On Monday September 23, 2019, Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai enrolled in 6-year son, Abubakar Sadiq, into Kaduna Capital School (KCS), Kaduna. This was in fulfilment of a promise he had made earlier to enroll his child in a public school. No matter the hullaballoo that trailed this exemplary act of Governor El-Rufai, which demonstrates his commitment as a leader to meeting the common aspirations of his people, it is laudable.
It has since been public knowledge that the children of most public officers do not attend public schools because of the abysmal state of deterioration in such schools. In most public schools today, pupils receive lessons in dilapidated classrooms with majority of them sitting on bare floor. This is even where the structures are still habitable; otherwise, pupils are left to receive their lessons under the shade of trees. This poor teaching-learning condition obtains in many states of the federation, which explains why only children of the poor attend public schools especially at the basic level of education in Nigeria.
We all know that a state governor in Nigeria can afford to enroll his child in any private school of his choice not only in Nigeria but even outside the country. There are Nigerians who do not have the privileges enjoyed by a state governor but whose children do not attend public schools. Rather, they go to select private schools in town where school fess are paid in American dollars. Not too long ago, I met a journalist colleague at a television station who told me she had all her education in London from primary through university. Her father was a public officer.
If Governor El-Rufai had wished, he could have taken little Sadiq not just to a private school in Kaduna but to one of those elitist schools in London or America. His decision to register Sadiq in a public school in Kaduna therefore defines him as a leader. There is a Qur’anic verse wherein Allah (SWT) challenges leaders who are always passionate about instructing people to perform a particular action but would themselves shun the same action. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 2:48 “Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people and forget (to practice it) yourselves, and yet ye study the scripture? Will ye not understand?” If Kaduna state government under El-Rufai is insisting that parents must send their children to school in order to take advantage of the National Policy on Education which provides that basic education is free and compulsory, the governor is justified to send his son to the type of school attended by many school-age children. He, thus, deserves to be encouraged, at least.
When Governor Aminu Belllo Masari of Katsina state took the same action in 2016 and sent two of his children to a public school, this column wrote then to commend his action. Masari had pledged to do so while addressing his audience during the political campaigns of the 2015 general elections that brought him to Katsina State Government House. Governor Masari further directed members of his cabinet to also follow suit. The Secretary to the Katsina State Government Mustapha Inuwa as well as commissioners that were serving then in Governor Masari’s cabinet all enrolled their children in public schools. This particular school came to have better facilities and teachers than other public schools in Katsina. It was gathered that more teachers were sent to the school after the governor’s children were admitted. Whether or not such was a product of the usual ‘eye-service’ done by civil servants to appease a governor, the school is, at least, received some official attention from government. In the same wise, KCS will at worst benefit from the ‘special’ attention that government will give to it because of Sadiq’s presence in the school.
El-Rufai’s singular act of sending Sadiq to a public school signifies among others his willingness to reposition education in public schools in Kaduna State. It takes empathy, and by extension, altruism for a public officer in Nigeria to act in the way the once nicknamed ‘bulldozer’ by Abuja residents did. Besides, what I saw in my few private visits to Kaduna as it concerns renovation works in addition to the provision of some essential infrastructural facilities in various basic schools in the metropolis is creditable.
The feeling of El-Rufai, if my guess is right, is that the life of children attending public schools which in recent times have become vulnerable to the activities of criminals including abduction and in some cases violent attacks is no less worth the life of other privileged children including Sadiq El-Rufai. The presence of Sadiq in a public school suggests that the governor does not consider Sadiq’s life more valuable than that of other public school going pupils. Furthermore, a leader would have nothing to fear besides his creator, Allah, if he is convinced that his worth and actions are genuinely guided by conscience, honesty, justice and fairness. Many of El-Rufai’s 35 colleagues in the country cannot do what he is doing. You may succeed to get a few count among his 18 other northern colleagues.
Of course, the lamentable and pathetic situation of most public schools in the country is the result of long years of neglect by those whom Allah (SWT) charged with leadership responsibilities in their respective capacities as public officers. It is an act of betrayal that the same public schools they have neglected today made most of them what they are now as corporate executives, technocrats, renowned academics, or learned men.
Also, to regain the past glory of public schools in the country, Governor El-Rufai should direct his cabinet members to also send their children and wards to public schools just like Masari did. El-Rufai’s colleagues especially in the northern part of the country where there is greater number of out-of-school children should fear Allah (SWT) and give public schools the attention they deserve. May Allah (SWT) guide our leaders to do that which is right and for the common good of the people they lead, amin.