector.
Among such health facilities that the payment of counterpart funding would be bringing to the state include access to primary healthcare delivery, health insurance and nutrition for under-three children in the state
The payment of N282 million counterpart funding covered N100 million counterpart funds for Basic Healthcare Provision Funds (BHPV); N50 million for Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRIN); and another N82 million to access global grants for malaria. The payment of the grant would also allow the state to have access to the World Bank/Federal Government’s funds to cater for the health needs of pregnant and nursing women and children.
The government believes that such access to such funds will help combat maternal mortality rate and other basic health challenges related to women and children and will also help to fix facilities for primary health care and reduce the pressure on secondary and tertiary health institutions.
It would be noted further that experts have decried malnutrition rate among children in the North Central region, where Kwara State falls and because these children are so key to the bright future, the present government in the state urgently keyed into any initiative that would boost their nutrition and give them a brighter chance in life.
In this connection, the state government’s payment of this counterpart funds of N82 million for malaria programme had ensured the state benefits from Global Funds set aside by donor agencies to combat malaria. The development, however, prompted the state government to embark on statewide roll-back malaria partnership, a donor-funded programme where over 2,500 people benefited from the government’s medical outreach programme recently in the state.
The campaign, Malaria-Free-Kwara, qualifies Kwarans to access free malaria treatments in the health centres near them in the state. Apart from this, the present administration has embarked on free medical and surgical interventions to over 500 patients sufferings from various kinds of ailments in the state.
The surgical interventions were sponsored by the state government in partnership with the Kwara State Association of Nigeria, North America (KSANG) and Sakinah Medical Outreach.
It would be noted that the state has recorded a 35-percent increase in public hospitals’ patronage, courtesy of the indefatigable governor of the state since he assumed leadership of the state.
Even, recently in the state, the government embarked on enlightenment campaigns across the three senatorial districts of the state on the need to keep their environment clean so as to avoid the invasion of Lassa fever in the state.
The campaigns hitherto have helped the people of the state, especially those in rural areas to know the need to keep their homes and environment clean so as to prevent them from being infected with Lassa fever in the state.
Speaking with our correspondent in Ilorin on the healthy development of the present administration, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdulrazaq, Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye, lauded the giant stride of the present administration in the area of health and other sectors of the state.
He said that the administration, within its limited time in office, has changed the narrative in the health sector adding that the development has brought the health care delivery to the doorsteps of the populace in the state.
He, therefore, assured that the government would soon employ more health officers and medical doctors to the state hospitals and clinics so as to boost the health care delivery of the administration.
By redefining the governance templates with which to drive the transformation of the education and health sectors development of the state, Governor Abdulrazaq has sent a clear warning that henceforth the lukewarm narratives previously associated with both crucial sectors are changed for good.
Also, with the passage of the 2020 budget by the state parliament and assent by the governor, the stage is now set for the novel development visions of the administration to fully unfold.