Tribune Online
‘Poor teacher quality, parents’ nonchalance slowing education progress in Niger’

Dr. Isah Adamu, the executive chairman, Niger State Universal Basic Education Board, in this interview discusses with ADELOWO OLADIPO, his plans to reposition the board, as well as improve quality of teaching and learning at the state’s public basic education level, among other issues.


Can you tell us some of your plans for the Niger State Universal Basic Education Board as the newly appointed executive chairman?

I intend to reposition the board, improve the quality of teaching and learning, especially in the state’s public schools, and ensure that pupils in Niger State compete favourably with their contemporaries in other states of the federation. We want to build a system that will enable our schools to compete with other schools in the country in terms of Information and Communication Technology. We want to introduce special primary schools for ICT, special primary schools or at least pilot schemes, in the three geo-political zones of the state. We want to organize the system, build institution. We will work for the state to checkmate the excesses of some teachers. We want to build a system that can ensure that teachers perform their duties as and when due, and supervisors and school managers do their jobs. We are now reorganizing inter-school debates and other activities. We want to take our children to a higher level. That is our focus.


Last year, the state’s schools’ debate team would have represented Nigeria at a 64-nation world debate contest in the Republic of Croatia, but due to lack of funds, they could not go for the contest. How do you plan to encourage these students to put in their best now, their spirits having been dampened by government inability to fund their trip abroad?

Thank you very much for the reminder, but I was not here when this thing happened and I did not know the circumstances behind the situation; but I can assure you that when they went to Katsina State for this year’s debate programme, I went there with them. I witnessed the opening ceremony. I interacted with them and I gave them hope. And when they came fourth, I organized a special ceremony for them in order to appreciate them when they returned to the state. If tomorrow they go for another debate contest and they become the first in Nigeria, I will go to any length to identify with them and make them happy for making the state proud. And I think Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is always a listening person. He will listen to us if we take their matter to him. He will do his best to make sure that the children are encouraged to do their best in the interest of the state.


Despite the state government’s prioritisation of education and regular payment of the state’s counterpart funds to the Universal Basic Education Commission, the result is still not commensurate with the resources so far expended, especially at the basic education level…

Well, the teaching profession is a very interesting profession that has to do with a lot of improvisation. The most important thing is that if we have the right teachers with the right quality, I can tell you that under a mango tree, we can teach our pupils and the pupils will pass. It is not the infrastructure that matters; what matters is the quality of education you are imparting to the students. So, the most important thing is to reorganize our systems or retrain our teachers – and we are doing that already. Last Saturday, we flagged off teachers’ training programme at the Justice Legbo Kutigi International Conference Hall, Minna. The programme is being spearheaded by the Universal Basic Education Board in Niger State for series of training programmes. What we are trying to do is a focused teachers’ training. We are already talking about continuous teachers’ training exercise and whoever we find untrainable, we will find an alternative job for him or her within the school system. We are poised to do it with the support of the governor and with the cooperation of members of the board of the Niger State Universal Basic Education Board. It is a cluster training and the population of teachers slated for training is about 5,000.


Has the board been able to resolve the problems that emanated from the recruitments of some teachers recently?

To the best of my knowledge, there was no problem whatsoever in the teachers’ recruitment exercise conducted by the board late last year. When the crisis broke out, the governor set up a committee headed by Alhaji Hassan Dattijo Mohammed to look into it, and the committee went round. I was a member of the committee. What we did then was to look at the people that attended that exercise, and we did two things. One of them was that out of those who attended that exercise, we invited those who were said to have passed the examinations or tests given to the applicants, and we interviewed them. The interview was very simple; we simply gave them the Secondary School Reader 3 to read and write. Those who could read and write we gave them appointment letters; but for those who could not read and write, we withdrew our appointment letters from them and we replaced them with those who could do the job, particularly those who have science background  and English Language and Mathematics. Now, those who did not get the due process, we withdrew it from them and we recruited some people to do it. Very soon, we will start releasing the appointment letters to the newly recruited teachers, particularly the qualified ones, to replace the earlier ones.


Like how many teachers have you recruited now?

We have recruited about 2,600 teachers, just like the same number of teachers that were recruited by the former board. In fact, looking at the names, I can tell you that they are not all indigenes of Niger State. Where they came from should not be our problem at all, because we are Nigerians; and once they are qualified, I think they should be employed.


What are the challenges faced by the board under your watch?

We have several challenges. One of them is poor teacher quality. There are teachers who cannot easily impart knowledge to their pupils; and that is why we have to embark on training and retraining of teachers. Another challenge is the attitude of the parents towards the education of their children. For instance, today is the third day of their resumption in the new year, and for the second term. I have been on air on radio begging parents to return their wards back to school. Another challenge that I have, which is really creating a lot of problem, is the attitude of the education managers towards supervision of the teachers and the monitoring of the pupils’ performances. In fact, we are only struggling to raise a monitoring and evaluation unit within the board. Without that, we can never measure the impact of our projection and activities of both teachers and the students. These are our challenges, but we are already devising the means of solving them.


What is your evaluation of the private schools in the state?

In fact, they are a challenge to us. For instance, some private schools are operating in mushroom quarters in parts of the state. Besides, the only thing that they have that we lack is the supervision. Go to any of the private schools and ask any of their teachers how much they are being paid as monthly salaries, you will be surprised that some school proprietors pay as low as N7,000 to teachers, yet their pupils are doing well. The private schools in the state that pay the highest could not be paying more than N10,000 as salary to their teachers, and that is the lowest you can get in the state’s public primary schools . So, we must be on top of the situation.

‘Poor teacher quality, parents’ nonchalance slowing education progress in Niger’
Tribune Online

source https://tribuneonlineng.com/poor-teacher-quality-parents-nonchalance-slowing-education-progress-in-niger/

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