By Mahmud Ibrahim
His mission in government was thoroughly articulated and well understood from the beginning.
Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku had told himself, and had assured the people, that Taraba State, under his watch as governor, would experience elaborate and spectacular development in various areas. In less than three years of his first tenure as governor, Ishaku has not only proved that this is possible, he has practically achieved this goal for the state and the people.
There are many areas of accomplishments by the administration but the education sector, an area dear to me as a school proprietor and because of its relevance for the future of our children, comes readily to mind. Education is the bedrock of our hope for a greater future. It is the antidote for ignorance, the everlasting weapon against poverty and disease. It unbundles our creative energies and puts us in a position to understand, explore and control our environment for the general wellbeing of society. That is the reason I was not surprised that Governor Ishaku made education a cardinal agenda of his rescue mission in Taraba State.
Before his arrival on the political stage in Taraba, education in the state was in shambles. Infrastructure was in acute state of deficit. School buildings almost everywhere were decrepit and crying for attention. Governor Ishaku’s rescue train promptly embarked on an elaborate infrastructure remediation programme that has turned the sordid situation around for the better. Today, old school buildings in virtually all towns and communities in the state are looking bright and strong. School environments have become more teaching and learning friendly
Teachers are clapping their hands in appreciation of the rescue work accomplished by the Ishaku administration. Payment of teachers’ salaries has become a regular monthly routine. This has given the teaching profession a new attractive definition with more people falling over themselves to join. Late last year, 3000 more teachers were employed in one fell swoop by the state government, the highest number of teachers to be employed by any state government in Nigeria in a single recruitment exercise. The exercise is credited with the twin achievement of taking many young men and women off the unemployment market as well as boosting the level of teaching in the schools.
Extensive and sustained training and retraining programme which was part of the remediation plan of the government has achieved more than expected results in a short time. In less than two years of the administration Taraba State’s performance in the West African Examination Council jumped from about 20 percent to 67.3 percent in 2016. It was a pleasant surprise to all that were familiar with the poor state of education in the state before then. The celebration over that remarkable performance had hardly stopped when the bigger one arrived. Taraba State’s performance in the 2017 WAEC was adjudged the best in the entire Northern region and the 8th best in the whole of Nigeria.
One of the steps government also took which has proved very helpful in the laudable WAEC records achieved is the establishment of the examination body’s office in Jalingo. Government had encouraged this by donating a building for use as office and a vehicle to facilitate movement of staff. For students and parents in the state, the coming of WAEC to Jalingo has ended their hardships and frustrations. Before then, WAEC candidates had to travel all the way to Yola to register and sort out all problems connected with their examinations. There is no doubt that this has contributed to the pleasant tale of immense benefits being harvested by the state today.
Government’s huge investments in human capital development in the sector which was part of the Ishaku’s rescue agenda did that magic for the good of the state. Now the state is in a position to fill its quota in universities and other institutions of higher learning for which Taraba State is part of their catchment area. Before now, the state was unable to fill its quota in these institutions, including the Federal University Wukari which is on its own soil. The pleasant tale, according to the government, is that the programme to turn the sector completely around for effective and enduring legacy in education is a continuous process on the agenda of the government. My plea with Governor Ishaku is that the tempo of support for education must be sustained by his administration. As a school proprietor myself, I’m in a position to know much government’s new policy of generous development of facilities and motivation of staff have helped in promoting teaching and learning. Teachers, students and school managers in the state owe themselves the duty of ensuring that that these do not stop. And one critical way that this can be done is to ensure that Governor Ishaku, who is the philosophical pillar behind all the good things that education in Taraba State has witnessed in just three years is returned to office for a second term.
I know many of us in the education sector either as students, teachers and proprietors have already resolved to do so. But resolution alone is not enough. We must take practical steps to ensure that we qualify to vote. That means we must obtain our PVCs, come out en mass on the day of voting, then vote and wait at the polling stations to ensure that our votes are properly counted and not diverted to the undeserving candidates or political parties.