By; FUNMI OROYE ADERINTO, Kaduna
Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna State on Monday, disclosed that the policy of free basic education in the state is saving parents N3bn every year.
Malam Nasir el-Rufai made the disclosure in a speech on Education Reforms in Nigeria which he delivered at the University of Medicine, Ondo State.
He traced the evolution of education in Nigeria from around the independence period where the country was spending about 40% of the National budget on Education and producing students who were globally competitive.
He lamented the slide in standards, which has the disturbing feature that as more people are going to school, the quality of outcome is declining.
The governor said that as a believer in the equality of opportunity, he is persuaded that Nigeria must be able to give every citizen quality education.
He explained that the removal of hidden fees and levies have helped parents bring more children to school, resulting in enrolment in public primary schools nearly doubling from 1.1m in 2015 to about 2m in September 2017.
The governor said that teachers are the most important factor in inspiring their pupils, and therefore the welfare of teachers is a priority for his government, along with fixing the inherited legacy of dilapidated schools.
He announced that over 11,300 newly recruited teachers have now resumed in their schools of posting.
Explaining the education reforms being implemented in the state, the governor said that he is fixing the inherited problems of dilapidated schools, many without desks and chairs.
He revealed that he shared an album showing the sorry state of Kaduna schools with the Federal Ministry of Finance and development partners, including the World Bank, to demonstrate the extent of the challenge and the significant funding that would be required to fix it.
He reported that this was the beginning of the conversations that resulted in the World Bank approving the $350m concessionary“Programme for Results” facility for Kaduna State on 20th June 2017.
el-Rufai argued that teachers are central to progressive educational outcomes.
“Therefore, the state government intends to meet its target of 25,000 new teachers and take steps to enhance the salary and welfare status of teachers,” he said.
The governor said the steps being taken range from waiving personal income tax to enhancing teacher pay, investing in their continuous training and providing free housing for teachers posted to rural areas.
He confirmed that it is a gargantuan undertaking to fix 4,250 primary schools and reverse the long years of non-provision of school furniture. “We admitted the severity of these inherited challenges in education since 2015, but the point is that we are doing something about it.”
Malam el-Rufai said that the country cannot neglect public education if it wants progressive outcomes for all citizens.
Noting that it is the poorest that send their children to public primary schools, he asked whether it is proper to compel even well-off parents to have to pay through their noses to secure education for their wards in private primary and secondary schools.
He affirmed that the government has a duty to provide globally-competitive education for every citizen. “We cannot allow the perverse situation of declining educational standards as more people go to school to persist.”
Describing education as a lever for social mobility, el-Rufai said that government must invest in preparing the next generation for a world in which technology has disrupted the old certainties.
He called for a review of the National curriculum to reflect this shift, and a change in teaching methods from learning to an emphasis on teaching children to think, exposing them to ICT and prioritising knowledge over certificates.