Johannes Jigem is the Taraba state Commissioner of Education. He is supervising the education component of Gov. Ishaku’s ‘Rescue Mission’. In this interview with our reporter, he tells us about the giant strides of the administration in the education sector.
As this administration winds up, what can you say is the state of primary and secondary education in Taraba state compared to what it used to be in previous administrations?
Hon. Jigem: One of those things that would tell whether we are performing or not is when you look at our KPI, that is Key Performance Indicator. One of our KPIs is the performance of our students in external public exams. Our students are doing extremely well. Over the years, we have never gotten up to 50 percent.
Since this administration came to power, we have obtained a favourable level in our WAEC which we are using as yardstick. In NECO, in NABTEB, we are doing very well, but we are using WAEC as our baseline. When we came, we had 63.7 percent and we have been maintaining it. Notwithstanding all the crises we are going through; attacks here and there by unknown gunmen, we are still performing.
The State government in collaboration with Taraba state University was able to establish the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Health Sciences. When we came on board, there was no WAEC office in Taraba state, we have been able to establish one as well as provide a utility vehicle and land for WAEC. We also made sure we got a marking centre in Taraba where ad-hoc staff would be employed from our schools to mark WAEC scripts.
This would build capacity in the staff that would be employed as well as a source of income. Also, 64 graduates of secondary schools were picked from the 16 local government areas and sent to Ogun state and trained in skills acquisition like carpentry, bricklaying, ICT, fashion design etc and he provided them with funds to start and I assure you these boys and girls are doing very well.
Of recent, another workshop was organised through the State University on Business Management for a week and after that he provided allowance. Also, he was able to bring together secretaries, principals in the 16 local education authorities for a train the trainers workshop. We also travelled for a workshop in Dubai UAE on strengthening and repositioning education in Taraba state. The participants were the commissioner, permanent secretary, directors, procurement officers, finance officers. It was quite encouraging.
Of recent we constituted our monitoring and evaluation committee to monitor and evaluate the system. Because of the challenge of shortage of teachers, the governor decided to employ 3000 teachers to bridge the manpower gap in our secondary schools.
Also, of recent he has carried out the renovation and construction of schools across the state. For example, the Mamara Government Secondary School Wukari (it is an exchange school for students from the 19 northern states); if you get there, you would appreciate the governor on the image of Taraba that he is selling outside. I also learnt (though unconfirmed) that Taraba is tops in education among the north east states.
The Taraba state University generates huge revenues from school fees, yet it complains a lot on funding. How are these revenues managed and does the Ministry have oversight on the institution?
Hon. Jigem: Thank you for that question. You know education is a bottomless pit. You collect all these monies, utilise it within the school and you still complain. All they collect in the school, they spend it. We can’t satisfy education. They are still demanding for more Faculties apart from those they have and to satisfy those demands you need money.
Is there proper oversight on the operations of the university by the Ministry?
Hon. Jigem: Yes, yes.. we monitor them. You know they have a Council whose responsibility it is to see how the university is been managed.
Investigations have shown that Taraba state students in tertiary institutions hardly benefit from the bursary like their counterparts in other states. Considering the Rescue Mission of Gov. Ishaku, what are you doing about the situation?
Hon. Jigem: When it comes to bursary, we are doing well to some extend. One, are you aware that all our medical students are paid monthly allowance? Secondly, at the beginning of the year, the government released money to the National Union of Taraba Students (NUTASS) and SA Student Affairs, to go round all the universities in Nigeria and get us the statistics. (Before you talk of bursary, you must know the number of students and the financial implication). We are still waiting for it.
What has happened to the Taraba state Scholarship Board; is it not its responsibility? Why delegating a students’ body to carry out that duty when we have the scholarship board?
Hon. Jigem: You see, atimes when you tell them that the scholarship board is doing the work, they would feel we are just playing over their intelligence. That is why we want everybody to be involved. That is why we involved the students union. The scholarship board is also part of that committee. We are still expecting them, if the financial implication is within the threshold of the governor, fine and good. If it is above our threshold, we will take it to the State House of Assembly for virement.
Is the State up to date on payment of UBEC Counterpart Fund?
Hon. Jigem: The government has paid over N2Billion and UBEC has acknowledged that and we hope the Federal Government would pay its own so that the state can embark on projects.
When you look round, you would discover several private schools springing up around the State, what is the Ministry doing to check the menace of unlicensed private schools in the State?
Hon. Jigem: I have directed the permanent secretary to constitute a committee to go round all the private schools in the State; those that have met our standards should be properly registered and those that have not met our standards should be closed. As schools resume in the next couple of weeks, we hope the committee would go into action.