WE MUST NOT FORGET THE EDUCATIONAL ADVANCEMENT OF THE JONATHAN ADMINISTRATION
This year alone, the nation has witnessed two sad developments in the education sector aimed at discouraging Nigerian children from benefitting from the well articulated plan of the Jonathan administration to ensure that no Nigerian child is denied access to quality education. The first was the vicious murder of male students at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State. The second is the very unfortunate abduction of 243 female students from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
These sad developments that have led to negative press for the country must not divert the attention of Nigerians from the very wonderful progress the administration has made in its quest to right the wrongs in a sector that has been neglected for decades. President Jonathan's commitment to educational development has been one of the most progressive highlights of his administration.
The terrorists and their sponsors are aware of this fact, hence the desperate efforts to check the movement on the fast lane. These desperate attacks on educational institutions are planned by desperate persons afraid that their captives are being freed by policies and projects of an administration that has an academic at the helm of affairs.
Never in the history of this nation has administration taken very deliberate steps to address the extreme educational imbalance in the Northern region of the country. This is a fact known to the terrorists and their sponsors. As President Goodluck Jonathan flagged off the thirteenth Federal University, the Nigeria Maritime University, in Warri South LGA of Delta State on Saturday, under his watch, objective Nigerians appreciated the fact that his expressed performance in this sector is unprecedented.
It has become normal for opposition politicians and opposition sponsored non governmental organizations to climb the roof top shouting obscenities at the administration. They pretend to be unaware of the fundamental improvements that have made education attractive to the northern less privileged people. More than ever before, the policies and projects of the Jonathan administration have attracted more northerners to the classrooms. The President is working hard to ensure that these less privileged children are retained in the classrooms.
During his campaign runs for the 2011 elections, President Goodluck Jonathan declared that he will use education as an empowerment tool for the neglected northern youth. It seemed as if it was one of those political promises. Three years down the line, he has fulfilled his promises. Those who haul insults at him, do so hoping that nobody would remind them of the fundamental changes the President has effected in a sector neglected by past Presidents.
The major highlight of President Jonathan's efforts to redefine education in the north is the Almajiri Education Programme. Through this programme, the President made inroads towards addressing the out-of-school challenge posed by the Almajiris. Of the 10.5million estimated children out of school in the country, over 50percent are Almajiris. What has been done transcends the physical structures in the states of northern Nigeria. The administration put in place comprehensive curriculum, books, instructional materials, relevant trainings and building plans for states to take advantage in order to drive home a much needed reform.
The Almajiri Education Programme introduced by President Goodluck Jonathan has three models aimed at maximizing impact on a long neglected zone.
Model One integration of traditional Tsangaya/Qur'anic School into the formal education system within its original location. In this case, additional classrooms are built and new essential facilities provided. For Model Two, the Federal Government constructed the schools with modern boarding facilities to serve a group of Tsangaya/Qur'anic schools within a given location. The Model Three is the integration of basic education in established Islamiyyah and Ma'ahad schools. This involves the provision of infrastructure and other facilities based on the needs of specific schools.
For years, these kids were denied their fundamental human right to education by those who now use them as weapons of insecurity. What President Jonathan has brought to the table is a fundamental shift to the ways things are done. He has expanded the frontiers of the empowerment of the less privileged in our communities. It is no longer enough to give that Almajiri a plate of food at a local restaurant and pretend that you have been nice to him. Encourage him to enrol in one of the new Almajiri schools.
Like the Almajiris, the girl-child constitutes a high percentage of the out-of-school children in Nigeria. Therefore, the President Goodluck Jonathan introduced the All Girls'School Initiative as a part of an overall policy to fundamentally address the challenges associated with attaining the Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals.
These schools have been constructed by the administration in 15 States of the Federation with majority of them in Northern Nigeria. They are geared towards resolving key issues that limit the ability of the girl-child towards contributing to national development.
Such issues include; socio-cultural barriers, religious misconception, early marriage, insecurity of girls in schools, gender preference as well as the distance of the schools to the girls.
At the time President Jonathan was sworn in on May 27, 2011, 12 States of the Federation lacked Federal Universities. Nine of these states were in the north. Three years down the line, President Goodluck Jonathan has delivered Federal Universities to all these states. We leave the economists with the task of calculating the multiplier effect of this profound investment in terms of community development, community empowerment, professional skills acquisition, staffing, research and development and social interractions.
In the course of the last three years, the President has ensured that the Federal Government ddelivered over 60million free textbooks and library resource materials to less privileged Nigerian children in public primary and junior secondary schools in all the states of the Federation. He has completed plans to re-introduce the School feeding programme for all states of the Federation. These efforts are geared towards ensuring that children who get enrolled in schools are retained in the classes.
These renewed efforts have not been restricted to the pupils. More than 1million basic education teachers and administrators have been trained by the administration in the last three years. This is unprecedented. At the Tertiary education level, over 13,000 lecturers in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education have been trained.
Massive infrastructural re-generation have taken place in public basic and tertiary institutions. The President has re-positioned TETFUND to fund targeted infrastructural development in all state and Federal tertiary institutions. Those who have their children in these schools will attest to the fact that this is a golden era for the schools. This was confirmed during the town hall meetings the Supervising Minister of Education, Barr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike held with all the heads and stakeholders of Federal Tertiary Institutions in all the states of the Federation.
The most outstanding is the innovation by President Jonathan to recreate infrastructure in all public universities in the country through his introduction of the Needs Assessment of the Universities. The President has set aside N1.3trillion for this purpose. The first tranche of N200billion is being accessed by the universities. The same process is on for the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. No previous administration took these fundamental steps to improve the sector. He also introduced the Presidential Scholarship for Innovation and Development, PRESID. This programme is dedicated to introduce first class brains into the nation's academic community.
President Jonathan's goal as the leader of Africa's largest economy has been to create access to quality education. This he has substantially achieved. He has implemented clearly planned programmes for all geo-political zones of the Federation.
As the abducted girls gain their freedom in the coming days, in view of the concerted efforts by President Jonathan, we must not lose sight of the fact that education has undergone very positive changes under this administration. The gains in this sector cannot be wished away by sponsored editorials influenced by hired opposition propagandists in the United States and United Kingdom who serve as known communication consultants to identified political interest groups. These man-made obstacles will not stop the President from continuing with his implementation of planned programmes in the education sector for the northern region.
By Simeon Nwakaudu, the Special Assistant (Media) to the Supervising Minister of Education.