Adamu Adamu, minister of education — who trained as an accountant and also journalist, earning degrees from ABU, Zaria, and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York, US — has come under intense focus recently because of burning issues under his watch. The most notable are the alleged removal of CRK from school curriculum and the deaths of students at the Queen’s College, Lagos. He speaks on the issues in this interview with TheCable
TheCable: We know the issue of the alleged removal of Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) from the curriculum is being laid to rest, but what really happened? Was there a miscommunication?
Adamu: No. There was no miscommunication. Actually, this thing happened exactly last year. They got the report, assumed prepared in 2014, but even that report of 2014 did not cancel any subject. Only that they grouped subjects together. IRK, CRK and then what they called national values and so on. But when I came, I made it clear at the last meeting of National Council of Education; I said social studies must be disarticulated because I believe history is so important. So, it must be studied separately and that was approved by the council. Then I said okay they should be disarticulated… even though that is not the right word. Let’s say complete separation, so that people will see if there are Christians whose children are learning CRK, and if there are Muslims, IRK is there… and they applauded and I said they’re compulsory, they applauded. And I hope we can even make it compulsory up to the end of senior secondary school. It was very unfortunate that when people look at social media or when they hear hearsay, people who could just call me or someone in the ministry of education but they decided to believe it, there is nothing I can do about that.
TheCable: What is your ministry doing to address the frequent closure of universities?
Adamu: You know, the most important cause of school closure used to be the unions. Since I became the minister, I think we see eye to eye with the unions. I think what they wanted was assurance that there are people here who are sincere in what they are doing. The three or four incidents that happened, I think they are local and the ministry was not in a position to have prevented them or to have even anticipated them. But immediately we hear of any problem, we jump into action and bring the situation under control.
TheCable: From what we hear it appears the ministry is overwhelmed with the budgetary requirement to keep the schools going?
Adamu: Certainly. You know that the releases we get are not sufficient. That is why in some of the institutions we find out that there are problems with the lecturers because they don’t receive their salaries on time. Even if they do on time, it is not in full. I think there is a problem, but the budget office and the ministry of finance, I think, are looking into it.
TheCable: Are you considering a situation where there are no fees?
Adamu: You know if it is possible, I will even want a complete take-off of fees so that people will get free education. But the reality is that this will not be possible now. It will take time and I really don’t know when this will be possible. But certainly I want education to be free- absolutely free.
TheCable: Has the ministry investigated the Queen’s College deaths?
Adamu: Yes, it has. The investigation was done by this ministry in conjunction with the ministry of health. And what they discovered… the problem came about because of overstretched facilities and some infections going into the water system of the college.
TheCable: Were there recommendations?
Adamu: The recommendations were to make sure that these things are addressed and eliminated; to clean up the water system and especially the storage facilities. And to ensure hygienic environment, let’s say in the kitchen and in the clinic and so on… so as to ensure that the infection is eliminated.
TheCable: Was there any recommendation on the leadership of the school concerning the things that went bad?
Adamu: There was no recommendation on the leadership. It is left to the ministry to take action on those responsible. But the investigation that was done actually earlier is about the cause of the thing not blame-apportioning. I think the ministry is now going to do that.
TheCable: We understand the principal was transferred to another school…
Adamu: No, it has got nothing to do with this. It was just a general transfer of principals and I think it was in order that the coincidence came… because if she was around she would have probably interfered with the investigation. She was moved simply because all principals were moved.
TheCable: We would like to know if any attempt has been made to investigate her.
Adamu: Investigation is going on now and investigation is also going on an earlier incident when a teacher (Olaseni Osifala) was accused of sexual harassment. We sent a team, and the team went there and came back with a report that virtually ignored the man because they couldn’t even identify the man who made the charge. You know that this is a no case. But later on one of the leading members of the alumni association came here and she told me this is the problem. And those who are involved didn’t want to face the camera because of the embarrassment that will follow admission of something like that. Now, they have three students who are ready even to be interviewed on television. So, I have set up a committee that will be going to the school to investigate anew in the light of the new evidence that is available.
TheCable: Do you regularly audit the accounts of the school?
Adamu: Yes, we do. I think there is quarterly auditing and annual auditing.
TheCable: And nothing untoward has been discovered in the last two or three years?
Adamu: Not to my knowledge.
TheCable: Are you aware of the different fees students are asked to pay by school authorities?
Adamu: Yes, the ministry is aware. It’s a whole schedule. I think depending on which class. JSS 1 and 2, I think they have the same but I can’t remember the exact figure now.
TheCable: What fees were approved by the ministry for unity schools like Queen’s College?
Adamu: I think there is a flat amount of N15,000. If any school is collecting anything outside that from parents, that will be in breach of the directives of the ministry. Immediately we get it, we will investigate it. And if you know any, please tell me.
TheCable: What kind of reports were you getting on Queen’s College every year?
Adamu: I think there are two types of reports- academic one, which is very good and always getting better, and there is the situational analysis – I think one of the reports was showing that there is problem with the infrastructure.
TheCable: Was anything done in this regard?
Adamu: Of course, the ministry has already given them the appropriation and they are to do whatever that is required to do from that money.
TheCable: Do you suspect things were not done right?
Adamu: Even though it has taken many years without repairs… so probably it is not 100 percent certain that the money has been misappropriated but it is not impossible.
TheCable: Will you look into that?
Adamu: Certainly. We are going to look into that, and everything.
TheCable: So Nigerians are assured that what happened at Queen’s College will not happen again?
Adamu: It will never happen. But probably I should add that the ministry and the institutions under the ministry, the overheads that we are getting are just not sufficient for what is required on all the school campuses. So, within that limit I think things will get better.