By Ismaila Uba Misilli
When Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya assumed the mantle of leadership in Gombe State, he knew there would be challenges but the nature and degree of crises in all sectors of governance were however hidden with the cosmetics of politics and propaganda by the immediate past administration.
It is no longer hidden secret that Gombe State had one of the highest rates of educational exclusion in Nigeria despite being a state with great potentials that could be leveraged to drive development in all sectors but was having a fearful statistics of over half a million out-of-school children, representing nearly 6 per cent of the 10.3 million out-of-school in Nigeria.
No one could really understand how a state like Gombe that is not amongst the top 20 most populous states would have such huge statistics which troubled the minds of every well-meaning citizen of the state including Governor Inuwa Yahaya whom, upon assumption into office swung into action by hurriedly declaring a state of emergency in the sector to quickly reverse the trend before things could fall further apart.
When you listen to the speech of Governor Inuwa Yahaya whenever he speaks about the education sector in the state, you will feel his pains that over half a million in a state of roughly 3.2 million people were out-of-school.
In one of his speeches, he said “If we don’t put our children in school and we continue to say children are the leaders of tomorrow, then what kind of leaders are we going to give to the future? If it takes emergency approach to bring them back to school, then know that we MUST get them back to school by all means possible’’. If this is not what leadership with compassion entails, then I wonder how else to reflect leadership.
Education is the light of any society which most, if not all developed countries have leveraged to improve the living standard of its citizens as well as empowering communities and eradicating poverty. With education, every child can reach the acme of self fulfilment and as it is now, Governor Inuwa Yahaya has shown that robust commitment to make the dream of every Gombe child, irrespective of religion or ethnic affiliation get their basic right because under this administration, education has become the right of every child.
The power to refine whatever skill and ability that a child has rests on education; it is one tool that is capable of revolutionizing the social status of any child and it has made the lives of many children from poor background better than those of their parents as it is also the wish of every parent and Gov. Inuwa too, to have Gombe kids do beyond their parents’ achievements in life.
Juxtaposing the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO’s Education for All (EFA) report released for 2000-2015 proposing that 15 per cent to 20 per cent of annual budgets be earmarked for education and with the approved 2020 budget of education sector which is pegged at N22billion out of the N130.8billion, representing about 17 per cent of the total budget, one needs no soothsayer to tell that the future of our children is safe again and that in Gombe State, Governor Inuwa Yahaya is working in tandem with the best global standards as far as the education sector is concerned. Little wonder the Governor was honoured with the title Wakilin Ilimin Nafada by the Emir of Nafada for his remarkable commitment and determination towards revamping the education sector in the state.
One of the questions that had puzzled many educationists within and outside Gombe was the fact that in spite of the huge number of out-of-school children, the immediate past administration withheld counterpart funding that would have secured international assistance to better the lots of Nigerian children resident in Gombe State. In answering that, Governor Inuwa Yahaya approved the release of money for the payment of counterpart funds for Universal Basic Education (UBEC) that facilitated the securing of about N1.5b Basic Education Grant and ensured compliance with the UBEC partnership guidelines.
In furtherance of Governor Inuwa’s quest to see to it that children were mopped out from streets to school to address the over 550, 000 estimated out-of-school children, Govermor Inuwa Yahaya’s noble administration also flagged-off the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) which will spend $6,000,000.00 (Six Million US dollars) to mop-up out of school children from the streets and return them back to the classrooms, secured assistance through donations of a science laboratory complex which consists of three labs for physics, chemistry and biology with capacity for thirty (30) students.
As it is said that when one invests genuinely, the gains of such investment is first seen by others, such has become the testimonies of the education sector in Gombe as the people and other stakeholders are beginning to see results in steady manners. Today, as a result of BESDA’s intervention, there are now over 791 learning centres with 75, 491 learners and with other interventions that are yet to be added to this statistics; it is an indication that we now can heave a sigh of relief while hoping that the current platforms continue to yield more positives in Gov. Inuwa’s quest towards finding answers to the near decade-long questions in the education sector.
Today, out of the estimated 550, 000 out-of-school children that Gov. Inuwa Yahaya met on ground; he has within roughly 7 months, returned over 140, 000 of them back to school while also strengthening efforts in girl-child education which has also attracted the Norwegian Government to partner with Gombe in that regard. With this feat from a leader that many have describe as an educational enthusiast, analysts have projected that if in 7 months over 140, 000 children were returned back to school, with consistency, in two years, the questions on such large number of Gombe children who are still in the street would have been answered.
For many who have observed with excitements how edifices are now being built as classroom blocks while existing schools are massively being renovated to attract more children to schools and give them the right atmosphere that our pupils and students deserve, it can only get better with Governor Inuwa Yahaya who has not seized to amaze with fresh ideas on renovation and construction. In this regard, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has constructed and renovated several schools across the state; indeed infrastructure is now on the front burner.
As at the last count, the state Government, through SUBEB has constructed and rehabilitated more than 400 classrooms across the eleven local government areas, which is an unprecedented achievement.
With the passion and sincerity of Governor Inuwa Yahaya towards the plights of the people, it will be easy to get the support of the Federal Government and International Bodies. And in any case, with some of the foreign trips that availed the Governor the opportunity to market this state to the world, Gombe has been put on the spotlight for any support and partnership, hence we are anticipating more partnerships because all international bodies are looking for sincere government like Gombe to collaborate with in the interest of the people.
Governor Inuwa Yahaya is a man in a hurry to deliver on his promises especially in the education sector, knowing full well that it takes time for the tree of education to bear fruits while bearing in mind also the level of damage and unrivalled dilapidation of infrastructure prior to the coming of his administration.
The Governor’s trail-blazing approach to the issue of quality education is another aspect of the education sector in Gombe that had won the admiration of many in the state. The quality of education in Gombe had been in comatose or loud silence in the past years. The best explanations for the poor performance recorded by Gombe students in external examinations have their firm root in the poor quality of education in the state. Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s high-taste preference for quality has seen him embarking on capacity building for teachers in the state. Worthy of note also is the introduction of mock, preps in all secondary schools across the state to give students undivided attention and close-marking preparation to improve their performance to change the ugly narratives in external examinations.
This is poised towards answering the monstrous questions with regards to the poor quality of education in the state. It can be recalled that the Transition Committee constituted by Governor Yahaya before taking over the mantle of leadership had submitted that over 60 per cent of primary school teachers were not qualified for the classrooms and that also is being answered through the conversion of the hither-to abandoned and dilapidated Almajiri school complex in Kwami to a modern Teachers Training Centre (TTC) with a training capacity to cater for over 500 teachers per training session with state of the art facilities and accommodation which is expected to be commissioned soon.
Today, whenever you go to any classroom in Gombe, only quality and competent teachers now man classrooms. In addition to that, teachers audit is being conducted in schools across the state to ascertain those that have professional qualifications and those without. This will be followed by competency test that will help to grade teachers for various training categorisation and demand. The competency test is to particularly assist teachers to build their capacity and helping them meet up with the required standard for teachers anywhere in the world.
The very fabrics of Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s several reforms in the education sector are embedded in Brad Henry’s quote (A one-time Governor of Oklahoma, USA) that “No other investment yields as great a return as the investment in education. An educated workforce is the foundation of every community and the future of every economy.’’ With these efforts towards revamping the sector, there is no doubt that we have in Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, a good investor who is concerned about the foundation of every community in Gombe as well as the future of the economy of the state.
Misilli is the Senior Special Assistant ( Media and Publicity) to Gombe state Governor