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Science Education in Kano

ASSALAMU ALAIKUM

DISCLAIMER: {This web site contains information about and regarding among others, present-day Kano State of Nigeria. However, the information here is not necessarily sanctioned by or is not an official information from the Government of Kano State of Nigeria.}

 

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Science Education in Kano

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Science Education in Kano

 

This page written by Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu, Bayero University,Kano, Nigeria. You can contact Prof. Adamu at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,

 

Introduction

This web page analyses the creation of the Kano State Science Secondary Schools as an educational change strategy aimed at the more effective production of scientific and technical manpower. The analysis is guided by the research question whose focus is: What are the factors that led to the establishment of the Science Schools? What objectives were they meant to serve? What are their most fundamental characteristics?

 

The analysis is divided into four sections. Section I analyses the social and economic background of Kano State as prelude to the origin of the Science Secondary Schools Project. Section II analyses the structure and constitution of the Science and Technical Schools Board, which is the agency responsible for the development and implementation of the Project. Section III analyses the Science Schools in terms of their most fundamental characteristics, paying particular attention to the students, the teachers and the instructional facilities. Section IV concludes and outlines the major findings of the analysis.

Section I: The Genesis of the Science Schools Project

Kano State was created out of the then Northern Region of Nigeria in 1968. The emergence of the new state was not without some problems for the State administration because Kano State lacked indigenous (i.e. of Kano State origin) expert scientific and technical manpower considered essential for social development.

 

This situation arose because schooling, as the main agency of manpower training in Kano, was still to gain wide acceptance among the populace. It was still viewed with suspicion as a forum for conversion to Christianity. And through the decade from 1968 to 1978, two successive Kano State governments had tried all sorts of strategies to ameliorate the situation.

 

This was the situation in Kano when the oil boom era exploded in Nigeria in the early 1970s, and which saw the initiation of many developmental projects all over Nigeria aimed at bringing about rapid social transformation. As a result, the Kano State government launched a very ambitious developmental programme in 1971.

 

The strongest feature of this plan was its attention to agriculture and industrial development. As the introduction to the Plan stated,

 

“It is a farmers plan; and this is as it should be considering the fact that agriculture is the backbone of Kano State economy in spite of its being bogged down by land and water scarcity and adverse climate. But, while agriculture is given due priority, it is realized that Industry is the hope for the future considering the density of population and the natural limitation of horizontal expansion in agriculture. This is more when account is taken of Kano’s high industrial potentialities and Commercial importance. Industry is therefore given equal priority with agriculture in the belief that only balanced growth could serve our desired economic and social objectives. Basic and social infrastructure are also adequately catered for because they are pre-requisites for the development of other sectors.” (Kano State 1971 p.4)

 

But agriculture and industry were not only areas of social development which received attention. Other basic social infrastructures such as transport, telecommunication, electricity generation and distribution and health development, which all require heavy investment, received the appropriate commitment from the Kano State government in the Plan.

 

These commitments manifested themselves in the establishment of many government parastatal agencies charged with implementing the Development Plan, as well as with continuously carrying out activities that will bring about rapid social progress in Kano State. These included the creation of Health Services Management Board, Urban Development Board, Rural Electrification Board, Water Resources Engineering and Construction Agency, and the Hadejia-Jama’are River Basin Development Authority, which, between them covered the vital social concerns of food, health, environment and general social welfare. These agencies were all in addition to existing various Ministries (such as Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Works and Housing).

 

The tasks of co-ordinating and seeing to the implementation of the various developmental projects in Kano were given to the Ministry of Economic Planning. As stated in the Plan,

 

“The role of the Ministry of Economic Planning becomes more crucial at the implementation stage. Its role will be that of co-ordinating and follow up. A close Follow-Up of the Plan Implementation will not only ensure that the priorities are not distorted by one reason or another, but will also allow us to discover bottlenecks of any type in due time, and to introduce the necessary corrections when required. It is therefore most essential that the ministry of economic planning be closely associated with the implementation of each project.” (Kano State 1971 p 101, including emphasis)

 

The only major obstacle to these ambitious plans - or, as the Plan identifies, “bottlenecks” - was the expert manpower in science and technological fields. While with a vibrant Nigerian economy the Kano State civil service could afford facilities where the required manpower was recruited from overseas, the government gradually realized such manpower could not be relied on to remain for a long period.

 

To confound the situation, local substitutes (i.e. those from Kano State) that can be relied to stay on a permanent basis were not available in the quantity or in the disciplines required. This is reflected in the overall manpower situation in Kano in the period in Table 5.1, which reveals a shortage of indigenous manpower in all fields of social and economic development at the creation of Kano State.

 

Table 1:  Kano State Manpower Strength In Science And Technological Disciplines, 1968-71

 

 

1968/69

1969/70

1970/71

Occupation

KI

ON

NN

TOT

KI

ON

NN

TOT

KI

ON

NN

TOT

Doctors

3

--

22

25

3

--

28

31

5

1

29

35

Pharmacists

5

6

--

11

5

6

--

11

7

8

--

15

Architects

-

1

3

4

-

1

3

4

-

1

8

9

Surveyors

1

-

2

3

-

-

1

1

-

-

3

3

Engineers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Civil

1

-

5

6

1

8

-

9

-

2

13

15

- Water

-

-

4

4

-

-

2

2

-

2

10

12

- Electrical/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mechanical

-

-

4

4

-

1

4

5

-

2

5

7

- Irrigation

-

-

1

1

-

-

1

1

-

-

6

6

- Agri

-

1

-

1

-

1

-

1

-

1

-

1

Agriculture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vet Offs

-

-

2

2

-

-

3

3

2

1

4

7

Animal Husb

1

-

-

1

3

-

-

3

3

1

-

4

Agric Offs

1

1

3

5

5

2

2

9

8

2

3

13

Pest Control

-

3

1

4

1

3

1

5

1

3

1

5

Total

12

12

47

71

18

22

45

85

26

24

82

32

 

KI = Kano Indigenes

ON = Other Nigerians

NN = Non Nigerians

TOT = Total

Source: Kano State 1970.

 

The gravity of the Kano State manpower strength reflected in Table 5.1 is emphasized when it is considered the total estimated population of Kano State at the time was over 6 million, indicating, for instance, in the case of doctors, the patient-doctor rate was far from adequate for the population of Kano State. Further, it is significant to note in every manpower discipline, there are more expatriates than Nigerians. And even then, the number of Kano State indigenes was not much more than ‘other’ Nigerians.

 

What was politically disturbing to the policy makers was the awareness of the vulnerability of the various development projects in Kano should all the expatriates and other Nigerians decide to withdraw their services for whatever reason - as indeed did happened during the Nigerian Civil War (1966-1970).

 

This situation was complemented by the general feeling among government officials in Kano that schooling was not functioning in a way which identifies with social and economic development. As a government document stated in retrospect,

 

“The present acute shortage of manpower in Kano State results largely from the lack of the right kind of educational facilities. In more of our secondary schools, the available science teaching facilities, laboratories, equipments, materials compared against actual school requirements are far too inadequate. In almost all secondary schools there is a general shortage of qualified science teachers. The students going into secondary schools do not appear to appreciate the career prospects of personnel with the needed science qualifications.” (Kano State 1979b p.138).

 

This trend has disturbing effects on the overall economy of the Kano State government, not only in terms of contribution towards implementation of social projects, but also in its effects on the general welfare of the society where highly trained scientific and technical manpower is needed for social advancement. These thoughts were further reflected again by the Kano State government where it observed,

 

“Although Secondary Education in the state has expanded very considerably over the last few years, the number of students graduating in Science and technical subjects remains a very small fraction. Our schools and universities are still dominated by the study of liberal arts. In Kano State for example in 1975/76 WASC, only 12% of our candidates took Science subjects...In 1977...it was noted that although the first indigene of Kano State in the field of medicine graduated over 20 years ago, yet the State cannot boast of more than 10 medical doctors who are indigenes of Kano State.” (Kano State 1979b p. 43 and 139).

 

It was under these circumstances that a new Military government came to power in Nigeria in 1975. One of the first acts of the newly appointed governor of Kano State was the reorganization of the Kano State Civil Service. But because of the importance of the Ministry of Economic Planning in the implementation of the various projects in the State, its functions were further widened to include a ministerial committee called the Manpower Development Committee.

 

The Committee was made up 18 members, each representing a Ministry or department in the Kano State civil service. These included the State’s Chief Agricultural Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Works and Chief Education Officer, as well as the Secretary of the Kano State Scholarships Board, then Alhaji Ado Gwaram who was later to play a very central role in the establishment of the Science Secondary Schools in Kano. The Commissioner for Economic Planning, then Dr Ibrahim Ayagi was the Chairman of the Committee. The functions of the Committee included

 

a)     assessing from time to time the manpower requirements of the State government, State Corporations, Companies, Boards or Agencies, and the Local Government Authorities, and the manpower implication of their development programmes and projects,

b)     advising the State Government generally on the policies and procedures to meet the manpower requirements, and more especially, to advise the concerned Ministries, the Public Service Commission, the State Scholarships Board (and any other institution concerned with education and training programmes) on the steps to be taken to augment the supply of relevant manpower skills and

c)      sponsoring and guiding surveys of available manpower stock and future manpower needs both in public and private sectors; stock and future manpower needs both in public and private sectors (undated mimeograph, Kano State Ministry of Economic Development 1976).

 

In the few months immediately after its establishment, the Committee concentrated on trying to determine the best ways the various development projects started could be provided with proper technical guidance. The powers to do so were already mandated to the main Ministry of Economic Planning in the development Plan which stated,

 

“The Ministry for Economic Planning would expect progress reports on the implementation of the projects on quarterly basis. The reports should not merely indicate amounts spent on a particular project at a specified time, but should describe in details the actual progress made towards implementing the project.” (Kano State 1971 p. 102)

 

But during the meetings of the Committee in late 1975, it eventually emerged that in every project, there was a conspicuous lack of scientific and technical manpower, especially from Kano State as reflected in Table 5.1, and the agenda of the Committee began to focus on the most viable strategy for producing more technical manpower from Kano on a long term basis to enable implementation of the projects initiated, as well as provide expert leadership to the maintenance of these projects in the future. And as Dr Ibrahim Ayagi, the Chairman of the Committee recalled,

 

“A member of the Committee just suggested that one of the best ways of dealing with this kind of situation potentially is to set up a Science Secondary School which will be a specialist school with nothing concentration in science training...so that instead of dissipating all resources in all the secondary schools, we would have a concentration of science students. We wanted Kano State to concentrate on the production of science students who would now go to the universities and various institutes of technology and do engineering, medicine, do all kinds of science related subjects which we were lacking at that time. We had to go abroad and recruit the people needed. We therefore saw the need for constant and regular supply of science related disciplined students. So therefore we said let us look at this idea of Science Secondary Schools.” (CTV 27/2/1986, and Interview 7/1/1987; see Appendix 5 for further information on the CTV interviews)

 

But the precise way in which this strategy emerged was quite spontaneous rather than structured. As recalled by Alhaji Ado Gwaram, a member of the Committee

 

“Problems were identified. There was this problem of manpower shortage, problem of science based subjects, and that something had to be done about it. So ideas were floating about. We used the principle of radiation effect in education. That is from the nucleus of whatever you are doing, you can assort a group of people, say ten of them. They graduate as best as they can graduate, and then you spread them around. Now the ten will become 40, 80, 120 and anything else. So there was this idea of saying you select the best students you can, put them in one place and train them and you put a few in Medicine, a few in Agriculture, few in Vet and allied fields. And as you go along the thing is becoming bigger and bigger and over a period of 30-50 years you are likely to make a very serious impact.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

Using the argument forwarded by this principle, the Committee arrived at the tentative conclusion that extensive and specialist schooling which has to be different structurally from the existing conventional schooling in Kano State was the most viable solution, although the Committee was not exactly sure of what form it will eventually take.

 

But it was clear to the Committee the then existing system of schooling in Kano State was not adequate in the production of the quantity, at least, if not quality of the scientific and technical manpower required for social advancement. As Dr Ayagi further recalled,

 

“We thought: what were we aiming at? We wanted Kano State to concentrate on the production of science students who would now go to the universities and various institutes of technology and do engineering, medicine, do all kinds of science related subjects which we were lacking at that time. We had to go abroad and recruit the people needed. We therefore saw the need for constant and regular supply of science related disciplined students. So therefore we said let us look at this idea of Science Secondary Schools.” (Interview 7/1/1987)

 

These observations were further rationalized by Gwaram who also recalled that as a whole, the Committee decided

 

“the best thing will be to do something about science in secondary schools. And obviously you cannot do the best in every place in all the schools we had at that time. The issue is doing something at a particular central point.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

The suggestion of the Science Secondary Schools as that particular central point which will eventually emerge as strategies for long term manpower development in Kano could only have been possible if there was some basis, no matter how slim, in believing such strategy would yield the desired outcomes, or that Kano State - an educationally disadvantaged State in Nigeria - could handle such organizational concept. Certainly, the evidence strongly indicates the Science Schools project was an original idea, and not borrowed from somewhere else; its spontaneous emergence during the meeting of the Manpower Development Committee alone attests to this.

 

But at that time in Kano, there was a more organizational basis for building up on the Science Schools. In 1969, a regional primary science (and other subjects) teacher training project was established at the Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria with the assistance of UNESCO/UNICEF. This was the Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP).

 

The PEIP (science) was started in 1970 following the recommendations of the Nigerian Educational Research Council which suggested the production of science materials using the “process approach” originally proposed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and recurrent as a basic theme of the science curricular reform. The materials were written and tested in project schools in many parts of Northern Nigeria from 1971-1974 (Brown and Reed 1982).

 

The science component of the PEIP aimed at developing scientific thinking among primary school children using the inquiry approach of teaching, as advocated by the African Primary Science Programme, which was launched in Kano in 1965 (Lockard 1967); but using different strategies. As Young (1973) commenting on the PEIP stressed,

 

In their structured nature, the lessons differ considerably from the units developed for the African Primary Science Programme (APSP). The APSP units provide ideas for the teachers, but leave them free to interpret these ideas as they please. Most teachers here are unwilling or unable to make such interpretation. We feel therefore that such detailed guidance is essential if the teacher is to make any progress in the handling of a subject like this.” (Young 1973 p.19; see also Kolawole (1978), and Oyebanji (1975).

 

One of the main features of the PEIP in Kano was the production of mobile science teacher trainers who supervised the project in various primary schools around Kano on motorcycles. By 1976, many such mobile teacher trainers were in operation in over 50 trial schools in Kano which, because of their emphasis on teaching science were seen as science primary schools by the Kano State government.

 

The overall responsibility for the PEIP in Kano was given to the In-Service Training Centre, later the Kano Educational Resource Centre. The Director of the In-service Centre at the time of the PEIP was Alhaji Ado Gwaram who was later made the Secretary of the Kano State Scholarship Board - and subsequently a member of the Manpower Development Committee in 1975. As he recalled,

 

“When we were thinking of doing this (suggesting the creation of Science Secondary Schools at the Committee), we said something has to be done in the area of science right from the primary up to secondary and then of course on to the universities. And because of the commitment of the Kano State government in allowing the Ministry of Education and the In-service Centre to experiment on this science project (PEIP), we made very very serious inroads in Primary Science. Between 1972 and 1975, there is no state in the North that was doing better than Kano in the area of primary science. And through the PEIP, between 1971 to about 1975/76 we were able to establish very good science programmes in about 50 primary schools in Kano State. And I made sure that they were staffed with Grade II teachers who could handle science, they had facilities, good supervision, mobile teachers - graduates from British Universities (members of the Voluntary Services Overseas) who go on motorbikes to supervise them. We had that kind of stage to begin from.” (Interview 22/2/87)

 

Thus the existence of this, though little known, project has provided a stimulus for considering the possibility of expanding its strategic features as basis for the production of future scientific manpower in Kano State, and interestingly enough for the change analyst, has provided an answer to the issue of carrying out trials for the new project. As Gwaram further recalled,

 

“So then the thing came from the Ministry of Economic Planning saying we should do something on the base of what we (in Education) were doing on primary science. The strategy was the graduands of of these science primary schools have to be gotten some place to continue with science. So you select from the very good science primary schools already established under the UNESCO/UNICEF project. You select them, put them in special science secondary schools where they continue.” (Interview 22/2/87)

 

But I must state here any possible links between the PEIP and the suggestions by the Manpower Development Committee to start a Science Secondary Schools Project was made only by Gwaram whose unique position made it possible for him to make such links. The links were not made by the Manpower Development Committee. Eventually, however the PEIP stuttered and fizzled out until it finally disappeared. As Bray explained,

 

“The PEIP programme could and should have been a vehicle for considerable improvement. Unfortunately, limits were imposed on its impact by the same political and manpower constraints that caused problems elsewhere.” (Bray 1981 p.110).

 

But it was also likely the demise of PEIP was accelerated by the appearance the Universal Primary Education (UPE) project in 1976 which, being a federal concern, overshadowed and finally stifled the more regional, but potentially powerful PEIP.

 

But the decision to initiate a system of schooling in Kano separate from the main conventional process with a specific focus was made possible by non-conservative membership of the Manpower Development Committee who were aware for schooling to be more productive, it has to be given a different emphasis from the conventional system.

 

But although the Manpower Development Committee has arrived at the conclusion that specialist training facilities were needed in Kano to produce the quantity and quality of scientific manpower needed, the Ministry of Economic Planning was not responsible for education or training. That was the responsibility of the Kano State Ministry of Education.

 

In the next step the Ministry of Economic Planning sent a memoranda to the Ministry of Education in early 1976 stating the observations and recommendations of the Manpower Development Committee concerning scientific manpower training and production in Kano, through as it proposed, the establishment of Science Secondary Schools with the detailed plans for such project. The memoranda was discussed at the professional level by the Ministry of Education, and according to Ayagi,

 

“they came back and said they were not interested. In fact they were kind of saying well this is not your business: this is our business and we know what we are doing. So in fact the idea almost died at that time.” (CTV 27/2/1986; also Interview 7/1/1987).

 

And because the Ministry of Education has indicated non-willingness to consider the proposals establishing the Science Schools, and since there was no other mechanism for crystallizing the idea, that, effectively would have been the end of the project in Kano.

 

It was at this point other, more arcane and little understood facets of educational innovations not often considered or explained by theoretical models of educational reform, began to have their influence on the development of the Science Schools, providing further insights into the mechanism of policy evolution in Nigeria.

 

This was because in April 1976, the Commissioner for Education in Kano resigned. The Military Governor of the State then appointed the Commissioner for the Ministry of Economic Planning, Dr Ibrahim Ayagi who was also the Chairman of the Manpower Planning Committee as the new, albeit acting, Commissioner for Education. As Dr Ayagi recalled,

 

“So from April/May 1976 I was holding these two responsibilities, and of course the initial memo that I sent to the Ministry of Education (about the Science Secondary Schools) which was almost dead, was resuscitated at that time for me. But I discovered at that time there was a lot of opposition, both in the Ministry (of Education) and in the Executive Council because people were arguing that that kind of idea was not for us here. Why do you want to set up a special secondary school to cater for special students? They said it was an elitist kind of thing. What we needed to do, they said, was was actually to improve science in all the secondary schools. So that instead of having one or two science secondary schools, you will have all of them to improve.” (CTV 21/2/1986)

 

But Dr Ayagi and others in the Executive Council who supported the idea of the Science Secondary Schools Project did not accept the rationale of this argument because as he further explained,

 

“The argument of course was weak. I said things were extremely limited, the science teachers that you can find now are of course not available. They are not easy to get. It would be impossible for us to man all the secondary schools, provide excellent equipment in science, excellent teachers, and upgrade all of them. But we have seen now that education, perhaps, has to be elitist in nature because we cannot provide everybody. We don’t have the resources. And therefore we have to establish specialist schools to concentrate on what you need to develop immediately.” (CTV 21/2/1986)

 

But now having total executive control over the Ministry of Education, it became possible for Dr Ayagi to present his proposals for the establishment of the Science Secondary Schools at the Kano State Executive Council Meeting. Before presenting the idea, however, he wrote to the major universities in Nigeria with the proposal for their assessment and comments. And as he recalled,

 

“We had to go to Universities, get professors to examine it and tell us what they thought about the system. They were in favour of it. That was part of the arming we had to do to get the government and to get it accepted, because with the civil service bureaucracy, the civil servants will fight anything outside it.” (CTV 21/2/1986)

 

And even though the proposal was now firmly a Ministry of Education concern, this remained the only time an attempt to gain an academic assessment of the project was attempted. And when all the necessary, and favourable comments were received, the proposal was placed on the agenda of the Kano State Executive Council in late 1976. But it was not easy to get it accepted because of strong, and anticipated oppositions from the Executive Council generally and the Ministry of Education in particular. This was more so because of the nature of the proposal presented concerning the Science Secondary Schools.

 

There were four main points of the proposal. First a new body called the Science Secondary Schools Management Board should be created to implement the project, and it should be totally independent of the Ministry of Education in all aspects of its operations. As Dr Ayagi explained,

 

“In order to avoid the problems of the Ministry of Education, the government bureaucracy, and to give the scheme the best chance of success, we said the best way is to take it out of the system. Not to operate it within the Ministry of Education, but to create a parastatal that would be independent of the civil service and the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education. So that it would be on its own. It would have its own rules and regulations, about employment, about conditions of service, completely apart from the normal civil service or the Ministry of Education. We realized we couldn’t get the best teachers, the best equipment under those conditions of the Ministry of Education. We therefore got it through with the normal conditions we expected to make it a success.” (Interview 7/1/1987)

 

However, financial control of the Board will be under the Commissioner for Education (who at that time was Dr Ayagi), who has to approve its estimates before submitting to the Ministry of Finance. To provide a legal backing to this Board, a Science Secondary Schools Management Board Edict was promulgated with effect from 1 January 1977.

 

Secondly, the Ministry of Education should provide three secondary schools which will be converted into Science Schools. Two of these schools will be for boys and one for girls. All the schools should have Boarding facilities. This was to provide the students with full opportunities of concentrating on academic work under structured supervision. The Ministry of Education should also, in future, release any school the Science Board may wish to take over for the purposes of conversion into a Science School as part of their expansion. This was easier and more cost-effective than building completely new Science Schools.

 

Thirdly, the Science School students will be drawn from academically excellent students selected from Form II cohort of all secondary schools in Kano. This will be after a selection examination. This would mean the Science Schools, starting with Form III, will be Senior Secondary Schools under the newly envisaged National Policy on Education (although only implemented in 1982) which splits secondary education in two tiers of junior and senior of three years duration. At the end of the Senior year, the students will take the General Certificate of Education ordinary level examinations.

 

In the initial stage, each of the Science Schools was expected to have 720 students when fully operational at the rate of 240 students per year. The proposal further stipulated the teacher-student ratio should be 1 teacher per 20 students (instead of 1 teacher per 35 students obtained in conventional schools). And subsequently, each of the Science Schools should have eight laboratories (instead of the three for the main science subjects available in conventional secondary schools), two each for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, and in the boys school Technical Drawing Studio and a Geography Room.

 

Finally, each student must offer the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, English, Geography, Hausa Language or Islamic Religious Knowledge, and for girls, Food and Nutrition. Boys will not offer Food and Nutrition, but an elective of one from Technical Drawing, Further Mathematics, or Agricultural Science.

 

The Kano State Executive Council accepted this proposal with all its attendant conditions, but persistent opposition was quite strong, mainly from the Ministry of Education, which saw its power being eroded by the Science Board over which it had no immediate control. The First Executive Secretary of the Science Board (1976-1978), Alhaji Ado Gwaram, analysed the nature of these oppositions,

 

“All the opposition we had in the Ministry of Education at that time - and there were very very strong oppositions - was surprisingly from people who should not oppose the idea of Science Secondary Schools at all. Their oppositions, I am sure, had nothing to do with science being anti-Islamic. I think the opposition was primarily for two reasons. One was the fact that they think we were trying to hijack some bright students from their schools and putting them in these prestigious schools - schools that one of us called elitist because he said we were only going to put the sons of who and who in the schools. That is from a fathers’ point of view. From the intellectual point of view, it was only students who scored IQs this much you are putting in the schools, therefore from this level it is elitist, and they will have none of this. This, when I know very well they themselves represent elitism in this country! So the opposition was primary because of the fear of the unknown, coupled with the feeling that, and I don’t like to say this, that I (Ado Gwaram) was personally associated with the project.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

And to confound the situation, another dimension of oppositions emerged. This was because views started to emerge that the very concept of the Science Schools was an attempt to de-emphasize the Islamic nature of Kano State. As D S Ibrahim, the second Executive Secretary of the Science Board recalls,

 

“Part of our problem was that when it was started, there were really some moves by some people who felt very strongly against the sciences; rightly or wrongly, we don’t know. There were very very powerful religious groups who felt that having a school called Science School is becoming un-Islamic. That was at the early stages of the Science Schools. Their influence was through their positions in the society. Some of them are even placed in our Ministry of Education. Some of them are Commissioners elsewhere who have this myopic attitude. But we were really lucky to have Members of the Board who really tried as much as possible to liquidate this anti-Islamic feeling about science.” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

And the opposition to the project became such that Ayagi and Gwaram decided to hold a meeting in December 1977 to sell the project to the opposition. Gwaram further recalls,

 

“All the Principals of the schools in Kano were called to that meeting. All the top brass of the Ministry of Education were also called. They were asking questions. I was replying. Not many people will recall the meeting, but I still recall it because it was a meeting which if you were to mention names, some of us (there) will feel ashamed of themselves, because they were really opposing. They made it personal, this terrible man Ado Gwaram is associated with this thing. If somebody else was the Secretary (of the Science Board), they would have allowed it to pass. I said look, no matter the way you churn this thing over, Kano is being served. And Kano is being served in Kano. And Kano is not only served in Kano but the over-riding future interest of Kano is being safeguarded by what we are doing. And if you don’t understand now, for goodness sake just come along, and time will come when you will understand.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

However, by then the Military Governor of Kano State had already accepted the proposals for the establishment of the Schools. Indeed the schools had already started functioning. As the governor announced in April 1977 during a policy broadcast to Kano State,

 

“Two existing secondary schools have already been converted to schools of science. These schools will emphasize science in their curriculum so as to enable us compete favourably in gaining university places in the field of science in which were very deficient” (Kano State 1977b p.4; See Appendix 5 for the education component of the policy statement)

 

The establishment of the Science Schools marked the beginning of a vendetta between the newly established Science Board and the Ministry of Education, even though under the original blue-print of the idea, the Board was answerable to the Governor of Kano State through the Commissioner for Education. The oppositions to the Science Board were carried further with an attempt to make the Military Governor scrap the Science Board. As recounted by Gwaram,

 

“After we had been in operation for about one and half years, the Kano State government decided to rationalize government departments and a Committee was set up. This was asked to examine government ministries, departments and parastatals and rationalize them so that where identical services are provided organizations will be merged together, to save costs in terms of manpower and finance. So this rationalization committee of course requested for list of parastatals, and the list was given to them including a new arrival called the Science Board. And they heard of the so called in-fighting in the Ministry of Education. Principals don’t like the Science Board, very many people don’t like the Science Board. And the fact was the Science Board was not known, the law was not established - because all this time we were working exactly from the Council Memoranda submitted by Ayagi. So it became an easy target to scrap. Too many people were opposed to it, you see. It was providing science programme and everybody believed any secondary school can provide a science programme, therefore one of the things you can rationalize is definitely this Science Board.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

That this did not happen was partly due to the influence of the then Commissioner for Education, Dr Aminu Dorayi - the only member of the Kano State Executive Council at the time with science education background (Chemistry Education) - who immediately succeeded Ayagi. As Gwaram further recalled,

 

“Aminu Dorayi was a scientist. He supported the idea of the science schools right from the word go. And I am telling you support was crucial at that time. So anybody who was supporting us was like a convert to Islam! So the fact that Dorayi was supportive was itself a very helpful thing to have. One, he was a science man, two, he was Commissioner (of Trade and Industries then, but immediately succeeded Ayagi in Education). So in the Council Meeting Ayagi had the support of Dorayi, because if Dorayi did not like the idea, Ayagi will have tougher time to get it through the council.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

And with his new post as the Commissioner for Education, Dorayi continued supporting the idea of the project long after Ayagi has even left the Kano State civil service. The stage was then prepared for the operation of the Science Schools.

Section II: The Science Schools Board

 The establishment and functions of the Board

Based on the recommendations of the Kano State Executive Council, the Science Secondary Schools Management Board was established in March 1977 by the Kano State government. The first appointment made was that of the Executive Secretary who, as I indicated earlier, was Gwaram and personally recommended for the post by Ayagi, who recalled the initial start as being quite difficult,

 

“There was no office, there was nothing! And there was no place to go, and bang, we started! And what happened was, in our first month we were operating from the Conference Room of the Ministry of Education. I had no office. I went to Ayagi and told him we needed money to get started. A cheque was prepared and issued to me in my name - Ado Gwaram - for something no one could understand, for something called Science Secondary Schools Board. Nobody knew what the Science Secondary Schools Board was up to. Very few people knew about it - the Council and myself. That had to be done that way because the moment you leave things within the civil service, they end up there. So I opened the account in my name. It was government money, but I opened the account in my name.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

This was naturally without some form of resistance from the Ministry of Finance which had to approve the release of the funds. But because of the fellowship network that existed within the establishment - the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Isa Dutse, who had to finally approve the release of the funds was a personal friend to Gwaram - the new Executive Secretary was able to get the funds released. Eventually various administrative staff were either recruited or mostly enticed from other places by the Executive Secretary.

 

A Science Secondary Schools Management Board Edict by the Government was published and made retroactive from January 1977, although the schools were expected to start off in September 1977. The Edict formally listed the objectives and working mechanism of the Science Board as follows:

 

a)     To provide Science Education at Secondary level

b)     to set up and manage special Science Schools where the Science Education is to be provided

c)      to ensure that course of instruction given in the Science Secondary Schools conform to the broad policy of Secondary education and satisfy the heads of other institutions where the students are likely to go after the completion of their studies

d)     to appoint, promote, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over its staff

e)     to determine and approve schemes of service for all categories of staff and their emoluments

f)        subject to the approval of the Governor, to preserve and implement conditions of service for all categories of the staff

g)     to acquire any equipment, materials, furniture and other properties required for the purpose of the Board

h)      to maintain premises forming part, or used in, connection with the Board

i)        to prepare and submit to the Commissioner for Education an annual report on the administration and activities of the Board, and

j)        to carry on all such activities and do all such things as are necessary for the good government, control and administration of the Board and the management of the assets of the Board” (Kano State 1977a p.4)

 

Once the Science Board was established as an administrative organization, its objectives became much more clearly formed. According to an internal communication dated 5th April 1984 which gives the details of the organizational structure of the Science Board (see Appendix 5 for a copy), the Board is vested with

 

“the responsibility for providing science education at secondary level, with the following hopes and aspirations in mind:

 

1.      that more Secondary School leavers with Science background will eventually be produced

2.      that the majority of those so produced will proceed to higher institutions of learning

3.      that in the long run, a crop of high level manpower (doctors and engineers) will be available

4.      that the expected insignificant few that might not necessarily be doctors and engineers might find themselves in the Polytechnics for HND/OND courses in:

 

i.                    Engineering (civil and mechanical)

ii.                  Agro-allied, food technology, lab technology fields, Health and Nursing care Health and Nursing care.”

 

It is significant to note the nature of expectations placed on the Science Schools by the government, which should provide a source of reference when discussing the extent to which the Science Schools attain their objectives.

 

Membership of the Board, 1977-1979

Because of the powerful sentiments the Science Schools project generated in Kano, the choice of membership was at the discretion of the Kano State government and those directly in charge of the project. It was absolutely necessary to survival of the project to pick only those who clearly sympathized with the rationale of the project both in its initial conception and its subsequent existence. In addition, it was decided some of them should also have scientific background, although it was never made clear (both from the documents and my interviews with the key informants) how such background is expected to contribute to the Science Schools.

 

Because Ayagi was the Commissioner for Education then, and in keeping with the tactic of selecting only those sympathetic to the project, appointment to the Membership was at his own recommendation. He did not, however, forsee that when he eventually leaves the post of the Commissioner for Education, not all his successors will share the same degree of enthusiasm towards the Science Schools. Certainly, under the set of circumstances the Science Schools project emerged, placing the schools under the final control of the Ministry of Education (through the Commissioner for Education) has high element of risk to the future survival of the project.

 

Also in the directives for the membership, there were no representations from the very large Industrial sector of Kano State, any of the higher institutions of learning in the State, or, interestingly enough, the Manpower Development Committee of the Ministry of Economic Development which was the main force behind establishment of the project. These representations should help co-ordinate the output of the Science Schools with the Kano State economy, to ensure the outcomes of the project are consistent with the developmental aspirations of Kano State government.

 

An analysis of the first membership of the Science Schools Board for 1977-1979 shows the distribution and background of the members. The full membership was as follows:

 

1.      Dr Sadiq Wali, Chairman (Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital)

2.      Dr A T Abdullahi, Member (Principal, Kano Polytechnic)

3.      Alhaji Ali Mukhtar, Member (Chief Pharmacist, Murtala Muhammad Hospital, Kano)

4.      Alhaji Imam Wali, Member (Director of Education, Ministry of Education, Kano)

5.      Alhaji Adamu Ilyasu, Member (Principal, Government Secondary School, Birnin Kudu

6.      Alhaji Dahiru Ibrahim, Member (General Manager, Nigerian Television Authority, Kano)

7.      Alhaji Ado Gwaram, Executive Secretary

 

Thus in the first Membership of the Science Board, three members had scientific training. First was the Chairman, Dr Sadiq Wali who was at the time a lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (and, importantly, became the Kano State Commissioner for Health in 1979). Then Dr A T Abdullahi, a Mechanical Engineer who was the Principal of Kano Polytechnic (who also became a Commissioner for Works and Housing in 1979, and Commissioner for Education in 1983), while Alhaji Ali Mukhtar was at that time the Chief Pharmacist of the Murtala Muhammad Hospital in Kano City. Alhaji Imam Wali, the then Director of Education, later became the Commissioner for Education in 1984.

 

The rapid mobility of this initial membership up the ranks of the Kano State civil service was the major factor that kept the flame of the Science Schools project going, because as Ayagi recalled,

 

“The first Chairman was Dr Sadiq Wali, a science person, Dr Abdullahi who was a Commissioner later was also a member, and that had good repercussions later, because during the political days (1979-1983) the idea would have been killed again, if not for the fact that we had these people who had become Commissioners in the State.” (CTV 22/2/1986)

 

Another, very significant feature of the Membership of the Science Board at this time was its fellowship linkage. As Gwaram explained,

 

“It was a collection of committed Kano indigenes, working as a team because we all knew ourselves and everybody knew who was on the Board of Members. There was no question of suspicion. For example the Ministry of Education representative was Alhaji Imam Wali (who was the then Director of Education). He knew me right from infancy. And the Chairman, Dr Sadiq Wali was not only a personal friend, but also someone who knew what I could do, and he knew I had confidence in him, absolutely that much.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

Thus negotiating from their status as powerful members of the Kano State civil service, as well as being close friends, the first Members of the Science Secondary Schools Management Board were finally in a position to start off the Science Secondary Schools Project in September 1977.

 

Autonomy and control

From the way the Science Board eventually evolved, an uneasy relationship was established between the Science Board and the Ministry of Education. The Board had autonomy in virtually all aspects of its activities except the most crucial - financing. Although it was deemed an independent parastatal of Kano State government, subsequently after its establishment the Board had to request for funds from the Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Education, and this, naturally, was not without consequences.

 

For instance, on 17th November 1978, the Board sent to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education for the attention of the Ministry of Finance, its advanced proposals Recurrent Estimates for 1979/80 in accordance with the stipulation of its charter. The Board insisted

 

“the estimates have been worked out to the barest minimum needs of the Science Secondary Schools Management Board, bearing in mind the financial position of the State Government. The Board’s request of N1,428,810 was slashed down to N750,000!” (Kano State 1979b p. 150)

 

And as the student numbers in the science schools increased,

along with the number of teachers, demands for facilities to cater for them also increased - putting financial strains on the already existing resources.

 

But the subsequent funding of the Science Board, despite increase in the student population over the years did not increase; if anything, it significantly decreased, as seen in Table 5.2 which shows the financial expenditure to the Science Schools by the Board based on the overall funds the Board received from the Kano State government.

 

Table 2: Science Board Expenditure on the Science Schools, 1977-1986

 

Year

Amount (N)

1977

400,000

1978

370,860

1979

355,554

1980

398,613

1981

509,258

1982

637,590

1983

379,350

1984

509,850

1985

679,488

1986

626,265

 

(Source: Kano State 1979b, 1986b and the Science Board 1987)

 

As the allocations show, over the years since the establishment of the Science Board, it has not been possible to maintain fixed subvention for the Science Schools. However, the sharp down turn of the Nigerian economy, and the depreciating Naira value has made later financial allocations less substantial in real terms, than at the initial stage of the project. This has consequences in the ways the project is implemented.

 

Membership of the Board, 1979-1983

In February 1982 during the civilian administration in Kano, the structure of the Board was significantly altered when the then Kano State House of Assembly converted the Science Board edict into a Law, creating a Science and Technical Schools Board (Kano State 1982; a full copy of the Law is reproduced in Appendix 5). But the relationship between the Science Board and the Ministry of Education was taken to new heights with this development. The Ministry was asked to transfer all Technical and Vocational Schools under its control to the now Science and Technical Schools Board; but the Ministry of Education was also given the responsibility of carrying out all Capital expenditure projects from the Science Board.

 

But the most interesting development of the Science Board at this stage was there were no Board Members. The first Board membership lasted for three years (from 1977) till 1979 when the Civilian administration took over in Kano. Although the Board membership was dissolved, no new members were appointed by the new civilian administration. The Board, controlled locally by the Executive Secretary, decided to create Committees to enable it to make decisions concerning its administration. The decisions of the Committees were sent to the Commissioner for Education for ratification and approval. As the minutes of the inaugural meeting of a new Board on 23 January 1985 stated,

 

“Committees were set up to tackle various aspects of the Board, to advise and recommend appropriate decisions. In the absence of the Board members, the Hon. Commissioner and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education usually ratify the committees recommendations/decisions.”

 

This turn of events put the Science Schools effectively under the control of the Ministry of Education, although the Director of Education at the time (1984) was Alhaji Imam Wali - a first generation member of the Science Board, and very sympathetic to the project from accounts of key informants, especially Alhaji Ado Gwaram.

 

There were five of these committees, including the Staff Development and Training Committee, Senior Staff Establishment Committee, and the Academic Committee the latter of which is more relevant to understanding the dynamics of the Science Schools project in its academic dimensions.

 

The Academic Committee was responsible for monitoring the performance of institutions under the Board, standardization of textbooks and other teaching equipment. It was also responsible for the selection of candidates into the Science Schools. It is the only committee whose functions are geared towards the provision of any professional services for the Science Schools.

 

These Committees run the affairs of the Board under the control of the Executive Secretary. By then Gwaram had already left the Science Board and another Executive Secretary, D S Ibrahim was appointed. Commenting on the survival of the Board at this time (1979-1984), Ibrahim attributed this to the strength of the composition of the first Board membership. As he explained,

 

“We withstood the test of time. When we started we had people like Dr Sadiq Wali, Dr A T Abdullahi, and Alhaji Imam Wali. All later became commissioners in Kano State. When the PRP (Peoples Redemption Party, the main, but not only, political party in Kano) came, with two young commissioners in the person of Dr Wali who was made the Commissioner for Health, and Dr A T Abdullahi who was made Commissioner for Works and Housing, you see we were in business. We had at least two big or very good Members (of the Board) who would do anything to ensure that the Board, or the nobel idea (Science Schools Project) continues. Now when PRP came there was all sort of oppositions and problems. But these people (Wali and Abdullahi) were able to convince the Governor that this idea should not be dropped for whatever reason.” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

And when Dr Ayagi left as the Commissioner for Education, his immediate successor in 1978, Dr Aminu Dorayi, was also sympathetic to the project. Dorayi’s support has already been outlined by Gwaram earlier. Ibrahim places the situation in a context:

 

“I wouldn’t call the relationship between the Ministry of Education and us very cordial, although it depends on the specific time you were talking about. When Dr Ayagi was the Commissioner for Education (1976-1978) it was fantastic, because he was one of the policy initiators of the Science Board. When he left, came Alhaji Abdulhamid Hassan who was a strong opponent of this Board. He felt, as he felt strongly then, that it was a useless project. He was a personal friend of mine. He was my Commissioner. He called me. He said look I am taking you away from the Science Board. You are just wasting our resources. I am going to give you another job in which I think you will contribute much more to Kano State than just wasting time on the Science Schools!” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

But after Hassan, Dr A T Abdullahi - a former member of the Board - was made a Commissioner for Education in 1983,

 

“...So we were back in business! And by time Dr Abdullahi exited in 1983, we had already made our mark. So you can’t just do anything to the Science Board now! If not for him we would have been scraped. Oh yes, I know for sure that we were up against a herculean task against people who felt that we were just wasting public funds on a useless venture.” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

Thus power struggles, fellowship network interactions and personal interests all emerged as the vital ingredients that ensured the survival of the Science Secondary Schools Project in its infancy. The intellectual validity of the project was never made a focus of attention by either proponents or antagonists of the project. Nor were concerns expressed about the academic emphases of the Science Schools.

 

Membership of the Board, 1984-1986

The various Committees established within the Science Board, in the absence of the full Board Membership, run the affairs of the Board until December 1983 when there was another, Military, change of government in Nigeria (the third since the establishment of the Science Board; and since the proposal for the Science Schools from the Manpower Development Committee in late 1975, five Commissioners of Education had been appointed at various times in Kano to 1984).

 

But it was only a year later, in December 1984, when the new military governor of Kano State appointed new members to the Science Board and control of the science schools returned firmly to the Board. The new Board membership had the following composition:

 

1.      Dr. Yahaya Mohammed, Chairman (Chief Medical Officer, Murtala Muhammad Hospital, Kano)

2.      Engineer Ibrahim K Inuwa, Member (National Truck Manufacturers Company, Kano

3.      Alhaji Umaru Abdulkadir, Member (Pharmacist)

4.      Alhaji Abdullahi Getso, Member (Businessman)

5.      Alhaji Usman S Dare, Member (Retired Headmaster, Gumel)

6.      Alhaji Abdullahi Umar, Member (Centre for the Study of Nigerian Languages, Bayero University, Kano)

7.      CIE TSS/Tech Representative Member (Ministry of Education)

8.      Alhaji Aminu G. Bichi, Executive Secretary

 

By this period membership has ceased to be based on evaluation of a potential members’ sympathy towards the Science Schools. Other, quite vague and little defined criteria for membership became established. Thus this membership, evolving out of a totally different political climate, did not share the same camaraderie as the first, but it is included here to point to the general trend of membership of the Board which was to become a pattern in the future. But significantly, the new Commissioner for Education in Kano (sixth since initiation of the project) after Dr A T Abdullahi in 1984 was Alhaji Imam Wali - a founding Member of the Science Board. Thus the interests of the Science Schools were protected under whatever system of government operated in Kano State for the first ten years of its life through fellowship network system that operated especially among the first generation Board members [1].

 

An interesting development of the Board Membership since inception was the marked absence of women as members. I raised this issue with the policy initiator of the Science Schools Project, Dr Ayagi who admitted he was aware of the situation, and added

 

“...but you know we were concerned with practical problems, not political. I mean considerations about women and so on is political.” (Interview 7/1/1987)

 

No further explanations could be given as the emergent view clearly was women have no significant role to play in dealing with “practical problems” such as science education change strategies. With this attitude, it becomes therefore difficult to present the case for women science education effectively in this context.[2]

 

This membership of the Board (1984-1986) did not remain for long, however. In August 1985, there was yet another military coup in the country (the fourth change of government since initiation of the project in 1975). Some six months later, on 24th January l986, the new military governor of the State dissolved the Science Schools Board.

 

And since the Science Board has various committees as part of its permanent structure it simply reverts to these Committees in the absence of Board Members. The third (and current during this research) Executive Secretary of the Board, Alhaji Aminu Bichi attributed the longevity of the Board in the face of constant changes in leadership in Kano quite simply to luck. As he explained,

 

“I think luckily enough we are the least affected by changes in government. In every government in every where in the world, you cannot dissociate politics and education. New rulers come in with new philosophies and new ideas. Every government has its own ideas and policies on education and they keep changing. I mean if another government had come in and said okay Kano State is no more interested in placing high premium on science and technical education, then this Board may not be favoured. And one thing why I said we are lucky is we had had very little interference from government; in particular if you look at me sitting here: I have been sitting here for six years (1980-1986) which is very abnormal in government - any form of government.” (Interview 23/9/1986)

 

Thus economic and political priorities emerged as the main factors in the genesis of the Science Schools project. In all the policy process, the academic priorities of the Schools was never made part of the agenda.

Section III: The Science Secondary Schools

Initial preparations

The schools selected for conversion into Science Schools were the secondary schools at Dawakin Kudu (originally established in 1975), and Dawakin Tofa (1972). Each of these schools was well built and located in a pleasant rural pasture land. The Dawakin Kudu School was also relatively new at the time (1977) and built with financial assistance from the United Nations Development Project. But most significantly, both were exactly the same short distance away from Kano metropolitan (32 kilometres). This was important to the planners of the Science Schools project because they do not want to locate the schools too far from Kano which will make them unattractive places to work for teachers, especially expatriate staff. As the First Executive Secretary of the Science Board explained,

 

“The two schools (Dawakin Kudu and Dawakin Tofa) were selected because we wanted schools that were very close to Kano, where we can literally leave office now and get there within the next twenty minutes. And we needed centres where you can put international staff without them having to worry about coming to Kano. We also needed easy access to Kano because we thought if our laboratories could not operate we bring our staff and students to laboratories in Bayero University (in Kano) - because we were not prepared to allow anything to stop us from operating.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

This statement underscores the sheer determination behind the efforts to see the Science Schools have started functioning, despite all the opposition provided to the project by the Ministry of Education.

 

Fundamental characteristics I: The students

There was no area in the establishment of the Science Schools in Kano that has created more controversy with both Principals and civil servants than in the selection of the students for the Science Schools. This stemmed principally because, as one expatriate former teacher in a Science School puts it, “the Science Schools poach students from other schools.” Under the standard procedure, students considered academically good in Form II in all secondary schools in Kano (owned by the Ministry of Education) were given a selection examination and those who passed taken to the Science Schools where they continue with Form III.

 

The decision of the Science Board not to use the Kano Educational Resource Centre, which is the main professional and advisory unit for educational affairs in Kano State, to design its selection examinations for it, even though KERC was represented in the selection committee (see below) did not help matters much. As the Executive Secretary explained in an internal communication dated 23rd March 1977,

 

“The two Science Secondary Schools at Dawakin Tofa and Dawakin Kudu are supposed to start operating as Science-Oriented by September 1977. It is agreed that the students to be admitted will be selected from Form II of all the existing secondary schools in the State.

 

“The selection exercise is central to both the success of the end-products and the image of the Management Board. Needless to say, the selection techniques/procedures must be scientific and comprehensive. Tests/exams/interviews should be carefully planned and well-executed so that the outcome ca be a professional foundation for successful training edifice.”

 

To ensure the selection of the students is carried out along the lines envisaged by the Board, a sub-committee was set up called Tests Committee which will work on the selection process for the two schools. This Committee gradually metamorphosed into the Academic Committee (in 1979). The Selection Committee was composed of the following, each represented by a Member:

 

a)     The Science Secondary Schools Management Board

b)     The Ministry of Education/In-Service Centre (which later became the Kano Educational Resource Centre)

c)      The local branch of the Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN)

d)     Any other body/person the Committee may wish to invite to join.

 

The main tasks of the committee will be to:

 

a)     examine contents and format of the selection procedure

b)     the time (month/date) the selection is to be made

c)      examine related problems of the selection, including marking of tests, etc.

 

The attempts to include the Science Teachers’ Association of Nigeria in some activities of the Board would seem to indicate the latters’ commitment to ensuring full professional participation of the science teachers in the affairs of the schools, although this remained the only time the STAN was consulted in any subsequent affairs of the Science Board.

 

In the end, the Board also used the WAEC to conduct selection examinations for the schools until when the Board itself could do such task. As the Kano State government explained in 1979,

 

“The Science Secondary Schools Management Board has for the past three years (i.e. since 1977) been using the services of the West African Examinations Council for conducting aptitude tests for entrants into the Science Schools” (Kano State 1979b p.161)

 

The Student Selection Process

Despite being established under an atmosphere of constant opposition, high expectations about the number of students who will eventually benefit from the establishment of the Science Schools in Kano were maintained by the Science Board. As a Kano State government document explains,

 

“Each Science Secondary School is expected to have 720 students when it is fully operational...The five year objective (from 1980 when the students in the schools take the WASC examinations for the first time) of the Science Secondary Schools Management Board is to produce the following number of WASC boy students with all the required science subjects for direct entry into University or Polytechnic for professional courses in the sciences:

 

 June 1980

217 students

 June 1981

254 “

 June 1982

360 “

 June 1983

480 “

 June 1984

480 “

Total

1791

 

“It is also envisaged, that funds being available, the Board will produce by June 1984, 624 WASC girl students with all the required Science subjects for direct entry into University, ATC, Polytechnic or School of Nursing” (Kano State 1979b p. 162).

 

However, in the subsequent years, the population of examination entrants from the science schools turned out to be less than the projections of the government due to natural waste and incidences where students were dismissed for various (but mainly disciplinary) reasons, as shown in Table 5.3 which indicates the number of West African School Certificate Examination entrants from the three science schools from 1980 to 1985. The figures are placed along side the projections made by the government.

 


Table 3: Science School Graduates, 1980-1985

 

Year

Projected

Actual

1980

217

183

1981

254

226

1982

360

316

1983

480

296

1984

1104

439

1985

2000

514

Totals

4415

1974

 

(Source: Kano State 1979b; the Science and Technical Schools Board, 1987)

 

The system of selection - which was crucial to the Science Schools - was not without its problems and issues; and a detailed analysis of its initial mechanism revealed insights about its nature and enables further understanding of the reception of the Science Secondary Schools project in Kano State.

 

On 20th December 1978, the then expatriate Principal of the Dawakin Tofa Science Secondary School, Mike Douse sent a memo to the Board providing what were the first clear guidelines concerning the method of selecting students subsequently for the science schools. The first strategy advocated was publicity. In this, it was suggested,

 

“We should design a poster, two or three copies of which should be displayed at all post-primary schools in the State. It should state clearly the purpose and nature of the Science Secondary Schools, correcting current misconceptions. There should be a couple of good photographs and the presentation should be attractive. Similar information and images should be made available through newspapers, radio and television. Every prospective student should know of and be excited by the possibility of being selected to attend a Science Secondary School.”

 

Some students who have already heard of the Science Schools apparently applied to them directly for admission, since the memo stated

 

“Already we have written suitable letters to a dozen or so boys who have ‘applied’ to us: such correspondence should not be ignored. And all of our boys have volunteered to urge intelligent relatives and friends (in Form 2) to aim at joining us. Our present students are our best ambassadors.”

 

It is significant to note only boys have shown interest in getting into the science schools. However, preparation for girls science schools were already being considered at time, and will be eventually discussed in the next sub-section.

 

The memo also indicated its awareness of the possible problems the selection process was likely to face, especially from the Principals of the feeder schools, by stating

 

“Apart from endeavouring to ensure that Post-Primary Principals display the proposed posters, we need to think hard and how best to persuade them to endeavour to send us their top pupils: some task!”

 

The persuasive strategy suggested was to draw attention of the government involvement in the establishment of the Science Schools, thus emphasizing its legislative nature. For instance, concerning the ways of convincing the Principals of the feeder schools, the memo added

 

“However, it is (a) government policy and (b) in the students’ own best interest for them to lose their ablest and these points should be made unequivocally. In addition, we should think of ways of bestowing public praise on schools succeeding in getting several students through our selection: a good post-Primary schools is one that manages to get several students into Science School! If we cannot meet with all Principals before hand, we should at least ensure that all correspondence with them enhances our chances of getting co-operation. Otherwise the whole entire exercise will fail.”

 

And due to the legislative nature of the project (which reflected government machinery at the time), Principals were not consulted at any stage of the development of the Science Schools in Kano. This lack of consultation might have further contributed to the reluctance of some Principals to co-operate with the Science Schools Board. This situation was not improved for the Principals, especially with the further suggestion of the memo

 

“...So I strongly urge that ‘someone’ visit all of the feeder schools in January, doing the necessary public relations, but also, with the Principal, choosing the boys to be considered. There must be access to examination records and an opportunity to talk to teachers. This would take place before the initial tests and we would be greatly suspicious - and do something about it - if either (a) top students did badly in the tests, or (b) a school failed to get anywhere near its quota.”

 

This quota referred to the minimum number of students required and the emphasis was “the vital thing is that we get the ‘best’ 48 or 55 or whatever.”

 

The memo expressed dissatisfaction about the outcomes of using the services of the WAEC which were used for the first set of students (1977)

 

“The overall process has certainly provided this school with a number of duds and I am afraid WAEC sees us as an interesting little experiment and pays little attention to our actual needs or to the non-academic potentialities of the situation.”

 

It is significant here to note an expectation by the Principal that not all students who came to science schools would proceed to an academic future. These observations led to a suggestion for a more school based test which the Board can design to suit its specific needs as far as the science students are concerned. As suggested in the memo,

 

“If I was devising an initial test from scratch, I would include two 1 hour papers:

 

a) A very stiff and practically non-verbal mathematics test; and b) A written comprehension test based upon passages dealing with scienceconcepts; simple, non-specialist vocabulary, objective questions.

 

I do not think that the multiple-choice science tests used thus far are of any value. At best they test how well a boy has been taught - and we are after potential. And the test is dependent upon specific vocabulary (habitat, aquatic, convection etc). What we want to assess is a boy’s interest in, and capacity to grapple with, scientific ideas.”

 

And in order to ensure only the selected students did eventually get into the science schools, a rigorous system of identification of students was suggested. This was that

 

“Candidates must be told to retain precisely the same names throughout the selection procedure. They must sign each examination paper and give key personal details. At interviews, they must sign again and the interviewers must check the personal details (e.g. mother’s name, primary school attended). On gaining admission the students must sign and submit to checks one more. This rigorous procedure is advocated because of my suspicion that several of our present students are here under false pretenses: about six of them cannot yet write sentences in English and could never have passed any kind of ability or content test in their lives.”

 

The Board responded to these suggestions immediately. On 24th January 1979, a form letter was sent to all the Principals in Kano State secondary schools reminding them of the existence of the science schools as well as summarizing the objectives of the schools. At beginning of the letter, the Board tactically pointed out

 

“The Science Secondary Schools Management Board was created by the (Kano) State Government to provide Science Education at Secondary level...”

 

This information, coming as it did - during one of the more remarkable Military regimes in Nigeria - could not fail to yield some measure of co-operation from the Principals. The information also ensures the Board absolves itself of any blame of the effects of the selection procedure since it is set up to carry out the directives of the Government of Kano State. The letter added,

 

“It is hoped that all deserving Kano State pupils in Class II with an aptitude and ambitions in the Sciences be given these opportunities, and your co-operation is requested to publish the attached Information Sheet on your students’ Notice Board”

 

However, the way the information was communicated, especially to the students also must have left the Principals of the feeder schools a trifle uneasy. The information sheet was done in the form of a questionnaire.

 

The selection process is crucial to the entire Science Secondary Schools project for a number of other reasons. When the science schools were established, it was envisaged they will fit in with the new National Policy on Education (which was expected to be implemented in 1977) making them senior secondary schools.

 

Under this original conception, the students were to have been graduates of the junior schools and thus the issue of “skimming” students would not have arisen as they would have finished junior schools anyway, and are ready to go to senior schools. If the new education policy had been implemented at the time it should have been, which was 1977, or at worst, 1982, many of the problems of the science schools which surfaced later in the selection process would have been eliminated.

 

However, the policy was delayed for various reasons until September 1982; this meant students from the Science Schools from inception of the project came from the Form II population of the nonscience schools - and the system of selection ensured only those considered the best were accepted for the science schools. This was a situation that left many of the schools uncomfortable. As the Principal of a feeder school explained,

 

“Believe me, not me alone but many people, the teachers, you see are grumbling that the best students have been taken away and as such nobody should blame us for having very bad students, because the best ones who could help the remaining who are not as good as these ones have been taken away. There is nothing we can about this. This is a government project and they can do whatever they want.” (Interview 30/9/1986)

 

The possibility that the selection process could be influenced in favour of certain socio-politically powerful groups in Kano was raised with the officials of the Science Board. It was made clear that selection of students to the schools was based purely on merit and passing the examination. As a former Executive Secretary of the Board elaborated,

 

“No, No way. Okay there may be one or two cases, but the majority had to go through the grind. If a child cannot make it, he will be the first ask his parents to remove him, because he will be the laughing stock of these geniuses; you know how they are. Children will always be children and if you don’t make up you are in trouble with your colleagues. So we are very lucky in that aspect in that even the people who think that coming to the Science schools meant a lot to their children later change their minds because of what they heard (about the demands in the Science Schools).” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

After the initial selection exercise in 1977, the first set of 240 students was selected from 22 secondary schools in Kano. A total of 120 students were sent to each of the then two Science Schools in September 1977. Subsequently, however, some of the Principals in the feeder schools responded to the situation by substituting their best students for the less than average which were requested to sit for the selection examination. The Science Board discovered this quickly, though, because as a Principal said,

 

“We cannot even substitute good students for bad students during the selection. These people come from the Science Board and they try to examine the files of my students and they may like to see my students physically. We have to be honest in this. The question of my opinion (as a Principal) does not arise because nobody will ask for my opinion: do I like it or not? No, nobody will ask me. This is an annual event, you know. Every year there will be a letter from the Science Board telling us that there is going to be a selection exercise. And then there are many students who would like to go to these schools because they feel that the science secondary school is better than any school in which they are.” (Interview 30/9/1986)

 

In their objections, the Principals of the feeder schools provided two arguments to support their case. First, if their best students were taken away from them, then only the worst students were left behind. And if the GCE ordinary level examinations were bad, the schools will be blamed; and this is more since the some states in Nigeria started grading Principals according to the GCE results. If this practice spreads to Kano, it is likely to have some unpleasant consequences for the Principals.

 

Secondly, some Principals argue if it is true the Science Schools are special in the sense of having better equipment and teachers and other facilities, then in makes more sense to select not the best students from the feeder schools who, if they are good anyway would succeed no matter where they are. It therefore makes more sense, according to this argument, to take students who are less than average, but very likely with latent abilities in science and allow the good environment of the Science Schools to develop it. In this way, the conventional schools will develop their good students, and the Science Schools will enable students with latent abilities in science to manifest themselves to the benefit of everyone. But Ayagi discounts these arguments by pointing out,

 

“The system was not supposed to drain the schools of the best students. We are concerned with the students with a natural endowment in science. The teachers should not be feeling they have lost their best students unless you are saying only science students are the best. But of course that is not so.” (Interview 7/1/1987)

 

A possible solution to problems associated with the selection procedure may be found with the implementation of the new senior secondary school segment of the National Policy of Education in September 1985, but only in schools that were distinctly separated as Junior and Senior Secondary Schools. This is because from 1985, students for the Science Schools (which are Senior Schools right from the beginning) will be coming from the Junior Schools. But if the Junior School is still part of a comprehensive school which includes a senior section, as many of the Schools still are, then the problems posed by the selection exercise may remain for quite a while.

 

This is because some Principals of the Science Schools argue because of the pioneer status of the Junior Schools, most of them were no better off than primary schools (actually a lot were converted primary schools) and as such quite inadequate for providing the full range of instructions, especially in Integrated Science. This will mean such schools will not be considered suitable for selection exercise by the Science Board. The Board would rather get its students from established schools. And unless the situation resolves itself, such schools will continue resisting the selection procedures.

 

Thus the lack of thought-out working link between the Science Schools project and other educational services and contexts in Kano, have further contributed to a considerable amount of difficulty in stabilizing the project, especially after a shaky start.

 

In subsequent years, the overall method of selecting the students for the Science Schools was modified and the Academic Committee took over the process of admission. And because over the years when the project was just getting started the presence of many students who the Board felt could not have been the best ones from their schools became evident, the Science Board adopted a policy of returning students who did not make it in the Science Schools to their former schools to study arts. This decision was communicated to the Principals of the Science Schools by the Science Board on 29th September 1983 where it stated,

 

“In pursuance of the objectives for which it was established, the Science and Technical Schools Board decided, that with effect from the 1983/84 school year, any student who is identified to be academically unable to pursue the three year GCE O level programme in any of the Science Secondary Schools will be transferred back to the school from which he was selected. This decision should be communicated to all students and parents concerned. Copies of this circular will be sent to other bodies and Institutions concerned.”

 

And by then some form of arrangement has been worked out with the Ministry of Education which will enable the Principals of the its schools to accept, as it were, the rejects of the Science Schools.

 

But in order to give the students who were selected to the Science Schools, a chance at surviving the Science Schools experience, the Science Board adopted a strategy of differential criteria in admission based on the students’ residential background (urban/rural axis). The Academic Committee at a Board Meeting held on 24th July 1985 reported that the following criteria were used in its final selections for the 1984/85 intake into the Schools:

 

“1) Male candidates in schools outside Municipal Kano were selected on the basis of gaining 40% and above in the entrance examination plus interviewers recommendations. 2) Male candidates from schools within the Municipal were selected to go into the Science Schools on the basis of gaining 53% and above in the entrance examinations plus interviewers recommendations. 3) All female candidates were selected on the basis of gaining 30% and above in the entrance examinations plus interviewers recommendations.”

 

It is interesting to note the special preference given to girls in the admission criteria - which substantially lowers their admission grade as against the boys. This provides a basis for considering the girls science school.

 

The Girls Science Secondary School

In the initial preparations and selection of students, the decision taken by the Board and contained in an internal memo dated 23rd March 1977 was “for the time being, attention should be directed to selection from Secondary (Grammar) Schools and amongst boys only.” This is not to indicate although women were not part of the policy decision to set up the project, the science education opportunities made available to the boys will not be made possible to girls. Certainly, the radical forces that made the very concept of the Science Schools possible in an orthodox culture such as Kano, could also precipitate the conception of a girls science school. However, there was a delay in starting the Girls Science School because although,

 

“The Science Secondary School Management Board has plans to open a Science Secondary School for Girls...due to financial constraints and the inability of the Ministry of Education to hand over one of its schools (this was not possible)” (Kano State 1979b p. 161)

 

But during the civilian administration (1979-1984) the Board was allowed to start Science School for girls which was initially planned in Bunkure, but later changed to Taura. The Board had wanted to take over Girls Secondary School Kura for conversion to the Science School for Girls, but this was resisted successfully by the Ministry of Education. The eventual acquisition of a site at Taura to build the new Science School, indeed reflected a further example of the fellowship network that ensured the survival of the Science Schools project. This is because when the Ministry of Education refused to allow Kura to be converted to a Science School, the then Commissioner for Education (1982/83), Dr. A T Abdullahi, a first generation member of the Science Board intervened and made the establishment of the Girls Science School possible. As the Technical Adviser of the Science Board recalled,

 

“We felt all along that we should have started a girls and two boys Science Schools. But we had trouble with the Ministry of Education. We wanted to take Kura girls secondary school; they refused. So we had a lot of problems. In fact it is through the Commissioner for Education, Dr A T Abdullahi that we acquired the site at Taura for the girls Science School, otherwise it would have been impossible.” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

The Girls Science Secondary School was officially started in September 1981. It was, like the overall concept of the Science Schools, the first of its kind in Nigeria. It was supposed to be located at Taura, in Ringim local government, some 93 kilometres from Kano. But because at that time the school was still being built, the science students were temporarily placed in spare classroom in Government Girls Secondary School Kura, and treated separately from other students.

 

They stayed there up to the end of 1984 when they moved to their own school at Taura in January 1985. During their stay in Kura, two sets of students were presented for the GCE ordinary level examination. A total number of 129 students have taken the GCE examination since 1984, which is a shortfall from the 624 students projected by the Science Board.

 

The science school for girls appears to be unique because it was the first time the Kano State government (or any other arm of the Nigerian government) has made such explicit statement about the science education of girls. The school therefore appeared revolutionary arising out of social context where general modern schooling for girls was not openly encouraged.

 

But the most surprising development about the girls Science School was some Principals of some girls schools were against it; and registered their feelings, like their male counterparts, by first of all not allowing their own students to take the selection examination of the Science Board, and secondly, in cases where the students were allowed to take the selection examination, by not releasing the girls to attend the Science School. Matters reached a head when the Science Board complained to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education Kano on 4th February 1985 in a communication where the Board stated

 

“....three weeks after the opening of science Secondary School, Taura, some principals of girls institutions are yet to release their students to report to the school. This shows that some principals are not cooperating with the Board on science schools programme. (The Principal of....) is particularly noted for this, for she even refused to allow her students to sit for the science secondary schools entrance examinations. It has come to the Board’s notice that the Principals of...(5 schools)....are yet to release the students who were selected for Government Girls (Science) Secondary School, Taura. The Principals of......(3 other schools)... are yet to release one or two of their students to report to Taura.”

 

What is surprising about this is the Principals’ unwillingness to participate in the scheme, the argument being they should be the first to demand equal opportunities for girls in science - especially in a place such as Kano where very few girls are encouraged to attend modern schools. It should have been expected those few who do show inclinations towards science (certainly an unusual occurrance for girls from Kano) would be encouraged by their own Principals. The fundamental principle behind the science schools is the belief that the Science Schools, being specialist, may cater for the needs of the students in science more than in normal schools. Consequently, the chances of those students in pursuing scientific careers are thought to be higher in the Science Schools.

 

A further observation is women such as the Principals of the schools who refused to allow their students to go to the Science School, being educated in the modern sense, are expected to be more liberal in their attitudes to female schooling. Thus their opposition, as in the case of their male counterparts, underscored their uncertainties about how the girls Science School will affect them personally, rather than a reflection of their professional concern about the quality of education in their schools.

 

But not all Principals opposed the girls Science School. As a female Principal in a (prestigious girls) nonscience school rationalized,

 

“I know quite a number of Principals do not like the idea of the Science Board selecting their best students. But as far as I am concerned it boils down to the same thing. You are educating these students for the state and the country at large. So it doesn’t matter whether they are here (in a nonscience school) or at Taura. It is the same thing. Moreover, I feel with the Science Board, the girls have a better chance at science education.” (Interview 15/10/1986)

 

Right from the time the science school for girls was established, the Board made it clear that provision in the school would be along the same line as in the boys schools. The only discrimination - it may be labelled that in another perspective - was in the range of subjects offered to the girls. They have all the subjects offered to the boys except Further Mathematics, Agricultural Science and Technical Drawing; although Food and Nutrition is compulsory for the girls, and it is not taught to the boys.

 

Fundamental characteristics II: The teachers

In the initial stages of the project - with a buoyant economy - the Science Board recruited its science teachers from US and UK. Alhaji Ado Gwaram, the first Executive Secretary headed the recruitment team. As he explained, there was a definite strategy in the choice of main officers of the schools which was based on his own specifications. For instance, the Principals for the Science Schools

 

“...must be Americans. Oh yes, because my own feeling was we were talking about science education. America at that time had gone to the moon. Their science matched even the Soviet Unions’. So if you are talking about modern science, the pragmatic way you can approach it is you go to America. So we said there will be two principals and they have got to be Americans. And I made up my mind they have got to be Americans.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

This rationale is the nearest the Science Schools came to being identified as part of the science curriculum reform movement by those who initiated the project (it may be seen as that), even though no awareness of the reform movements was acknowledged by the officials. It is therefore interesting although the Science Schools project was entirely a local concept, it was only when it came to being operationalized that outside expert assistance in science education was sought. Curiously enough, the Science Board wanted the British as the Heads of Departments. As Gwaram further explained,

 

“Then I said these schools are going to have heads of departments. So what we should do is, the Heads of Departments for Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Technical Drawing have to be British. This was my own idea in my own law. And I said they got to be British because I know British. If they make up their minds they want to do something, they will commit themselves to forget even their families their wives until the thing is successful. This was true of the British I knew; I don’t know of the younger generation of Britons today. But certainly from my generation up I can tell you if they say they can take on a job, they will do it. So I said the Heads of Departments have to be British.” (Interview 22/2/1987)

 

The Vice-Principals and the Assistant Head of Departments will come from Kano, the idea being the indigenes will eventually take over the main responsibilities of the schools and the departments from the expatriate leaders of the Science Schools.

 

The first teacher recruitment tour was to England. In its 1st July 1977 edition, The Times Educational Supplement carried an advertisement (p.64) issued by the Nigerian High Commission in the United Kingdom which invites interested British science and technical teachers to apply for teaching appointments with the Science Board in all science subjects including and Mathematics, Technical Drawing and English Language, and in all posts. According to one of the British teachers (Technical Drawing) recruited at the time (and being British, was made a Head of Department),

 

“Twelve British expatriates were recruited, none with less than eight years overseas experience. Six were to go to each (science) school. We were all informed that we were recruited for our known expertise. We were informed at the time of recruitment that the State (Kano) was faced with low levels of expertise in all fields of science and technology. All were told that they were taking part in an experiment that would have far-reaching consequences in Kano State. All were told that it was their expertise that the Board was looking up to. All were told that they were expected to be as innovative as possible.”[3]

 

Here it is significant to note although expertise was a much desired property of the teachers recruited, the issue of the nature of the curriculum they will handle was never communicated to them. Yet this is important, because as explained by Driscoll,

 

“It is (in) the recruitment of teachers who have been trained in the techniques of Nuffield Science, team teaching and discovery learning that (one) finds (his) role requirement entirely different to what is expected of him. He would have been told that Nigerian children are eager to learn (very true), but he would not have been told that Muslim children expect the same teaching styles as they found in the Quranic schools. Children see secondary school as an extension of the Quranic school and expect the teacher to think like-wise. It is the greatest source of European teacher frustration and therefore a source of conflict that I am aware of in classroom teaching situations in the Northern States.” (Driscoll 1980 p.15)

 

Thus the expatriates recruited, especially the British, and possibly the Americans - even though many may have had experiences teaching in similar cultural contexts to Kano - came to the Science Schools with a fixed expectation of the sort of curriculum they are expected to teach (e.g. ‘Nuffield Science’).

 

But although the expatriate teachers, especially those from U.S. and U.K. were considered the best by the Science Board because of their relatively wider exposure to events and developments in science education, they are also very expensive. And the economic atmosphere that saw the creation of the Science Secondary Schools with attendant overseas tours to recruit highly qualified expatriate staff had, by early 1980s changed into an ugly weather pattern. As a Kano State government report stated,

 

“It should be noted that two thirds of the Senior Staff are expatriate recruited from U.K. About N40,000.00 will be required to pay them their 15% contract addition and another N15,000.00 will be needed to pay some of them who will be due for their 15% contract gratuity (during the current financial year). The total cost of passages to Nigeria of the 18 recently recruited expatriate will be about N8,000.00.” (Kano State 1979a p.153)

 

Moreover, the continuously depressing economic situation of Nigeria forced the federal government to introduce stringent measures of foreign exchange control from 1982. Subsequently, this led to a reduction of expatriate home remittance allowed by the government to about 25% and a further restriction of expatriate recruitment facilities by the various state governments in Nigeria. This, inevitably, has to force the Science Board to increase its recruitment drive of local (i.e. Nigerian) teachers, and although it would have preferred indigineous teachers (i.e. from Kano State since they are not employed on contract basis). But graduate teachers from Kano rarely apply to teach science in Kano, not even in the Science Schools, as Table 5.4 shows.

 

Table 4: Summary of Teaching Applications to the Science Schools, 1986

 

Subject

All

Kano

Others

Grad. Kano

Grad. Others

 Biology

86

13

73

3

51

 Chemistry

57

8

47

5

20

 Physics

34

9

25

1

11

 Maths

49

17

31

5

7

 English

69

11

54

1

17

 Totals

295

58

230

15

106

 

(Source: Science Schools Board, 1987)

The scarcity of Kano graduates applying to teach in the Science Schools as reflected in Table 5.4 was attributed to two direct reasons, and were made clear to the Science Board by various teachers during the formers’ familiarization tour of the various institutions under the Board between January to March 1985.

 

First was general welfare. Despite being established since 1977, the Science Board has not yet worked out conditions and schemes of service for its employees - and that included the teachers. As the Report of the Familiarization tour tabled before the Board on 17 April 1985 recorded,

 

“Staff employed by the Board on Permanent appointment (from Kano) expressed fear and uncertainty on their future, considering that the Board is yet to have conditions and Schemes of Service from which they can assess their future prospects and benefits on retirement or death.”

 

The second reason was a direct outcome of the Nigerian economic prosperity. In past it become an established service norm for university graduates to expect to have a car when they start their jobs through a car loan facility. And due to the inefficient nature of the transport system any where in Nigeria, the desire for the car becomes necessary for young university graduates both as social symbols and as the only practical means of movement. This has reached a point where the issue of a car loan becomes a determining factor on whether to stay or not in an organization. As the report of the tour of the Board further recorded,

 

“The staff also vehemently complained of lack of Car loan facilities in the Board for the past four years and urged the Board to consider as a matter of urgency providing car loan facilities to alleviate the sufferings of staff, especially those stationed outside Kano municipal.”

 

These two issues - conditions of service and car loan facilities - were mainly responsible for lack of teachers in some disciplines, especially those from Kano. As the Principal of a Science School observed,

 

“When I came here I don’t think we had more than four Kano State teachers. When you recruit, they leave soon after. And the main thing here is car loan. So when he finds anywhere he can get car loan, he just quits and goes. So obviously we are losing most teachers who don’t care about other incentives, but the car loan. Give him the car loan and possibly pay his salary after forty days, he won’t mind.” (CTV 27/2/1986)

 

And since the conditions of service in the industrial establishments for young university science graduates are far more attractive than what the Science Board could offer, it became a pattern over the years for teachers to use the Science Board as a basis for moving to lucrative careers - a situation not favoured by the Board. As the Minutes of the Meeting of the Board held on 20th November 1985 observed and recommended,

 

“The Board is fully aware that in the past, officers have used the Board as stepping stone to bargain for higher salaries with other employers. The Board will therefore consider the following: henceforth all Senior Staff employed by the Board on first appointment be employed on one year Provisional appointment. Salary scale to be offered to such officers should be the same as for officers with similar qualifications and experience joining the civil service. On satisfactory completion of one year provisional appointment, the officers should be converted to permanent and pensionable or contract officers.”

 

But during my field work, this recommendation became a focus of my discussion with many teachers who pointed out although they have been on provisional appointments for over a year, the Board still has not upgraded them. And since they are convinced they can earn better salaries - and some put it, better job satisfaction - in industries, some had already started negotiating for alternative appointments. It would seem that by 1986 the very essence of the Science Secondary Schools Project had undergone some form of transformation, and the zeal with which the projected was initiated, sapped away by evolutionary factors, none of which was anticipated and therefore planned for, by the initiators of the project.

 

 Fundamental characteristics III: The pedagogic context

Getting the science schools properly equipped became the next priority of the Science Board during the intial start of the project. In an internal communication dated 25 March 1977, the Board noted

 

“since the appointment of the Science Board, discussions have been going on on the need to equip the Science Secondary Schools with up-to-date instructional materials/equipment whenever they (schools) are officially opened. The educational/pedagogical reason for this is simple. Students to be admitted will, in the main, come to the Science Schools deficient in vital areas, Maths and English. In order to remedy this and also lay solid foundations, conscious efforts must be made to ensure that both the teaching techniques and the learning styles applied are relevant and result-oriented. Once course contents take cognizance of interest/relevance/meaning and use of instructional technology, results are bound to be improved positively and speedily. In this regard, the following suggestions are put forward:

 

a)     that publishers, as many as possible, be requested to supply the Board with catalogues and specimen copies of modern instructional materials for inspection

b)     such request should cover the following areas: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Technical Drawing, Maths and English language.

c)      that standard equipment for Physics, Chemistry and Biology labs be obtained from Ministry of Education. (List of technical drawing room equipment should also be obtained).”

 

Here is is possible to see the Science Board does not seem aware of the current trends in science education reform, otherwise a more structured view of the curriculum materials - rather than the random process adopted - would have emerged. It was aware science needs to be taught in the Science Schools, but not aware of how it should be done. I raised this issue with Ayagi who admitted

 

“Many of us in the (Manpower Development Committee) were not science graduates. We were simple teachers of Arts and so on. Our main interest was to provide a situation where you give yourself the chance to select the best students that are endowed in science and develop that so that they could now perform better than they used to. The idea of being dissatisfied with the teaching of science at that time was not in anybody’s mind. Not as a concept. We were only dissatisfied with the performance, and therefore indirectly with the teaching of that science to our pupils at that time. Okay may be there were deficiencies in the teaching method. May be. But the only way out is to get excellent teachers, and get excellent equipment. We had no quarrel with the equipment as we didn’t even know the equipment. We knew there were equipments and there were syllabuses and so on. But we didn’t bother ourselves even to look at them because we were not experts. Our expertise is only in provisions.” (Interview 7/1/1987)

 

This lack of expertise, plus opposition to the project made initial equipping of the schools, and subsequent maintenance quite difficult, although those charged with the project implementation have their own ways of solving some of such problems. As the second Executive Secretary to the Science Board, Mallam D S Ibrahim remembered the situation in 1978,

 

“I found myself trying to equip the two Science Schools with virtually nothing. Now what happened was at that time we had problems in getting science equipment. But then we found that there were quite a number, in fact more than we can use, stashed in various Teachers’ Colleges as science equipment meant for the UPE teachers colleges which I thought at that time will never be used. So what I did was I went to some of these teachers colleges and cart them out and distributed them to these two science schools! And that nearly cost me my job because I did it in the most, well, I know the Principals and I went and took it from them and I made a list of all I took, and I dumped them to these two science schools. And having done that , I then notified the Ministry of Education, because I knew I told them before I will never get it. I had some queries, but by then it was too late.” (Interview 29/9/1986)

 

Again here personal commitment coupled with fellowship linkages emerge as significant factors in the project, even though there was a financial vote for it. And the problem was not restricted to the initial stages only. During the inaugural Familiarization Tour of the newly appointed Science Boardin March 1985,

 

“...complaints were made to the Board in all schools visited on inadequate allocation of funds made to schools for purchase of instructional materials necessary for quality teaching and learning. The allocations made to the schools on teaching equipment were far too inadequate as against actual requirement.” (Minutes of the Board, 17 April 1985)

 

But the reason for this was attributed by the Science Board to insufficient funding. And although the fellowship network that ensured the survival of the Science Schools project in its infancy have ceased to be very important now the infant has become a child, the problems of lack of support from other arms of the civil service were still persistent. The Minutes of the Board further explained,

 

“The Board is requested to note that for two years running (1983 and 1984), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has been under-paying the Board its approved budgetary subventions by amounts ranging from over three hundred thousand naira (N300,000) in 1983 to over four hundred and fifty thousand naira (N450,000) in 1984. In the first three months of 1985, the Ministry underpaid the Board four hundred and fifty six thousand naira (N456,000) through unexplained cuts from monthly subventions due to the Board. Since payment of salaries (and related allowances), students feeding and passages are basic, it is evident that these cuts adversely affect funds earmarked for purchase of teaching materials.”

 

But the issue of the science teaching emphasis in the schools still remained not addressed by the Science Board. However, two attempts were made to to make the Science Board provide framework around which a recognizable policy of science education can be used as a basis for teaching and learning in the Schools.

 

The first attempt came from the Comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre (CESAC) of the University of Lagos which has developed a new science programme called the Nigerian Secondary Schools Science Project (this was adopted in all Nigerian schools in 1985 as a new science curriculum). This was in 1979 and was the result of visits by the CESAC team to Kano and especially to the Science Secondary School Dawakin Tofa. From the visits and discussions with some of the officials of the Science Board, the team leader, Dr U M O Ivowi later sent a communication on 25th May 1979 to the Executive Secretary in which he said the team was

 

“convinced of the existence of adequate facilities and resources for an effective execution of our science project. With good laboratories and equipment, your experienced staff should have no difficulty in teaching science through the discovery approach which our project advocates...We assume that one of the major aims of establishing the special schools for science education is to accelerate the rate of production of scientifically competent boys and girls for science and technology activities in our higher institutions and in the economy. This is the underlying objective of our science project in our school system. We present science in a practical way; we encourage pupils to ‘do’ science and not ‘read’ science; we work towards the development of scientific skills and attitudes in pupils. If we have correctly read your motive of establishing science secondary schools, it appears that we have a basis for a cooperative effort at achieving our science and technology goals.”

 

There does not seem to be any acknowledgement to CESAC by the Science Board about these proposals. This is because on 20th August 1979, CESAC sent a reminder to the Science Board adding,

 

“We are particularly interested in playing a part in your science endeavours at the secondary school level in the State. You may wish to suggest a meeting in Kano with your officials to discuss our proposals. In that care, we shall be very pleased to be in Kano at your own convenience”

 

There was no further communication after this. The interest of the CESAC in the Science Schools of Kano is justified by the innovatory nature of the schools, as well the science education activities of CESAC itself. Both were new ventures in science education. And with the full adoption of the CESAC developed science curriculum in all Nigerian schools in 1985, the Science Schools have the unique property of combining two science curriculum reform strategies. But because the CESAC and the initiators of the Science Schools Project were motivated by different reasons, as well as different priorities for engaging in the science education reform, break down in communication between the two was a natural consequence.

 

The second attempt to get a clearer idea of the level of expectations of the science teaching and learning dynamics from the Science Board was from an internal source. On 24th June 1981, a group of teachers (most of them expatriates) from the Dawakin Kudu Science School wrote a communique to the Science Board expressing their concern about the curriculum of the Science Schools by stating,

 

“In the past four years of existence of the science schools, it is evident that there has been a clear lack of academic and professional leadership conducive to better teaching and learning in these schools. The major reason for this is the fact that the science schools are dependent on Kano Educational Resource Centre for these services. The decisions made by the KERC on most academic and professional matters are often against the best interest of these schools. The science schools depend on the KERC for professional advice and help, Common Mock Examinations, and organization of various academic competitions”

 

The teachers’ communique requested the Board to set up a professional service unit within the Science Secondary Schools Management Board. In the analysis of their reasons for this (and thus independence from the KERC), they argued

 

“Since the inception of the Science Schools in 1977, the professional association of the KERC with these schools has been limited to one inspection for the purpose of recognizing the schools for the West African School Certificate Examinations. In addition to this, the inspectors in KERC have provided the schools with schemes of work in various subjects. In most subject areas, these schemes are totally irrelevant to the needs of the schools, and they seem to defeat the whole purpose for which the science schools are established. These schemes are just a collection of topics without any central theme, nor are they designed to cater for the particular needs of the science schools. The very fact that the students in these schools are selected to do science courses in an atmosphere different from that of the conventional secondary schools, calls for the need for special teaching programmes and schemes in these schools. The KERC has made no effort to come forward with any constructive programme to be implemented in the science schools.”

 

It is thus interesting that in all the preparations for the establishment of the Science Schools there were no professional services, until much later when as a result of lack of Membership to the Board, the Science Board set up various committees to handle its administration, and which included the Academic Committee.

 

But the Academic Committee does not provide for the services required by the teachers. If anything, the Academic Committee was mainly concerned with admission of the students to the Science Schools. It offers no professional guidance both on the teaching processes or on selection of books and equipment to the Science Schools, even though its functions were formally listed to include such services. This was because the Science Board itself was not clear on how to go about this. I asked a high official of the Science Board the criteria, for instance, used in selecting books for the Science Schools. They have none, because

 

“The KERC studies all the textbooks currently in the market, and then they recommend suitable textbooks for each subject. Based on this recommendation, then we buy whatever textbooks are in the market for particular subjects.” (Interview 23/9/1986)

 

This was almost ten years after the establishment of the Science Schools. The selection of equipment was carried out by a similar method. As the interview further recorded,

 

“Selecting laboratory materials is a simple thing, because all you need to do is look through the syllabuses sent in by WAEC, CESAC or whoever was developing the syllabus. From there you will see the kind of things you need.” (Interview 23/9/1986)

 

Therefore although the Science Schools project was conceived as a radical strategy aimed at eventual social transformation through science education, its political and economic priorities overshadowed its academic priorities.

 

What is the state of the project from 1988-1999?

The schools were therefore as successful, despite massive educational and policy flaws in the beginning. The initial success can be attributed to purposeful teaching and learning and a solid foundation established by the pioneer teachers. However, the period from 1987 to 1997 was characterized by a progressive decline in the percentage number of students qualified for university entry. Many reasons were responsible for this. I will look at them in same pattern that I looked at the first stage of the project.

 

Administrative Overload

The Science Schools Board was changed to Science and Technical Schools Board in 1982 during the then brief civilian era. It was with the view that science and technology are related, therefore they should be under the same control. This was clearly a naïve view of science as well as technology. These two are not related, even in universities — Faculties of Technology exist separately from Faculties of Science, and with little interactivity. It is ridiculous to assume merely putting science and technical schools under the same administrative control will yield subject integration and interoperability. The consequence of this is that the Science Board became saddled with more schools, more responsibility, and little budget increase within a relatively short period of time. The table below shows the number of science schools under the Board’s control since 1977

 

 

School

Year Established

1.   

Dawakin Kudu Science College

1977

2.   

Dawakin Tofa Science College

1977

3.   

Taura Girls Science Secondary School

1984 (Jigawa, 1991)

4.   

Kafin Hausa Boys’ Science Secondary School

1985 (Jigawa, 1991)

5.   

Garko Girls Science College

1992

6.   

}iru Girls Science Secondary School

1992

7.   

Maitama Sule Science College, Gaya

1993

8.   

Kano Day Science College

1993

 

The Taura and Kafin Hausa Science Secondary Schools were transferred to Jigawa State when the latter state was created in 1996.

 

It is perhaps not surprising that the first two, being the oldest and the only ones for as long as seven years, produced the best results (relatively). The rapidity with which new schools were established between 1992 and 1993 clearly showed the effects of political process on the system and lack of adequate and clear planning. The Kano Day Science College was established due to the high number of applications received from the Kano Municipal; so the Board decided to establish one day-release school to cater for this — further reflecting muddled planning.

 

To make matters worse, the Board established what it calls Consultancy Services Unit in March 1993 in order to generate more revenue which only aided in compromising the quality of attention given to the science schools.

 

The Board also became increasingly saddled with the responsibility of selecting students not only for its schools, but also for Rumfa College;  Government Girls College, Dala; Government College, Birnin Kudu;  and Kano Capital School. It is clear therefore that the extremely meticulous process adopted earlier in screening the students for the admission exercises could no longer be maintained due to the simply large number of students now involved for the selection exercise.

 

Subsequently, the attention of the Board became so diversified that it lacked a clear direction. This became much more clearer toward the middle 1980s and early 1990s.

 

An obvious first step, therefore, is to separate the science schools from the technical schools. The early schools were successful simply because there were only two of them. When they became four, the picture started getting complicated. It is clear therefore that the less, the better the quality of products.

 

Related to this is the issue of autonomy. Since the Board was still more or less an affiliate of the Ministry of Education, it was forced to source for money to keep afloat in the face of reduced government funding attributed to the recession that hit the county in the 1980s (itself a recipe for reducing the number of the schools under Board’s direct control). Consequently it engaged in many commercial ventures such as utilizing the workshops and students of the technical colleges to rehabilitate furniture and other equipment. This took much of its time and reduced the quality of attention it can provide to its other schools.

 

A clear reduction of the number of schools is necessary to maintain the quality. The addition of Maitama Sule Science College, Kano Day Science College, and Garko Girls Science College all contributed to depressing the quality of the products due to diversified attention. I would strongly suggest that the Board concentrates on Dawakin Kudu, Dawakin Tofa and Garko as science colleges, and transfer the others to the Ministry of Education.

 

Quality of Students

A consequence of reduced funding is reflected in the students selection process. To begin with, all the students to the science schools from about 1982 were the UPE mass produced junior secondary school students with extremely poor background — being products of quantity, rather than quality. Whereas previously the students were from Form II of conventional secondary schools, now they are the half-baked products of the poorly implemented junior secondary schools. This was seen in the consistent way the students fail the English language examination which was used as the main basis for further selection. For instance, as a result of a consultant’s report on improving selection and performance in English language, the Board introduced a two stage selection examination in 1990: the first was in English Language; only those who pass at the appropriate level can then sit for the next series of subjects that will determine eligibility to the Science Schools. Of the 17,000 who sat for this qualifying English examination, only 9,000 were able to pass enough to go to the next stage. It is not clear, in the light of the Board’s sudden commercialization drive, whether this English Language qualifying examination is still as forcefully used.

 

Admission in the first cycle of the schools was based on merit. In the subsequent years it became a school-tie old boy network process where influential people bring their children and insist on them being admitted even if they did not pass (or take) the entrance examination. Further, the rigorous enforcement of selection process characteristic of the first generation life of the schools was discontinued; admission forms to the Science Colleges are simply taken to various schools for all and sundry to apply. Due to poor performance in English Language cut-off points were reduced to as low as 30% to ensure a spread in local government representation — necessary to entice the local governments to pay for the boarding fees suddenly introduced by the Board.

 

Thus the already bad situation was made worse in 1995 when the Board introduced _2,000 boarding fees. To enable students pay this, a formula was worked out where the Local Governments pay on the behalf of the students from their area. This eventually led to a situation where a quota system became surreptitiously introduced so that all local governments must be represented. Subsequently, some local governments stopped paying the money, and students whose fees have not been paid were simply rejected by the schools. In other words, the schools became more or less commercial.

 

Yet it is difficult to see where all the money collected went. In my Dawakin Kudu Student FGD, students complained bitterly of many things. Food was both non-nutritious, non-balanced, subsequently of poor quality and repeatedly insufficient quantity. Even then, it was not given at the proper times; for instance breakfast is usually taken at 10.30 a.m. Further, students complained bitterly of being given excessive labor duties — sweeping classes, compounds, cutting grass, etc. Since these are special colleges, and since they pay token fees, one would have expected an army of laborers to look after the school compound. All the laboring the students do take away the time they are supposed to spend on studying. There were also no sports and other recreational facilities (e.g. television).

 

I must say, however, that I was really impressed by the students I interacted with. They spoke their minds frankly and freely in excellent, lucid prose, the command of which was rather surprising for that level of education. One other point that stuck in my mind was their repeated disappointment with the cancellation of an exit facility. Without fail, they all expressed desire to be allowed to go home for at least one day during the weekends. I strongly suspect this is to escape the suffocating atmosphere of the schools (no water, no proper toilet facilities, broken down generators), as well as, in their view, the horrible food. Students pointed out that this was responsible for many of them sneaking out through the fencing (and thus risking the harsh punishment to follow) to town. Commendably, at least according to them, the school is drug-free; neither harboring dealers or users of even the common drug among adolescents, marijuana.

 

Curricular Provisions and Teachers

While the first generation teachers, being mainly expatriates trained in science teaching and exposed to then more popular advocacy of science teaching, the subsequent curricular provisions remained static and WAEC controlled, and the teachers became less qualified to teach science in the schools. Almost all the teachers have degrees in science, but they were not science teachers and clearly lacked the methodology to effectively teach science in the way intended. Indeed teaching methodology of at least the Technical Drawing teacher was used by a Dawakin Kudu FGD participant as an example of poor teaching. The student actually took out his drawing book and showed me a series of concentric circles, telling me that they mean nothing to him, and that the teacher did not bother to explain what they are; all attempts to get the teacher to talk are rebuffed and met with severe punishment if the student persists.

 

In an ironic twist of fate, the Government’s Appraisal Committee (Appendix 4) on noting the absence of quality control mechanism in the school, recommended that inspectorate duties should be performed by the KERDC. Yet in the first generation cycle of the schools, the teachers (mainly expatriate) kicked against allowing KERDC to do such job, and insisted on the establishment of an Academic Committee to do so. The fact that the problem has recurred indicate a clear lack of a monitoring mechanism that ensures correlation between what the teachers are doing and what the system expects them to do. The subject inspectors sent by the Board are mainly perfunctory in their inspections.

 

My day-long fieldwork tenure at Dawakin Kudu for the purpose of this report also enabled me to be closely acquainted with their library. Ironically, they have more chairs in the library than in Bayero University Main Reading Room library! However, most of the books are hopelessly outdated, and well worn out. It is clear therefore that both the teachers and the students lack effective reference materials. Students who cannot afford to buy any textbooks are clearly disadvantaged.

 

Teachers are therefore involved in a conventional teaching process which neither takes into consideration the student’s ability banding, nor attempts enhance the curricular fare of the students. It is therefore imperative for the schools to introduce a series of elective courses (as would eventually be common in all the classes in the country, if the government accepts the recommendations of NERDC).

 

Examination Outcomes, 1980-1989

In using the examination outcomes of the science schools as benchmarks of their success, it is often overlooked that the overall results were not really spectacular, even in the halcyon days. For instance, both the schools performed dismally in 1981, in their second outing for the WAEC examinations, sending nervous signals to policy makers who stood by the project. At the same time, however, they perked up in 1988 during which they both scored over 50% examination success. Yet the Board did not seize this opportunity of analyzing the diary of events of that year to determine why there was such massive success.

 

A further analysis of the individual results reveal that, for instance, although D/Kudu scored a relatively 37.75% success rate in its first examination in 1980, it plummeted to 19.49% the following year. The highest achievements in the school were in 1988 when as many as 50% of the students scored five credits and above. Generally, however, the success rate of the school in the first cycle (1980-1989) was fair, averaging almost 39%. Dawakin Tofa, on the other hand, started off poorly and maintained that status for at least three years, perking up only in 1983 with a 24.10% success, although also plummeting down to 18.93 the following year. Its most spectacular mass achievement was in 1988 when about 54% of the students obtained the magical five credits and above. Overall, at only 30% average performance, it is clearly the weak link in the chain of success of the scientific manpower production in the state. Ironically, it was also Dawakin Tofa that produced the most outstanding WAEC record in 1984 when Aminu Abba (now a medical doctor) scored the highest results in the entire country — even though the overall performance of the school was quite poor compared to the previous year (or the next). To make it easier to see the trend of the results, I have re-arranged the examination outcomes according to highest number of students with five credits and more, as in Table 5.

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Table 5: Halcyon-era Results, Dawakin Kudu and Dawakin Tofa, 1980-1989

 

Dawakin Kudu

Dawakin Tofa

Year

No

Passed

%

 

Year

No

Passed

%

1986

237

115

48.52

 

1988

170

93

54.70

1988

197

99

50.25

 

1987

208

87

41.82

1989

221

98

44.34

 

1986

228

80

35.08

1985

213

95

44.60

 

1985

236

65

27.54

1983

184

82

44.56

 

1989

212

54

25.47

1987

229

78

34.06

 

1983

112

27

24.10

1984

205

65

31.70

 

1984

169

32

18.93

1980

98

37

37.75

 

1982

157

27

17.19

1982

151

37

24.50

 

1980

85

12

14.11

1981

159

31

19.49

 

1981

67

08

11.94

Total

1,894

737

38.91

 

 

1,644

485

30.0

 

However, as explained earlier, the 1980-1989 cohort were able to, by 1993, produce as many as 1,053 scientists, doctors, and engineers — the much needed manpower for technological development. Although up till now, about six years after their mass production, the state is still yet to develop technologically!! Clearly there is another magic ingredient needed for scientific and technological development of a society than simply having a large pool of scientific or technological manpower.

 

Of the original pool of schools, two which showed promise — a boy’s school at Kafin Hausa and a girls’ school at Taura — were consigned to Jigawa State, leaving Kano with the original two at Dawakin Kudu and Dawakin Tofa. Thus the late 1980s and early 1990s reflected a remarkable change in the fortunes of the science schools. The years became times of political considerations leading to more new schools being established at Gaya and Garko. The management of the Board became more commercial, charging, for the first time, considerable fees for Boarding, following the Kano State Government policy to deboard all its schools sometimes in 1993. Funding to the Board either became insufficient or was inefficiently utilized leading to reduced quality of instruction in the schools. The general social movement of austerity, economic crunch, embargo on jobs, etc all contributed to massive resignation of teachers — as many as 105 in the era — from the system. The result were reflected in the five credit success of the schools from 1990-1999 as shown in Table 6.

 

Table 6: “Apocalyptic” era Results, Dawakin Kudu and Dawakin Tofa, 1990-1998

 

Dawakin Kudu

 

Dawakin Tofa

Year

No

Passed

%

 

Year

No

Passed

%

1994

121

56

46.28

 

1995

172

52

30.23

1996

125

55

44.00

 

1992

206

60

29.12

1990

189

75

39.68

 

1990

185

52

28.10

1992

200

73

36.50

 

1996

147

36

24.48

1995

170

58

34.11

 

1991

170

37

21.76

1998

166

55

33.13

 

1997

119

22

18.48

1991

186

46

24.73

 

1998

104

19

18.26

1997

98

14

14.28

 

1994

220

22

10.00

1993

219

23

10.50

 

1993

252

18

7.14

 

Surprisingly, just as in 1981 the two schools produced their worst results, a similar pattern is repeated in 1993 when the results of the schools were both less than 11% each. It is instructive that there was no single year during the 1990-1998 era in which any of the schools scored 50% in its results — disturbingly, it was only in 1994 and 1996 that Dawakin Kudu scored 46 and 44% respectively: the highest in the period.

 

Generally, however, Dawakin Kudu maintained its lead in producing consistently better results even in the “apocalyptic” years, although the highest produced was in 1994 with about 46.28% of the students obtaining five credits and above. The drop in the quality of results in this period was must faster than in the halcyon days, with the worst results being produced in 1993 at 10.50%. This is seen in the two summaries below:

 

Summary, 1980-1989

 

School

No

Passed

%/Av

D/Kudu

1,894

737

38.91

D/Tofa

1,644

485

30.0

Total

3,538

1,222

35.0

 

Summary, 1990-1999

 

School

No

Passed

%

D/Kudu

1,474

455

30.86

D/Tofa

1,575

318

20.19

Total

3,049

773

25.35

 

Thus Dawakin Tofa also maintained its second class position to Dawakin Kudu by producing increasingly depressing results, producing its highest result in the ten-year period only in 1995 at 30.23% — as compared to 54% in 1988. Perhaps it is the results of Dawakin Tofa that often raise the alarm of lowering quality of students in the Science Colleges.

 

There is a clear drop in performance between the two time clusters. From 1980-1989, Dawakin Kudu dropped from 38.39% to 30.86% average performance in examinations. Dawakin Tofa similarly dropped from 30% to 20% within the same period. Thus the overall performance of Dawakin Kudu in the nineteen year period was 35%, while that of Dawakin Tofa was 25%. By and large, however, in the almost twenty-year period, a total of 6,587 science students were produced, with 1,1995 of them obtaining university level examination success, which represents about 30.28%, as reflected in the summary below.

 

Summary, 1980-1998

 

School

1980-1998

%

% of Total

Dawakin Kudu

3,368

1,192

35.39

18.09

Dawakin Tofa

3,219

803

25.0

12.19

Grand Total

6,587

1,995

30.28

30.28

 

Thus Dawakin Kudu has produced 18.09% of the total results in the almost twenty year period, while Dawakin Tofa produced only 12.19%. So why was Dawakin Kudu consistently better than Dawakin Tofa, especially as both apparently started from the same “level playing ground”? As noted earlier, although statistics have not been presented, but from FGD sessions with officials and teachers, it would appear that there is more high teacher quality presence at Dawakin Kudu than Dawakin Tofa, due to the former’s relative proximity to the Kano CBD. And yet Dawakin Tofa is also located along a similar network, so that could not really be the total explanation. Another reason given for higher concentration of teachers at Dawakin Kudu was its proximity to a major highway linking Kano to the southern exit of the country. Since the history of Kano has been punctuated with civil disturbances, non-indigenes are happy when there is a possibility of an escape route nearby. Dawakin Kudu, located off Zaria Road, provides such handy exit point.

 

It is clear that the success of the science secondary schools in Kano has dipped; but not as dramatically as being made out. A more detailed study would need to be carried out to compare the performance of the students in all the science secondary schools in other states; as well a more information from the various higher institutions about the graduation rates of the students. Further, these results merely show those students with five credits and above; they did not indicate in which subjects the credits were obtained. For instance, credits in Islamic Studies, Hausa Language, English Language, Biology and Physics are commendable enough; but useless combination for a science career.

 

The seemingly poor performance of the students in the Science Colleges must be seen in light of previous achievements, but still incomparable with the performance of students in standard secondary schools. For instance, the results of the 1998 SSCE examinations in Kano revealed that only 50 students scored five credits and above — out of over 10,000 entrants; the Science Colleges among themselves alone produced 74 students with five credits in the same year .

 

Finally, therefore, what made the Colleges successful in the first instance?

It is quite easy to distill the reasons for the success of the science colleges in the first ten years of their establishment. These are all attributable to:

 

·        sheer excitement at being a pioneer educational experiment — the first of its kind in the entire continent (the nearest to it is the Kenya Science Teachers’ College)[4]

·        high caliber staff with orientations and training in science education and aware of the purpose of science in development

·        Board membership that provided excellent policy focus in line with development perspectives

·        liberal fiscal policy that ensured regular supply of quality materials and equipment to the schools

·        stringent student selection policy that ensured only the best entrants are taken to the science schools — regardless of social status

·        virtual zero school fees charged on graded-scale linked to the child’s socio-economic status; thus government subsidy enables bright children from poor homes to benefit from education in science.

·        fewer schools, which means more attention to the individual units

·        low development cycle: after the first schools in 1977, the next schools were established in 1984, and the next in 1992 — thus a gap of six to seven years in-between new schools. This provided sufficient time to study each school and attempt to replicate its success. 

 

Conversely, the following might be attributed to the downfall of the schools in the last ten years:

 

·        inept Board leadership

·        increasing commercialization of science education in the state

·        embargo on staff recruitment which made it impossible to replenish increasingly dwindling number of teachers

·        inefficient Board Membership which lacks focus to provide effective guide to the matters of the schools

·        lack of professionalization of the teachers, leading to stale and redundant teaching methodology

·        political power-play which saw a rapid increase in the number of schools —two were created within just two years

·        overburdened Board which had too many modules — technical schools, vocational centers, consultancy services unit, etc — to focus attention on each individual module effectively.

·        compromising the student selection process which makes it now open virtually to any child whose Local Government council is willing to pay his _2,000 “boarding fees”

·        dilapidated structures — such that the Board needed more than _10 million in 1999 to begin to set things right.

·        prison environment for students who feel caged, with little poor quality non-nutritious food, lack of gaming and sports facilities, lack of basic amenities such as regular supply of water, and lack of leisure times and reading materials

·        antiquated library stock that was more suited to 1960s rural English primary school than a millennium high caliber science facility

As indicated earlier, a more sustained and detailed study is needed to obtain the complete picture of the status of science teaching and learning in the Science Colleges. Nevertheless, as a pilot study, this report provides indications of the trends and patterns, sources of concern, and thus focus of action to bring about change. And it is quite clear that such change cannot be brought about by the government bureaucratic machinery. A pressure group, such as the Kano Forum, can effectively bring about change in many ways. I have carefully selected about 17 or so individual ways change can be brought about to improve the status of the science schools, but I have decided to put them in the Executive Summary of this report, rather than this conclusion.

 

Section IV: Analysis And Conclusions

This web page traces the emergence of the Science Schools project from 1975 to 1999, paying particular attention to its most fundamental characteristics: genesis, the students, the teachers and the pedagogic context.

 

Although not all aspects of the project were discussed in the account here, the account provides a basic framework for analysing the origins of the project. In the analysis, I will draw from two theoretical bases. The first deals with the general pattern of changes in education, and the strategies of implementing the changes. The second base discusses the emergence of the project in terms of its structural components.

 

The theoretical implications of the project are wide, but clear. The emergence of power, authority and fellowship network connections in getting the project started clearly defies any theoretical assumption which suggests implementation of innovations, or indeed even their emergence, is the outcome of mutually agreed set of priorities. In this, the Authority Innovative Decision model proposed by Rogers and Shoemaker (1971) seems be confirmed, although the authority figures did not follow all the patterns envisaged by Rogers and Shoemaker. For instance, although there was an awareness of the need for the Science Schools, there was a lot of persuasion and arm twisting regarding the intended change (Science Schools), but there was no dialogue as to whether to adopt or reject. Adoption was forced because the policy initiators had enough power or what I call Fellowship Network Interactions to get it through. The Fellowship Network Interactions strategy therefore emerged as the main motor of certain types of educational change activity in Nigeria.

 

This development did not confirm Havelock and Huberman’s (1978) expression of power in educational changes, especially where they argued,

 

“It is certainly hard to imagine how a complex project with ambitious goals could ever succeed without a set of rules and procedures which everyone was obliged to follow, and this inevitably means surrendering some amount of autonomy. No one would seriously argue this point. The real question is how far can one rely on such mechanisms as the primary or sole means of introducing a change.” (Havelock and Huberman 1978 p.256)

 

But the development of the Science Schools clearly demonstrates that power can be used as the sole mechanism of introducing change. However, even within the framework of this counter-argument, power alone, as the account of the Science Schools show cannot get educational reforms introduced and implemented. The Ministry of Education Kano was presented with a proposal to set up the project. It rejected it. No amount of power coercion could force it to agree to the project. That the project became possible was coincidental. And even then, the inadequacy of power alone manifested itself in that although the project has become a government concern, opposition to it could have prevented it from operating at full functional capacity. It was the personal commitment, friendship and understanding among those charged with implementing the project at its infancy (especially 1977 to 1982) as well as their combined influence in the Kano State political hierarchy that made the infant a robust toddler.

 

This dimension (fellowship network interaction) does not seem reflected in any theoretical model which describes how educational changes come into being, although elements of it were acknowledged by Rogers and Shoemaker (1971). What makes it unique is its combination of elements of Diffusion strategies (Havelock and Huberman 1978 p. 259) and Power Coercive strategies in describing the origin of educational innovations. But this dimension of educational change is not complete because it describes the change process only in terms of the policy initiators, and excludes other components of the process.

 

The second theoretical base is the IAC project pattern synthesized by Havelock and Huberman (1978) which describes educational innovations in terms of their structural components. In using the IAC as an analytical tool, I encountered some problems not taken into account by the model. For instance, it was not clear whether such project patterns adopted by any change strategy will remain fixed for the rest of the duration of the project. This is because, as demonstrated by the genesis of the Science Secondary Schools project in Kano, due to changes in political sentiments and unstable nature of economy (both not accounted for by the project) shades of patterns fade out.

 

To begin with, the first pattern discernible, using the IAC framework, is I+ A+ C-, where good infrastructures (I+) - both the Science Schools newly acquired and the Board newly created to manage them - are coupled with enthusiastic authority (A+) but with general low consensus (C-) considering the strength of the opposition to the Science Schools both within the Kano State Executive Council and as provided by the Principals of the feeder schools.

 

But the authority itself did not remain A+ because a change in government saw the ushering in of an I+ A- and C+ configuration, in which other socio-politically powerful forces within the Kano State Civil Service attempted to block the project. The Commissioner for Education in 1980, for instance, did not approve of the schools (creating an A-). And by then the effect of the A+ in the first configuration has generated some measure of consensus in this second configuration (C+). This is surprising since with an unenthusiastic authority (A-, consensus, which has never been positive to begin with, should also be negative.

 

But the second configuration (I+ A- C+) does not enable us to determine the nature of the consensus. For instance, from the account of the genesis given in this web page, it emerged although some members of the Kano State Executive Council still opposed the project, the Principals of the feeder schools seemed to have accepted it in the sense of allowing their best students to be taken away to provide the first set of students for the Science Schools. This is the conclusion given by the I+ A- C+ configuration. But as the events showed, this was a forced consensus on the part of the Principals. Thus the model does not enable us to distinguish between a consensus arising from conviction orother, hidden, political forces. This is quite important, because as Havelock and Huberman (1978) suggested,

 

“We would predict that C+ is a critical component at the local level in order both to initiate and to implement an innovation. Also, when C+ is obtained at this level, I+ and A+ are more likely to accompany it.” (p.84)

 

But this is not so according to the pattern of development of the Science Secondary Schools project. Consensus can be forced in one authoritative form - getting the students to the school by whatever means. But getting a measure of co-operation from those responsible for implementing the objectives of the project is another issue. And in the case of the Science Schools Project, C+ (obtained by whatever means) was not accompanied by I+ and A+ at the same time. Indeed, I+ seemed to be independent of C+ but quite reliant on A+.

 

In any event, this configuration did not last long, as a third one emerged which showed I+ A+ C- reverting back to the first type, and some Principals refused to allow their students to be taken away from their schools. Indeed, by this stage, it might even be possible to discern a configuration of I+ A- C- because the opposition to the project (A- and C-) resurfaced itself again over the decade in various forms. And throughout all these changes in the configurations of the project pattern, I+ has remained more or less positive; i.e. the infrastructure, as can be deduced at this stage, has remained what it should be.

 

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[1]. Of further interest in illustrating the fellowship network interactions system in the case of the Science Schools project was the appointment of the Executive Secretary of the Science Board, Alhaji Aminu G Bichi to the post of Kano State Commissioner for Education in April 1988.

[2]. However, a woman dentist was made a Member of the Science Board in 1987. She was Hajiya Sha’awa H Sai’d.

[3]. Driscoll (1980 p.41 and 33). Terence Driscoll was a British Technical Drawing teacher employed at the Dawakin Kudu Science Secondary School, from 1977-1979. The present work quoted was a term paper he submitted for his M.A. coursework requirements at the EDB, University of Sussex, and given to the researcher. I had few discussions with Driscoll and these yielded further insights into the project at its early stages.

[4] Gumo, C and Kann, U (1982): A Review of the Development of the Kenya Teachers College. (Stockholm, Institute of International Education, Report No 61, University of Stockholm).

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