Katsina state investment in education: A case of kobo wise, naira foolish

At a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina state says he will be leaving the education sector of the state in 2023 better than he met it as governor in 2015. 

He also said his achievements in other sectors like agriculture, health, water, and infrastructure development, driven by his “Restoration Agenda” in the last six years, were unprecedented in the modern history of Katsina state. Many took these statements with some reservations as to the validity or sincerity of the governor.

The statement also attracted wide spectrum of opinions for and against and many believed that the level of education development has worsened since the coming of Masari’s administration.

The nonpayment of examination fees has been pointed out as the main cause of the perceived indefensible education situation in the State. Nonetheless, the pertinent questions to ask here is, what is the actual state of educational development in Katsina state since the introduction of nonpayment of examination fees introduced by the Masari administration or is the methodology adopted by the previous administration of blanket payment of examination fees with no evaluation of the student performance for its impact had help in developing the education sector in the State?

The answer to these dilemmas can only be unraveled through empirical evidence in which numbers will speak louder and factually than conjectures. 

In 2015, when the present administration took over the mantle of leadership, there was a deliberate appraisal of the State’s development sectors including agriculture, education, health, etc. under the flagship Restoration Project which came up with far reaching and radical strategies that will restore the lost glory of Katsina State most especially as center of western and Islamic education in the north with agrobased dependent economy. One of the bold strategies taken by the Masari administration despite the envisage political backlash, was the stoppage of blanket payment of examination fees and the introduction of qualifying examination. The governor took this bold step in his statement in which he said, “it is politically wiser because it is better to present 30,000 students who can get 70 per cent performance of those who have five credits and above to go to higher institutions than to present 58,000 students, with only 5,000 successful”.

 A qualifying examination was thus introduced before students sit for SSSCE as a mock examination to assess how many students can be presented with the hope of them getting the requirements needed for entry into tertiary institutions. The approach adopted was to pay for WAEC and NECO Examinations for only those who score five credits including Maths and English in the qualifying (mock) examination and for those who have three credits and two passes only NECO or NABTEB or NBAIS will be paid for them as against the previous government policy of paying for WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, NBAIS and JAMB examinations for everybody irrespective of the students’ performances. 

In defense of his adopted strategy, Governor Masari spoke on his achievements in the education sector where he indicated that there is a considerable improvement in the total number of pupils students’ enrolment and general performance in external examinations as a yardstick for assessing the Restoration Agenda in education. The pertinent question here is which of the two strategies is kobo wise and which is a naira foolish investment, let the numbers speak for themselves. Chronological records from 2007 to 2014 revealed that Katsina state 79,044   out 417,576 candidates presented only 19% were able to score maximum performance in SSSCE at credit levels. The unprecedented students’ performances in examinations during Governor Masari led administration showed that 73% obtained five credits and above in any subject against the 19% earlier stated pre-2015. 299,218 out of 410,523 and 192,404 (47%) obtained five credits including Mathematics and English. As from 2015 to 2020 there has been gradient fluctuating in students’ examination performances. It is worthy to single out and report the impressive students’ performance of 2020 SSSCE examinations.

In 2020 WAEC results 22,874 students sat the Exams 19,224 (84%) got credits passes in any subject and 9,313 (41%) obtained five credits, Mathematics and English inclusive. As for NECO results 48,988 (93%) have five credits in any subjects out of 53,982 candidates, 33,310 (62%) students scored five credits including Mathematics and English. In NABTEB and NBAIS exams 770 and 22,220 candidates sat respectively out of which 546 (71%) and 22,160 (98%) scored five credits in subjects. Similarly, 498 (65%) and 22,128 (99%) got five credits including Mathematics and English respectively.

In a nutshell, records from 2007 to 2014, summed up the totality of students who sat for WAEC Examinations and obtained five credits was as its highest of 11 percent and in NECO examination, the highest of 20 percent. However, from 2015 to 2020 when WAEC, NECO, NABTEB and NBAIS results were analyzed, it became obvious that Masari’s claims on the achievement in the educational sector is rock-solid. The analysis showed that there was a progressive increment of students sitting for the examination and percentage increase in those obtaining five credits including Mathematics and English.

Governor Aminu Bello Masari did not however gloat over this impressive record performances but remained resolute in improving the performance of education in the State. He prioritised the welfare of teachers and ensured their prompt promotion in addition to clearing the backlog of years of non-promotion. To address the shortage of manpower in the education sector, the Government recruited 5,000 teachers with NCE and Diploma in education into the S-Power program to form a reservoir for the replacement of those who might have retired, died, or left the service. At the secondary school level, about 2,000 graduate teachers were also employed under the S-Power program to serve in the reservoir. In all these, the government has introduced minimum of 7,000 teachers into the education sector to augment the shortfall of teachers. 

Infrastructural development of the sector was also given due consideration despite the paucity of funds. Classrooms were decongested by building new ones and renovating dilapidated ones across the State. Seven brand new secondary schools were built, 38 have been completed rehabilitated, 57 partially renovated and over 2,000 primary schools’ classrooms rehabilitated, and new ones built across the State. Comfort of students were also enhanced by the provision of 30,448 3-seater classroom furniture and all these were made possible by the increase in budgetary allocation to education sector where it increased form about N1billion in 2015 to more than N3billion in 2018, i.e., 300% increase. Social mobilization for the values of education was carried in communities by engaging traditional and religious leaders on the importance of child education in the modern world.

The main challenge to this success is, however, is the success management and maintenance. The concern here is what to do with this large numbers of students that are qualifying for entry into universities where admission spaces are limited in number to accommodate the ever-growing number of students graduating from secondary schools in Nigeria including Katsina State. Governor Aminu Bello Masari in this dire situation came up with strategies for those who could not proceed to tertiary institutions. The State government in partnership with UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Mafita Project renovated and equipped 12 vocational training centres which are turning out skilled young men and women with the aim of becoming self-employed and the restoration of education as an all-inclusive value addition system. The government also introduced Katsina Talent Hunt to unleash the start-ups potentials of young graduating students so that they can stand on their own. What remains is for the government to remains resolute in this endeavor and allocate more funds to the State own university and other tertiary institutions with the hope to increase their absorptive capacities that will assist in managing and sustaining this success in the education sector. 

In conclusion, the strategy adopted by the Masari administration of qualifying mock examination before payment for WAEC and NECO has yielded the desired results that will guarantee the state’s journey towards the restoration of Katsina state as the center for western and Islamic education in Nigeria. Therefore, this approach can be said to be kobo wise as against the naira foolish of pre 2015 era in the state.

Abdullah, PhD., FFS., FNAE., FIMC is

Special Adviser on Agriculture and Natural Resources to the Governor, Katsina state

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