Kano Interview Series (9)
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
State Universal Basic Education Board
Question: Mr. Chairman, can you please briefly tell us the progress made under your board since the inception of this administration?
We came in and found many things are done inappropriately. For example, unqualified people are recruited to teach. In fact, majority of our teachers do not have even the most basic qualification for teaching, the National Certificate of Education. We met an acute shortage of classrooms; those available were dilapidated. As a result, you often find as many as 150 pupils in a class, which makes successful learning impossible. We also found many classrooms without furniture and of instructional materials. Even chalk in some instances was scarce. Many promotions that were due were also not done.
These are some of the problems we met when we took over government last year. In order to address the problems, many measures were taken by the new administration. The first was to stop employing unqualified teachers, completely and instantly. Government has given the directive that only teachers with at least NCE should be employed. So far, no teacher without that basic requirement has been employed to teach in our primary schools since the advent of this administration.
Then the new administration embarked in construction of new classrooms to reduce the congestion in many of the classrooms. Presently, the government is building one-storey buildings, each with four classrooms, two offices and two toilet blocks. The building is the same in both towns and villages. So far, about 1000 classrooms have been completed. For each local government is built, at the first instance, four to five blocks. In the second phase which we just embarked upon, each local government will get additional two or three blocks. The buildings are complete with their furniture and instructional materials.
With respect to existing dilapidated buildings, government has under its Community Reorientation Committee (CRC) held consultative meetings at local government levels has embarked on the renovation of such structures. The effort of government is complimented in many places by the community. Some volunteered in the repairing classrooms while others contributed with furniture or instructional materials. The state government, in addition to the efforts of the local government, gave N5million to each local government committee to enable small repairs of classrooms and furniture in its domain.
Government likewise spent about N300million on the purchase of different kinds of instructional materials. Chalk, dusters, pencils, cleaners, erasers, exercise books, drawing books, cardboard papers, school attenders’ registers, record of work book, etc have all been purchased and delivered to the schools.
There is a UBE fund which the previous administration failed to utilize since 2008, after failing to account for the one it received in 2007. This government availed itself of that fund by providing the counterpart funding for those years, including 2011, amounting to N3billion. That was used in the construction of the classrooms we mentioned earlier. But the funding of instructional materials and that used by the CRC in renovating schools was all shouldered by the state government.
On promotion, we have started by promoting many. Our target is that before the end of this academic year, every teacher that is due for promotion will get it without further delay.
Government has also embarked on the training of school administrators – including headmasters, supervisors, inspectors, etc. – by holding in-house training workshops during holidays. About 3,800 of such administrators were trained during the first vacation of this school year. During the second term vacation, over 6,000 teachers were also trained on various aspects of their profession in various centres across the state where not more than 50 teachers were trained in each class. During the forthcoming long vacation, this teacher training workshops will also hold.
Teachers that were employed without the basic teaching qualification will not be dismissed, but each of them, considering his qualification, will be assisted through an in-service program, in collaboration with our Colleges of Education, to attain the necessary basic qualification. Some would need a remedial program while some would go directly into the NCE program. However, those that are not willing to undergo such training will be free to resign their appointments and leave.
These are the things we have done so far. The construction of classrooms, with or without UBE counterpart fund, will continue.
Question: Can we have an idea of the number of schools, teachers and pupils that are under your board?
Chairman: We have about 5,200 schools, 2.2million pupils including pre-primary pupils, and over 50,000 teachers. If we include non-teaching staff under the board, then we have a total of 62,540 staff.
Question: I remember that when we visited CRC at Lugard House, the Chairman told me that due to the serving of primary school pupils with lunch every day, there is a huge influx of pupils, including underage children, that is presently creating a lot of congestion in many of the schools. Don’t you feel that it is better for the government to restrict its activities to primary education as mandated by the law such that it can optimally use its resources in improving the standard of education at that level rather than delve into pre-primary schools programs?
Yes. I haven’t mentioned the feeding program that this administration has re-introduced. Actually, it is a program which it introduced during its first tenure. It was stopped thereafter by the administration that succeeded it and now it is re-introduced again. Apart from feeding the pupils lunch, every Primary I child is given also a set of two uniforms. Both measures have, as intended, successfully driven enrolment into the schools and dramatically improved retention.
In relation to your question on mandate, if you look at the UBE enabling law, you will find that the mandate includes the pre-primary programs. That aside, research has shown that child care schooling facilitates the understanding of children when they get to the primary school level. These are the reasons why we enroll those children.
Question: You said you have over 62,000 staff. Are they all promptly paid, like other civil servants or are there delays in payment of their salaries as it is common in this country?
Chairman: We thank God that our staff are all paid promptly by 24th or 25th of every month. We send the salaries on the 22nd and 23rd. What facilitated this is the insistence of this administration that every government official must be paid through the bank. And we are under directive from the governor to ensure that by 25th of each month, every staff gets his salaries.
Question: But there are many instances, like in the past few months, when the statutory allocations to governments are delayed for a month or more. Just recently, the federal government itself owed its workers as a result of such delays. What magic is the present administration playing to ensure such a timely settlement of its payroll?
Chairman: The magic wand is one: It is the effort of the Chief Executive of the state to ensure prudence in governance. A lot of savings are made from blocking wastages in addition to the spirit of trust and honesty that characterize his style of governance. Before the 20th of each month, the Accountant-General will release to our Board the over N2billion we need to pay our 62,000 workers. We process it in two days such that by the 24th and 25th, every worker is alerted of its payment into his account.
Question: When you asked every staff to open a bank account, which in my opinion is a kind of auditing, did you discover some ghost workers?
Yes. We discovered ghost teachers as well as those that have absconded. As we continued, we were discovering unclaimed salaries and returning them to the treasury. We now intend to embark on physical auditing of teachers in the state where we will visit each of the over 5,000 schools to confirm the presence of every staff. This will be carried out repeatedly from time to time before we arrive to a conclusive list.
Question: Okay. There is this problem of bloating the payroll of government given that you are building more classrooms, which will lead to employing more teachers. You already have more than 50,000 teachers. Does this administration have any plan of employing more teachers and to what extent would it do it?
It is true that decongesting classrooms naturally leads to the demand for more teachers. Given the prudence of this government that is making more funds available, it has given the permission to employ 2,000 staff among whom would be hundreds of teachers. Thereafter, another 1,000 will be employed and, as we have discussed with the governor, teachers will make the biggest part of the intake.
Question: In the end, what appeal would you make to the public regarding the delivery of basic education in the state?
Chairman: I will appeal to people to recognize the effort of government in its attempt to deliver basic education in our schools especially the provision of funds for the execution of various projects. These children are our future leaders. Whoever can contribute something for the success in education, even if it is restricted to his hometown, should please do it. Such contribution doesn’t have to be in a big financial form. If you can build classrooms or provide furniture or books to the school, the government will welcome it. If you can’t do that, assist by monitoring the activities in the school such as ensuring the children go to school, teachers are doing their job, the feeding is going on well, etc. Wherever people have suggestions on some observations they make, they shouldn’t hesitate to give them to the appropriate authorities.
Question: Thank you so much Mr. Chairman.
Chairman: Thank you too.
10 June 2012