Abimbola Akosile examines the various efforts by government to reposition education as a catalyst for development in Nigeria, with Edo State as a case study on progressive application of the vital Sustainable Development Goal
Nigeriaâ€™s development trajectory is sometimes showcased in the quality of its education sector, which parades over-populated classrooms, outdated school curricula, incessant labour strikes over poor wages and inadequate incentives; as well as policy inconsistency.
The resulting migration of Nigerian students to Europe, North and South America and other African countries, where education receives premium attention, explains the failing faith in Nigeriaâ€™s education, amplified by the poor global rating of the nationâ€™s tertiary institutions.
Over the years, while several efforts have been made to discuss the crisis in Nigeriaâ€™s education sector, successive governments at the federal, state and local levels have demonstrated feeble disposition to overhauling the sector. However, the trend appears different in Edo State
Setting the tone for what was to come, Governor Godwin Obaseki, shortly after assuming office, dispelled the gloom that characterised the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), which civil servants saw as one of the cash cows of the state.
The restructuring of the dysfunctional agency repositioned it to execute its core mandate of transforming learning and teaching outcomes in the state, with the employment of technology-savvy and result-oriented staff, who are the vanguard of the ongoing change in the basic education sector.
For the first time in the stateâ€™s recent history, training and retraining of teachers, promotion as well as the institutionalisation of teacher supervision and monitoring are receiving their deserved attention.
Known for educational excellence in the days of former governors; Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and Ambrose Alli, Edo State, under Governor Godwin Obaseki, is on its way to re-enacting the great strides that earned her accolades in the 1980s. The building blocks for the renaissance or return to educational excellence are being laid.
The latest in the series of basic education sector reforms is Edo Supporting Teachers to Achieve Results (EDOSTAR), a component of Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EDOBEST).
EDOSTAR is a Teacher Professional Development Training that is building the capacity of teachers in the use of digital technologies in classrooms as well as new classroom management techniques.
According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Basic Education and Acting Chairman, Edo SUBEB, Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe, the teacher training programme will equip teachers with knowledge and skills in deploying new technologies in the classroom, noting that over 2,000 teachers and Headmasters/Headmistresses participating in the exercise will receive computer tablets and smart phones.
â€œEdo BEST is about imagining the education of tomorrow and starting it today. Governor Obaseki is committed to a holistic change in our basic education sub-sector. On the first day of training, we realised that the training was oversubscribed. Over 3,000 teachers showed up. It was a herculean task to send some away because we have a set limit we can accommodate for this training. We will have more trainings as we expand Edo BEST to other schools,â€ she said.
Recently, caches of textbooks were received by the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, for distribution to public schools. Earlier, mathematical sets were distributed to public schools in the state.
When the Edo State Government announced a ban on the use of public school compounds for funeral ceremonies, marriages and other social activities in August last year, many people hailed the policy.
Until the ban, the newly renovated public primary and secondary schools across the state regularly hosted various social activities, which attracted miscreants to public school space.
Vandals had a field day breaking and stealing glass panes, furnishings, books and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment.
Reports of miscreants defecating in the classrooms after parties in the school compounds were rife, while in some instances, criminals converted schools in their neighbourhood to hide-out for their nocturnal activities. The Red Roof buildings lost their colour and dignity.
Explaining the rationale for the policy, Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Hon, Paul Ohonbamu, said: â€œBy our ancestry as Edo people, we have always shown the example of public order and decency which others have emulated over the years. This administration is determined to make Edo a model magnificence and beauty once again.â€
According to the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Basic Education and Acting Chairman of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe, the ban by the Edo State Government on the use of premises of public schools for social activities would check vandalism of government infrastructure, create an effective line of communication and strengthen the harmonious relationship between schools and communities where they are located.
â€œWith such a measure in place, communities will take over ownership of the infrastructure as critical stakeholders and put the problem of vandalism behind them,â€ she said.
To ascertain the number of schools, population of teachers, students, available infrastructure and the location of schools across the state, a census has been carried out by the Obaseki administration.
As the figures of the census are being processed, the state government has said the data gathered from the census would guide critical policy undertakings in the sector such as the construction of new schools, deployment of teachers, chairs and tables, laboratories, libraries and other resources.
After years of neglect, Governor Obaseki has put technical education on the front burner and has commenced the reconstruction of the old Benin Technical College to serve as hub for skills acquisition. The governor plans to use the college to re-skill Edo youths for the emerging industrial sector in the state. On completion, the new Benin Science and Technical College will serve as a skills hub for vocational and technical training.
Earlier this month, the Edo State governor assured a delegation of the European parliament who paid him a courtesy visit that the Benin Science and Technical College will be near completion before the end of the year.
â€œThe Benin Science and Technical College is a work in progress and we anticipated that it would be near completion before the end of the year. When the project is completed, it will enable victims of human trafficking and others acquire technical and vocational skills which will offer them hope,â€ he told his guests.
According to the governor, the college, on completion, will supply technical manpower to the Benin Industrial Park, the planned Benin Modular Refinery and other enterprises that require technical and vocational manpower.
The impact of the aggressive repositioning of Edo Stateâ€™s education sector is more visible in the tertiary education sub-sector as the government has rolled out a new multi-campus architecture for institutions of higher learning in the state.
Work on the merging of the Colleges of Agriculture in Iguoriakhi and Agenebode will be completed soon. The new institution will have specialised schools offering courses in the various areas of agriculture.
According to Obaseki, the new institute will provide trained manpower in the agricultural broad spectrum â€œgiven the role of agriculture in advancing the economy of the country, and considering the status of the state as an agrarian state.
The governor disclosed that a team is currently working on a new curriculum to ensure that graduates of the institute are trained to become successful agripreneurs.
The state government is passionate about teacher training. During a visit to the old College of Education in Abudu, Orhionmwon Local Government Area, Obaseki said the state is to operate the Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor, as well as multi-campus College of Education with sites in Igueben, Abudu and Auchi.
â€œWhile the Abudu campus is to serve as Special Training Centre for teachers at the Basic Education level, the campus at Igueben will focus on training teachers for technical and secondary education.â€
He said the state government has concluded arrangement to remodel the college in Abudu, noting, â€œAfter revamping this institution, it will serve as a centre for training and certification of new sets of teachers for the basic level of education. This will prepare the teachers to adopt modern teaching methods at that level of education.â€
The State governor has read the riot act to Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma to turn around its fortunes in four yearsâ€™ time.
The governor recently gave the management of the state-owned university, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, a four-year deadline to become the best university in Nigeria. He assured the universityâ€™s management of his administrationâ€™s support for the university to raise its profile and bring back the institutionâ€™s glorious days.
The sustained tempo of activities at the Edo State University Iyamho, earned it the first position among state-owned universities and 3rd place among universities in Nigeria, in the first ever open educational resources ranking by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in conjunction with a national expert group and external experts.
The new status of Edo State University Iyamho as a centre for academic excellence, barely two years after its creation, is indeed good news from the state.
Those familiar with the workings of the Obaseki-led government, say the Iyamho varsity is the model for every educational institution in the state, in the mind of the governor.
With the success story of the Edo State University Iyamho and the ongoing reforms in the basic education sector, the stage looks set for the re-enactment of the stateâ€™s glorious old days, (then Bendel), when it ranked number one in educational excellence in the country.