…Handlers Of School Feeding Sabotaging Govt Efforts In Nasarawa
David Asoloko, is the provost of Metro college of Education, Adogi, he talks to BEAUTY JOHN on the challenges and prospects of the education sector in Nasarawa state. Excerpts:
What is your take on the school feeding program in the state?
School feeding generally is not a new thing. The boarding schools already have feeding, and it’s the boarding schools the government is feeding. It’s a welcome development because it is a relief on parents. But am not too impressed by the manner at which it is run.
With due respect to the present government which I think is putting it’s best, but the issue is surrounding the people handling the feeding program at the school level, I don’t think they are sincere. I see where the government provide adequate food but the children still complain of hunger. What is the matter?
So it’s important that the government should follow to the end. They should assign people to inspect how the feeding program is carried out in schools and the people responsible for checking or supervising the feeding program should do it accordingly.
it is a welcome idea because I say it’s a relief for parents. But as I have said, it is not handled well in the school level. The government is doing its best in term of ratio of food sent to school, I am aware of that. The food stuffs are diverted by the people in charge, and that’s the truth about it. Other than that, I will go by the school feeding system, particularly now that it’s free education.
What are the fundamental challenges of private tertiary institutions in Nasarawa state?
Private tertiary institutions in Nasarawa state are few, about eleven, both the teacher training institutions and other health institutions. Private means it has no government connection.
One of the problems such institutions face is acquiring a good site for the institution. To source out staff is another problem. Most of these schools are using part time lecturers from other schools which is a problem, paying their salaries is even a bigger problem, even sourcing the students is a problem because they need to pay fees, as the sustainance of the school is dependent on the resources that we gather.
At a point, we asked the government to give us some level of grant but they said they are battling with the problems of their own tertiary institutions. But I think private schools are complementing government schools so the government should find a way of helping the private school in terms of finance.
Site, proper infrastructure development, sourcing of staff, paying of salaries. These are the fundamental issues. But we are trying to ensure that we live up to standard so we will do our best to provide. But if we have to live up-to standard we will have to charge the students.
For instance, the school has opened since January 3rd but no student has resumed yet, they are complaining of lack of money beacuse of the bad economy. But if you don’t want to come to school try ignorance, which is more expensive. We are making sure we provide the best education we can for those willing to learn.
What is your take on the descripency between the official NECO and WAEC fees and the ones charged in the state?
Firstly, you have to have the questions, provide security, deliver the questions, administer the questions. These are what they consider before increasing the fees. But it has a government control, the government will tell you this is how much you can go. But I know when it comes to the state, there is this little running costs they add to what comes from WAEC and NECO. The exam bodies will charge her fees, and the schools will have to add their own little running costs.
How do you expect a principal or representative of a school to come to Lafia to deposit maybe WAEC OR NECO fees in a bank without transportation? Even if I have to move from Adogi to the bank I will need transport fare. So those little charges are added to the official amount. I don’t have the accurate figure, but I think it’s still in line.
When the exam body agrees on a particular amount to charge the students, they will announce to the state government, or schools the agreed amount to charge each student that year. They will get through to the schools through the educational resource center, it will issue a circular with a different amount of money slightly higher than the original one announced. The descripency comes as a result of the running costs.
Given the opportunity, what specific areas will you address in the state education sector?
Education in Nasarawa state is in a very poor state. I had an opportunity to visit some of these schools, in the course of inspecting my post graduate students who were on teaching practice.
Poor infrastructure. They build these high buildings along the road, when you go to he villages you will understand what I am saying. In this twenty first century our children are still sitting on the floor in the classrooms. Secondary school students are still sitting on blocks, you will see class rooms with no windows or doors, no descent class room arrangement, no good office for staff. If you visit some of these rural schools you will see most of the teachers sitting under trees.This is very bad.
I think the government is trying but they can do more, they only concentrate on township schools where people will pass and see. My village primary school has collapsed and yet we are saying UBE is building classes, where are the classes built? Along the road side? The people responsible for supervising these buildings are not doing their jobs properly. Most of the structures built in the past are collapsed and now rebuilt on a different contract which is a waste of money. The Ta’al schools are being reconstructed, I saw one in Doma too. There was no sufficient inspection the first time the schools were built , and I was told they were not built according to the specification of the contracts and yet they were paid. This is a waste of resources. If they were built well in the first place there won’t be any need for this.
There is an uneven distribution of teachers in the state. Most teachers are concentrated in township rather than posting them to other places of need. There is shortage of teachers in village schools but in town teachers a reminder flooded every where.
If given the opportunity, I will have a strong inspectorate unit. It is the Inspectorate unit that makes sure teaching and learning take place in descent condition.
I will distribute teachers fairly across schools and not concentrated in towns beacuase of godfatherism. Most of them are just sitting here and doing nothing, concentrating on their own businesses rather than teaching. I will make sure I eradicate that with stronghold inspectorate unit. We have about seventeen area inspectorate offices in this state, who are responsible for overseeing the activities of schools withing their areas. If these units are given sufficient power and support the story will change. Most of these units are not that functional because of lack of mobility and so on. Some of them are not well motivated too. For instance if you send inspectors to Toto, if there is no office they will have to hire and office, no house, they will have to hire a house, no vehicle to move round to check the schools. How do you expect them to perform well?
Good budgetary provision for education. The UNESCO says twenty six percent of the state budget should be allocated to education. I know we cannot give all our resources to education, but a good percentage should be given. And if that is done ,it means we should be able to address the issue of infrastructures, textbooks and so on. If the budget is improved or increased it will go a long way to solve some of these pressing problems.
You can have structures and all learning materials but if the teachers don’t do their jobs there is a big problem. Why do the teachers behave the way they do? Because they are not motivated. I will make sure teachers are motivated. And how will I achieve that? I will make sure that their monthly stipends are paid as of when due. Teachers are grumbling all over the place because they are not sufficiently motivated. I will make sure the teachers are happy, and when they are happy they will put in their best.
Because of these issues affecting public schools, private schools are overtaking public schools in number. But the danger in private schools is that most of them don’t follow the regulations. A three bedroom apartment become a school, no play ground. So the child’s psycomotor development is not there. It is not just about cognitive development, some of these private schools employ unqualified teachers. You will see diploma holders teaching.
Private institutions don’t enjoy TETFUND, how does that affect the growth of education ?
Initially, this was the creation of university lecturers or the ASUU. the ASUU made a case for education and they suggested there should be an educational TAXFUND. It was initially educational tax fund ETF. So industries were paying certain percentage of their income into that fund for the purpose of aiding education. It covered even the primary schools but with time every body was going to seek for the fund which made them resctrict it to tertiary education which is why it is now called TETFUND. If not for TETFUND some universities would have collapsed already.
If you go to the state polytechnic here to will most of the buildings are done by TETFUND. It’s the same case in the State University, a number of the buildings there are TETFUND funded.
The non inclusion of private tertiary institutions in TETFUND is affecting the growth of education because we are all Nigerians . Is it because I went to a private school that I should not enjoy TETFUND which is contributed by industries in Nigeria?
It is affecting us greatly because what ever resources we have, we have to put it all in the development of the institution on our own. It’s a cheat to me because if we are to allow TETFUND to run, it should be given to private tertiary institutions too but we don’t enjoy it ,and the government has not been able to give any tangible reason for excluding us from enjoying it. All they say is that we are not government owned institutions , as If we are not Nigerians or the private institutions are not in Nigeria.
We will continue to plead with TETFUND to extend their assistance to private institutions beacuse the private schools are also contributing to the development of education and imparting knowledge o the Nigerian student.
What in your view is responsible for the failing standard of education in Nigeria?
Weak school instruction. teachers no longer discipline students the way we were disciplined in our time.
Poor school environment because there are too many schools to be given attention to.
Another important factor is poor curiculumn beacuse we keep changing our curriculum every day. In my time we had seven years in primary school, five years secondary school, after that you go for high school for two years , then you go to university three years. Three years back we had what is called 6334 system of education, which is now called national policy of education. The national policy of education has not ended and they bring another policy 934. nine years in basic education before given certificate, you will spend six years in primary school, three years in junior secondary school. It is from the primary school to junior secondary school that is called basic education ,after that you will be given a certificate.
The curiculumn will change because of this new system and will affect teaching and learning.
The implementation of these policies is poor. No matter how brilliant the policies are, if they are not well implemented they will generate problem for us.
There are no strong teaching orientation or training of teachers. I wouldn’t mind if there is any way w can have a teacher training program as it were those days. They trained the teachers to come and train the pupils but today they cut off the primary schools because of the policy. The policy says that it recognize the leader certificate you to be called a professional teacher is NCE, and these NCE holders are expected to teach Basic classes. But today, if you go to schools you will see an NCE holder teaching SS3. this is affecting our students beacuse the NCE holder is not properly trained to teach senior classes.
You will see someone without basic knowledge of teaching, basic psychology of the child, basic teaching method and yet he is a teacher. Unqualified teachers are all over the place, what do you expect to happen the standard of education?
There is shortage of teaching and learning materials. Most of our schools don’t have textbooks in the library, the students too do not have textbooks due to the poverty level of we parents. Sometimes a polytechnic student will go to school with one exercise book in his pocket, he might have four different lectures and he will be forced to write them all in that single book. The school libraries are bad, no textbooks. In my time in primary school you are able to communicate in writing to your parents. But even after secondary school today, some students can’t do that.
As the provost of a new College of Education in Nasarawa State, how is the journey so far?
It has not been easy but we thank God. we paid the prescribed fee, we invited the NCC , they came and inspected. I am happy to inform you that we have gotten an approval to now run a college of education with effect on 28 of last month.It is a very tough struggle to get approval for a college of education but we than God we have crossed that bridge.
So having done all this, you need to have qualified staff who have studied education along to teach In a college of education. Luckily for us, we don’t have a problem with staffing. We have about forty five staff, some with doctorate and masters degree and few with first degree which is comfortable with us. We are doing well and starting properly. I think by next year we will even reject students.
Although this is our temporary site, we are already working on the permanent site and the inspectors granted us permission to start here before the permanent site is completed. The only thing holding us down is the economic situation in the country.
We offer courses like Economics, CRS, Islamic studies, political science and so on. These courses are approved by the NCCE .