Former President Goodluck Jonathan has stated that he embarked on the Almajiri Schools programme in the north while he was in office to infuse western education curriculum into Islamic education to make the pupils employable and to check incessant crisis and insecurity.
Jonathan stated this while delivering the keynote address at the maiden Bayelsa State Education Summit, with the theme “Optimizing the Delivery, Performance and Sustainability of Outcomes in the Education Sector,” held at the Conference Hall of the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, in Yenagoa the Bayelsa State capital.
He explained that his vision and philosophy of development is the development of a people must be based on education as there cannot be a functional society without a functional education system, noting that education remains the key to change the country.
The former president who commended Governor Douye Diri administration for organising the summit which is aimed at fashioning a road map for the educational sector, said such roadmap once developed should be passed into law so that no succeeding governor could unilaterally alter it and stressed that everything must be done in the interest of the people.
He said as a predominantly riverine state, the state government should be leading the country in anything maritime, whether in communication, technology, science and other areas.
Jonathan further noted that greater attention should be focused on the transition to Information Communication Technology, ICT, as ICT education is gradually phasing out other disciplines, just as he also emphasised the need for teaching of international languages and development of one common language for the state.
His words: “When I was the Vice President I was discussing with one of my Technical Assistant from Anambra State about the crisis in the North and said we must frame how we will tackle it. Some group of young boys appears not to have future and we cannot allow the system to remain like that so that we don’t have crisis tomorrow.
“We went around the North, discussed with the clerics who teach the boys under trees and makeshift buildings, we also discussed with the emirs and so on. We identified a group of boys and they are Muslims, and most Muslims when you understand the Koran is like you are more than a professor of law and through the Almajiri programme, they understand the Koran and you cannot underrate them.
“Some of them can even memorize the Koran as voluminous as the Koran is, and for someone to memorize the Koran and you say that person is not educated, you are not telling the truth.
“They (Almajiris) felt that they were educated but the society still reject them that even their local government council cannot employ them even as messengers because they don’t have any element of Western education attached to the Koranic education.
“That is why the federal government said we must assist the states, that these young people must be encouraged to study Islamic education but in addition to the Islamic education we are not going to remove anything from it, they should also take some parts of Western education so that when they finished at that level they can go on to study other things like Engineering, Medicine, etc, because you cannot convince an educated person to do certain things and without education, you cannot manage the security of this country. That was what motivated us to go into Almajiri education.”
Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, also stressed the need for a central language and urged the summit to look at all the missing links and explore avenues for the private sector to partner with government in implementing its vision for education.
Diri also called on international oil companies to provide special scholarships for children from oil-producing communities as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility in addition to the provision of basic social amenities.
He said Bayelsans must be global citizens and open up the state while urging the summit to consider far-flung communities in Ekeremor, Southern Ijaw and Brass local government areas while discussing digitalisation of education.
In his welcome address, the state Commissioner for Education, Gentle Emelah said there was need to move education to the next level adding that the state government has been increasing access to education and building of infrastructure in the past two years.