Masari: Education is sure way to tackle poverty
Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina recently spoke to journalists in Katsina. ABBA ANWAR reports.
Why is your tenure dogged by challenges from political opponents within your party APC, tagged APC Akida (Integrity)?
First and foremost, you need to understand the motive of those calling themselves by that name. They know pretty well that any verbal attack on President Muhammadu Buhari is suicidal, so they chose to come through the back door. Some of them are close to Federal Government and Mr. President. So, if their grievances are genuine, they should have channeled them through the right way. But they chose to go to the marketplace.
Discerning minds know their intention and direction. In Katsina, we know that those clamouring for such are people with whom we contested the primaries. Some of them left Katsina after their defeat in the primaries, and never participated again in any political activities. There is one of them that has been inconsistent from the beginning till up till now.
Your administration is concentrating so much on education. What is the long-term vision?
We are able to achieve all these things simply because we refused to share the money. Developing our society meaningfully is doable.
Basically, this country’s problem is leadership. Yes, there are big people in all parts of the country, but what we need is good, visionary leaders. We should praise President Buhari for the direction he is taking, as it will eventually produce leaders and not rulers.
With the right leadership, we can still make it to the Promised Land, even with our little resources. People are saying there is no money. Yes, this is true, but we definitely believe if there is money, we will do better.
Are you sure you are providing good leadership for Katsina State?
Coming back home. During election campaign, we made promises in four or five areas. The last promise was to support the other four, as these cannot stand on their own. This last promise is education, and that is why it is our number one priority in Katsina, known for its standard education. Katsina made its name because of education. We didn’t make our name from oil or any other thing.
The first Western school in this part of the country was established in Katsina. The prominent sons and daughters of this country, especially from this part of the country, were either from Katsina or schooled here. But some years ago, we found ourselves in an unacceptable situation. At that time, we were number 33 in terms of performance in WAEC and NECO examinations.
Katsina sons and daughters that have made good names are all products of public schools. Without education, Katsina State cannot compete, which is why we decided to do something about the situation. So, we are just trying to restore that sector back to what it used to be. And that is why we are visiting all the schools, starting from primary to secondary. We also have situation reports of all our institutions.
We want to know the number of enrolments in all primary and secondary schools, as well as number of teachers, whether qualified or not; to know all the deficit in our schools, and work towards rehabilitating them.
We are also employing teachers, and equipping them with teaching aids and teaching materials, training and retraining of teachers, as we want them to become 21st century teachers, capable of teaching 21st century students. We should also make parents understand that they have financial responsibility in the development of their children. It is parents’ responsibility to train their children, government only provides enabling environment.
When we came into office, we had only five percent of pupils that obtained five credits with Mathematics and English. I am happy to say in the last exam, we introduced qualifying examinations. Initially, people were crying that government was doing something meaningless. But at the end of the day it paid off.
There is no wisdom in having schools without teaching and learning materials, without conducive environment for learning and people are not attending them, because there are not enough classes. This is a situation, where you have a class with 100 or 200 children. There were primary schools with 79 pupils, and that was the least.
When we introduced Mock exams in secondary schools, we said we would only pay for those that passed with five credits, including Mathematics and English, while those that failed would be allowed to repeat. We are willing to only pay for those we have hope would make it. People started complaining, I said let them complain. In 1960s, we were paying examination fees, and parents were able to afford it. Why won’t parents participate in the education of their wards?
There was this primary school that had a population of 4, 600 pupils. The headmaster told us that during Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meetings, just about 100 parents usually attended, and these were mostly mothers. The rest are not bothered whether their children go to school or not.
But because of what we introduced in the education sector, we now have a high number of those that sat for WAEC and NECO generally, while 77 percent that sat for NECO had five credits, including Mathematics and English. And for WAEC, we have about 70 percent.
Talking about fighting poverty, you cannot fight poverty without education. So, we are addressing public education issues because more than 90 percent of our school population is in public schools. When public schools issues are sorted out, you are addressing poverty in a positive and constructive way.
Our intention is that by 2018, all our secondary schools, especially for girls would have been comprehensively improved in everything, as we believe the best legacy we can leave behind is that of education. We also believe that if you want to empower ordinary people and the middle class, then you must address areas they spend money on. When public schools are improved, they will save no less than 50 percent of what the amount they spend in private schools. And they get better services.
Strangely enough, even in Katsina, Kano, Port Harcourt and other places, you discover that most of the teachers in private schools are actually public school teachers. And what they are being paid in public schools is higher than that of private schools, but they go to private schools and perform better. When they come to public schools, they tell you there are no teaching materials.
All we need, therefore, is high quality education that can be anchored by good leadership. Without education, there can be no other professions. All development is hinged on education.
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