By Bennett Oghifo
Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson has explained that his administration introduced boarding school system in the state to give equal opportunity to all children of school age.
The governor said boarding school system was non-existent in the Bayelsa State before the inception of his administration in 2012.
Governor Dickson stated his reason for investing in education during a colloquium entitled: “Raising A Wise Generation: Revamping Nigeria’s Secondary Education,” organised by Government College, Ughelli Old Boys Association, September ‘73 Class, at the Civic Centre in Lagos, recently.
Speaking on “Grassroots Education,” the Bayelsa Governor, who was one of the guest speakers at the event, said he decided to invest heavily in secondary education to empower the youth with requisite knowledge capable of discouraging them from taking to militancy.
He stressed that there was a correlation between illiteracy and militancy in the region, adding that the establishment of boarding schools across the state and the free and compulsory education at primary and secondary levels had democratised education in the state and the grassroots in particular.
The Governor, in a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Francis Ottah Agbo said under his watch, education was no longer the exclusive preserve of the bourgeoisie and the privileged ones in the urban centres, adding that the huge investment in education was paying off as militancy had reduced drastically in the state.
“When I took over, there was no single boarding school in Bayelsa State. If you are wondering why some places have issues of militancy, insurgency, instability, criminality, unemployability and other similar crises, you just need to look at the state of investment in education.
“When I became governor in 2012, standing on the podium at my inauguration, I declared a state of emergency on education. At the dinner, some of my friends said free education would destroy my government and they asked where I would have the money to fund free education.”
I said I would plug the leakages, get the priority right and fund free education.
“Now, in Bayelsa, we have built almost 15 model boarding schools, feeding the students free of charge and they are on scholarship. One of them is the flagship boarding secondary school, the Ijaw National Academy, with over 1,000 students.
“The establishment of these boarding schools is so democratised to the extent that every state constituency has a boarding school and this has helped to deepen education at the grassroots. We currently have about five thousand students across the state on the programme. All the students are on the state government scholarship.
“We selected the best boys and girls from all the primary schools irrespective of their background from all the Ijaw-speaking areas along the coastline of Nigeria – Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo and Ondo,” he said.
Dickson said his government had so far spent about N55 billion on the educational sector to build and secure the future of Bayelsans, stressing that a country that failed to invest in education mortgaged the destiny of the people.
He said the investments in education had started yielding dividends as Bayelsa was currently ranked third in NECO and fifth in WAEC examinations, while Bayelsa students on government scholarship had graduated from top universities like the Lincoln University in USA where one of them, Pere Victor Pereware, emerged as the overall best student and valedictorian in the 2016/ 2017 session.
The governor expressed concern that colleges that had produced great minds in Nigeria had become shadows of themselves and hailed the Ughelli old boys for coming together to return the lost glory of secondary education to their alma mater.
He said secondary schools like Government College, Umuahia, Queens College, Kings College both in Lagos, Barewa College in Zaria and others were national institutions that had produced great leaders and literary icons must be preserved.
The governor said education was too critical to be treated with kid gloves. He, therefore, called for regular peer review mechanism among governors to build national consensus on education for the overall good of the country.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who was also a guest speaker at the event, spoke on Girl-Child Education and commended Governor Dickson for revolutionising education in his state. The colloquium was attended by the first Nigerian female Vice Chancellor, Professor Grace Alele-Williams who was also Chairperson of the event, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Special Guest of honour while Governor Akinwumi Ambode, the Chief host was represented and other dignitaries. Notable old boys at the event were the literary icon, Professor John Pepper Clark, Chairman of the Ughelli Old Boys, Professor Omatsola Vincent, renowned Columnist and Chairman of the Editorial Board of Nation newspaper, Sam Omatseye, among others.