By Al-Mamun Mallam

Coalescing my idea with Abulolo’s manifesto, the challenges in the state education sector can be overcome by focusing on four areas, viz. (i) Man (ii) Materials (iii) Motivation (iv) Supervision

(i) Man: Implementing items ‘g’ and ‘h’ which are meant to take care of this challenge will be problematic. So I recommend continuation of decentralization of the schools under the State college of education that the Talba’s government introduced, but quality of the products of college needs much improvement. The new government also should use the second part of item ‘h’ of the education roadmap by focusing on training and retraining of our teachers to advance the needed 21st century skills and competencies.

(ii) Motivation: Training and retraining actually add to the motivation just like the working environment, but it is very important to improve the take-home pay of our teachers. What is given as TSS now is nothing but a sham! Compare how much a teacher receives in the state with how much a medical worker and a staff of the judiciary receives both of whom must have sit through his class, or with that of a councilors many of whom might not have had the patient to sit through the teachers class and you will agree that teachers are not encouraged to put in their best. The fact that teachers have not effectively deployed the language of force, which is the only one that work with our leaders as university lecturers, medical and judiciary workers can testify, does not mean our teachers will not at some point abandon the language of reason they have used, albeit poorly, with our leaders all along.

(iii) Materials: We can ill-afford the ill-equipped structures that are our educational institutions when virtually every primary school in China and other serious climes learns with one personal computer in his front. The ill-effects of this myopia are evident in the ill-prepared graduates that have added more to our national malaise than they have done to our national assets. At least three to five primary and secondary schools in each local government area should be provided with modern learning materials; relevant text books and be equipped with internet linked computers in each year’s budget in the next four years. Chalkboard has become extinct in many serious climes and should be phased out by the new government. Laboratories and libraries should be stuffed with the right materials and books. Then provision of adequate sporting equipment should be accorded a priority while students should be made to attend sporting activities at least on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 pm to 6pm.

(iv) Supervision and Monitoring: Some workers are inherently lazy and will always give an output that is acutely below expectation if under supervised. It is in the light of this that the inspectorate division, the zonal education offices and the local government education department should be empowered with materials and incentives to undertake continuous supervision and monitoring. Gladly, the new government needs only go through item ‘m’ of the education roadmap in its manifesto on how to go about this.

One stone that is capable of killing, not one, not two, but many birds in the hunt for solutions to our educational retrogression has not been stated. One step that is capable of making all the above stated recommendations effective while engendering massive confidence in the new government is for the government to have an arrangement where public office holders from, say directors to the governor, will enroll some of their children in public schools. This simple, but difficult step will be the clincher in the race to save our education sector.

In the health sector, laissez-fair leadership style of Kure failed to make health services available to the common man in enough quantity and quality. Patients were given five naira card, but that’s where the sensitivity of the government and most of the medical workers stopped then. Even waste management, which could stopped many diseases from attacking man, was literally abandoned as the many mountains of refuse dumps littering Minna and other urban centers showed. When Dattijo Aliyu assumed leadership of the ministry of health, however, appreciable improvement was noticed in health service delivery, proving that a correlation does not always exist between the quality of leadership rendered and a leader’s area of study in the university or college. As for Talba’s era, an objective evaluator will give the administration a high mark if the performance is measured against the preceding government, but if Talba’s performance in the health sector is measured against the targets set in Vision 3:20:20, a liberal evaluator may be tempted to give the government an average score because of the number of PHCs constructed in some urban and rural areas directly by government using MDG and indirectly by development partners like the CSDP and, of course, because of the neonatal and children hospital that is almost completed in the state capital. Also waste management did not only get top priority attention, some of the refuse dump sites were converted into parks and gardens. But we should not forget that before these two administrations, there was Dr Musa Inuwa; may his soul rest in peace, in whose tenure typhoid became almost endemic in Niger State because tap water generated was mostly distributed without first being treated.

There are twenty-three items of activities which are all expected to produce corresponding changes in the health services delivery in the document encapsulating the Vision. This essay is not an impact assessment study, but from personal experiences, my family has not benefitted from the item ‘19’ in the Vision, namely, provision of free medical treatment for under-five, pregnant women, the aged and physically challenged. The distance covered to obtain health services from government facilities has been reduced, but owing to lack of monitoring and the Nigerian factor, some of the newly constructed PHCs charge almost the same bill with what is obtainable in some private clinics. However, in Minna General Hospital, a patient will actually be given a prescription after a diagnosis to purchase his drugs oftentimes at what seems a subsidized price at the government pharmacy. But even here issues still exist; if for example, you feign an ailment and request for an appendectomy, you are likely to be assailed with a bill that will swell your appendix to show that the Nigerian factor that needs to be changed with the new Change operates here.

On the transport sector, both Kure and Talba made some impact. MBA’s government made more impact than kure’s when quantity is considered. The kilometer of roads constructed in Minna, Kontagora and Bida and on Batati-Dabban, Badeggi-Katcha and some other areas directly by Talba’s government or indirectly by development partners like CSDP and RAMPH exceed that of Kure, but the quality of the few roads that Kure constructed exceeded that of Talba. The 10 km per LG road programme is a good initiative, but most of the roads have not been finished and those finished were of poor standard. The new government should learn from this, as what is in Abulolo’s manifesto on transportation is not explicit enough to address the challenge in the sector. The new government may consider having a road maintenance agency that will cover the three senatorial districts of the state, but it has to be adequately funded, equipped and supervised.

When good things are done in a wrong way, people are alienated, more so when the good thing is a painful one. The manner illegal structures were destroyed in the state capital in MBA’s first tenure added to the quick waning of the MBA’s popularity. Again we have to blame the absence of SIA for that.  Again let me borrow from my article in Newsline of March 4, 2009, where I tried to draw the government attention to the issue of how the policy was poorly implemented. “…people’s peculiarities should be keyed into government policies, programmes and projects. Does the government want to destroy illegal structures? Good. But what happens to the artisans, the mechanics, the spare parts sellers, those who fix flat tyres and others that operate from these illegal structures as well as the rest of us that patronize them? If I have to walk two or three kilometers in the tropical sun of Minna rolling a motor cycle to fix a flat tyre whereas I could hitherto get someone nearby that would do it, there is no way I can control the swear words that would want to fly out of my mouth.” In one word, government should learn to have empathy when coming up with policies and programmes.

Past policies and programmes implementation from which Abulolo should learn as he steps into stewardship position in Niger State have not been exhausted here. There are many strong and weak points of the past democratic governments that the new government can draw from for efficient, effective and sustainable service delivery for the people who have LOUDLY expressed their hunger for change, and it will worth the new government’s while to study these and learn from them.

Concluded

Al-Mamun Mallam is a development practitioner in Minna, and can be reached at almamunmahb@gmail.com

TAURARUWA