Adamu Jatau Noma is the director of FCT Universal Basic Education Board in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He attended University of Jos to obtain his first degree in Geography Education. He equally went back to the institution to do his masters in geography, specialising in population, manpower planning and development.
He had his Ph.D at the University of Abuja again specialising in geography with research focus in population and manpower development.
Looking at your mandate, how would you assess the contribution of your board so far?
In 2016, I was posted to Universal Basic Education Board as director and since I came, I have been able to do my best. For instance, I came and made sure that the board was given a sense of direction. That I was able to do by telling everybody what we should do, what ought to be done and what we must be seen doing in line with the vision of the board. The vision of the board is to serve as a model in line with best practices anywhere in the world. To serve as a model in the formulation and management of policy by ensuring that schools are established, classrooms are provided and properly furnished. Teachers are employed and made to do their work professionally, while we have to make sure that instructional materials are provided.
There is influx of private schools all over the FCT. There is concern over the qualification of their teachers. What is your view?
Yes, the proliferation of private schools in the FCT is true. They are ubiquitous. I see them as complementing the effort of government. Government alone can not provide basic educational services so they are complementing the effort of government and we commend them for that. However, that doesn’t mean that all the private schools operating within the rules or are run professionally. There are private schools, in fact so many of them that are not supposed to be there. Some operate under motor garages, some just in their sitting rooms and label themselves international, none is local.
Most of them don’t have qualified teachers who have basic knowledge of educational practices. However, in our public schools, there is no teacher that has less than an NCE. In our schools, we have many teachers with Ph.D teaching in both our primary and junior secondary schools. The public schools have the best teachers. We don’t compromise that basic criterion. However, the difference between the public and private schools is the issue of monitoring. The degree of monitoring is not as intensive as it is in public schools. In case of government schools there is no way we can have inspectors that will be seen in schools every day. So you find out that our Quality Assurance Officers may visit schools once in a month or in the case of some, maybe once in a term. Some are visited only once in a year depending on the location of the school. Then of course in government schools, you find out that when a teacher misbehaves you take due processes to bring that teacher to book but in private schools the proprietor can dismiss the person that day. In government schools you can’t do that, you have to follow due processes. You have to issue the person a query, and if the person continues with the bad behavior, then you take it further for disciplinary action and these things take time and they may linger for a while because that may not be the only case.
And then of course you know that some of our public schools, especially in some urban areas in the FCT are congested. In fact we just came back from some of the schools around Zuba. How would you give them assignments and mark them effectively within a reasonable time? And a teacher is supposed to teach, demonstrate and then give them assignments. While they are working you go round. You can only do that effectively when you have thirty five or forty pupils in a class. Now you can see that this is a challenge in public schools, and this leads people sometimes to see government schools as not effective, but it is only a reflection of these constraints. Even with that, they are very, very effective. If you look up here you can see cups and laurels that our schools have won. In FCT here, our students have been excelling in local, national and international competitions. Just last week, one of our pupils won N450,000 in spelling competition and the pupil came from a rural school, I think Kuje Area Council. So you can see that our schools are doing very, very well.
Would you say that you are satisfied with students performance in WAEC and NECO exams?
You see, we are satisfied with their performance because what you see as results are the true reflections of the student’s performance. In FCT, we don’t tolerate examination malpractices at all. In all public schools, we don’t tolerate that. But of course you know that is not the case with private schools. In private schools they go the extra mile to make sure that they get leakages a week or ten days to the exam and teach their students the questions thus by the time they go for exams, they already have gotten live questions. If it is Mathematics, it is worked out in different ways so at the end of the day you see the students posting credits and distinctions.
As teachers, we know what is happening. But in our public schools, whatever result you see, that is what the student merits, and we can defend it. And our students have been performing very well. But if you are finding the percentage, take for instance, a school that has 35 final year students, if 15 of them obtain credit in English, Mathematics and others, it will be rated as 50 per cent of the school passed, and is rated very high. What of a school that has about 500 pupils? If 200 pupils get credit in English and Mathematics and other subjects, you find out that their percentage will be lower than that of private schools because of the number that is involved.
There is this new phenomenon of kidnapping of school children and it is disturbing. Now, given your mandate, is there anything you are thinking about doing, by way of fortifying physical structures, to aid the security agencies in protecting these children.
You see, we give our children in all our primary and junior secondary schools as well as senior secondary schools security education. They are daily inculcated with security consciousness. On the assembly ground everyday, they are thought not to receive lift except from those introduced to them by their parents. They are equally taught not to take food from strangers except those their parents have introduced to them. They have equally been taught to avoid suspicious environments and people and possibly shout to attract attention when they sense danger. We have not been able to provide perimeter fences in all our schools because they are capital intensive. What we are doing now is prioritising. We know fences are important but which one do you do first? Do you provide perimeter fences to secure our schools or do you provide the schools first? It is obvious that we have to provide the classrooms first. For security, we will know how to provide that.
You mentioned dwindling resources as a major constraint in your ability to meet your target. Are you thinking out of the box to create new solutions?
We have been campaigning, that firms and individuals should come and partner with us. They should come and adopt our schools, and also adopt the children. What I mean by adoption is indicating interest in providing facilities. One can build a classroom, or provide a school with furniture or provide instructional material, and we in turn will advise the minister to write the person a letter of commendation. We can also announce the gesture in the mass media to encourage others. Another way is to adopt a child or children and provide for them accordingly. Several of these children come from poor background. A good spirited individual could also take care of their sandals or buy them exercise books or even uniforms for a given period of time.