One month ago, I was in Gombe in company of two other colleagues on the invitation of the state Governor, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo. I did a piece here on the transformation of the Jewel on the Savannah in many areas, especially the road infrastructure which was massive enough to earn him the “Governor Good Roads” moniker.
One other aspect of development in the state that has been haunting me and begging for attention since I did the last piece three weeks ago is the education sector. So, I have decided to give the very critical sector the attention it deserves today.
Let me confess here that while in Gombe, I nearly scratched off the hairs on my head, wondering how a governor who is an accountant by profession could perform such a feat in the education sector. What else would he have done if he were an educationist? We may not find an answer to that question now or long after he completes his tenure in May, 2019.
When Dr. Dankwambo mounted the saddle on May 29, 2015, he inherited an education sector that was not only substandard but also afflicted by dilapidated infrastructure. Alarmed by what confronted him, he made the sector his first, second and third priority.
From the very first day in office, the helmsman put his hand on the plough and he has never looked back. Dogged by insufficient resources at his disposal, he tapped into his accounting sense which was an asset to him in the management of the funds available to him.
The battle to rescue the sector from the rot he met it began from the basic foundation – the primary and secondary education. Realising that provision of infrastructure was a sine qua non for teaching and learning, Dankwambo immediately embarked on a massive renovation and construction of over 502 classrooms, pari passu with 51 laboratories for the secondary schools.
Among the Local Government Areas that benefited from the sweeping revolution of the primary and secondary schools sub-sector were Auwaru and Futuk in Akko LGA, Lalaipido in Shongom LGA and Awak in Kaltungo LGA.
Following the construction and renovation of the classrooms, most of the classes suffocating with 100 or more pupils/students per class were reduced to 40 in all schools across the state.
A total of 13,183 sets of furniture were also fabricated and supplied to schools across the state, while 1,200 sets were provided for the teachers.
Boarding facilities were also not left behind. Hostels were not only renovated and constructed but were also fitted with mattresses and functional toilets.
These were in addition to the provision of 2,570 double-decker beds and over 636 tables and chairs for boarding students. Principals and teachers were also carried along.
To enhance quality education, the state government carried out a massive recruitment of 1,000 university graduates and 1,000 NCE holders to make up for the dearth of teachers in the primary and secondary schools across the state.
To enhance teaching and learning, over 4,000 three-in-one desks were supplied to various secondary schools. These were complemented by the supply of reading and writing materials to primary, junior and senior secondary schools across the state.
Bajoga, Deba and Kaltungo also enjoyed the presence of model schools. Hassan Central Primary School in Gombe Township which is the governor’s alma mater was remodeled and constructed, while Kumo Central Primary School witnessed construction, renovation and general facelift.
The following primary schools were also singled out for remodelling and reconstruction: Gabukka, Herwagana, Abubakar Umar Memorial and Kurjale Primary Schools; Tsangaya Primary Schools at Nafada, Kwami and Wuro Lodde. They were provided with instructional materials and teaching aids to boot.
To discourage open defecation habit that is prevalent in most schools across the country, the state constructed 68 (VIP) toilets across the state. In a similar vein, massive construction and renovation of staff quarters were carried out in secondary schools in the state as a way of encouraging teaching staffers to put in their best.
Coming to grips with the fact that the quality of teaching staff is crucial to sound education delivery, the state laid emphasis on human capital development. Consequently, over 5,000 senior secondary school teachers, 3,918 teachers consisting of 888 junior secondary and 3,030 primary school teachers were given capacity building to enhance sound education delivery.
A Quality Assurance Department is also in place to ensure quality of teaching and learning in schools.
Moving on to the next level, the state enrolled about 2,000 students for remedial programme with the University of Maiduguri with more than half of the number gaining admission into the institution.
More than 20 students are also undergoing maritime degree programme overseas.
Dankwambo also used education to spread development in the state by establishing post-secondary institutions across the state: School of Basic and Remedial Studies at Kumo and Daban- Fulani; Conventional College of Education, Billiri, College of Nursing and Midwifery, Dukku; State Polytechnic, Bajoga and School of Legal/Islamic Studies, Nafada.
The state has sustained the purchase/distribution of JAMB/UTME forms to students across the state.
E-payment of scholarship allowances and computerisation of Scholarship Board have also been deliberately introduced to ease the stress of accessing funds by beneficiaries.
The Gombe State University is the apotheosis of education in the state. The institution is a model of which other state-owned universities wish to be. Upon becoming the state chief executive in 2011, Dankwambo procured and installed laboratory equipment for the College of Medical Science/Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science valued at N.5bn in addition to ensuring accreditation of numerous courses in the past seven years of his tenure.
What could be the governor’s farewell to Gombe as it continues with its education peregrinations is the establishment of the Gombe State University of Science and Technology located at Kumo for which a licence was granted by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in October, last year. The structures are already in place and Dankwambo has assured that academic activities will commence before the end of the year. Indeed, when the history of Gombe education is to be written, Dankwambo’s name will be etched in gold.