The education gap between Northern and Southern parts of the country has long become a mind-boggling chasm despite the efforts of successive administrations in the region to narrow its profound size.
Kano being the epicenter of population density in the country and the economic hub of the North that plays the torchbearer role for other states, must therefore think out of the box to design the appropriate plugins for states with same peculiarities to adopt. It’s said that when Kano sneezes, other states catch cold.
While in the southern parts of the country the number of schools is growing in synch with their population growth, we all know that the story is different in this part of the country. In Ogun State alone, there are more than 12 universities most of which are privately owned, while we have only three in Kano despite our sheer population size. The same contrast applies to the number polytechnics, colleges and basic education schools.
But how do we bridge the gap? Inspite of our governor’s unmatched commitment to education, his administration identified the fact that government alone cannot adequately tackle the challenge without community participation.
The Kano Basic Education Week, (the 1st of a kind in Nigeria) a brainchild of Governor Ganduje, is an initiative that aims to assess the critical importance of basic education as the bedrock or foundation for further education. The concept also stresses the need for community participation, given the huge challenges in the sector and paucity of funds at government’s disposal.
Education is one of the sectors that take the lead in our state’s 2017 budget, with a whopping N17.5 billion set aside for the development of education. During the budget presentation, Governor Ganduje said: “We want to remain steadfast and committed towards improving the quality of our education. That is why we are giving high priority to the sector.” He noted that N500 million would be used for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of classrooms, N640 million for the construction of staff residences, toilets and others, while N8 billion is set for capital projects in the education sector.
As a responsible leader whose projects do not bear open or concealed political label, he set aside N1 billion for the completion of abandoned technical colleges in the state, while N2.4 billion will go for the completion of some projects in the North West University, Kano.
The foregoing commitments aside, communities are strategic in a variety of ways towards the provision of learning environment, management of schools, ensuring quality teaching and enforcement of attendance.
This aspect increasingly strengthens the communities’ capacity, sense of identity and purpose. Encouraging community participation in education also has potential of bringing members from all strata and diverse background of the society to come together for the attainment of a common objective. In addition, community participation in education brings about stability amongst community members, thereby throwing the entire environment to social, economic and political harmony with enhanced relationships.
Indeed, this is one of the reasons the Ganduje administration is partnering with stakeholders to tackle this problem communally.
It is heart-warming to note that a lot of people were gingered by the governor’s call to give back to their communities. Of particular note is a philanthropist, Ali Saidu Bebeji, who built and equipped a secondary school in Dakatsalle village of Bebeji Local Government Area of Kano State with 12 classes, principal’s office, staff room, library, mosque and toilets for conducive learning atmosphere.
At a recent press interview, Ganduje stated that “to encourage community participation, which is very low, we are establishing education promotion committees across the 44 local government areas of the state. Most importantly, people are now owning the system; they are now concerned about education.”
To walk the talk, Governor Ganduje inaugurated the Kano State Education Promotion Committee and gave it a take-off grant of N440 million over a year ago, with each of the 44 local government councils of the state having in its kitty the sum of N10 Million as take-off grant for the rehabilitation of schools within their domains.
The committee was also charged with the responsibility of liaising with key segment of the Kano community, corporate organizations to deepen their commitments to corporate social responsibility as well as other wealthy individuals to come to the aid of the sector.
The Kano Basic Education Week provided an opportunity for stock taking as the initiative yielded the desired results with over N1.2 billion worth of projects and instructional materials donated by wealthy individuals, companies and organizations and other donor agencies. This is indeed unprecedented as it has reawakened the spirit of community participation in our people.
In his presentation during the Basic Education Week, the Chairman of State Committee on Education Promotion Committee Alhaji Tajuddeen Dantata, while turning in the report of the 44 local governments EPC committee, disclosed that over 1,288 classrooms were rehabilitated and 301 new classrooms were also constructed. He further stated that 15,220 furniture were also procured aside other donations, including boreholes, and 21 plots of land for schools expansion.
Governor Ganduje, who was apparently impressed with the success recorded by the committees within the year, granted an additional sum of N440million to enable committee use the next year to consolidate on the achievement recorded so far.
Last year, three local government councils, namely Nasarawa, Rano and Kano Municipal, excelled in generating funds from their communities.
Another important aspect of community participation is the role of parents in ensuring that their kids go to school, attend classes, to periodically check their progress in school and constantly make sure they do their homework effectively with possibility of extra lessons at home in order to catch up with the schools lesson plan. All these have to be done by parents if we want to see a collective effort in bridging the gap in education between the north and south.
In a similar vein, the state government has sponsored over 25, 000 untrained teachers on in-service programmes to obtain the necessary professional qualifications and pedagogical skills needed for improved learning in public schools.
If other states in the Northern parts of the country would borrow a leaf from Governor Ganduje by applying this pragmatic concept in their states, certainly there is hope – the hope of closing the education gap between the North and South.
Mr Yakasai is the Director-General, Media & Communication to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State