On Grading Governance

This is the transcript of a post written for The ScoopNG. Read the original post here.

As I make my ten-minute walk to work every morning, I usually pass by a couple of kids en route to school. Nothing particularly horrifying about a bunch of kids walking to school though. Except that some of these ones I pass by juggle various contraptions like stools and chairs along with their school bags.

The first time I noticed it, I quickly assumed that there was some sort of event at their school. Or that it was probably Arts and Crafts Day at school. Then I saw a repeat of the same scenario the next day. When it became apparent that it was a routine event, I decided to go and check out the school with my friend on our way back from work.

The school wasn’t far off – only a street away. The site was humbling and depressing.

Buildings in various stages of completion (and varying degrees of quick retrogression) sprawled across a dusty and forlorn landscape passed off as the citadel of learning for these kids. There are no chairs for the pupils to seat on and there are no black (or any other type) boards in the class rooms. The rooms offer almost no protection from the elements and grossly fall short as a place fit for disseminating and assimilating knowledge.

One thing was plain: these pupils didn’t stand any chance at getting the required level of education to make them stand out in life. If that doesn’t startle you just yet, maybe this next bit would help put things in perspective: the location in question is not a village; it’s a capital city — Abakiliki, the Ebonyi state capital.

A few weeks ago, the Good Governance team led by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, visited this city and conducted scheduled tours of various government establishments, while commissioning a few projects with a view to assessing the score card of the present government administration in the state. Preparations to receive the minister were top notch stuff.

Two days before the team was scheduled to visit my company, a flat screen TV appeared in the lobby, faulty ACs were fixed, the sidewalk was painted and polishing was done on various areas in a bid to impress. Dancers were hired and a reception party was thrown to receive the team.

While the fanfare lasted, I couldn’t keep my mind from those school kids – most of them sitting on dirty floors in a dingy, unkempt room that passed off as their classrooms. They were only about 1000 yards away and their plight wasn’t even going to be factored into the parameters used to assess the government saddled with the responsibility of ensuring they had befitting schools to attend.

The ritual involved in assessing a government’s administration without factoring in the input/opinions of the governed is practically a charade at best. This is not to say we shouldn’t have such a thing as a tour of the States by a set aside Good Governance team. Just that there ought to be a mechanism in place to check how well the projects embarked upon by various state governments affect their citizens. It should be much more than the perfunctory commissioning of facilities/projects and the luncheons. There’s got to be a way to get feelers from the people on how well the government is impacting their lives.

When teachers grade students in school, they don’t just grade them on their favourite subjects but on the entire work load for the session. And no matter how great a student fares in their favourite subjects, they don’t get to move to the next level if they lose points on the other required subjects.

Maybe the Good Governance team could do one better by also having to check, besides the projects brought to its attention, that other vital amenities/services are being taken care of by the governments they’re assessing.

After the scheduled tour of my company was done, the Minister and his team left and headed right on to the next state on the schedule. Obviously, the assessment of the government of this state would be nothing short of a pass mark. As I walked the path back home later that day I saw a couple of school kids returning from school. I couldn’t help but think that they’d been ripped off and that they, along with the many other citizens of their state who don’t get a fair deal from their government, would never be heard.