On September 22, 2019, Governor Nasir El-Rufail of Kaduna State drove into the Capital School, Malali, Kaduna, and enrolled his son who had just attained the school age of six into Primary I to the delight of the school authorities and the applause of many Nigerians. It is a fact that many Nigerians daily lament the desertion of our public schools by the children of the eminent men and women in public office whose responsibility it is to ensure that there is quality education for Nigerian children. The governor had promised to enroll the boy, in a broadcast, in December 2017 and he kept the promise.
We appreciate El-Rufai’s action and urge all Nigerian public officials to follow his example and enroll their children into our public schools and by so doing breathe in fresh life, commitment and energy into them.
If all public officials, elected or appointed, senior public servants, both in civil and uniformed services, place their children in our public schools, the results would almost be immediate. The overwhelming view is that the teachers would be mentally and physically alert and teaching quality and class attendance will improve. “Since they know the governor’s or senator’s child is here,” said one headmistress, “they know the governor or his wife could walk in any moment.” Even if El-Rufai designed the enrollment as a ‘political stunt,” as his opponents have said, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, former vice chancellor of the University of Lagos, noted that, still, it is a good move. “Let us even assume it is political and selfish; it is still a good move. At least his son is there, so he is going to provide care that a lot of children, including the poor will benefit from.” And we all know, too, that education is the great leveler and any society that aims at egalitarianism must strengthen public schools to begin the process of reducing the inequality in the society, which in Nigeria is beginning to look like a ticking time bomb. There is no better way of knowing how dedicated a man is to his society than getting his children educated within that society.
A generation ago, Nigerians would write the same General Certificate of Education examinations set by the University of London with candidates from all over the world. Our education was considered equivalent to the best in the world. Students and pupils left school with erudition and knowledge. This is why we agree with Governor El-Rufai’s emphasis on teachers. In his broadcast two years ago he recalled that he attended public schools and “… here I am today (Governor of Kaduna State) because of the quality teaching I got.”
Efforts to raise education and teaching standards are sometimes heroic but generally spotty if not half-hearted. But as examples all over the world have shown, education is the key to all efforts in human development. When education is lifted, life is lifted, technology is diffused, skills are strengthened and multiplied, the ‘economy catches fire,’ like that of the Chinese which grew above 10 per cent per annum for more than a decade and within the distance transformed China forever. India is following the footsteps of China. To make it into their universities of technology, candidates sweat ‘blood,’ because good education takes hard work. The result is that in spite of the enormous populations of these countries, they are on their way to eliminating poverty in their lands.
Our public schools have gradually assumed the dumping ground for those who cannot afford to pay for private and special schools. Worse, indeed, most of our public officials take their children abroad for education and those less affluent fly theirs to Ghana or South Africa. Yet we know that the basic difference in schools is the quality and commitment of the teachers. In a situation where ‘teaching’ is considered the last option, it is difficult to retain the efficient and committed ones while it is impossible to weed out the dregs. This was the challenge faced earlier by Governor El-Rufai when some school teachers could not pass Primary IV tests. We know that if our public officials bring back their children to our schools, teacher education would be better funded. Therefore, we urge all government officials to stop the education tourism and enroll their children in Nigerian schools. Above all, let government invest more in education.