When I received a phone call from Honourable Abdullahi I. Mahuta, the Minority Leader of the Katsina State House of Assembly, asking me for an appointment to meet in my house, I was confused. I knew that he had made reference to an article I posted online that spoke about one white woman’s incredible efforts of helping almajirai in Kano. The article had gone somewhat viral but I did not think it was enough to make the high and mighty wish to dine with the lowest of the low. So, to receive this big fish, I invited Malam Ibraheem Waziri, a philosopher friend, for support.
When he arrived, I could see that he was a bit surprised at our relatively younger ages. But he quickly shook it off. And as all the three of us opted against the settees for the floor, our guest first appreciated the ‘opportunity’ we had given him to visit us. He said he was very excited to meet us and that he hoped that his ‘intellectual’ endowment would not fall short. We knew he was a politician, and so we just smiled. He discussed that white lady’s efforts and how hearing about her was inspiring him to do more in his own ways to assist almajirai and the destitute in the society. And then he thanked us for the efforts we were making on the social media to bring attention to the ills that bedevil our society.
Honourable Mahuta finally arrived at the actual reason for his 75km journey from Kaduna to meet us, which was to discuss his campaigns for a revolution in the education sector of Katsina state in particular, and Nigeria in general. He called it ‘Ni Ma Na Yarda’ which literally means ‘I also agree’. And he went ahead to explain it to us while asking for our support.
He began by discussing the unfortunate deterioration in the quality of education in Nigeria. He cited so many alarming indicators, similar to those that I mentioned here last week, to buttress his arguments. And then he told us that he had an idea that he thought could solve most of the problems and reposition our education back to its glory days in a short while.
He told us that he attended public schools from primary to tertiary level. His primary education took place in Malumfashi where he studied with the children of the haves and those of the have-nots. He nostalgically recalled how that class evened up all social status differences. Children of the poor were best friends to those of the rich. Parents for one were parents for all. Parents for the rich bought books and toys and brought to school. These children played together both at school and at home. The exposed, educated parents were always making rounds at the school to ensure that their children were receiving quality education. The children of the uneducated naturally benefited from that. Relationships sprouted between those poor and rich parents because of the children, leading to mutually beneficial results. The love, peace and harmony in the community were there for everyone to see and enjoy.
Mahuta contrasted that with today. Children of the rich attend private primary, secondary and even tertiary institutions. The poor make do with the relics called public schools. The gap between these two classes of citizens keeps increasing as they grow up, so much so that a few years down the line, they will share nothing in common. The consequences are already here with us.
Mahuta’s idea (which he says is not novel by any means as it is already in practice in countries like Malaysia) is to champion a legislation that will lead to enacting a law compelling all public servants and political office holders to send their wards to public schools. He had used it as a campaign issue and he rode on it to the House of Assembly. Now as a principal officer of the House, he is seeing more.
Hear him: “Throughout the 2011 fiscal year, no single kobo was released to the oldest higher institution in the state, Katsina Polytechnic, for capital expenditure. Only 10% of the funds allocated to the states’ Science and Technical Education Board was released. Amazingly, of the N11,455,852,875.00 allocated to the entire educational sector of the state for capital expenditure, only about N1,819,183,458.00 was released, representing about 15.88%. This is appalling. The irony is that while on one hand, the government never misses an opportunity to remind the citizens that it provides free and qualitative education in the state, on the other hand, all the top government functionaries spend so much for the education of their own children in private schools at home and abroad. Would the state governor withhold the grant of these schools if his children, who are schooling abroad, were attending these schools?”
Mahuta was there when one highly-placed citizen narrated how he resolved a problem of an ‘irresponsible’ relation of his who could not make any good use of himself. “I just got him a job in one of those primary schools.” Could he have done that if his children were students in that school? Perhaps this is one of the reasons why 80% of the teachers in public schools in Sokoto state are unqualified.
We sat there and discussed how we could help to bring attention to this issue and his idea of a solution through various channels, including intimating our friends and followership on the social media. We were glad to help. We agreed with Mahuta that if we could find a way of enacting this law and enforcing compliance, we would have started on our way to reclaiming our sanity, at least in the education sphere.
He has already started by enlisting the help of all the stakeholders, civil society organisations, traders, market women, etc. We believe all hands must come on deck to make ‘Ni Ma Na Yarda’ a reality.
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