The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai took the nation by storm on September 23, 2019, when he personally took his son, Abubakar Al-Sadqin company of his mother, Ummi el-Rufai to a school several Nigerians say is not befitting of his status. KATDAPBA Y. GOBUM examines the development and challenges state governments to reengineer the education sector with a view to ensuring that public schools are patronized; thereby shunning taking Nigerian students to foreign schools.
By this week Abubakar Al-Sadiq, the son of the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai is two weeks old as a pupil of the 62 year old Capital School, Malali. The 6 year old young boy was enrolled on September 23, 2019 by his father into primary one, with the fanfare deserving the son of the Kaduna first family.
As son of a governor, it would have been expected that the choice of what school to attend should not be a matter of concern, after all, as governor of a state he has the wherewithal to take care of his children and much more in the best school(s) in the land; and indeed outside the shores of the Nigeria.
It is on record that most of his colleagues’ children may be in foreign schools in various levels; and that may not be what Nigerians would be happy about. Yet considering what we currently have in our various states’ education sector is indeed a far cry from what it should be.
But it is proper to examine and situate the experience of el-Rufai in the right perspective; only if the Nigerian populace may understand the reason behind his action. Whatever is said here is not patronizing; it is to challenge states that the attention given to the sector is a far cry from what it deserves.
A number of Nigerians have spoken in various tones about the news of the governor’s son being taken to the Capital School Malali. Some have opined that it was merely a political showmanship by a leader that is interested in furthering his nest in 2023. Some have said if it was not for show off, why did he not make it without the public fanfare that went with it?
Whatever it is said, it is proper for us to examine the action in relation to what is obtainable in the education sector we all see and experience in the states. In some of the states, education has since been relegated to the background and needing resuscitation for the sake of the next generation.
We have a major issue that has long defied any known solution. Rather than stay focused to solve it, some Nigerians think that taking their wards abroad to study is all that is needed to maintain their status. The need for stronger political will that should change the narrative in our journey to make education attractive has almost taken flight in most states in Nigeria; a situation we must change and make education more interesting to all.
Realizing that much can be done, Governor Nasir el-Rufai Kaduna State is not playing politics with the education of the children of his people. Sometimes on December 28, 2017, in a tweet @elrufai stated that ‘I will by personal example ensure that my son that will be six years of age in 2019 will be enrolled in a public school in Kaduna State by God’s grace’.
You may be right to say, ‘he promised and kept his word’. Of course ‘a man is only good as his word’. This was in fulfillment of a campaign promise to improve the quality of public education in Kaduna State. Whether it was a stunt or not, a vital question to ask is: Would he have sent Abubakar to a school different from Capital School had he not been a governor. His government had renovated the school with about N200m March last year.
Perhaps he would have done so, who knows? The school remains an elite institution by all standards. It is said to have produced some of the elites of northern Nigeria. Some have opined that ‘the pedigree of Capital School, Kaduna, and its role as the educational incubator and reproduction factory of elitism in Kaduna’.
It is like saying as Olabisi Deji-Folutile wrote: ‘I am with the masses, the talakawa, so my child will attend university in Nigeria and not go abroad like the children of other officials’ and then he enrolls the child in Covenant University which has been ranked as Nigeria’s best university (public or private) and one of the best in Africa. It is also one of Nigeria’s most expensive universities’.
The governor who shared the latest development on his Twitter handle @elrufai, said, “I will lead by example to ensure that my son that will be six years of age in 2019 will be enrolled in a public school in Kaduna State, by God’s grace.”
The development which was reported by various news media also quoted the governor as saying the decision to enroll his son in a public school, contrary to practice by his peers who send their children to expensive private schools in Nigeria and abroad was in fulfillment of a promise he made in 2017.
He also said the decision demonstrated strong commitment of his government to fix public education and raise the standard of public schools so that private education will become only a luxury.
Accompanied by his wife, Ummi el-Rufai noted that it is only when political leaders send their children to public schools that they will be forced to pay attention to the quality of public education in the country.
He, however, stresses that the law does not allow him to force anyone to embrace the policy.The governor’s wife, Ummi expressed mixed feelings about taking her child to a public school.She also agreed that her husband’s action is the only way leaders can live by example and ensure that public institutions are given proper attention.
The governor’s son, on his part, was said to have expressed happiness to assist his father to fulfill his campaign promise.
“The move is part of reforms to revamp public schools in the state to make them more competitive.We are determined to fix public education and raise their standards so that private education will become only a luxury.I went to a public school like this, in fact, the school I went to was not even as good as this but here I am because of the quality of the teaching I got.
“It is our intention in Kaduna State government to ensure that all our public schools offer quality education and we are encouraging all our senior public servants to have their children in public schools”.
Whatever may have been reported which are copiously quoted above cannot take away the rights of a governor to choose to do what for him is right. People might give it all manners of colouration, depending on which side one is; but like Femi FaniKayode tweeted recently: @elrufai does not take his son to state school, you complain! He takes his son to state school, you complain. What do you want? He loves his son and he is doing what he believes is the best for him. Should anyone begrudge him that? And the young man looked so cute in that uniform’.
He has an enormous responsibility to the people of the state. The fact that Kaduna Capital School has been given a facelift is an indication that the process can be started somewhere. If all state governors have the political will to choose one public school in all local governments each year to upgrade its facilities, by now, perhaps all our primary or secondary schools would have been populated by the children of the haves and have nots.
‘It is also wrong for children to suffer the consequence of bad governance, when their counterparts elsewhere are enjoying the benefits of good governance. It doesn’t matter if the victim is a governor’s son or the child of a peasant. In other words, a governor would still have been held responsible even if his own child gets substandard education in a public school, because every child has a right to quality education’.
Sadly the states are finding it difficult to invest in education. Most states are involved in roads and other physical infrastructures, to the point that there are schools in some states where pupils use blocks, or other makeshift structures to sit on.
Only yesterday, we celebrated the World Teachers’ Day, with a theme: “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession”. I am sure it is high time the various governments would take a critical look at what we have no, with a view to making adequate budgetary allocations for education.
If the celebration means anything to Nigeria, we must not stop at just the fanfare the Day offers. We must go beyond it.