This week, I want to start by thanking all the people of Jigawa state for their show of support, particularly, those who have been following us as we share our vision for the state. I am, especially, humbled by this gesture and I will use it as an inspiration not to disappoint you, if given the chance. Over the past four weeks, we have received more than 25,000 direct responses, observations and criticisms; some of which we are still studying for necessary action. Please, keep them coming. But while you do that, endeavour to collect your permanent voter card (PVC) or register, if you haven’t.
As I mentioned earlier, today’s discussion will centre around education, which will be our topmost priority, if elected. Out of the top 10 most educated states in Nigeria, seven are also the most economically developed. This means that the surest route to development is education. In a nutshell, our education plan is ambitious, broad and comprehensive. We have designed programmes in place to transform Islamic, western, mass and special education at the basic, post-basic and tertiary levels.
That this will be the first communication in which we will be making substantial commitments regarding policy implementation and capital project development requires that I re-emphasise our earlier commitment to the unity of the Jigawa people. As such, we will not be executing projects based on the previous tradition of emirate quota system, but rather based on the real needs and aspirations of the whole Jigawa people without discrimination. If elected., one tool we intend to use for such unification is education.
If elected, we aspire to touch every aspect of education, but it will be done in phases. While we may be able to accomplish some, we will lay a foundation for others to continue. In summary, we will work for the standardisation of Islamic education and remodeling of the Almajiri system. Others are general reforms and upgrade of education infrastructure; free girls/women education up to tertiary level, strengthening mass education and nomadic literacy, special scholarship for professional programmes and first-class graduates and improvement of teachers’ welfare.
Because of its cruciality, all appointees that will head the education sector will be comprehensively scrutinised. People must prove to have understood our vision as well as possessing their own unique initiatives to improve upon it before they will be appointed. The education ministry is one that I will not rush or consider only political reasons in appointing a commissioner; I will rather take my time to allow competent people to show interest, be interviewed and then given the opportunity.
We will empower the quality assurance units of the education ministry and agencies at state and local government levels to ensure improved service delivery. I will personally be briefed periodically on the impact of our reforms on the quality of education as we progress. I will be going round schools regularly to see for myself the level of compliance to standards in teaching, learning and general education administration. A special servicom unit with a special representative from the governor’s office will be created to report all public feedbacks on the development of education. We are not going to joke with education.
All things being equal, education will get the highest budgetary allocation in our administration and we will encourage the local government areas to do so. Because no amount of money spent on education will be too much and government alone cannot handle all the burden, our government will establish the Jigawa Education Trust Fund (JETFund). This fund will solicit donations and funding from philanthropists, business men, contractors, NGOs and even ordinary citizens and the monies will be used to improve education while ensuring transparency and accountability. The JETFund will be jointly managed by the state government and a Board of Trustees whose composition will be from Jigawa elders.
Starting with basic education, there are currently 2,490 primary schools scattered across 1,154 districts, villages and towns in the state. Together with teachers and other stakeholders, we will start by assessing the conditions of these schools before embarking on the renovation and upgrade of the dilapidated ones among them which will be done in phases, starting from the worst. This will lay a solid foundation to have the trend continue in geometric progression. Our hope is that in four years majority of the schools will be in improved condition. In each federal constituency, we will build a world class model primary school that will be a symbol of excellence. With time, this will be extended to at least one per local government area.
As we renovate and build more schools, the demand for manpower will also increase. We are full aware that one of the biggest challenges for existing schools is shortage of personnel. To address this, we will retrain and redeploy redundant civil servants to the classroom. We’ll ensure that all NYSC members deployed to schools do not abscond. We will also introduce the Volunteer-Teacher’s Scheme to recruit fresh unemployed but qualified graduates on temporary basis. While doing all these, we will be designing a masterplan for sustainable adequacy of manpower in the education sector. Part of this is by making the teaching job very attractive that people will be rushing to join and those in will be hesitating to quit.
Our secondary education needs attention. Currently, we have 571 junior and 269 senior secondary schools. Compared with the over one million Jigawa students who need secondary education, we can consider them as grossly inadequate to serve the teeming population. Over 3 million Jigawa citizens are less than 15 years old and 50% of them have attained secondary school age. Selected junior secondary schools will be improved and upgraded to senior secondary schools while new ones will be built periodically. In each senatorial district, we will build a mega international standard secondary school that will take care of all science, arts, commercial and technical subjects.
Islamic education has got a lot of attention since the return of democracy in 1999 in Jigawa state but more needs to be done in this regard. Currently, most Islamiyya schools operate independent of government supervision, in fact, only a fraction of them is even formally recognised. Our vision is to give them the same priority as western education. With the help of Islamic scholars and other stakeholders, we are going to embark on standardisation of islamiyya curriculum as a foundation to the complete formalisation of Islamic education in the state. We shall have a policy to guide the operations and strengthening of islamiyya schools across the state.
In my next article, I will highlight my plans for girls/women education, revival and strengthening of mass education and nomadic literacy, special scholarship for professional programmes and first-class graduates and improvement of teachers’ welfare.
Mustapha is the Jigawa state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for the 2023 general elections