• 26% of 2020 Budget for Education
  • Holistic Renovations of Schools
  • Training of State’s Students in Foreign Varsities

By Samson Yaki

Hajiya Fatima Jimeta Sabo, is not an unfamiliar personality or administrator in Nasarawa State’s Civil Service, not because she had held several positions in the state before her latest appointment as Commissioner of Education, Science and Technology, but because she had proven, in all the places she had worked, to be a goal-getter, workaholic, patriotic and selfless administrator. These qualities manifested more when she served as Registrar, Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa. In this interview with our Group Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, Hajiya Sabo disclosed her educational and her Boss’ vision and programmes respectively in the state.

Education Monitor: Honourable Commissioner, this government just celebrated one year in office. What can you say the government has achieved in your ministry?

Commissioner: A lot have been done. It is important to note that the governor came with the vision to upgrade Nasarawa State to be among the top five most competitive economies in Nigeria; and of course, he cannot achieve that without requiring human resources. As a result of that, he tried as much as possible to make education his top most priority. Along the line, the administration did not waste time to start a massive renovation of schools across the state. Both primary and secondary schools are being renovated across the state.  The government has also entered into partnership with the private sector to provide and upgrade facilities in schools across the state. This partnership, which is the first of its kind since the inception of the state, has started yielding results. The present state of Government Girls Science Secondary School Garaku is a product of such partnership. Virtually all the academic structures and the hostels in that school have been renovated. That was done in partnership with Keystone Bank. Another Bank is also handling government Science School Lafia.

This government has also broken grounds in areas of scholarships. It has already sponsored twenty seven students to Ugandan University to acquire qualifications in different fields.  To underscore the importance attached to education by the present administration, for the first time in the history of the state, the education sector received 26% of the budget allocation.

The State University is ready to commence Faculty of Engineering and the government has granted approval for the University’s Management to start recruiting staff for the programme.  The faculty has also secured assistance for the provision of engineering equipment from a partner in Italy. The government is also working assiduously to start Faculty of Medicine at the University as well. All these are geared towards building the manpower requirement for the state.

When this government came on board, we took a holistic look at the state, and we found out that one of the critical things that we needed to do to enable us find our bearing was to have credible data information regarding the education sector.  As a result, some academics from the Federal University Lafia were commissioned to conduct the first ever baseline survey of the education sector-the basic and the secondary sector. In fact, the outcome of that survey gave us a fairer idea of the facilities available in terms of manpower, infrastructures, the quality of staff we have and the impact of these schools on our communities. The report has been submitted to the ministry and we have constituted a committee to look into it and come out with a roadmap towards addressing some of the issues that were raised.

Also, for the first time, the ministry, through the bilingual education programme, conducted the first ever baseline survey of Tsangayas (the Almajiri Schools) and the number of almajiris in the state.  From that survey, we were able to know the number of these Tsangayas, their locations and their teachers; as well as how many are indigenes of the state and how many are not? We did that in a bid to plan properly for this category of students too. From the survey, we also discovered that the number of the Almajiris went beyond what the state can effectively carter. Luckily, it came at a time when all the Northern states governors took a decision to repatriate all of them to their states of origin. When that was done, we were left with few indigenous ones to care for and we are planning to see that they are adequately catered for under bilingual education programmes in conjunction with the State Universal Basic Education. Those that are above the basic education level, we will enroll them in the vocational and other relevant technology programme to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to have access to some basic education.  I believe this is going to help us take care of the anti- social vices ravaging the state.

We have established the Lafia Institute of Technology which is going to be a Vocational Centre of its kind. We also have a Technology Incubation Centre where we will be having enterprises at their start up levels.

The centre is opened to entrepreneurs where we will bring in trainees to be trained so that they too can become entrepreneurs themselves. The government is trying to look at some other hi tech vocations that there are no many people engaged in like the aspect of mechatronics which is the fabrications of vehicle parts. The government is trying to identify youths with some professional engineering background to send them to some already established entrepreneurs, like at Nnewi and kano for specialized training. Once they return, the government will support them, so that they can start up their own programmes.

Education Monitor: Hajiya, there are e-libraries in every Local Government Area of the state built by the previous administration but they are not working. What effort is this government putting in place towards making them functional?

Commissioner: Yes, When this government came on board, it created the Bureau of ICT which was charged with the responsibilities of coming up with an ICT policy for the state. At the moment, they are already coming up with a robust plan for the utilization of the ICT learning Centres across the state. The one in Lafia is already being used effectively. Training is ongoing there. One of the wings has over two hundred and fifty computers for JAMB CBT and professional CBT examinations. So if there is any professional body or examination body that wants to conduct CBT tests, we can make it available for them. Very soon we will start refurbishing other centres beginning with the one in Keffi.

Education Monitor: when you were appointed, what came to your mind first as the things you envisaged to achieve as the third female Commissioner of Education in the state?

Commissioner: Well, looking at our schools now and recalling the kind of schools we attended in our own days, I was really looking at how to upgrade the facilities in our schools to standardize them so as to take pride in them. I want a situation that when a child walks into that school environment, he should be happy that he is walking into a school environment. He should picture himself wearing a very neat uniform, going into a neat classroom, with teachers that he admires, who serve as role models to him and leaving indelible marks in his memory. That is the kind of thing, honestly, I kept looking at in my mind and that is what we are trying to do.

We are also looking at holistic renovation of some of these big schools and not establishing new ones because it is not about establishing new schools. I believe that if we can renovate and standardize the existing schools, provide some additional facilities in them, they will still serve good purpose rather than creating more schools without bringing them to standard. If you go to GGSS Garaku today you will be happy to walk in there. Even parents will be happy to send their children to such schools. That is the kind of thing I am praying and we are working towards having around the state. We have already identified some of them, and thank God, my thoughts and the vision of His Excellency are aligning with each other; where he also has the vision to upgrade schools in the state. At least we should be able to pick one mega school in each of the thirteen local governments, upgrade the existing facilities there before the end of the administration.

Education Monitor: Hajiya, what picture do you intend to leave behind in the state education sector after four years?

Commissioner: well, just as I’ve told you, I’ll love to see some mega schools around with well motivated teachers. When I said motivated teachers some are looking at it in terms of monetary aspect, No! Motivation comes in many ways.  There are teachers who take pride in their job not because they are being rewarded financially. There are many rewarding systems which the ministry is already working on to reward hard working staff; but I would want to see a teacher that is well trained, who goes into that class with all pride and gives his all in all to the job.

So I am hoping that by the end of my sojourn here, I should be able to walk into one, two, three, four schools out there and see that kind of thing there. I would be happy. Even the children will be happy waking up in the morning and say I am going to school.

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