By Eric Elezuo
Just ask any public officer in Nigeria where his or her children are as regards schooling and education, you will not be surprised to hear names like Oxford, Harvard, Pennsylvania and any other institution of either lower or higher learning outside the shores of Nigeria. Only a few notable or well to do Nigerian entrepreneurs and administrators have their wards schooling in the country.
They have given various reasons for their actions to include kidnapping, occasioned by the porous security system, poor educational facilities, incompetent administrators and teaching staff and many other reasons. Interestingly, these officers have a lot to do to address the so called reasons for sending their wards abroad for schooling, but sadly enough, they have not, and may never will.
However, one prominent administrator, who found it desirable to be wholly made in Nigeria, not only in words, but also in action, is the Executive Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari. The one time Speaker of the House of Representatives is one among the scanty few, who has seen the reason to send their children to schools in Nigeria, not only in schools in Nigeria, but the very dreaded public schools, patronized by the lowest cadre of parents.
Public schools in Nigeria have been justifiably described as nightmarish and only suitable for the impoverished many of the society. It is therefore, unheard of that a Governor of a state, who had passed through cadres of administration, including the almighty Speakership position of the Nigerian lower legislative House, the House of Representatives, to come to the level of sending his own biological children to a public school.
Masari’s two children are in Family Support Secondary School, Katsina, in fulfillment of his campaign promises to people of the state.
“Those of us living in Katsina promised during our campaign to enrol our children in public schools and also use public health institutions. I decided that my children and those of my commissioners must attend public institutions so that other children will benefit, and they (the commissioners) will bring their influence to bear on the school,” the Governor said.
The governor’s reason is not far-fetched as he has put in place enabling environment to educate the average Katsina child, especially the girl-child.
“Well, we have a special programme for girl child education to show how serious we are with regards to girl child education. We have initiated so many programs to empower women to allow their children go to school, especially the girl child. And I think this has started with the school feeding programme,” he said.
Governor Masari, who spoke exclusively to theBoss noted that when leaders enroll their children in schools where they have jurisdiction over, where they have the power to make an impact in terms changing facilities and upgrading infrastructures, they are under an obligation to make things work. This, noted, contradicts when leaders send their children abroad to school.
According to him, the cycle continues, because when those children come of age, they will also send their own children abroad to school, and the unending circle continues.
“The children we are building today; we are not decorating them for us, we are building them for Nigeria and for Katsina. That is all what leadership is about. The public school system is not only what we see now. Anybody you see in this Northern part of the country is a product of public institution. But why should we watch the children rot simply because some can afford to take their children abroad. No, I think in this area, we have a lot of responsibility,” he emphasized.
Masari’s love for education is legendary, and it is his wish to replicate whatever makes public and rich officials to send their children abroad in Nigeria, especially Katsina, stressing that though some will be angry with his efforts, he is committed to get done what must be done – and that is give meaningful education as a legacy to his people.
“Our priority here in Kastina is education, no more, no less. In the process of achieving this, we know some people will not be happy. But that is for today, they will thank us tomorrow.”
He added: “I decided to enroll my children in public school for these reasons and I am happy that my commissioners and all my senior officers have done the same. We were brought up in this society. So we are correcting the impression of sending wards abroad for schooling, beginning with people in the ministry so that they will show interest in the schools where their children are. Not only that, they will also be motivated to do their best in terms of providing amenities the school needs to function as a real school. A school must have the students, classes and teachers. A school without teachers and pupils is nothing but a building.”
Governor Masari enjoined other officers to toe his line, and return education to the shores of Nigeria as the effort will certainly lead to improved facilities, infrastructure and amenities, and in the long run create the school and education system that Nigerians run abroad to procure.
In Masari’s Katsina, education is not only to encourage scholarship, it has also been designed to empower women, who he noted are the authentic breadwinners, especially when the going gets tough.
“We have also taken steps to empower the women so they could allow their girl-children to go to school. Female NCE teachers are made to go back to their localities to teach. Again, school leavers, who are interested in teaching, are giving two years training, tested and then employed. We are encouraging women the more, and that is why 60 percent of empowerment allocation goes to women.
“We believe that once you empower a woman, you empower her family. They are the ones that suffer most in the event of death, and when their men abscond as a result of excess challenges. So we are empowering women so that she can take care of the children.
“They know the value of education but what they need is leadership to guide them. That is the responsibility in leadership, and that’s what I am initiating by allowing my own children to attend a public school,” he concluded