By Julius Toba-Jegede
Gov. Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State says he will be leaving the education sector of the state in 2023 better than he met it as governor in 2015.
The governor said this when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) flagship programme, NAN Forum, in Katsina.
Masari said his achievements in other sectors like agriculture, health, water and infrastructure development, driven by his “Restoration Agenda” in the last six years, were unprecedented in the modern history of Katsina State.
Speaking on his achievements in the education sector, the governor said there was a considerable improvement in the total number of pupil enrolment and general performance in external examinations.
“We have recorded significant performance of our students in external examinations which is a yardstick for us to assess whether our “Restoration Agenda” in education is working or not.
” And we believe it is working because when we came into government, the totality of pupils who sat for WAEC examination, the maximum they were having was 11 per cent.
” In NECO examination, the maximum recorded was 20 per cent. That is going back if you take average of 2007 up to 2014, even 2015.
“But today, what we introduced is that there has to be a qualifying examination.
” During our time, before you sit for WAEC you have to sit for mock examination to assess how many students can be presented with the hope of them getting the requirements needed for tertiary institutions.
“It was a decision that we took and some said it was not politically wise.
” But I said it is politically more wise because it is better I present 30,000 students if I can get 70 per cent performance of those who have five credits and above to go to higher institutions than to present 58,000 students, with only 5,000 successful.
“That was what was happening before because the previous government had a policy of paying for WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations for everybody.
” I said no, we will only pay for WAEC for only those who score five credits and above in our qualifying examination.
” For those who have three credits, we will pay NECO for them but I will not pay for WAEC.
“’However, this is a decision of government but parents who feel in between the qualifying examination and the WAEC or NECO, they will recruit teachers to privately coach their children,if they succeed in getting five credits and above, we will refund and some did.
” The first refund we made was over N87 million, which we paid back to such parents.
“Now, this last examination, for WAEC, we had 69 per cent, for NECO we had 91 per cent.
” So, if by presenting 30,000 students we are getting 69 per cent, I think we have a huge number.
” If this process continues, our next challenge will be higher institutions that can accommodate and absorb them,’’ he said.
The governor also revealed that for those who could not proceed to tertiary institutions, the state government in partnership with UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Mafita had renovated and equipped about 12 vocational training centres to cater for their needs.
“Skills acquisition is key to developing small skill and medium skill enterprises as well as support daily lives.
” We can’t survive without bricklayers, mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, painters.
”These are critical people especially if you want to develop the economy fast.
“So we concentrated and, we work with DFID under Mafita. We have rehabilitated over 12 training centres and we equipped them.
” These centres are turning out young men and women with skills. Our own concept of this restoration, as it affects education is all-inclusive, because we are looking at value addition,’’ he said.
To further achieve higher standard in education, Maasri said he prioritised the welfare of teacher and ensured their prompt promotion, adding that his government cleared the backlog of years of non-promotion of teachers immediately he assumed office.
“Before we came into government, for about three years, teachers were not being promoted.
” We cleared all the backlog arrears of promotion of teachers. We also recruited to replace all those who died or left; by doing this, we replaced over 3,000 teachers.
“Also, to address the shortage of teachers in primary school, we introduced S-Power.
” As I am talking to you now, we have 5,000 NCE and Diploma in Education holders across schools in all the local governments of the state.
” These people have become the reservoir such that if a teacher leaves, dies or retires, we will simply recruit from the basket of this 5,000.
“At the secondary school level, we have about 2,500 graduate teachers also under S-Power who are also serving as reservoir.
” You can see that we have introduced minimum of 7,500 teachers into our education sector in other to augment the shortfall of teachers.
“We are trying to decongest the classrooms and this is an ongoing project. The previous government in the state did not take into consideration the culture and tradition of our people.
” Again, because of the low income of our communities, primary schools are few in number.
“’But we are working hard in terms of sensitisation so that people will see the benefits of education.
” We are also engaging the traditional and religious leaders on the need to let the people see why they should send their children to school,’’ he said. (NAN)