Katsina Education Sector: A House of Commotion  State & Society

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Following secondary school students’ protest in Katsina on what they believed was unfair abolition of payment of their Senior School Certificate Examination (WAEC & NECO) fees by the government, education has yet again became dominant topic of discussion in the state and everybody is expressing his opinion about it depending on which side he belongs or the perspective he/she looks at the development. I belong to neither party but I have my thoughts on the development so far in the sector which I am here to share with you.

Meantime, the governor had already invited secondary school principals for a meeting on way forward and since a students’ protest took place before the meeting holds he issued a warning that, whoever is found, principal or teacher, to be behind the protest, will be sacked. This made some social media activists though the governor dismissed them as thugs to invent a name for him “Lt. Col. Aminu Bello Masari (rtd)”. This, in a way meant to remind him of being a civilian governor and governing under a democratic process;  therefore he must find a democratic means of resolving these kind of issues.

If I were the political adviser to Masari I will whisper into his ears in respect with this protest that he should sack nobody; he should be careful not create an unnecessary chaos in the sector; that a sustained labour–government stand up doesn’t all the time end in government’s favour. I am not saying the payment is a good way to tread and scraping it might not as well be a wise decision for it is not the cause of the students’ failure neither will scraping it address the problem. It is simply a symptom that indicates that a bigger problem lies somewhere in the sector. We are dealing with HUMAN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT here, therefore I think we should be careful not create a more dangerous scenario in the process of solving an issue. I am even afraid, I would tell him, people will begin to question why we are not considering suspending renovation of schools that have been renovated not long ago for now. They would say because it is lucrative and a way of siphoning public funds we are fast doing it; whereas payment of school fess that will offer little or no such opportunity wescrapedit. “I am sorry Sir if you’re offended but that we should be careful how we manage our HUMAN CAPITAL”. I will say in the end.

In his desperation to revive education to its pristine state, though some said is a “taste of power” then, before appointing his cabinet members,Masari was reported to have ordered all public office holders to as a matter of showing commitment towards ensuring quality education send their children to public schools. He then was reported to have also scraped payment of SSCE (WAEC and NECO) for secondary school students and then rescinded the decision afterwards following uproar that the decision generated. He reintroduced Mock Examination for SS III students and they are expected to get required marks in certain subjects as prerequisite before their exam fees could be paid. The exam was conducted and there was massive failure. Some said about 90% or more, had failed, which the students protested against on two grounds: 1) Seeing and considering it as a scapegoat for the government to establish basis for non payment of the fees as it earlier intended, and 2) that the failure was stage managed in favour of the government. Whatever it is, protest is never encouraged and will never be a way to resolving issues with government.  There are many more civilise ways to register grievances. Meanwhile, we could recall in 2016 budget education sector took the largest share; allocating to it 20% of the total. All of these suffice to show the governor’s disposition in relation to education.

Let’s at this juncture refresh our memories with some past developments in the sector. During Yar’adua administration, the major decision that had been taken was converting most boarding schools and students to day, especially female boarding secondary schools. Hence Pilot Schools were created. The major reason then the administration had given for its action was that it could no longer bear the cost of maintaining boarding schools; that it will have to save up more to invest more in improving the quality of the education. The administration moreover built new schools, rehabilitated many and furnished them accordingly. Recruitment was conducted and payment of final year secondary school students’ SSCE of WEAC and NECO was designed: parents 30%, Local Government 30% and the State 40%. The Shema administration came and did the same; built and rehabilitated schools across the state; conducted teacher recruitment and in addition made primary and secondary school education 100% free, including of course payment of SSCE fees.

With all these milestones in the sector from during campaigns to date this administration has been complaining about deplorable condition of education in the state and we all believe because is something we physically can see and even the blind acknowledge. And is whywe also are solidly behind the governor and will do everything possible to help him achieve success at least in this sector. But this is not where it all ends. There are issues with the way the government is going about bringing solution to education problem in the state. It leaves rather many confused and questions hanging without definite answers to them. What exactly does the government want to do? What did it think is the trouble with the education sector? What possibly could be the solution? These questions are necessary because without finding answer to any of them we won’t be certain that indeed what the government is doing right now is right or wrong and we won’t have room to contribute to the cause because ensuring quality education isn’t only government’s, we emphasis.

If Masari thinks building more unit of class rooms and rehabilitation of schools as his administration had started doing is the way to go to revive the sector we have seen this in the past and it had little impact on the sector as confirmed by education committee he had set up earlier. If after all it is the problem we can say enough has been done along this line. We should then begin to look forward to doing other things probably more related to ensuring quality than beautification of environment, because people latter realised that contractors benefited from building and rehabilitation of schools much more than the system.

If it is fund as the governmentseems to believe thus allocated 20% to it, how then did the government arrive at the fact that money is exactly the problem? Because we say it always that how when the sector did not produce commensurate output from its previous expenditures we be sure all it needs is more money? The performance is abysmal by all measure, it’s crystal clear and will continue to be no matter the amount of money we sink there in. Common sense in management dictates that until you’re sure of the value of money you earlier invested in a project will you start thinking of throwing in more for greater value.

Can recruitment be the cure? Though we wrote about this last month, nevertheless the question is why the existing ones can’t just deliver? Recruitment was done in the past, during Shema administration there was even salary increment but the output got even worse as we witness today. Is there no human resource management deficit here? We are not against recruiting more teachers, but how sure are we they will deliver because the government isn’t clear as to what its strategy for reviving the sector is. As human resource manager, you have to establish a mechanism of measuring performance and discovering of skill gaps before you can make any decision on whether it is bigger office space, more printers, training, motivation, monitoring or even salary increment that your staff need to produce higher and greater output. You under utilize them and still thinking of investing more in them.

Here is an irony I think we should all ponder over: during one of our discussions about Katsina we found out that there are government schools in the state that are better in terms of infrastructure and instruction materials than most private schools in the state. The teachers in the public schools are more resourceful qualification wise and earn undoubtedly higher salary and are further entitled to some benefits that are even non existent in the private sector. But the output in the private schools is considerably better.  This should send a serious signal to the government that the problem is more or less of management than money, building and recruitment.

We all agree with the present administration that its predecessors’ policies and actions had added little value and in some ways even complicated situations. There was massive looting in the process we believe. Fine, but this administration is however now doing nothing different. Everything is just the same. Strategy has not changed. The same building and rehabilitation of class rooms, recruitment and so on and so forth.

Reason why we are concerned is; a system is like a computer, you give it two conflicting commands at the same time, it hooks, refreshes, cancels the whole processes, backs to a “start” position and waits for another careful command. However, you keep giving a computer same command while expecting different result, it keeps giving you same result. It just doesn’t care what else you want. It’s programmed. Allah Rayan Jahar Katsina.

Baba-Bala Katsina

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @BabaBala5

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