“We increase access, improve learning”

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Last Thursday, International Literacy Day was celebrated around the world. This year’s theme was “Transforming Learning Spaces”. To what extent has Kaduna State made learning conducive to learners in the past seven years?

As you know, the government inherited a huge infrastructure deficit when it took office seven years ago. We had to declare a state of emergency in education. Today, almost all of our schools have experienced some form of rehabilitation or the other, or an upgrade or both. More than 700 contracts for primary and secondary schools were awarded from 2015 to 2019. We completed the six science secondary schools, all of which focused on improving our school facilities. Due to increased enrollment in basic education classes, more classrooms have been built and rehabilitated.

We have also constructed high rise buildings in some of our schools to ensure schools are within a perimeter. And we provided teaching materials such as whiteboards and other teaching aid facilities. You may also be familiar with the AGILE project, the acronym stands for Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment. AGILE is girl-centered learning enhancement. Thanks to the support we received, we were also able to provide water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, renovated some infrastructure and built other junior and senior secondary schools.

Besides the AGILE project, what other policies or programs have you set out to improve girls’ education? Because statistics have shown that most of the 771 million people in the world who cannot read or write are women.

Yes. We have improved our access to distance learning, such as television programs, to reach out-of-school children, especially our daughters. We also launched the Nigerian Learning Passport for in-school and out-of-school children. Thanks to the WASH facilities we have provided in our schools and the psychological supports, we have also been able to increase the schooling of girls. We have what we call Edu Marshals who go around and when they see school-aged children wandering the streets during school hours, they make sure to enroll them in school. We have been raising awareness with the support of civil society organizations (CSOs) and development partners, all focused on improving school enrolment, retention and completion for our girls and even our youth mothers.

Do you sue parents who let their children roam the streets when they’re supposed to be in school?

Yes, it is under development. We haven’t sued anyone yet. But it is part of our plan to do so and with the support of our sister Ministry of Justice, the government will institute circuit courts. When they are in place, these courts will prosecute these parents and impose a fine on them. We can also educate them so that we can all be on the same page, with the same goal.

How has the World Bank or any civil society organization (CSO) or development partners supported your ministry regarding the education of the 10 million out-of-school children?

Yes. Reaching out of school children is a project of the Islamic Development Bank, AGILE is the World Bank, then we have the AMA Foundation, they also help us. We also have Better Service Delivery for All (BESDA) through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), they are all in favor of providing better facilities. They even finance a hybrid education project with the Almajiri children. There is also the Global Partnership, Education for All; a consortium of partners. We work with Kaduna Basic Education Accountability Mechanism (KADBEAMS). We collaborate because education is for everyone and everyone’s business. Once you have an educated society, you will be sure that the development will be improved and the society will be better for it.

What were your challenges in integrating Western education and Koranic education?

These challenges exist. We talked about children not going to school, not even Koranic education; with Koranic education, the problem is even multiple, but access to basic education has mitigated the challenges as we serve more than 300 non-formal education sectors or centers in the state. These Almajiri or Tsangaya schools have also been modernized and remodeled to include literacy and numeracy. Thus, the AMA Foundation has provided more than 300 million naira. And we were able to build eight Tsangaya schools as boarding schools. We call them Integrated Koranic and Tsangaya Education Schools (IQTE). They are in Tashan Jirgi, Soba; Jere, Kagarko: Kubau; Labar, Igabi; Jagindi Gari, Jema’a; Maraban Gwanda, Sabon Gari; Dan Alhajin Gabas, Lere and Hunkuyi, Kudan. These children learn literacy, arithmetic and continue their Koranic education. We have eight at the moment and plan to expand. These challenges are there but we are gradually overcoming them but these eight are successful so far.

Recently, Kaduna State fired some teachers because they were deemed incompetent. The Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (KADSUBEB) has announced that it will recruit 10,000 additional qualified teachers to replace them. How far has he gone in this direction?

We have learned lessons from past exercises. So we opened a portal and received over 73,000 applications. From this, we want to invite 30,000 qualified candidates. You know you can’t call everyone for that. Because we are an equal opportunity state, we do not consider your tribe, religion or gender. As an equal opportunity state, what we will do is that once you qualify, you will be recruited after passing the computer-based test, which has been prepared by experts from our establishments of higher education. Candidates who achieve the cut-off mark in the computer-based test will now be invited for an interview and, if necessary, we have matched them with the gaps we have identified. It’s going to be very transparent because we learned lessons from the past, especially, we did a lot of verification of their certificates, their institutions, if they are currently employed, their former employers. We will employ 10,000 people at the end of this fiscal year.

Are there any Kaduna State Government plans to empower people through vocational training so that they can be self-sufficient?

No society can grow without skills because as we sit on these chairs, someone made them. Even if you’re academically brilliant, that doesn’t stop you from using your hands; in fact, the smarter you are, the better you will use your hands. There are plans for that even at the federal government level, there is something called the TMAX project. Kaduna State is one of the seven states involved in vocational training, 15,000 young people will be trained.

And at the state level we also work, you know, we have what we call the BATC, the Community Services and Skills Development Centers, we have our technical schools, we have our business schools. So we’re trying to revamp this, this thing has been around since 1975/76. As I said, we inherited a huge deficit. We even had a meeting yesterday (last Tuesday) about Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Ministry of Business, Innovation Technology is driving it but of course with us. It’s because we want to integrate it into the curriculum. At the basic education level, KADSUBEB even introduces technical education at the primary level. Students will learn arts and crafts just to give them that interest.

I would like to use this medium to encourage everyone to change their perception of skills; it is not because you are not brilliant that you become a mechanic, plumber, carpenter or tiler, it is because you are brilliant, that is why you can even either make a machine or repair a machine, or make something work. All the cars, all the phones, it’s because somebody’s been brilliant, that’s why they can say I’m going to put all your data on your phone, all your contacts on your phone. I therefore appeal to our parents to ensure that their children learn one skill or the other even if they study up to higher education. Some students are at university and they do baking and sewing, they make works of art. Skill development is very important, please let’s take it seriously and respect those who have crafts or skills as part of their profession, it’s very important.

You talked at some length about how the state government has improved basic education. What does your ministry plan to do to improve higher education institutions?

Yes, that too has not been forgotten. We do not ignore it. We have what we call a tertiary roadmap. I was lucky to be invited to Malaysia by their higher education institute, and we are concerned about higher education, you can have secondary level skills and higher level skills. We have learned lessons on this, so we are now working on the higher education roadmap, from building the board of the council to running universities or higher education institutions or even structures . And again we replicate our Kaduna State University bill. We are done with that of the College of Education and Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic. We are therefore actively working to improve higher education. We know there are issues even in our College of Nursing and Midwifery, so they all fall under this umbrella to improve on the international best practices we have seen. We may be considering streamlining some operations, improving accreditation, collaborating more with National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) colleges and other federal institutions.

EDUCATION Facts:

– Education is always free and compulsory in Kaduna State, from primary to upper secondary;

-The provision of free education is in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the National Education Policy and the Kaduna State Policy on Education;

-The government has reinforced free education by providing free textbooks and uniforms to primary and secondary students;

– Last year, the administration purchased textbooks, textbooks and e-books worth over N800 million for basic and post-basic education;

– In 2020, N800 million was spent on uniforms and over N400 million was also spent on sewing new uniforms last year;

– In June 2021, Her Excellency, Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe announced the distribution of free uniforms to students;

-From 2015 to last year, the Kaduna State Government constructed approximately 927 new classrooms and built new schools across the state;

– Seven new schools were built for gifted and talented students in the towns of Danbushiya, Pambegua, Hunkuyi, Buruku, Jere, Manchok and Rigachikun;

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