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Column: On the abysmal state of Education in Taraba state

 Iliyasu Gadu

At the recent launching of the Basic Education Service Delivery for All, (BESDA) an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu remarked that the decision to launch the programme in Jalingo, the state capital became necessary because Taraba state ''is one of the states with the highest out of school children in the country''. 

The Minister's speech at the occasion was delivered by the Minister of state for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.

Perhaps it was a partisan political statement coming from the Minister who belongs to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) against the People's Democratic Party (PDP) which governs Taraba state. It may also well be that most of the out school children are actually ''almajiris'' from out of state roaming the streets of Jalingo and major towns in Taraba looking for sustenance.

But the reality on the ground as far as the Educational sector in Taraba bears the Minister's observation. And we will be hiding behind a finger if we do not acknowledge this fact unpalatable as it is to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation.

Let's face it; the state of education particularly from the primary to secondary level in Taraba is abysmal.

Most primary schools in the state have no infrastructure worthy of conducting reasonable teaching. They have to do so under trees or in dilapidated buildings with no roofing and windows. There are no desks for the pupils to teach. Blackboards are defaced and chalks and necessary teaching aids are non-existent. Teachers are not well paid and motivated. Indeed teachers in the state are owed salaries running to months.

A similar situation exists in our secondary schools. Apart from infrastructural facilities where they even exist; there is a shortage of qualified teachers and virtually no educational aids to impart practical knowledge to the students. The secondary schools we have today are a poor reflection of what we used to know.

 The fact that our dear state is being recorded as one of the highest in terms of out of school children is not rocket science. It is a direct consequence of years of neglect of the education sector. Which parent would want to send a child or ward to such schools? Which child or student would find the poor situation in their schools attractive enough to want to stay and read?

The poor state of our educational system amounts to a betrayal of the very system that made most of us what we are today. I believe that there is no personality in government that attended the kind of primary and secondary institutions that we have today. Without exception all of us had attended from primary to University levels, schools that were well built, equipped and maintained for conducive academic and moral upbringing. Whether it was government, community or missionary schools we attended, they were up to the standard required to impart the knowledge and character that we all boast of today.

It is therefore a gross disservice to wilfully neglect the ladder which we all climbed to get to where we are today. By this we are denying our future generation the necessary confidence to grow as responsible and useful adults to society. We are denying them the platform with which to compete favourably with their peers in Nigeria.

As everyone knows the foundation of education lies at the primary school age. It is at this stage that a child begins to get familiar with the world outside the cocoon of family life and guidance. It is from here his life begins to mould and take the direction of eventually becoming useful to himself and the society.

When however we deny him the necessary guidance in the form of quality education he recoils and begins to regard education such as structured presently as unnecessary and therefore becomes cannon fodder for anti-social influences. He thus becomes vulnerable to agents of societal disruption. It is this phenomenon which has led to many of our youths becoming what they are today unfortunately.

Is this what our government whose responsibility it is to arrest this negative development want for our youth who are regarded as the leaders of tomorrow? Or do we want them to continue to be the way they are so that they become a ready pool for recruitment as our political thugs and enforcers?

 A state like Taraba which is deficit in development should as a matter of fact work to close the gap on the abysmal level of education that currently obtains. We need a pool of soundly educated and trained young men and women who can help the state grow its manifest potentials. We cannot continue to lament at the level of underdevelopment in the state when we waste away those that will form the bedrock of our quest for development. It is a paradox that while the state is in crying need for development we are at the same time neglecting the very vehicle that will transit us to that goal.


 Re: Senator Emmanuel Bwacha's Desperate Political gamble in southern Taraba.

My article of the above title last week elicited a welter of responses. As expected the reactions were mixed. As befitting a personality of the calibre of distinguished Senator Bwacha there are bound to be those who support him and those who do not. As someone in the public sphere who has served at all levels of politics and governance, Senator Bwacha must by now be familiar with his being mentioned in the media for one reason or the other. I believe it comes with the territory as they say.

Some of the responses I got from people who claim to be writing on behalf of the distinguished Senator unfortunately did not edify him. Rather than respond to the issues they resorted to name calling and gratuitous insults which did not measure up to the tenets of public discourse.

If they were acting under the auspices of Senator Bwacha as either his spokespersons or media managers, I daresay that for a ranking Senator and a principal officer of the hallowed red chamber of the National Assembly, his choice of aides leaves much to be desired. They are loud but empty barrels which is not befitting of anyone aspiring to govern a local government talk more of a state.

At present he represents the good people of southern Taraba senatorial district comprising Wukari, Donga, Takum Ibi and Ussa. As a matter of fact the distinguished Senator does not only represent me, we both come from the same Local Government of Donga. Although he is Ichen by ethnicity and I am Chamba, it does not matter because a good many people in Donga are of mixed parentage from both ethnic groups. Until politicians started exacerbating the differences between the two ethnic groups for their own selfish ends, you hardly knew who was Chamba or Ichen in Donga.

If I cannot comment on the Senator who represents me at the National Assembly and one who comes from the same Local Government as I do on issues of public interest without his minions subjecting me to personal abuses then does the Senator merits his position and status?

Is that how distinguished Senator Emmanuel Bwacha who is now valiantly angling to be Governor of Taraba going to rule the state once he succeeds in his ambition?         

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