‘What we are doing to encourage mass enrolment in Zamfara’
Honourable Murtala Adamu Jangebe is the Executive Chairman, Zamfara State Universal Basic Education (ZUBEB). He is also the Chairman and Dean of the States Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) chairmen in Nigeria. He is adjudged as the longest and most experienced SUBEB chairman in the country, having been appointed in September 2011 by Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari Abubakar. Jangebe once served as Deputy Speaker of the Zamfara States House of Assembly. And recently, the state government, through ZUBEB, awarded contracts worth N3.6 billion to no fewer than 326 local/indigenous contractors across the state as a way of empowerment. In this interview, Jangebe speaks about the rationale behind the grassroots empowerment and his board’s efforts to change the standard of basic education. Excerpts:
Your board is embarking on the renovation and reconstruction of primary schools across the state. Can you give further details on the project and the rationale behind it?
The Zamfara State Government, through the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB), accessed the 2014/2015 funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in Abuja last year. We then came up with the preparation of the contracts for the intervention project in our primary and junior secondary schools. The fund is about N3.6bn. We have carried out assessment to know the conditions of these primary and junior schools. We intend to expand these schools by building more classrooms. We are also going to decongest the schools are overpopulated. We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure its success and we are set to go ahead with the intervention. About 114 schools are targeted.
At least 10 befitting Education Secretaries’ (ESs) offices would be built in 10 local government councils. These offices are going to be equipped with modern Information Communication Technology (ICT) facilities. They will also have 24-hours internet service. No fewer than 326 local contractors who are living within the localities have been engaged to successfully carry out the project.
What motivated the state government to engage the local contractors?
We intend to achieve three things: provide a conducive environment for teaching and learning in our schools, decongest classrooms and finally, we want to use the project for multiplier effect; by empowering our local contractors, hence reducing poverty in the state.
It will also improve their skills and make them have some money that could improve their livelihood. The project will engage a lot of artisans like furniture craftsmen, welders, carpenters and lots of them. That means we are expecting to generate back not less than N15bn. The contractors will also purchase cement, wooding materials, paints etc. from the locals. So, this project will definitely improve our socioeconomic status.
Aside ensuring a conducive learning environment, what
is the board doing to see that primary school teachers’ welfare is improved?
I want to tell you that the Zamfara State Government places high priority on primary school teachers’ welfare. We at the board also look at their welfare in two perspectives: Zamfara is one of the states that never held teachers’ salary even for one month.
Secondly: building teachers’ capacity. We realised that welfare goes beyond taking money home. Zamfara State is doing a lot in terms of building capacity of these teachers by exposing them to all kinds of training that are available in the country and overseas.
Presently, we are in collaboration with the Child Development Project of DfID, we are also in collaboration with UNICEF.
Recently, we sponsored 10 of our teachers to the United Kingdom (UK) for a learning programme by Jolly Phoenix. The teachers are now training other teachers. In fact, it is our teachers that are training other teachers in some states like Kwara, Kaduna, Jigawa, Gombe, Taraba, among others, on the Jolly Phoenix learning programme.
Apart from that, if you look at the state in particular, you will find out that it is only primary school teachers that get their leave grant. Since 2011, we have been paying their leave grant promptly. So, these are many ways we believe we are giving top priority to the welfare of primary school teachers.
However, we have not yet gotten what we want for them in terms of the minimum wage implementation. Although, we are planning to implement the minimum wage as soon as the economic situation improves.
What is the government doing to increase or encourage mass enrolment in the state?
In 2011 when the government came on board, we did an assessment programme called Zamfara State Primary Education Assessment. In other words, we did an assessment on the general situation of primary schools in the state, including teachers’ condition, classrooms, infrastructure, sanitation, as well as water.
We started in 2011 and completed it in 2012. After the exercise we realised that we only had 283, 000 pupils in primary schools as against about 500, 000 or 600, 000 that were supposed to be enrolled. As soon as that discovery was made, the state embarked on a massive enrolment drive in September 2012, where traditional leaders and top government officials and political party leaders were mandated to go back to their communities. We urged them to help bring back these street children to school and that resulted in the increase of pupils from 283, 000 to 447, 000 within one month. Hence every year we do what we call ‘annual census’ to find out our enrolment We call it ‘Cash Support Programme’. The money will be used by the benefitting parents to buy uniforms and learning materials for their children level.
Another strategy is partnership. In 2011 we did not have a single development partner in the state. But due to our efforts, we are able to bring in UNICEF, DfID and the Mc Arthur Foundation.
We have a programme called RANA; it is towards improving literacy in Hausa Language. Today, we have not less than five development partners already in the state. The World Bank is also coming on board to map out the issue of out-of-school children.
By September this year, we are going to embark on a cash transfer programme designed for indigent parents. We call it ‘Cash Support Programme’. The money will be used by the benefitting parents to buy uniforms and learning materials for their children. This, we believe will further increase enrolment. About N200m is going to be expended on this exercise, in collaboration with UNICEF.
Let me take you back to the contract awarded to these local contractors. What are the
mechanisms put in place on its quality assurance at the end of the project?
Anybody that is familiar with Zamfara State from 2012 to date will know that our schools speak for themselves in terms of both architecture and infrastructure. As soon as you drive into the state, you do not need to be told that these are our public schools. The buildings are unique, the structures are strong, well painted and with very beautiful roofing.
When we came in 2011, our schools looked like a state that just came out of a war. It was very dilapidated and in state of ruins. So, we quickly embarked on massive reconstruction. We chose ‘quality’ as our watchword. For instance, if we accessed UBEC fund of N2bn, two per cent of it will be dedicated for supervisory and monitoring purpose.
Out of the two per cent, we invite private consultants to further supervise our jobs. Not only that, we are using our staff and artisans to be fully involved in the monitoring and supervision process.
Most of our contractors were made to swear to an affidavit that they were going to comply with the specification of the job. This is aside of the normal contractual agreement.
How are you going to ensure that the structures and facilities are maintained properly?
It is on record that we have worked on our head teachers over time by instilling self discipline in them through training and retraining, because leadership is very important. It is like, show me a good school and I will show you the head teacher. We will continue to train and re-orientate them on maintenance culture in order to ensure that both structures and facilities in their domains are in safe hands.
We will train them on maintenance tips and how best to safeguard these facilities, especially when schools are out of session. Our contractors will be using modern tools for these projects, especially in securing doors and windows.
How do you want the narrative of ZUBEB to be told when you leave office?
We had a vision and mission when we came on board, and that has not changed. 80 per cent of our children are in public schools. So, unless we ensure quality in teaching and learning in public schools then we are conscripting larger percentage of our children to semi-illiteracy and other educational hazards. That is not our wish as a responsive government.
So, what we are doing is to ensure that the best is provided to these children, by improving in quality of our teachers through training and retraining. These qualified teachers can now work on our children and make them sound, academically. We want to get the best out of our pupils for them to be able to compete in the global world.
In fact, Zamfara is the only state with a full-fledged and dedicated training centre where our teachers go for three months training in teaching skills. My dream is to see that one day private schools are no longer attractive to parents. By then, I will say I have changed the narrative of public schools in Zamfara State.
Honourable Murtala Adamu Jangebe, Executive Chairman, Zamfara State Universal Basic Education