Our Schools Are Better than Private Schools – Kabir Usman,Secretary of Education, FCT

By Anayochukwu Agbo and Nicholas Uwerunonye

Kabir-Usman

Kabir Usman

How would you assess the state of education in the FCT?

I think there is a lot of improvement now compared to the time I came [in]. I resumed as Secretary for Education in 2011 and at the time came terminal examination, if I can recall, FCT scored less than 10 per cent. We had a lot of congested classrooms of pupils between 60 and 70 in one classroom. We had a situation where our children did not have where to sit. Teachers were lacking. Then as I recalled, when I checked the result, lots of students were getting credits in subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Geography and History and others. But as you know in WAEC, if you don’t have five subjects including Mathematics and English, you are as good as having failed the examination. So Honourable Bala Mohammed, the FCT Minister, requested that we concentrate on access and quality. We wanted to make sure that FCT children go to school.

Remember, before this issue of out of school children came up this year from UNESCO, when they got that figure of 10.5 million children that are out of school, FCT had been proactive on two things. We made sure that we concentrated on two things. In the last two years, we built a lot of primary schools and additional secondary schools. Like I said, we concentrated on access. We achieved that through our enrolment drive, establishment of new schools, construction, rehabilitation and furnishing of new classrooms as well as toilets and other facilities. In early childcare centres, that is, pre-primary schools, we were able to increase enrolment by 40.75 per cent in the last two years; in primary schools we increased enrolment by 14.5 per cent; in the junior secondary school, we were able to increase enrolment by 16.7 per cent; in the senior secondary school we achieved a 13.1 per cent increase.

What are the implications of these developments for education administration in FCT?

You know when you have this, there are a lot of things that you need to do. With increase in enrolment, you will need additional classrooms; you will need additional schools; so in the last two years we have been able to build over 1,800 classrooms to accommodate nearly 8,500 pupils. Within the same period, we established 40 schools, primary, junior and senior secondary schools. We constructed about 14 science laboratories, fully equipped. We added at least 12 new libraries. All the libraries are furnished and equipped; we also provided school furniture of over 1,575 sets. Besides this, we still provided 1.2 million sets of textbooks. If you have increase in enrolment, you will need teachers.  Like I said earlier, we needed teachers in core subject areas. We found students scoring seven credits but marked as having failed the examination because English Language and Mathematics are not there.

So within that period and with the permission of the Honourable Minister, we employed 2,500 teachers. Out of that figure, 1,700 were expressly for basic education, while 800 were for senior secondary schools. These 800 teachers were mostly hired for the core subject areas. So with the teachers we wanted to improve on quality. We needed to train and retrain them. We did a lot of this in the last two years.  Some 2,500 teachers were exposed to ICT training. About 4,500 teachers took part in capacity building workshop in different areas. In conjunction with the National Mathematical Centre, we trained at least 1,200 teachers on different concepts in the subject. Students find it difficult to pass Mathematics. Sometimes, the problems lie with the teachers’ inability to teach the subject. So we have been doing a lot in the training of teachers.

Were there any improvements after this input?

Tremendously! You remember I said that the pass rate as at 2011 was less than 10 per cent – 9.6 actually? In 2012, we moved to 26 per cent. By this 26 per cent, I meant FCT administration’s owned schools. Private schools are not included. When you call me Secretary for Education, I am more concerned with our own schools funded by government. The 9.6 per cent was for the public schools as at that time. But if you look at the whole of FCT as at that time, the pass rate moved from 22 per cent to 38 per cent, looking at the FCT from the larger perspective. In 2013, we moved from that 26 per cent to 32 point something per cent. And just as you gentlemen were about to come in, the Education Resource Centre, ERC, sent in the analysis of the figure. We have 39 per cent pass for NECO this year.

For those who passed English and Mathematics and also have a minimum of five credits?

Yes. But we do not have as yet figures for private schools so that we can add all of them together. But as you can see, from 2011 where we had less than 10 per cent we have moved to nearly 40 per cent in just two years.

What is the exact figure of public schools in the FCT especially given the input in the last two years?

Early childcare centres we have 135; we have 500 junior secondary schools and 60 senior secondary schools at the moment. For the private schools we have 915 accredited schools in the FCT with about 12,097 teachers and 82,918 students in the private schools.

How do you maintain standards in these schools?

We have the Department of Policy Implementation, DPI.  They are in charge of private schools. When I came in 2011, we closed down about 380 substandard schools. But the challenge has been that when you shut down one substandard school here today, it resurfaces in another area council tomorrow with a different name. At the moment, the Minister has given us approval to shut down another 120 substandard schools. But before we close these schools, we normally take time. One, we inform the school authority and the parents. But of these two, we are more concerned with the parents. We inform them of the reasons we are shutting down the school. We normally give parents options. We tell them the government schools around the area to which they can relocate their children. We also tell them the private schools around the area they could also patronise. After that we move into action.

I don’t know why parents choose to take their children to these schools. It is just like what happens in the health sector. When you have government hospitals, you see parents take their children to quack doctors around. Most of our schools are better than these so-called private schools around here. I can tell anybody that our schools are far better than the private schools. At least 96 per cent of our teachers at whatever level are qualified teachers. I know that in the junior secondary or primary schools, about 98 per cent have at least an NCE qualification. In the senior secondary, about 96 per cent are qualified teachers unlike in some states nearly 80 per cent are not qualified teachers. And when I say that they are not qualified, I mean that they do not have teacher certified certificate. Maybe as a teacher, you were employed as a graduate who read Chemistry. But not Chemistry Education.  In our case you will find that such employee has registered for postgraduate certificate in education.

In 2013 what was the percentage of your budgetary allocation compared to the entire FCT budget?

About N12.2 billion was budgeted but getting the entire money is another matter.

Looking at the FCT Minister, how would you assess him?

Not just in Education alone, whoever knows Senator Bala Mohammed knows that he is very energetic and hard working. At times, I feel pity for him; he always finds his office full and sometimes I wonder where he gets all the energy. But one thing about him is that he is always delegating responsibilities.

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