Dr. Usaini Akilu Jarma is the Senior Special Assistant to Kano State Governor on Higher Education. He explains in this interview in Abuja, why the government to withdraw scholarships for 37 nursing students studying abroad, among other issues. Excerpts:
The school feeding programme is said to have deficiencies. How has it been for Kano?
Education is one of the items Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje takes seriously and the administration has taken steps to advance learning and improve the welfare of school children. Children need good nutrition to function in school and government has been investing huge sums of money on school meals. Over three million kids in primary schools are fed nutritious meals daily at the cost of N496 million monthly.
The government has also resolved to help teachers to stay positive and boost their morale to encourage students' success. In this vein, government has been consistent in paying the sum of N2.96 billion monthly for basic and secondary school teachers in salaries.
We also found that about 2,500 teachers in primary and junior secondary schools across the state required relevant teaching qualifications in their respective fields. The governor has in the last two years sponsored the training of these teachers at the cost of N1.2 billion. This included registration fees and other allowances. And so, with this alternative teacher certification initiative, all the teachers in the state would have earned the approved teaching credentials by the end of this year.
Again, eligible teachers in primary schools have been given their substantive promotions and about N500 million was released as their allowances in the last two years.
One of the major challenges to public education in most states is ageing and crumbling school infrastructure. Have you been able to fix that?
Government needs to play a role in developing the education sector and Kano has taken a number of initiatives to overcome the problems of infrastructure. These steps have yielded good results in many ways. The government has constructed new lecture theatres and rooms in all the higher institutions under its watch and this will greatly improve and enhance the learning experience for our students.
The government has approved over N5 billion in the 2017 budget for projects and programmes in state tertiary institutions. Funds have been provided for accreditation of courses in higher institutions. For instance, the Kano State University of Technology, Wudil was given N520 million for accreditation of courses; Kano State Polytechnic, N160 million and Audu Bako College of Agriculture N43 million. And we continue to collaborate with international development partners to achieve sustainable solutions to major problems and develop expertise.
The sum of N600 million was also approved for counterpart funding of projects including monies to access grants for the Universal Basic Education (UBE) construction projects by World Bank and capacity building and training programmes with the Department for International Development (DFID).
Education promotion committees have been established in all the 44 local government councils of the state, each comprising of the council chairman, education secretary, imam, youth leader and representatives of school-based management committees. The committees will identify the immediate needs of primary schools and define what action will be taken.
The committees were given N10 million each which they utilized in the renovation of school buildings and construction of new classrooms. This move will enable schools to house more pupils and cope up with the increasing strength of students. It will further enhance the provision of dynamic interaction between students, teachers and contents.
Government initiated a range of scholarships for Kano students to study abroad but there are allegations that the students were left to starve because of unpaid allowances. What is the situation presently?
This government is consistently paying students' allowances and has paid over 60 per cent of the unpaid allowances it inherited. There were 1,130 students studying various courses in foreign institutions in 2015 but 815 returned in 2017.
We have 315 students split into masters, doctoral and professional degree programmes in China, India, Cyprus, Malaysia, Uganda, Egypt, Sudan and Niger and none has any issues with allowances. Over N4 billion has been paid as tuition, accommodation, upkeep allowance and other charges for the students since June 2015.
Our internal scholarship scheme is intact and students in various higher institutions in Nigeria get their allowances when they are due.
A total of 54,862 students were screened and cleared for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 academic session scholarship allowances between March and May 2016 out of which 27,431 received N360,000,000 between September and December 2016 as allowances for the 2012/13 academic session. The balance of N317,589,092 will be paid as allowances for 2013/14 academic session in respect to 27,413 students. The screening exercise for 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic sessions has been concluded.
Some of the courses pursued by students abroad are done in Nigerian institutions. Why go overseas for them?
We found that few students were sent abroad to study the humanities and these courses thrive very well in our institutions. But we have all paid their allowances.
There is the rumour that the state government withdrew 37 nursing students from Egypt. What informed that decision?
It is true that some students will return home due to poor academic performance but it was not the governor that was behind the return of the students. The Ministry of Education headed by a commissioner sent a memo to the council in April this year stating that 37 nursing students out of about 137 Kano students in a foreign university have poor academic records and on that ground they should be asked to return home.
The council deliberated and approved the memo and thus the decision of the council will be implemented. It is the Education Ministry that monitors the students. The governor has pledged to pay the outstanding allowances of students abroad until they complete their studies in 2018, 19, 20 or 21.
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