The Sir Ahamdu Bello Memorial Foundation, organized a conference on Education in Northern Nigeria, with special theme on “ The Status, Challenges and Way Forward.”

In his address, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alh. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, said the North had failed to move forward in education because of non-implementation of past reports of researches carried out with the purpose of improving the literacy in the region.

The Sultan spoke as Chairman of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, representing 20 first-class traditional rulers, where he stressed the need for stakeholders in the North to show more seriousness in the area of implementation of recommendations made to accelerate the development of education.

He said the region would continue to organize conferences to talk about the challenges of education every year if the recommendations of the previous panels were not implemented.

He commended a former Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai, OON, and her team for carrying out another research whose recommendations he tasked the stakeholders to constitute a committee for its implementation to achieve the desired goals.

He said, “That is our problem, implementation. If we don’t implement, we come back next year for another conference and still talk about the same thing. So, let’s be more serious now because if you have identified a problem, you have half of the solution. Now, let’s look for the other half of the solution so that we can move forward.”

Professor Ruqayyatu made a presentation on the outcomes of the research work done on the current state of education in the North. She said the report identified the inability to mobilise school-age children, poor release of funds, inadequate political will, and non-availability of offices for guidance and counseling services as some of the challenges to education in the North.

As part of solutions to the challenges, she listed the recommendations of the research work to include the need to ensure that additional schools were built in the North, school feeding programme be expanded, provision of adequate non-teaching staff, timely payment of salaries, provision of quality and qualitative inspectors and competition in the recruitment of teachers among others.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Babangida Aliyu, said about 50% of teachers in North are not qualified.

He stressed the importance of the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE) as a minimum requirement for teachers, adding that no northern state in Nigeria has 50 percent qualified teachers. NCE was said to be the minimum qualification required to teach.

On his part, the chairman of the organising committee and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the foundation and former Kano State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, said the North, despite its rich cultural heritage, historical significance, and abundance of human resources, lagged behind in terms of educational development compared to other regions in the country.

Alhaji Shekarau emphasised the need for urgent action, stating, “These findings are not meant to discourage us, but rather to serve as a wake-up call for urgent action. “Education is the bedrock of any prosperous society, and it is our collective responsibility to address these challenges as required.

On his part, the Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, emphasized the pivotal role of inspiring and purposeful leadership in driving societal change and development.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, said part of the reasons behind the decision of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the federal government to remove subsidy and unify exchange rates was to raise funds for investments in critical sectors such as education, stressing that it might have become difficult to pay salaries if such actions were not taken.

He suggested that the role of the National Economic Council (NEC) should be extended to include mobilisations of revenue to achieve set goals.

While speaking, the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede, said the figure of candidates seeking admission grossly underrepresented northern Nigeria. He hinted that the quota of students of northern extraction was being filled by people not from there.

Professor Oloyede said he discovered this when he queried a Vice Chancellor from South East on the reason admission was not given to applicants from Cross River and the North.

He said, the VC asked him to look at the names of the applicants if they truly originated from the North.

Professor Oloyede advised the people of the North to apply for admission in other parts of Nigeria for their higher education and employment opportunities.

He observed that there was a high tendency for people from the Northern Nigeria to resign and go back to their state of origin for jobs.

In his goodwill message, the Acting Executive Secretary, NUC, Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki, conveyed warm regards of the management of the Commission and those of the 270 Universities and Inter-University Centres that made the Nigerian University System (NUS).

Mr. Maiyaki said , the fact that the Conference was organised by the Foundation was not only a testament of its unwavering commitment to the socio-economic development of Northern Nigeria, it also showed the extent to which the Foundation was prepared to go in its avowed mission of taking the Region to the highest level of development.

The Acting Executive Secretary congratulated the Foundation and its Executive Members on their foresight and initiatives, aimed at sustaining the legacy of Sir Ahmadu Bello. He stood for dedication and service to the people of the Northern Region in particular and Nigeria in general.

He added that the Foundation had over the years, made commendable inmpact in various sectors, including health, agriculture, scholarship and good governance, security, skills acquisition, among others, which, according to him, had not only transformed lives, also influenced and reshaped public discourse and policies in Nigeria.

Mr. Maiyaki used the medium to inform the gathering that NUC had made significant strides in advancing information and Communication Technology (ICT) penetration within the Nigerian University System.

He stressed that since 2009, the Commission had led the charge in implementing various programmes, aimed at integrating Open and Distance Learning  (ODL) methodologies, with global best practices.

He explained further that the Commission recently took the unprecedented steps of granting provisional licences of operation to four (4) private Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Universities, to complement the already existing National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), which has over 100 Study Centres nationwide.

The Acting Executive Secretary also highlighted the development of the Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) with a focus on 21st Century employability skills. This, he said, was a testament to the NUC’s dedication to equipping students for the demands of the modern workforce.

The conference was attended by a Special Adviser (SAD) on Political Matters in the Office of the Vice- President, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed,  who represented Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima.

Other dignitaries at the event were the Etsu Nupe, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, CFR; the Emir of Zazzau, Amb. Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, CFR; Deputy Governor of Kwara State, Chief Kayode Alabi; Former Niger Sate Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu amongst others.