A flashback to the 16 years of decadence of the past administration in Kwara State is a sad chapter in the history of the state that the people will not forget in a hurry. It was an unmitigated disaster. Education was comatose while corruption oozed to high heavens. Kwara State laid prostate, holding thinly onto life on oxygen, having been sucked and sapped of all nourishment for growth and prosperity.
While education and other sectors were crying for attention during their reigns, the failed political dynasty of the horrible 16 years were busy celebrating and doling out money at ‘Ile Arugbo’ to miscreants and political touts, celebrating inanities, under the guise of charity to the needy. They behaved like Nero who slept while Rome burnt.
Each time we make attempt to revisit the PDP sordid years, there is always the desperate attempt to stop us from revealing the horrendous times, but shamefully they would be quick to always blame the AbdulRazaq administration for not doing enough. What we need ask ourselves is that, is four years enough to correct the devastating 16 years of the erstwhile administration in Kwara?
By the time Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq took over leadership in May 2019, our education sector was in such a terrible state that it was like starting afresh — rebuilding the broken down infrastructure and lifting — the morale of teachers.
In one of his tours across schools in the state, Governor AbdulRazaq in the early days of his administration visited a dilapidated school, KLGEA primary School, Venra in Kaiama LGA. The state of the primary school was a reflection of our education system in Kwara in 2019. AbdulRazaq was aghast and wondering about the deficits, decay and deprivations that Kwarans have endured for the past years. He was highly miffed and dejected by what he saw. Not only were the buildings dilapidated, they lacked chairs, books for libraries, sporting facilities and just about anything. The situation had deteriorated to an embarrassing level that pupils and students in some public schools sat on the floor.
But how did Kwara get there? A context is necessary. As a state, we used to be one of the leaders as far as public education is concerned, especially in Northern Nigeria. The 16 years old political dynasty however stole the future of our public education and our children with various diversions and mismanagement of funds, to utterly abandoning investment in the education system. The morale of teachers was at an all-time low, with the default in their payment. A major mess during their era was an infamous diversion of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund which saw Kwara blacklisted in the league of states for seven years.
What that meant was that the state could not access the UBEC grant which was in billions to develop and redevelop basic education because of the greed and indiscretion of some leaders. The quality of education in the state began to sink. School structures were decaying and could not be fixed. Teaching materials could not be supplied. Teachers were being owed salaries for months. The result was the system we inherited where pupils sat on bare floor to learn and the eyesore dilapidated school structures scattered around.
Today, three years after, the situation has changed. Several public schools have undergone comprehensive remodeling across the state. Examples of which are the LGEA schools at Pakata, Wara, Ogidi, Mount Camel Oloje and several public schools in the state. The administration also engaged in massive construction of blocks of classrooms across the state. Several public schools that benefitted include JSS Sheikh Alimi, JSS Obanisuwa, LGEA Shuuban, several public schools across the state. Many schools also had their blown roofs reconstructed, while many VIP toilets were constructed in many of our public schools.
From complete rehabilitation of Government High School, Ilorin, rehabilitation of blocks of classrooms at Community Secondary School, Baboko, rehabilitation of a block of classrooms at Government Day Secondary School in Ilorin; to comprehensive rehabilitation of Oro Grammar School, Oro, rehabilitation of a block of classrooms at Ansarul Islam Secondary School, Ikotun, rehabilitation of a block of classrooms at Ijara Isin, complete rehabilitation of Government Secondary School, Share, all in Kwara south; it is a harvest of solid successes.
The comprehensive rehabilitation of Government (Unity) Secondary School, Kaiama, Government Secondary School, Lafiagi and Patigi Secondary School, Patigi, all in Kwara North, among so many other public primary and secondary schools undergoing renovation in the state, is a revolution in the education system.
The interesting thing is that all the schools come with a standard specification. All the schools either renovated or reconstructed have the symbolic red, blue or green roof which makes them distinct from other structures around. It is a revolution in the education sector because today, every local government area has been touched and the process of renovation is still on. The interest of parents in our public schools has been aroused, as they have started to enrol their children. Governor AbdulRazaq is restoring the public confidence the schools used to have in the past.
One of the first tasks pursued by the Governor was to renew the relationship of the state with UBEC. He had to pay what is left of what the previous administration diverted, and then commit another N7billion matching grant to attract UBEC fund. Kwara is now investing about N14 billion to revive the paralyzed education system. We’re getting results already with the ongoing massive renovation of schooling facilities. Of the estimated 2,000 plus dilapidated basic school structures inherited by the current administration, over 600 have been fixed in the last three years. Teachers now have their welfare given keen attention. Since the government started, no teacher or worker has been owed salaries. This is to build a motivated workforce that would give our children the right education.
And then, the AbdulRazaq administration also did something totally different from what obtained in the past on the recruitment of teachers. Unlike in the past where teaching slots were shared at party meetings, Governor AbdulRazaq stood firm that the recruitment process must be objective, thorough and qualitative. This bold step has a long lasting effect on the future of our children because they would learn from competent hands. Add this to the fact that the government has also introduced KwaraLEARN to ensure our education system meets the modern trend of digital economy. Teachers are being trained and retrained and various Digital Literacy Centres are being built across the north, south and central parts of the state.
The dramatic infrastructural turnaround of schools across the state will contribute significantly to the learning ability, interest and experience of the students. It will have a salutary effect on not just the learning environment but more significantly on students’ performance in national examinations so that we would not have to travel the sordid past of having to pay fines for involvement in examination malpractices again. It would be recalled that this administration paid N30.5m fines to prevent many public schools involved in malpractices in 2019 SSCE examinations from being blacklisted by WAEC.
With Governor AbdulRazaq’s administration, successes have been recorded. In December 2021, the state SUBEB contingent came first in the National President’s Cup in the debate competition. A paradigm shift from exam practices to academic recognition.
According to Governor AbdulRazaq, the brilliance, eloquence and composure of the students are a bold statement about the current state of public education in Kwara State, and “we invite members of the public and relevant stakeholders to support our ongoing efforts in the sector,” he stated while receiving the team which is expected to represent the country in the world debate competition this year.
The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Basic Education and Services just recently lauded the investment Kwara State has put to basic education under Governor AbdulRazaq during a working visit to the state.
“What we have seen so far in Kwara is of high quality and satisfactory. There is evidence of focus and commitment, and a clear interest in promoting basic education and empowering our children to survive in an increasingly complex technology driven global system,” chairman of the committee Prof. Julius Ihonvbere said.
At a meeting with the Governor, school heads and teachers from across the three senatorial districts had also commended him for taking their welfare as a priority and for the infrastructural revolution ongoing in their various schools. They clearly understand the difference between the past where they were owed several months of salaries to the present where their salaries are paid as and when due, even in the face of economic meltdown.
Moving forward, AbdulRazaq’s goal is to ensure that no child is left behind or denied every right and privilege to compete with their peers. This has provoked the administration to invest in the future by investing heavily in education so that the children of the poor will not feel inferior as a result of the school they attend. The structures of our public schools are now competing fairly with those of the private schools in terms of aesthetics. There is also increase in attendance and enrollment in the public school system in Kwara state. This evidently paints the picture that the face of our public schools is changing. But Governor AbdulRazaq is not yet done, because for him, investment in basic education remains a cardinal focus of his administration. There is an inherent need to give him 4 more years to consolidate on his feats and achievements.
Fafoluyi is SA, New Media to the Governor of Kwara State.