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Zamfara group hails govt for suspending university, says let’s begin from foundation

ZAMFARA CIRLE’S POSITION ON THE SUSPENSION OF THE ZAMFARA STATE UNIVERSITY PROJECT

At the end of its assignment, the Zamfara State Transition Committee constituted by His Excellency Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle recommended, among other things, the suspension of the Zamfara State University project which started at the tail-end of the administration of His Excellency Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, pending investigations on alleged contractual infractions and some anomalies. The recommendation elicited different kinds of comments from various stakeholders in the State.

Zamfara Circle understood the reservations of the Transition Committee leading to the recommendation for suspending the project: the claim that the said university had admitted students and even held lectures even when principal officers to the university are yet to be appointed; no Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Bursar, Librarian, Dean of Student or at least Admissions Officer. What could have motivated this action? Given the importance of education as a center-stage for development, Zamfara Circle as a platform for exchange of best practices found it pertinent to take a position on the matter.

Zamfara State has consistently remained the most educationally backward state in the country – therefore any serious investment on education should not start from the top. With the presence of Federal University Gusau, the Circle strongly believes that a holistic reform of the state’s basic and secondary education is more important than establishing a state-owned university at this critical time. A state university can come after basic and secondary schools are improved to a reasonable extent.

In June 2017, the Circle in a communiqué issued at the end of one of its Town Hall Meetings held in Gusau strongly recommended that before establishing a state university, the state government should ensure that it reviews and implements the reports of the various education assessment committees constituted in the past. The Circle further recommended that the state government should first train a reasonable number of indigenous scholars who should take up academic positions in the proposed state university, especially as Zamfara can hardly boast of 100 PhDs. From available records, Zamfara is underrepresented in the academia in almost all the nearby universities.

Under normal circumstances, Zamfara Circle would support the recommendation for suspending the university project. However, the Circle recognises the investment already made at the permanent site of the university which an open recommendation for suspension can jeopardise. In view of this, the Circle recommends a suspension that is guided by the following:

A. In the spirit of fairness, with the presence of Abdu Gusau Polytechnic in Talata-Mafara (which is not the state capital), the proposed state university should be relocated to any of the following LGAs: Anka, Birnin Magaji, Bukuyum, Bungudu, Gummi, Maradun, Shinkafi or Zurmi.

A. Upgrade the Abdu Gusau Polytechnic Talata-Mafara (AGP) and initiate a rigorous remedial program beyond the one being offered by the Zamfara State College of Arts and Science (ZACAS). The existing uncompleted structure of the proposed state university can serve as an extension of AGP as a means of upgrading it.

B. The university should commence undergraduate programmes by 2022/2023 Academic Session. A period of three years will enable the new administration to restrategise for a smooth take-off.

C. Initiate a 5-year training plan for a reasonable number of indigenes into higher degrees (Masters and PhD) beginning from 2019/2020 Academic Session. By 2023, the beneficiaries of the scheme must have started returning to occupy a good number of teaching positions at the time of take-off.

D. Review the contracts awarded and force the defaulting contractors to mobilise to the site.

While this is happening in relation to the state university project, Zamfara Circle recommends the following on improving the state of education in general:

A. Focus on the provision of critical infrastructure and instructional materials in all the primary and secondary schools in the state.

B. Upgrade all the state-owned tertiary institutions, specifically Abdu Gusau Polytechnic Talata-Mafara, College of Education Maru, College of Animal Science Bakura, College of Health Science and Technology Tsafe, School of Nursing Gusau, and Zamfara State College of Arts and Science Gusau.

C. Improve teachers’ welfare, employ qualified teachers and organise relevant workshops, seminars and refresher courses for teachers to update their knowledge.

D. Settle all outstanding bills owed NECO and WAEC to enable students access their results and further seek admissions into various institutions of learning.

E. Put in place a rigorous monitoring and evaluation structure.

Finally, recognising that solid revenue based is a prerequisite for meeting these and other governance demands, Zamfara Circle takes the opportunity to advise the new administration to ensure that it designs or reviews its strategic plans to prioritise all development projects, especially at a time when the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is very low.

Even where resources are available, there is the need for a feasible and sustainable plan with clearly defined stages that ensure growth and development. A good foundation always matters.

Signed.

Gazali Shehu Ahmad
Chairman, Zamfara Circle

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