For three days, Governor Nasir El Rufai literally re-located Kaduna State Government House to the cosy 5th Chuker Polo and Country Club, about 15km east of Kaduna metropolis.
Though a day’s meal at the 5th Chuker can consume the minimum wage, and its average room rates for the three days may sound indecent for a state government that preaches frugality, the business El Rufai had at hand was multi-billion in nature, populist, earnest and somewhat ambitious. On the table was the primary and secondary school incentive that the governor swore to deliver.
And it was with clear from the excitement he exuded when he spoke to journalists after the three-day retreat.
Said the governor: “We have been deliberating on the practicability of our manifesto to our people who voted out the past government and brought us in.
“Every Commissioner here has brought a blue print of what he intends to do, and how he intends to achieve it.
“As you know, we have been able to rake N24 billion through the Single Treasury Account, STA, initiative from so many accounts owned by government which we never knew existed.
“Just I have promised, no primary school pupil will pay a penny as tuition, Parent Teacher Association levy or any sort of levy. That means that parents of these pupils will save N3.7 billion annually that was charged them.
“Let me repeat, any school that asks for any kind of levy should contact us and he will see the kind of disciplinary action that will be taken.
“It is a disgrace that more than half of our primary school pupils sit on bare floor and learn in dilapidated class rooms. That is unacceptable. We have promised to provide furniture to all our primary schools and renovate the schools to create a decent environment for learning. We have already started working on that. The only snag here is that we have to renovate and secure the classes first before bringing in the furniture.
“Also, we are embarking on a free lunch programme for the one million pupils in our primary schools and that will cost N9 billion to cover one million children in one year. The state House of Assembly has already appropriated N1 billion for that. But the free lunch will start from next term. Women were involved in selling food to these pupils will be first considered to partake in the excercise. By this, we are also creating jobs and reducing poverty.
“Today, only N11 Naira is used to feed each boarding school student in this state per meal, which is unacceptable. We have resolved to raise it by 500%. Each student will now be fed on N66 per meal to mean that we shall spend N200 million per term or N600 million per year. That will cover our 273,000 boarding students.
“We are very serious about securing our school lands and the integrity of our school system. We are going to secure and fence all our school lands and we are going to directly send money to the principals and Headmasters of each secondary and primary, but there will be a School Management Board in place.
“The management board will be made up of members of the community who shall ensure the prudent use of the funds. That means that local community leaders will be actively involved in the supervision of these schools and they can reach us directly when there is a problem.
“Again, all our primary school pupils will be given free uniforms. We have estimated that that venture alone will create 5,000 jobs for our local tailors.
“We want to make our public schools models for others to copy. We want to make public schools in Kaduna to attain the standard under which we attended schools in those good old days.
“We want to also make the teaching profession more attractive for competent hands to enter. That is why we are looking into the issues that make teachers want to leave for other jobs immediately they have an opening. We have asked for more people to apply. That is not all. After the reduction of our ministries and the scraping of some government organs, we discover that after we would have redeployed staff to areas of competence, some may have to become teachers.
“All what have been saying must be implemented, because every ministry must have a Performance Desk that will monitor projects and implementation of our programmes. I have appointed an aide whom I have empowered to breath down on everyone’s neck”.