Dec 1, 2007

Challenges Before Tallen

Mrs. Pauline Tallen, without any shadow of doubt, is one of the power brokers in the People's Democratic Party, PDP, in the federation not just in Plateau State. It is also clear that her political boat experienced little rocking if any at all. Her profile is that of a rare female politicians who rose steadily to become a strong pillar of the PDP resulting in her appointment as the Minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology during the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo.

Following the impeachment of Joshua Dariye late 2006 and the automatic qualification of Chief Michael Botmang as the new Chief Executive of the state based on our constitution which provides that the Deputy Governor of a state shall become the Governor of the state in the event of the death, impeachment, resignation or ill health that renders the Governor incapable of discharging the responsibilities of the office, Botmang nominated Tallen to serve as his deputy. The ex-minister declined the offer only to join the Jang Political Train as a running mate eventually taking the position she refused six months earlier.

Analysts in politics have x-rayed her refusal of the same position when Da Micheal Botmang offered it to her. General and popular opinion has it that the big auntie was driven by her vision to give the state a long lasting service. Botmang's government was to last for just a few months, six at most and as such would not have provided her with a convenient platform to serve the state satisfactorily, which is the only way that will ensure that the dividend of her service is in a measurable quantum.

Following the successful inauguration of the Jang-Tallen administration the Ministry of Education became attached to the Deputy Governor's office. Most people have often seen the Deputy Governor's office as one that is mostly redundant, becoming active only in the absence of the Chief Executive. The attachment of one of the most sensitive ministries to her office ensured she to stood up to deliver, leading to her famous tour of educational institutions in the state. With the tour, she built a reputation as the hope of the youths. This is because education is regarded as the tonic of tomorrow given today.

Education in the nation as a whole has been left in the cold for so long and as such the problems are colossal. The problems associated with the ministry of education in Plateau State is a broad beginning with poor pay at one end to absence of the necessary infrastructures at the other end of the spectrum. In between are irregular promotions, political maneuvering of teachers' recruitment, students' lack of interest and the collusion of some unethical 'professionals' to help their students cheat during external examinations. Fortunately the Governor's sidekick is undaunted by the complexity of the problems. As her tour of education drew to an end she entered the next phase of her struggle against the woes with which she had a direct encounter during her tour.

As part of the second leg of intended reform in the ministry, a workshop was held for mathematical science teachers. The workshop titled 'Retraining of mathematical Science Teachers was undertaken in three phases which include the northern, central and southern zones. To underscore the seriousness of the administration, the reputable National Mathematical Centre Abuja that has made the country proud as a result of their escapades in the international Olympiad competitions administered the training. The training was structured to include the training of the participants to adopt a new method referred to as the 'active method' that demands that students should not just be conversant with the formulae used to find solutions to mathematical problems but understand how those formulae were derived. The method is considered superior to the old method known as the 'Traditional Method' as it enables the student to retain a topic taught no matter how long it takes. Furthermore, the new method strongly encourage the use of teaching aids and a lot of activities for students to make the study of the subject very interesting. The challenge facing the ministry is to be able to reverse the ugly trend the state's education had faced in the past few years were the state ranked among the worst in national performance charts.

The effort of the administration appears to be enjoying some benevolence as one of the participants, Mr. Nankap Wuyep from GSS Fobur discovered how to construct angle seventy using a compass and a ruler only. In the past it was considered impossibility. The resource persons at the workshop confirmed the authenticity of the method used and have agreed to forward it to the world of mathematics for further confirmation and endorsement before Mr. Wuyep would finally be crowned a hero. If this happens it will make up for the disgraceful performance of the past few years.

This very training was for secondary school teachers. Teachers who attended the workshop agree that it was very rewarding. The workshop however has served to raise the question of other factors that influence the performance of students as a good number of factors must work simultaneously to ensure a good outcome. During the tour of the Deputy Governor, she came face to face with instances where student are taught under a tree. Going backward in history it will be recalled that following the near destitute situation of the state civilian government in the early eighties the government resorted to declaring schools to communities but leaving the development of the physical infrastructures to the affected community. The unfortunate change in policy affected the ability of such schools to live up to the provisions of the national educational policy that demands that students learn practical vocational skills in the first three years of Secondary Education, considered the basic. Since such schools have to share classrooms with pre-existing primary schools it frustrated the ability of such schools to teach the practical vocation skill that should have given the students the option of self-employment on completion of that level of education. Hence the expected correlation between the Junior Secondary School education and employment generation failed to materialize satisfactorily. Meanwhile employment generation is the biggest problem of the nation as a whole. The point that well-meaning persons in the sector have been trying to make successive administrations to understand is that leaving the development of the physical structures to the communities was a result of the bad economic status of the government at the time. The situation is however different today.

A second issue that the government must come to terms with is how to find a lasting solution to the puzzle of inadequate manpower in the field. The difficulty is not caused by the refusal of the ministry to recruit teachers but by the fact that teachers will always leave in search of better paying jobs. Since the government is a big organization, there is no way a teacher can leave today and a replacement found the next day. There will always be red tapes.

The Deputy Governor prior to the closure of the northern zone of the workshop again stressed the sincerity of the administration when it vowed to take the bull by its horns. She entered the venue of the workshop with a broad smile on her face, greeting everybody. She left in much the same way. By her actions it is hoped that the citizens will have reasons to wear such smiles on their faces.

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