The Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) education secretary, Hajia Mariam Ibrahim Baba says public schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are better than most private schools based on the quality of their products. She made this assertion in an interview with newsmen in Abuja. She also speaks on other education matters. Excerpts:
Q: May we know you officially madam?
A: I am Hajia Mariam Ibrahim Baba, the AMAC Education Secretary.
Q: How can you help people who could not send their wards to school?
A: In fact, when I came on board there were a lot of problems in the education sector. I know of AMAC. We discussed it with the chairman and we started by enrolling pupils for free. I advised my fellow head teachers to enroll pupils free of charge into various classes. When you enroll a child for free, the child will need uniforms- regular and sports wears.
We enrolled with only N500 (five hundred naira) but I told them to enroll them free of charge because some of our parents are not stable.
When I was in my former school as head teacher, even those that were selling sachet water I used to call them and ask them if they wanted to join us, if they say yes, I would tell them to bring their parents.
When their parents come, I will beg them to allow their children to start school.
In the school we have health staff, we have one in every school because when something happens to a child, first aid is necessary. As we are not allowed to give medication to children, we have to administer first aid and wait for the parents to come.
That is why the AMAC chairman asked us to have health support for staff, by providing sick bays in schools. The sick bay encourages parents to bring their children to school.
Q: Provision of sick bays is because of the covid or to encourage parents to bring their children to school?
A: It is to encourage the parents. But we started before the covid.
Q: In AMAC public schools, are they lacking pupils now?
A: No, they are not lacking pupils now; even pupils are more than the staff.
If you go to schools now, you will see a teacher, teaching a hundred pupils in a class instead of forty as it was before.
So it is teachers that we lack. That is why the AMAC chairman is supporting us. We are bringing more teachers. He is giving more teachers appointments, especially NCE holders.
Q: Are there facilities to transfer the pupils that are in the over populated class?
A: Yes, we have facilities, we have class rooms available, we have pupils desks, instructional materials in our various schools. All we are lacking are teachers. That is why he is employing teachers.
Q: Let’s be specific, in Jikwoyi L.E.A, does it have enough vacant classrooms?
A: They don’t have vacant classrooms.
Q: How can the school expand?
A: They wanted to divide the school into morning and afternoon sessions. If this is done the pupils will have enough classroom school desks to study with. And the school will be conducive for them to learn. But up till now, they have not implemented it.
Q: In terms of qualifications, after entrance examinations, what is your assessment of your pupils in comparison with pupils in private schools.
A: We are better off because we have qualified teachers. We don’t employ diploma holders as teachers. We cannot employ SSCE as teachers. We employ those with B.Ed, we employ NCE the minimum we employ in our schools is NCE but if you go to private schools, even SSCE holders teach there.
All they need is money. If you go and observe what they do in public schools, you will never take your child to private school.
Q: As a regulatory body, is there anything you people are doing to stop them from employing any manner of certificate?
A: We have inspectors now. Quality assurance people are going round now to check, to access what is going on. That is why we know what is going on. Now as a principal or head teacher in a private school, I will not like you to carry your child away. Even if your child doesn’t know anything I will tell the class teacher to give the child enough marks so that the parents will be encouraged. In public school we don’t have that time. Our pupils, the children are many, what you get is what you take home.
Q: Does it mean that those in public schools are those from poor parents?
A: Sometime when I was in Nyanya, there was this man, a very rich man. He used to bring twenty children to the school. All his neighbours, he sponsors their children to school, including his own child. The man said there was a debate he attended and was marveled by the performance of pupils in public school, and also, the child of the nanny in his house was among them. The way the girl was performing was better than those of his own children he said.
So he had to remove his children from private schools and send them to public school. That money that he was misusing, he then called all his neighbours and sponsored their children to public school.
He was the one that was telling me this.
But before that he came and interviewed me and asked what I was doing in the school that made it special. That was where I was the head teacher at Nyanya Phase Two, I explained everything to him, it was our graduation day.
Q: What is your advice to parents who are not sending their children to school?
A: My advice to parents, I want every parent to know that a teacher in AMAC is committed, they are hard working and they are role models. They will take care of your children more than the way you take care of them at home, both morally and educationally.
Q: Thanks for your time.
A: You are welcome.