Hajia Mariam Garba is the Kwara state Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development. A one-time classroom teacher who understands what education and educating children means in this interview with Western Post, Kwara state correspondent, Mosunmola Ayobami, speaks on effort put in place to ensure children have access to quality education in Kwara state. Excerpt.
Schools in the state resume on 6th of January 2020 and I observed a lot of students failed to attend school. What is your Ministry doing to address this?
On the first day of resumption, we went out with the commissioner to several schools to monitor resumption.
The quality Assurance officers and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) also went out to monitor. All the schools we went to, there was 100 per cent attendance of teachers.
For those we didn’t meet, they were either on maternity leave or study leave. However, just like you observed, we observed too not many students turned up on the first day of resumption.
On the second day, we noticed there was an increase and advised teachers to start teaching even if it going to be for a student that is in class because it is that feedback that makes other students to resume for studies.
Even in many schools, they have started their welcome test and with all that, more students will turn up for the session.
How is your Ministry addressing teachers’ absenteeism in Kwara state Schools?
When we went round schools in Kwara State, we met 100per cent attendance of the teachers and we used that opportunity to admonish them to do their job as expected.
The Commissioner appealed to them, as she is just meeting with the Principals for the first time. So we have to interact with them on what is needed to address absenteeism.
How many schools were you able to visit on Monday?
We visited five schools in Ilorin metropolis. However, the quality Assurance Bureau is all over the state. So they visited other schools and they gave us feedback.
Is your Ministry planning to train these teachers sooner or later so as to get maximum and quality productivity from them?
As soon as this government came in, the governor interacted with us,and we told him of the need to train our teachers.
No matter how brilliant a teacher is, if all that he can give to students is all he got when he was in school,by the time he spent five years at work, it would have become obsolete.
Remember, we are now in an Information Communication Technology (ICT) driven era. Last term, we were able to train French and English language teachers and in the budget of this year, we have made enough provision for training and retraining of teachers.
In fact, we have stakeholders coming to partner with us in training our teachers and all that we need is a little logistics.
On budget, would you make case for Educational budget increase in the state?
The governor himself knows- it’s education that should carry the chunk of the budget because after education is education.
Once you get education right, all other things will be right. With a governor that has passion for education, whenever he addresses us, he shows interest in education sector. Remember we have advertised reconstruction of schools which is capital intensive
How do your Ministry intend to tackle out of school children menace in Kwara State?
The federal government has charted the course which we are going to domesticate here. What is causing out of school children menace are poverty and two, lack of enlightenment.
When people see the need on how to educate their wards, they will take them to school. They can only see the need, when the school environment is good, when teachers go to school, when they teach the students and they see the effect on other children.
They will know that there is need to take their children to school and when there is advocacy in communities, people will see the reason to enroll their wards.
If you can’t proceed after secondary school, why not go to technical colleges so as to be well skilled?. So if we have the orientation, enrolling students would be made easy. Then, if there is a penalty for not allowing your children to attend school, certainly people would change.
Even children that are handicapped can attend school for a special need. If we all know that, I hope the society will be better and cases of truancy, drug addict would reduce drastically. Even for sex education, even as parents we need to let them know some things. Then our reading culture is bad, there are so many things hidden in books.
On penalty for parents who refused to enroll their wards, has Kwara state government-backed it up with a law provision? If not, what ways do you think Kwara state House of Assembly can help?
There is a law that a child must not hawk in Nigeria. Any child caught would be taken to court and the parents would pay penalty. However, in Kwara state, we don’t have that law.
I will appeal to Kwara state House of Assembly members to enact that law that will make it compulsory for parents to enroll their children in school.
On the part of Ministry, do your task force pick up students wandering during school hours?
We have an anti-loitering unit and they are bound to pick up loitering students but we stopped it because of kidnappers. We don’t want kidnappers to hide under disguise and we don’t want kidnappers to hijack it.
Which other way is the Ministry looking to enforce students enrolment?
Part of it is advocacy. If teachers go to schools, teach the students, check on those who are not in school. Some parents may not know their children are not in school. So if the schools, government, and parents work together, I think that will stop.
What is your advice to parents on how to take proper care of their wards?
I just want to appeal to them that these children are our tomorrow. Sometimes, I called them our retirement benefits. When you train your children in your old age, just go to sleep your children would take care of you. But when you don’t build their capacity, what would become of them?
So am urging parents to take responsibility as parents and take good care of their children. Their tomorrow will be better and they would have assisted the society to bring up good citizens. Don’t bring up miscreants, vagabonds, drug addicts and armed robbers.
What is your advice to children/ students?
As children, if our parents have been magnanimous to send you to school, go to school, stay in class, and learn.
Let every student strive to become a useful citizen in the future, because if they don’t go to school they may become slaves. Many of them have failed themselves and many of their parents failed them. As student enrolled in school and refused to stay in school, he or she turns a truant.
When you become an adult, you will discover that you have failed yourself and become misfits in the society.
So in order not to become a misfit and a slave to their peers, student whose parents have toiled to enroll in school should go to school and learn in school so that they will become useful citizens tomorrow.