For education in Taraba State, the harvest season is here.It has never had it so good. One major signpost of the good times is the state’s performance in the West African School Certificate, WAEC, examination, for last year. It scored 67.3 percent, the best score recorded by the state in over 25-years of its history. It came on the heels of the magic touch which the educational sector in the state is currently experiencing under the leadership of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku. That this happened despite the dislocation caused to schools and life generally by the series of communal crises of the time previous to the coming of the present administration underscores the huge amount of effort that went into the revival of the educational system in the first one year of the Ishaku administration. It is also a signal of hope that greater things are in the offing for education and other areas of socio-economic development for the state.
What was achieved last year, is a big contrast with the situation the administration inherited when it came into office in 2015. In that year, the state had no WAEC result. The government of that time was unable to help its students settle their WAEC fees which it had promised to pay and the foremost examination body withheld the state’s results. In the years preceding that incident, the story was only slightly better. The state recorded low performances. At no point in time before last year did it record anything above 48 percent score in WAEC examinations. But the new Ishaku administration rejected that annual ritual of dismal WAEC results and insisted that things must change.
Things, indeed changed but only after the Governor had read the Riot Act to teachers and school administrators in the state. He assured them that his administration had come with a more pragmatic attitude to the development of education and demanded that they played their roles with a greater sense of dedication and patriotism. He followed this up with series of workshops and training programmes for head teachers and later for teachers and administrators in the educational chain. The programmes exposed participants to modern methods of record keeping, tests, and measurement of performances of teachers and students, how to organize result-oriented programmes and maintain discipline generally in schools.
Teachers in Taraba State are now constantly on their toes and so are their students. The new attitude to education has become infectious. This has impacted positively on the number of indigenes of the state gaining direct admission into Taraba State University. Before now, the state could hardly fill its admission quota there. Most of the students had to take the longer route that remedial studies offered.
The new attitude to education in Taraba is a product of the realization that education is the cornerstone of human development. Governor Ishaku never failed to emphasize this point any opportunity he had to talk to teachers, school administrators, students and their parents. Jigem Johannes, commissioner for Education in Taraba State who has worked the entire period of his career life as a teacher, said education in the state has never received the kind of attention it is presently getting in the hands of Ishaku. “It is my most fulfilling moment since I have been in the education sector. Governor Ishaku will be remembered glowingly in future as the Governor who made the most positive and remarkable contribution to the development of education in Taraba State”, he said this in his office at the State Secretariat in Jalingo recently.
Education in Taraba is a pleasant story of magical recovery from neglect and communal crises that had held the state prostrate. Many schools in Gasol, Wukari, Bali, Ibi and to some extent, Gashaka, were closed down for many months as a result of persistent crises. Teachers and students fled their towns and villages and education virtually collapsed. It took the pragmatic steps and effort of Governor Ishaku for peace to be achieved and for the schools to re-open. Governor Ishaku ordered the erection of security checkpoints on the roads to these towns and villages and even on roads leading to the educational institutions. Emirs and village heads were also drafted into the apparatus for the maintenance of peace and security in educational institutions in their domain at the instance of the governor.
The Rescue Watch team, an innovative feedback mechanism created by the Ishaku administration for keeping the Governor constantly abreast of happenings in the local governments and rural communities has been outstanding in its contribution to the improvements in education. Johannes said the group moves from village to village to monitor developments in schools – the number of children enrolled, the reporting time of teachers, their attitude to work generally and the condition of schools. The Ministry of Education now has a comprehensive documentation of all schools in the state – primary and secondary – and their conditions.
The state’s team of Rescue Watch contributed immensely to the preparation of this document. The exercise is preparatory to the imminent comprehensive renovation of schools. Governor Ishaku released about N900 million for the project from the 2016 budget and the bidding for the projects has been completed. In 2017 budget, 1.7 Billion Naira is allocated for the building of new classrooms, other school buildings, toilets, laboratory buildings and equipment, computers and computer accessories and furniture. The idea is to enhance the school environment and make it more conducive for teaching and learning.
Governor Ishaku’s attitude to education in the state is like that of a parent eager to provide for his children. He is not holding anything his administration can afford back from the development of educational facilities. His administration has always been eager to release government’s counterpart funds for all UNICEF educational programmes in the state to ensure that the state derives maximum benefits from them. In December last year when 12 students from the state were stranded in Venezuela after completing their studies due to lack of money to pay their way back home, Ishaku played the fatherly role by giving N1.6 Million to each of the parents to bring them back.
That is not all. The state government also paid WAEC fees for exchange schools in the state and special education centres in Mutum Biyu and Garbabi. Also, every term, the state government hires buses to take exchange programmes students from the state studying in the 19 Northern states to and from their schools. This costs the state millions of Naira each time but Ishaku believes that it is a sacrifice the state is making to ensure the safety and comfort of its students.
Computer gifts are also part of the government’s annual package for students of Taraba State origin studying at the Taraba State University. Last year about 300 computers were distributed to the students through balloting. The gesture is aimed at making studies less stressful for the students. Also to reduce the stress suffered by WAEC candidates in the state, a branch office of the examination body has been opened in Jalingo. The building to be used was built and donated by the Taraba State government. With the opening of the WAEC branch office in Jalingo, candidates do not have to take the risk of going to Yola, Adamawa State, as it has been the case for many years, to register for the examination anymore.