The relevance of education to the well-being, economic and political growth of society cannot be over-emphasised. No wonder the government at all levels work round the clock setting aside budgetary allocation to ensure quality education is provided.
On this premise, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has been fashioning out strategies to boost the quality of education in Kwara in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.
As education remains one of the main thrusts of his administration, AbdulRazaq took a cursory look into the state of education upon assumption of office. He designed a policy framework that would change the face of education to match up with the world standard operations and to comply with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Some of the problems he met in the education sector when he assumed office in 2019 included insufficient funding, irregular promotion of teachers, inadequate infrastructure, shortage of instructional materials, absence of operational vehicles, unequal distributions of teaching staff, and unfavourable learning conditions others.
The government, therefore, embarked on the rehabilitation of dilapidated public school buildings. At least over 600 public schools are now undergoing renovation to provide a conducive learning environment. Apart from this, the administration provided exercise books and other working tools for the students aside from the prompt payment of teachers’ salaries.
Also, the governor recently convened an education summit to garner more ideas towards moving education forward in the state.
The summit, held at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Ilorin, was organised to fashion out a new education policy that would address the challenges associated with the educational development of the state.
The move would also assist the government in defining an agenda and programme of interventions to make quality education available and accessible for all.
Speaking at the summit, AbdulRazaq said his administration had moved basic education from the near-collapse state in 2019 with investments in infrastructure, recruitment of good teachers, and reinvigoration of the monitoring system in the schools.
“Two years down the road, my team and I are proud to report that the situation has changed. We have restored our relationship with key partners after years of a blacklist.
“We have reshaped public perception about teaching by engaging the best minds into the system,” said the governor.
He added that his goal is to make public schools the first choice for all. “As a show of our commitment to education, we have recently surpassed the UNESCO budgetary threshold of 26 per cent. Even so, it is clear that the government cannot do this alone,” noted the Kwara governor. “Huge gaps still exist. For instance, our recent school census across four local government areas shows that 41 per cent of our teachers are absent at their duty posts.”
He added, “No single teacher was seen in 54 of the 368 schools sampled, while 23 per cent of students on head teachers’ record were not in school during the census. Only 15 per cent of the schools sampled were rated as needing no repair, implying that 85 per cent of our classrooms require various forms of rehabilitation.”
He further explained that “the picture is bleaker when you consider” availability or adoption of technology in schools. The governor admitted that the gender parity index for the ratio of girls to boys in “our school is another source of worry.”
While calling for stakeholders’ support, he noted the state is already building a legal framework to support its efforts.
“We now have a bill for a law to establish Kwara State Education Trust Fund. When passed, this fund will supplement the sector’s finance, promote technologies and leapfrog the sector’s development through our Kwara Education Transformation Agenda (KWETA) plan,” the governor disclosed.
In his remarks, World Bank Senior Education Specialist, Dr Tunde Adekola, commended the government for the initiative and for allocating more than 25 per cent of its budget to education. He said the state must invest in technology, train and re-train teachers, create a regime of incentives for good performance, and involve communities in its drive to transform education.
“Kwara state has the highest number of basic schools in the whole of north-central. Kwara has the least number of out of school children in the north-central zone of Nigeria,” explained Adekola. “Kwara state is one of those states that is coming up from behind in accessing all the fundings in UBEC and is now investing in infrastructure and learning materials. All these things do not come by accident.”
Adekola further pointed out: “That is what is called leadership. That is what we need at all levels in the state. That is why the governor brought all of us here to share knowledge and information, to see how we can make things better.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mariam Uwais, called for collaborative efforts among traditional rulers, civil society organisations, governments, and religious scholars to address out-of-school children’s issues through facilities in agriculture, sports, and creative sectors.
On his part, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Education Intervention, Fela Bank-Olemoh, called on the state government to improve investment in human capital development and create a model that supports and allows the private sector to solve problems in education.
He also harped on technical education and the digital economy, saying, “Kwara must re-work its primary and secondary education system to make it impossible for any student to come out of our schools without acquiring basic technical, vocational education and training (TVET) skills.”