Infrastructural deficit, shortage of man power and lack of quality of human resource were among the major problems confronting educational sector in Zamfara State. These problems are considered as the bedrock of the state poor performance in terms of WAEC and NECO. The present administration of Bello Matawalle in Zamfara has time without number alleged that, the problems are inherited and that his administration is mapping out strategies to address this issue through mass school renovation and creating enabling environment for teacher retention. To shed more light on what the government is doing, Zamfara State Commissioner for Education Ibrahim Abdullahi Spirow was hosted by Thunder Blowers Online News Medium at its head office in Gusau where these and more issues were extensively discussed.
What is the estimated number of teachers in public secondary schools under your Ministry?
Well we have various categories of teachers under the state payroll. We have those working under the Primary Education Board, we have those working at the tertiary under the Directorate for Higher Education and those working under the secondary school system managed by the Teachers service and female education boards and those also under the Science and Technical Education Board. And those under my control are the teachers recruited by the Teachers Service Board and Female Education Board and their number is up to 6,585.
How many of them are qualified?
With the exception of 712 teachers all the remaining are qualified. They are qualified because they have the minimum teaching qualification which is the NCE. But like we used to argue it is not just simply having the minimum qualification that matters, the capacity and ability to teach also counts a lot. Like I told you during the previous interview, we had a scenario where we met someone with Bsc. Ed but could not teach some secondary school students satisfactorily.
What is the estimated number of classrooms we have in those schools vis-à-vis the estimated number of Students available?
The number is not appreciable and believe me we have a lot to do to increase the number considering the volume of population of the students. We have met infrastructural deficit and we will work towards enhancing these infrastructures so that student/teacher ratio will be met on established standards.
Going by the standard of teacher/student ratio, where are we?
Like I have told you, the number is not appreciable and I don’t want us to go deep into it but like I told you, the condition is not appreciable
What are your plans for restructuring of these schools considering their comatose status?
Arrangement is ongoing, we have engaged consultants and we have mapped out strategies for the mass renovation and reconstruction of the whole public schools in the state. This Covid-19 has brought a lot of things to a stand-still and we are just waiting for things to open proper so that we can start doing the right thing. We have plans for it and we shall work harder to achieve many things within the shortest possible time.
How much do you think your government needs to invest to restructure these schools to expected minimum standard?
We don’t have an estimate of what exactly we need to rehabilitate and upgrade the standard of these schools. But like I said earlier, their condition is in bad shape and we need to do something urgently to address the infrastructural deficit. By the time the consultant finishes the estimation we will know exactly what we need as a whole. Again you need to remember that, the funds are not available.
It was reported that, in the whole of Zamfara State, you don’t have up to 15 mathematics teachers, same thing with Physics and Chemistry how true is this?
It is not true and we need to correct this insinuation. Based on the available record we have, in Gusau Zone alone, we have up to 50 teachers of mathematics, 12, in Mafara zone, 8 in Anka and 16 in Kaura Zone.
As for the Physics and Chemistry teachers, Gusau Zone has 15 and 20, Mafara Zone has 5 and 5 Anka Zone has 5 and 4 and Kaura Namoda Zone has 11 and 13 teachers respectively.
We have shortage of course, but we have to agree with the fact that, the number is beyond that level we are projecting but our government is doing its best to recruit more teachers. In fact the Executive Governor has approved our request for the recruitment of more teachers. As soon as Covid-19 pandemic is over we shall commence the exercise
How are you going to address the challenges of teacher quality in Zamfara?
When we came on board, we met a lot of challenges especially with regards to teacher quality and we agreed that, before we crash we have to create an avenue where we will continue to enhance the teacher quality especially through training and retraining. We have so many plans for the enhancement of teacher quality and like I
told you, this Corona Virus is the major impediment in our plans for the development of the education sector.
We will create opportunities for our teachers to proceed on in-service training and for those without minimum teaching qualification, they will be given the opportunity to go to teacher training institutions and get themselves trained.
Let me tell you, as a Commissioner for Education, I have challenged myself to go back to school and acquire the basic teacher minimum qualification. I am now a student of National Teachers Institute NTI, Kaduna and my reason is to go back and get teacher training certificate and I will continue to create an enabling environment to all the teachers in the state who do not have any qualification to get one so that we can collectively work to enhance the system
It was observed that, day-in-day-out, teachers in Zamfara state are leaving the service of the State government due to poor remuneration, what are you doing to address this issue?
It is true that, teachers are always opting out for alternative job outside teaching profession but like I told you in our previous programme, any teacher who has the interest of teaching at heart must not abandon the teaching job for anything else. But also we have to understand their reasons for the frequent exit and off course it is due to poor remuneration.
When we came in as a government, I met the Governor and intimated him of my initiatives to map out some allowances to be paid to state teachers simply in order to motivate them and based on that, he instructed us to come up with the initiative.
At ministry level we have advised the Governor to come up with a certain allowances for teachers posted to remote areas, called BUSH ALLOWANCE. We also advised him to create earned academic allowance to motivate the teachers and attract the best brain. So we are awaiting his approval in that regard. We also advised him to build houses for teachers. In that regard he has already started. A company called ASF has been awarded contract to build teachers lodge in some local govts at the cost of 186, 345,890 in the state.
What is the general conditions of boarding schools in Zamfara State?
Actually our boarding schools are in a very bad condition and we are not saying the immediate past administration did not do anything, but considering the huge sums they claimed they have spent, and believe me, what they left for us is something very unbelievable. We have mapped out our plans for the renovation of all the public schools and before this Covis-19 started, we were to move to the sites and step-by-step we shall renovate and upgrade them.
Take for example, of the Government Day Secondary School, Birnin Ruwa, when we came in, we met that the immediate administration had already awarded contract for the renovation and upgrading of the school and the contractor had already abandoned the site after collecting huge amount of money and we shall invite him to know what actually happened.
It was learnt that, students are running away from enrolling in public boarding schools because of lack of conducive environment, how true is this? And how are you addressing it?
Yes our enrolment at the boarding school has dropped before we came due to the poor nature of infrastructures in these schools but believe me, we are changing the story because our enrolment has now increased and we are working towards improving the standard of the infrastructures. Within our first tenure, we shall work very hard to enhance the condition of the infrastructures in all our boarding schools in Zamfara State.
People are accusing you, the policy makers of taking your children away from same public schools you are supposed to develop, why are your children not enrolled in the public schools?
I cannot deny that, children of those in the position of authority are in private schools but the fact of the matter is that, we are trying to fix the system to make it in conformity with the best of the public interest.
We met a system that is almost destroyed and we believe what we met on ground is not a functional system that could give better result. But my Governor is actively doing well, we have a good plan to rescue the educational system of the state and we are planning to do so many things just that, the Corona Virus is making things very difficult. But as soon as we are off this pandemic, things will surely pick up
When do we look forward to seeing the children of Zamfara Governor and those of Commissioners enrol in to the public schools?
As I speak to you, my first child is in the public school his name is Alameen Ibrahim, My two senior daughters Nussaiba Ibrahim Gusau and Nabila Ibrahim Gusau are students of Command Girls Science secondary school Gusau.
So I have much value for this system and I believe in it and as State Commissioner for Education I am assuring you that, we are going to fix the system to the best of the public interest.
As for the Governor, I
can’t say exactly because I don’t decide for him but like I said, the Governor is a teacher, and he believes in the public system of education and he will promote the system to the best of his ability
What is the general condition of the Unity Schools system in Zamfara State?
The Governor has distributed 2000 mattresses at the cost of 12 million to unity school kotorkoshi. He also renovated the school at the cost of 55million naira
We are planning for total renovation of all the Unity schools and make them effective as they used to be before.
Have you visited Unity School, Gummi when you come in?
I have not visited Unity School, Gummi yet but I am aware of its condition and I had a plan to visit the area before this pandemic started. But within the shortest possible time, I will visit the school and see things for myself and I assure you, we will continue to give this exchange programme the attention it deserves.