The governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, said on Sunday that public officials in Borno’e education ministry threaten school principals not to disclose the true state of their schools.
The governor said principals of public secondary schools in the state have been threatened by officials that they would lose their jobs if they tell him of their problems.
He said each time he was on a routine visit to public schools, headteachers hardly voice out the challenges facing their schools because officials at the ministry of education who are responsible for their posting may be angry at them.
Governor Zulum revealed this during a meeting with school principals in Maiduguri.
The governor hosted the 84 principals of public secondary schools in the state to a private meeting with a view to unravelling the cause of their problems, which they usually find difficult to tell.
The meeting was held hours after reopening of public schools as the government called off the COVID-19 induced closure of all schools in the state.
The governor had in his opening speech urged the headteachers to be honest “in telling him the realities of challenges in the schools rather than a cover-up for fear of victimization.”
Mr Zulum said the aim of the meeting was for him to get first-hand, “undiluted information” from the principals, “on problems facing the public secondary school system in Borno.”
“I have been to several schools, and each time I asked, some of your principals found it difficult to explain the problems in your schools.
“I was later made to understand that if you tell me the truth, you would either be transferred somewhere you wouldn’t like or somehow be victimized.
“Please I beg all of you to tell me the truth. Let us tell ourselves the truth so that we can improve Borno’s public education from where we are now.
“I am pleading with you to please be upright, be honest. Education is the bedrock of any development. Without a functional educational system, we shall continue to experience this Boko Haram insurgency in Borno.
“Look at the kind of students we are graduating from our public secondary schools, most of them do not qualify for admission into universities, even those who get admitted find it very difficult to cope. I assure you that telling me the truth will not lead to anything happening to any of you by God’s grace,” Mr Zulum told the principals.
According to a statement issued by the governor’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, “the governor took time to remind principals of the old glorious days, and the need for all stakeholders to regain quality in the public school system.”
“I can recall that twenty years ago, principals were not willing to even become permanent secretaries because of job satisfaction. Today, that satisfaction is longer there.
“There is a general decline in the standard of education in public institutions all over the country. There is the lack of qualified teachers, inadequate teaching facilities, poor maintenance culture, general decay of infrastructure, government’s inability to ensure monitoring and evaluation, centralized control by the ministry, unnecessary bureaucracy, and irregular training and retraining of teachers and other essential staff. There is poor data management and indiscipline amongst the major problems affecting the public school system,” he said.
He assured them that workable measures would be adopted “to improve the training and welfare of teachers and administrators of the public school system. Adding that all improvements are geared towards motivating “high performance while supervision will be drastically changed for the purpose of punishing those unready to change.”
“After the governor’s remark, the principals took turns to voice out problems of the 84 secondary schools across Borno’s 27 local government areas,” said Mr Gusau.
“Most of the principals complained about the poor quality of primary school graduates who come into secondary schools without a strong foundation. They urged the governor to critically look into the reintroduction of common entrance examinations at primary six levels, which should be the yardstick for admission into secondary schools.”
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that despite the assurances, the headteachers were still scared of speaking up for fear of a mole going to reveal their identities to the top officials at the ministry of education.
Understanding their predicaments, Governor Zulum encouraged each of them to write down their problems especially as it concerns administration and forward same to him within a week.
The governor thereby ordered the “immediate reintroduction of the common entrance examination at primary six levels.”
He also directed that henceforth only pupils who pass the examination by securing a cut-off mark, should be eligible for admission into the first year of junior secondary schools (JSS 1). He said the era of granting admissions to all pupils regardless of their performance at the common entrance is over.