I attended Galadima primary school and Government Secondary School for my Primarily and Secondary education. Both of them in my village; in my Local Government and in my state: Malumfashi Local Government in Katsina state. What more, both are government owned – PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Some of our teachers then, were white-skinned. I can still remember Mrs. Abraham: my English teacher in my Primary School and Mr. Sandram, my Mathematics teacher in my Secondary School. Both of them were imported from India, thousands of miles away, just to come and teach a poor boy like me – an orphan. These expatriates were not kept only in Kaduna, the city center, but also at Malumfashi, a remote village where no Governor, no commissioner, no permsec and no director lived. …
The ‘Batures’ (the Hausa word we used to call all white skinned), who could not speak Hausa, taught us together with the children of the Local Government administrators, those of the Education secretaries, those of the District heads and those of the rich and the poor in the community. Together we formed one big family bound by strong ties of relationships which were true, pure and natural. I can still remember the district head of Malumfashi, late Galadima Abdullahi, some of our Education secretaries like late Mallan Bako Matazu and some of the inspectors of education, like Malam Sani Limited and many of our teachers. These gentlemen visited our schools regularly to make sure everything was going on as planned.
I know them very well and so well that I can still remember them not only because they visited my school regularly, but because they were my ‘fathers’. They were fathers because their children were my classmates and thus my FRIENDS. Of particular mention was the school’s closing day. At the end of each term, the district head would visit each school to declare it closed. During the event, the district head would pray and praise some of us who performed better, sometimes even shook hands with the best performing pupils – a very rare privilege. This royal handshake had always been a source of inspiration and a motivational factor for good performance.
After school hours, we played TOGETHER; we went to the bush for hunting TOGETHER and we went to the ponds for swimming TOGETHER. At the end of the day, we went to each others’ houses and eat TOGETHER in the same bowl. The rich child would share his RICE with his poor friend while the poor friend would share his ‘TUWO’ (Eba) with his rich friend. At that time, some of the rich parents would buy enough toys for their children to share with their poor friends. Through this communal system, every child knew every adult in the community and referred to him as Baba (father) and also every adult knew every child in the community and called him my son. Through this system, no child ever went to bed with HUNGER; so no child ever went to bed with ANGER. Peace and happiness reigned supreme. Through this system, the quality of education was ensured because all hands were on deck. Through that system also, the fabrics of social integration and justice were cemented because we all see ourselves as brothers’ keepers. Under this system, how can a group of poor children organize themselves to attack the rich in their community?
With such foundation, I was able to go through my OND, HND, PGD and Masters Degree without any problem. After serving myself in the private sector as a consultant for about thirteen years, I eventually became a house member, The Minority Leader in the Katsina State House of Assembly. I am very much sure that most of the leaders we have today are product of the same system and institutions. Be they political, traditional, religious, academic and those in the business community. Leaders like the IBBs, Buharis, Atikus and Jonathans were made possible, out of the orphans they were, by such systems and institutions. Little Buhari, an orphan of poor background, was made friends with little Shehu ‘Yar’adua, a blue blooded and son of a federal minister, courtesy of those system and institutions.
By my new position, I’m now a leader who is expected to build on from where my parents stopped. Who is expected to give back to the same society that has given me so much. By simple natural progression, those institutions that produced us some 20, 30, or 40 years ago are suppose to produce better products by today. The minimum acceptable standard is to, at least, maintain the same standard as inherited from our fathers and forefathers. Anything short of that is a TOTAL FAILURE in responsibility and BETRAYAL of trust. Now the one million dollar question: are we all living up to that trust and responsibility?
THE EDUCATIONAL STANDARD AND SOCIAL FABRICS OF TODAY
It is a popular saying that “action speaks louder than voice”. In spite of whatever any person may say, the fact that almost everybody today, including leaders at all levels take our children to private schools for their education, is a pointer to the reality that all is not well with our public institutions. It is an open admission of failure and total lack of confidence in the same noble institutions from which we all emerged. Today, the only person who takes his/her child to a public school is someone who lacks the ability to take that child to a private school.
The situation got to a worrying and shameful level that even the managers of our public schools: those whose direct and immediate responsibility is to see to it that these institutions function well, do not enroll their children into these schools. A public school teacher today would first take his child to a private school; come back home to have his bath; have his breakfast and then reluctantly proceeds to his school arriving there around 9am. Do you blame him?
The president, the ministers, the Legislators, the Governors, the Commissioners, the Permsecs, the Principals, the Education secretaries, the Education inspectors, the Headmasters, the religious leaders and the village heads all do the same. So who would have the moral courage to punish him? The supervising authorities have all nothing to lose whether a teacher performs his duty or not. That inherent driving force that compelled our late district head, the Education secretary and the Education inspector to, regularly, visit our schools to make sure all is well, is no more there, because it is only those who wear the shoe that know where it pinches.
Consequently, the rot gradually settled in. The Government no longer provides enough funds for the running and maintenance of our collective heritage. And the little resources that are provided are pilfered before it gets down to these schools. Eventually, the schools are so abandoned; so dysfunctional that today we hear all sorts of unimaginable stories concerning the quality of our schools and their products. I once read a report where a Nigerian graduate is described as being no better than the certificate he/she carries. Another person said “Nigerian graduates are not just unemployed, but unemployable”. And we all know that these statements are true, in fact, very much truer. I personally know of a university graduate that cannot make two simple sentences in English without a mistake. The death of educational sector, upon which every other sector of the society directly depends for its success, led to the gradual failure of our entire national system. This fact was attested to by no less a person than the president of our country himself.
The blind quest for quality education provided an opportunity for all sorts of private schools to start springing up as an alternative to the public schools. And, shamelessly, we all rush there for the education of our children. This attitude, the abandoning of our collective public responsibility, gradually, started eating away the fabric of our social cohesion thereby creating serious social crises in our communities. As we stand today, there is a serious social disconnect in our societies between the rich and the poor; between the leaders and the led. There is so much fear, apprehension and distrust today because so many a child; so many a household goes to bed HUNGRY and thus, ANGRY. The fabrics of social integration that used to cement our relationships are broken. Our children are no longer friends to the children of the poor. Our children now attend private schools, private clinics, private markets and even private playgrounds. We no longer see them as our sons and daughters and they no longer see us as their fathers.
After the post presidential election crises of 2011, I told many who cared to listen that it wasn’t a crises between CPC and PDP, but a crisis between justice and injustice; between the rich and the poor; between the leaders and the led. PDP, unfortunately, being the party in Government, symbolizes the injustice and so became object of attack. I believe, if efforts are not made to integrate the poor in the society, the next round of social explosion will make any comfortable person a target of attack. Be you a PDP member, a CPC member, an ACN member, a politician, a civil servant or even self employed.
‘NIMA NA YARDA!!’: THE SOLUTION
The good thing about our situation is that almost everybody believes that there is smoothing wrong with the educational system and our society generally. So many conferences, seminars, workshops and committees were set up to try to find solutions to these problems. In most cases, the participants, who are mostly educated with foreign certificates, just ‘googled’ the internet and came up with bulky solutions that worked in some advanced countries. It is not always what is good for the goose that is also good for the gander. Our problems are home grown, so also the solution to it must also be home grown. The solutions that worked in America or Europe, where they have well established strong systems and institutions cannot work in Nigeria where we only have strong individuals and personalities. How can a solution designed for a person who will go to a filling station with no attendant, serve himself, slot the price and just walk away, work for a person who has to be forced to be on line by soldiers, using cane and lashes, to buy the same fuel from an attendant? It’s just not possible.
Knowledge, as opined, is just about the collection and gathering of facts, but the simplified application of those facts is what is referred to as wisdom. The fact that we all say that the standard of education has fallen today, means that the same standard was ‘upright’ yesterday. Even if one was not there yesterday, the presence, today, of the Anwars, the Danfulanis and the entire members of the Synopsis Group, is a testimony to that. Now the big question is: if the standard of our education was good in yesteryears WHY is it bad today? Certainly, it couldn’t have happened just like that; just by chance. There must be a reason behind every happening – this is the law of nature; of divinity. From the many submissions I read, many reasons were given: inadequate funding, decaying infrastructures and equipments, empty libraries and laboratories, lack of qualified teachers and teaching aids, lack of training and retraining programmes, inadequate welfare packages etc.
Now lets do a small analysis to see whether all those factors on which we blame the falling standard of education hold true. The fact that everyone today persues private education, is a pointer that we all believe it is better than the public education. Ok why is it better? For a private education to be better than public education, the private education must excel, at least, in one area out of the many components of the education project.
A small analysis between a private school and a public school in my village reveals the following preliminary report: that the public school has 1. More classroom blocks. 2. More and better furniture. 3. More teachers. 4. More qualified teachers. 5. Better salary and other allowances including job security and progress. With all these advantages the public school enjoyed over and above the private school yet the people prefer the private school simply because the quality of education provided by the private school is relatively better. Puzzled by these statistics, we looked deeper. And this is our finding!
We noticed that the proprietor of the private school, in most cases, is always the first to come to school every morning. He also makes sure that every teacher is in his or her class to receive the pupils as they are brought in by the parents. Apart from that, the proprietor makes sure that every teacher remains in his class and does his work to the last hour of the day. At the end of the day, the teachers and the proprietor are usually the last to leave the school. In addition, all the children of the teachers and the proprietor attend the same school. We realized that it is this COMMITMENT of the proprietor and the teachers that is responsible for the better performance of the private school students.
The next WHY we attempted to answer was the force behind the commitment of the private school management. Economic interest: profit is precisely the driving force behind the resolve and commitment of the proprietor of the private school. He dares not allow any teacher to play with his job else he faces the risk of losing his customers. If a parent takes his child to the school and the teacher habitually isn’t in class until around 9am, such a parent will definitely withdraw from that school and that translates into lost of customer and the eventual revenue for the proprietor of the school. So naturally the proprietor is faced with two alternatives: the irresponsible teacher or the parent. So he has to let go off the teacher to keep his customer. In any case, he needs the parent to survive in the business and even to pay the teacher – a simple business decision! And this concept is pretty made clear to the teacher: he either has to be on his feet WORKING in that school or be on his feet WALKING out of the school.
It is totally UNACCEPTABLE that a single person, in most cases, a woman, can achieve, in her private school, what a whole government, with much more resources at its disposal, both human and materials, cannot achieve. How could Atiku Abubakar, the individual business man, succeed where Atiku Abubakar, the vice president failed? As an individual, Atiku was able to singlehandedly establish, from the scratch, a whole university and saw it to the world standard, but could not raise the standard of any of our existing national universities to the same level with more resources at his disposal. It is a common knowledge that you can’t get the best out of any person unless that person is willing to give you his best. The various theories of management expounded over the centuries are all aimed towards achieving the objective that a person puts in his best in his place of work. So the next question is how do we make the staff and management of our public schools as committed as those of the private schools?
It is quiet apparent that the factors that motivated the private schools’ staff and management cannot work in our public schools system. So that’s where the idea or the concept of ‘NI MA NA YARDA!!’ came about as a single recommendation of our little research work in our village. ‘NIMA NA YARDA!!’ which translates into ‘I ALSO AGREE’, simply advocates that unless we make all public servants stakeholders in the education project by forcing them to enroll their children in those public schools, there is no way we can arrest and eventually reverse the shameful state of our public institutions, the decaying fabrics of our social cohesion for the much desired National development.
WHY THE CONCEPT OF ‘NIMA NA YARDA!!’
During the 2012 Katsina State budget defense exercise by the House of Assembly, the Special adviser to the Governor on Higher Education, Dr. Garba Matazu, complained that throughout the 2011 fiscal year, no single kobo was released to the oldest higher institution in the state, Katsina polytechnic, for capital expenditure. Probing further, we found out that also of the about N500,000,000 allocated for the states’ science and technical education board, only about N50,000,000 was released to the board. In summary, of the N11,455,852,875.00 allocated to the entire educational sector of the state for capital expenditure, only about N1,819,183,458.00 was released, representing about 15.88%. this clearly underscore the kind of importance which the government attaches to the issue of education in the state. How could one explain this logic? One irony is that while on one hand the Government never misses an opportunity to remind the citezens that it provides free and qualitative education in the state, on the other hand all the top Government functionaries spend so much for the education of their own children in private schools at home and abroad. Would the Governor withhold the grant of these schools if his children, who are schooling abroad, were attending these schools?
One day, I visited a very educated and highly placed person in this country. I met him with three other friends of his discussing about a certain one irresponsible junior brother of one of them. According to them, that boy was irresponsibility personified: drugs, drinks, thievery and almost every other negative adjective. “….when every other step we took to control him failed, eventually I intervened and got him a teaching job in one of the local schools. With that, at least, he can fend for himself” concluded that highly ‘educated’; highly placed individual. I asked myself, would he still get this irresponsible person a teaching job in the school where his own child attends? This is the genesis behind the so many stories we hear today about thousands of unqualified teachers teaching in our public schools. These half-baked teachers were screened, interviewed before being employed by some government agencies who know, full well, that their children will not be attended to by these teachers.
Many times, in this country, our universities remained closed for many months because of some unfulfilled promises by the Government. During the last ASUU strike, the ASUU leadership of Ummaru Musa ‘Yar’aduwa University, Katsina visited the Katsina State House of Assembly to explain their position. Being a principal officer, I was opportune to be in attendance. What I heard from the chairman was heart breaking. I asked them a simple question: “if the children of the president and every other person in the position of authority in this country were attending these universities, do you think the government would allow the them to be shut down?” they all answered “NO”. I said then why don’t you guys go on strike demanding that all public servants MUST send their children to public school? Today we have UBEC at the National level and SUBEB in every state, but the staff and management of these commission and boards do not take their children to the same institutions they are specifically established to manage. For God’s sake who is fooling who?
School fee is the second largest family expenditure in this country after rent. We have private schools that charge between N100,000.00 to N500,000.00 per term. Most of these schools are populated by the children of public servants. Where in the hell can a public servant get N500,000.00 to pay for his child’s school fees in a private school? His salary? Certainly not! Most public officers mismanage the funds meant for the development of public institutions because they want to pay for the exorbitant fees of their children’s education in private schools at home and abroad.
So it’s the firm believe of this writer that the concept of ‘NIMA NA YARDA!!’ will, no doubt, provide solution for the above mentioned problems. We are not saying that it is the only solution. No! what we mean is that it will provide the commitment; the sense of social responsibility; the strong foundation upon which every other designed national policy framework will depend. Where there is no faith and commitment, certainly there won’t be success. It is also as a result of this small analysis that I firmly and confidently, without fear or any iota of doubt that I say yes ‘NIMA NA YARDA!!! And I also make it my single agenda for the entire four years of my stay in the Assembly. So what about you?
IMPLEMENTING THE CONCEPT OF ‘NIMA NA YARDA!!’: THE KATSINA STATE EXPERIENCE (To be continued)' (Abdullahi I Mahuta is the Minority Leader, Katsina State House of Assembly)"
Discuss more here –> http://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=378848738841704&id=121127554613825&_rdr