THE appointment of educationist and former Governor of Kano state, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, as the new minister of education has no doubt made immediate impact. Thumbs up should be given to the new minister as his first assignment of meeting the striking Polytechnic lecturers led to the immediate suspension of the 11 months old strike.
The new Minister of Education had met with the leadership of the union after which the ASUP national executive committee took the decision to shelve the protracted strike for three months. This major stride by the new minister is an indication that he has hit the ground running on his assumption of office.
The Federal Government has so far met some of the demands, including the inauguration of governing councils and setting up of the needs assessment committees. Thus, the coming couple of weeks will ensure that government proffers a long lasting solution to the crisis in the education sector as a whole. It is not just an assertion but a fact that education remains the bedrock of any society and thus remains a goldmine for any government that is ready to transform its citizens for the better. In this vein, there is need for not only quality education but also secured academic terrain for all citizens. The idea of safe academic environment is surely not unconnected to the school girls who were reportedly abducted from their schools some months ago.
The quest for the rescue of the girls led to the recent visit of the Pakistani girl-child education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who herself survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. The vision of this young girl-child campaigner remains unambiguous. In her words: “On my 17th birthday my wish is to see every child go to school and I want to see my Nigerian sisters being released from their abduction and I want them to be free to go to school and continue their education”.
The education advocate is also ready to share ideas on how to rescue the girls and ultimately how to improve quality and safe education in the country, especially for the female gender. Thus, there is no gainsaying that the money donated by the Malala Foundation will be used judiciously to ensure scholarship for both the escapees and abductees when they are eventually rescued. It is also good to know that the President shares the vision and dream of a quality and unhindered education. The Federal Government says Nigerian children must have an environment in which they could come back to school and not have anyone truncate their education. In this vein, the government can partner with the Malala Foundation to sponsor and thus champion the cause for free and compulsory education for every child around the world.
A quest to ensure the fruition of this actually led to the launch of the Safe School Initiative by President Goodluck Jonathan with a start off fund of N3.2 billion. It would be recalled that after a meeting on the initiative between President Jonathan, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and governors from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told reporters that the fund would help ensure that school children get educated in a safe environment. It is also not a surprise that the initiative will begin with the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa who have been worst hit by the ugly trend of insurgency. The project has also garnered financial support from the international community.
These ideas, which include emergency relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation are basically aimed at providing “fortification, telecommunications, security guards, and safety equipment as well as rebuilding vandalised schools”. These will also provide employment for the jobless youths as they will be serving as trained security guards in and around the schools.
Some of the ongoing initiatives which are part of the soft-approach to countering insurgency which was launched early in the year by the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), are geared to addressing major challenges in North-Eastern Nigeria due to the activities of Boko Haram elements. The most important aspect of the project now is proper monitoring and evaluation. As a matter of fact, critics are already trying to flay the initiative due to the level of corruption in the country. This is a massive challenge to the authorities concerned to ensure that the project yields required dividends.
Finally, this gradual approach, coupled with the North East intervention, will go a long way in rehabilitating the affected states and region. The initiatives would also pave way for immediate economic growth, even as the nation intensifies effort in fighting terrorism to a standstill. This soft approach may seem languid but apparently, its efficacy cannot be underestimated.
MOSHOOD ISAH a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.