Exclusive Interview on out of school children and education policy in Bauchi with an Educationist Sabo Mohammed.

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By Ude Ogbonnaya Israel

Excerpt from the interview:

what do you think about the current education policy on boys/girls separation in secondary school which the lawmakers are trying to review?

You see when you are trying to come up with a policy like education policy, for example, you must ensure that all people who have stake must be widely consulted and their input taken into consideration before actually, pronouncing or taking a policy.

But in our case in Bauchi State, Nigeria, some of us actually attacked that policy because the policy was taken in haste and because the policy lacked wider consultation.

For people, especially male children or female children are unable to attend school and that is why they are, you know, dropping. So it is a very welcome development by the pronunciations of the Commissioner of Education in the state that they are likely going to view the policy.

I think the best way to do that is by actually engaging the stakeholders. We have the Parents Teaches Association (PTA). We have the Association of Secondary School Teachers, we have the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), we have quite a number of people, resource people, who need to be actually put together to come up with a working policy that will actually address this issue of school drop-out in Bauchi State.

So what was the perceived prospect of that policy that made the former Commission of Education to be pushing for it?

Well, you see, it’s just about ego. That is how some of us are looking at it. Because you cannot just think of a policy without subjecting that policy to the regorous to, you know rigorous discussions, to the point of bringing people who have stake to give their own input, and then for allowing the legislators to do their needful.

That has not seen the light of the day at that time. And that is why some of us are very critical. We know this policy is not going to yield a desired result. Because even if you are thinking of, you know, separating male and women, it is just for how many hours in school.

And then, the issue is that co-education has a lot of advantage if it is properly managed, monitored or supervised. Some of us are product of co-education, where we have male and female in a class.

Are there no benefits of the separation that perhaps made the former education Commissioner to introduce it?

There are a ways to do this kind of things. You cannot just say, you know, you are not going to be able to do this or that. There are ways to address you know, emerging issues.

In a class, you can separate a line for male, and then another line for female. It will also serve the purpose.

You don’t need to actually say, male should come in the morning, or female should come in the evening. That is not the best way.

Taking into cognizance of the fact that we have shortage of teachers in Bauchi state. That is one problem. Another problem is that we have shortage of qualified teachers. Because it is one thing to have teachers, it is another to have qualified teachers.

I will give you an example. When I was the adviser for education for a state, when we actually sought to find people who have this integrated science, we have to go to a nearby plateau state to actually recruit qualified people.This is to tell you the level of how the state is lacking in having qualified teachers.

And this is a state that has a lot of educational problems. So it is not really a very good policy, but the measures now they are putting in place will actually provide solution to the problem by agreeing that this policy is not working. That is to first recognize that there is need for the policy to be reviewed.

And then there is also the need for all cream de la cream to actually brought to full so that the issue will be discussed and then solution will be provided. And then the pro they enable the legislation will also be enacted.

And then the government should show a positive, you know, gesture toward implementing whatever that is coming out as a resolution from that, you know, discussions. And I think that is why some societies and some states succeed.

That is why they are always ahead of other states in the north, because they are engaging all the stakeholders, including the traditional rulers, the religious leaders, and then the community leaders, then the teachers themselves, and all others must be brought to fore so that the solution will actually be provided.

In Bauchi state, if you look at the ratio of out-of-school children, it seems that females are even more in number of those that are dropped out, why?

You see, they are only addressing the surface . They are not addressing the inner problems. For example, Bauchi State is agreed to be one of the most educationally disadvantaged states. And of course, having the highest number of, you know, out of school children, about 1.2 million.

But we learn through the UNESCO and the others that the number has reduced, but we are yet to see it from their official bulletine.

Because there are root causes, there are root reasons why females are always having problems in the north, especially in Bauchi. There are cultural issues that need to be addressed. There are misconceptions, because it’s misconceptions about religion, because education is for everybody, not for any Islam. You know, it has been seriously encouraged for females to actually seek for knowledge.

There should be a specific or special incentives for females, especially by providing uniforms, as we saw in Kastina State and some parts of Jigawa State.

You provide uniform, you provide some kind of assistance, and you create schools to very close to the females too.

These are some of the things that will actually motivate young parents religiously or culturally speaking to actually send their females to school.

But in as much as the government is not addressing the cultural misconceptions about religion, and by coming up with specific incentives for female students, then the female will certainly going to be dropped.

And then that is why even people are saying that, yes, we should have special schools, for female students. A special school where most of their needs will be catered for.

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