I read a damning but factual analysis about the condition of education in northern Nigeria. The piece, entitled, ‘Northern Nigeria Not Educationally Disadvantaged,’ was written by Majeed Dahiru, a columnist with The Sun newspaper and published on April 7, 2002. However, I can’t but agree with his submission that the northern political establishment appears to be very comfortable with an illiterate population.
In the article, Majeed had argued that northern Nigeria does not qualify as educationally disadvantaged. To be regarded as educationally disadvantaged, a people that are willing to be educated must be seen to be institutionally and systematically denied access to education on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or geography by the state.
However, when a people are “unwilling” to be educated on the basis of their cultural and religious orientation, despite the effort of the state to take education to their door step, such people are best described as educationally backward”.
Going further he wrote; “To accept the designation of oneself as educationally disadvantaged on the basis of the biological accident of being domiciled in a particular ethno-geographic part of Nigeria is an inherent form of self-discrimination that the Muslim North has adorned as a badge of honour for a very long time..”
Mr Majeed had also in his article enumerated some of the several government interventions and deliberate policies which were aimed towards assisting northern Nigeria to catch-up educationally, including former President Goodluck Jonathan’s bending over backward to fund with federal money the establishment of Tsangaya Almajiri schools across northern Nigeria, a project that was discontinued by successive northern governors, after 165 such schools were built out of the 400 planned.
Majeed observed, “Over a century after the amalgamation in 1914 and several decades after independence, the gap in education between the south of Nigeria and the north has not been narrowed but geometrically widened. The gap is wider 58 years later than was the situations= at independence.”
Again one can’t help but totally agree with Majeed that the gap in educational and technological advancement between northern and southern Nigeria is not on a new phenomenon.
For instance, by 1960, the North with over half of Nigeria 50 million population had 41 secondary schools against the South’s 842 schools. Can you imagine that? The truth is that most parents in the Muslim North prepared sending their children to the primitive Almajiri Tsangaya, where the parents happily shy away from taking any responsibility for the child.
The Almajiri child would be left to cater for himself, remain malnourished, dirty, isolated and in destitution become a ready tool in the hands of potential criminal elements.
As Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State once remarked, “We are ready to spare our last kobo henceforth to ensure our children remain in classes, to avoid becoming ready tools in the hands of criminal elements.”
Virtually, governor Ganduje has remained “the last man standing” in the efforts toward discouraging the apathy of an average core northerner towards western education.
If other northern governors had shown half of the interest Ganduje is dissipating to change the negative stereotype of northerners towards education the situation could have improved for the better.
In this 21st century, it is shameful and worrisome to behold the presence of underage kids looking haggard, filthy, malnourished and unkempt in the streets across Nigeria in the name of seeking Quranic education. For God’s sake, no one should tell me it is an integral part of Islam.
This form of child abuse is clearly the negative orientation and primitive culture of the Hausa-man in particular.
However, in his determination to fight against the menace, Ganduje remains the only northern governor who has summoned the political will to declare free and compulsory basic secondary education in his state. He has gone as far as making it an offence against the state for any parent-guardian who fails to enlist his or her child in primary school.
The governor has also advocated and implemented the combining of western curriculum with Quranic education. Going further, the administration has established three major Tasangaya schools to reform the Almajiri system of education in the state, as well as recruiting the traditional Mallams (teachers) into the system.
Also, to effectively manage and coordinate the mega schools, in such a way as to suit modern realities of education, the administration of Ganduje established the Quranic and Islamiyya School Management Board, which is the first of its kind in the country.
Time and again, Ganduje pronounced: “Begging for alms or food is not part of Islam, much less that of a minor, it is absolutely a cultural humiliating orientation that must be discourage in this 21st Century”.
On the social scene, worried by the seemingly absence of social integration and assimilation to bridge the gap effectively, he introduced ambitious programmes and policies towards dismantling the barrier erected in discouraging socialisation between the Hausa communities and residents of southern origin in the state.
The age-long settlement called ‘Sabon Gari’, which means ‘strangers quarters’ where residents of southern origin were herded or confined, away from the major towns in most Hausa states, Kano State in particular, has been abolished by the governor.
At present, no matter where you come from, irrespective of ethnic or religious background, you can reside anywhere that is convenient for you, without the fears of being harassed or intimidated on account of tribe or religious differences.
Perhaps Ganduje had observed that the segregation of living environment between the northerners and the southerners had negatively disrupted rapid assimilation of the two groups.
The ugly trend has in reality distorted the development of a modern social development, where perhaps the northerners could have tapped from the civilisation which the southerners brought along with them, in terms of attitude, technological expertise, a burning thirst for western education and much more.
Unfortunately, for ages, those radically different societies had existed without any attempt of encouraging gradual integration and assimilation by local authorities in the state and the entire northern states in general.
By way of conclusion, it is inspiring, encouraging and illuminating to note that, the Abdullahi Ganduje administration has so far ensured the astronomical enrollment of pupils into primary schools by 80 percent, that is, from 750,000 to 2.9 million pupils per annum. It also approved the employment of over 7,200 university graduates in various MDAs; employment of 9,840 health, sanitary and midwives; sponsoring of 25,000 teachers to acquire higher qualification in addition to employment of 1,196 women teachers.
This is apart from 3,600 lecturers and undergraduates that were since sponsored to France, Turkey, Egypt, Ukraine, Sudan, Britain, China and other local universities within the country to acquire first, second and doctorate degrees in various fields of academic endeavour, to mention but an abridged record.
•Mr Bilal, the Managing Director of Royal Publicity Publishing Company, wrote in from Jos, Plateau State