It is the desire of most parents to see their children in the morning have their textbooks and writing materials inside their backpack going to a school equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including science laboratories, a sickbay and other facilities.
Apart from well-motivated teachers and a serene environment, the school library is stocked with the best of local and foreign textbooks, exotic learning materials and playthings.
These provisions with the aesthetic environment and enough qualified instructors, they know would help their children develop self-worth and confidence for life ahead. However for many Nigerian parents, this is a distant dream. Poorly funded, ill-equipped, and low-performing teachers in public schools is a nationwide malaise.
Enter the Akwa Ibom Education Summit. Governor Udom Emmanuel hosted the inaugural edition of the Education Summit through the Ministry of Education with the theme: “Human Capacity Development for Sustainable Transformation of Persons and Society,” in Uyo recently.
The summit brought together cross-sectoral stakeholders in the education sector to discuss and deliberate on how to improve the quality of the education system in the state through strengthened accountability at all levels. Erudite scholars who unraveled the problems bedeviling the sector spoke freely.
Governor Emmanuel, deliberately relaxed the atmosphere so everyone could freely express his/her opinion on the negative state of things and on the way forward. He elucidated his government purpose when he said, “We are not just doing one of those political gatherings. We are determined to change the structure, the content, and the output of our educational system in Akwa Ibom State. To me, education is an investment, it is not an expense. I must sit back with all stakeholders and we are going to create what I call a state of urgency in order to try this, because we want to create a structure that is enduring and is sustainable. I want to reassure you that we are committed and would reach that goal.”
The commissioner for education in Akwa Ibom state, Nse Essien, in his contribution said: “The scenario of our educational system is characterised by extensive infrastructural decay in our schools, total absence of library facilities, non-commitment of our teachers and trainers, our science labs, technical workshops, and vocational centres have virtually become museums.”
One of the speakers at the summit, Udom Inoyo, the vice-chairman of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, said it was rare to have a government official speak such truth publicly in front of a governor, as did the commissioner. It is the working style of Governor Emmanuel.
The Education Summit came to be in itself sober yet an interesting gathering as the governor sat through the two days deliberations. This was indeed, the first time that this has ever happened in the state.
His administration has noticeably tried; building infrastructure, paying WAEC fees and providing free compulsory and qualitative education for the citizens. He has done many unique things too.
There was the establishment of three new model secondary schools in the state, namely, the Nigerian Navy Military school (NNMS), Ikot Ntuen. The newly established Army Command Science Secondary School in Efa, which was refurbished and fully equipped to replace the Salvation Army Secondary School and the Model Girls Secondary School, Ikot Ekang, it has been commissioned and is comprehensively operational. The commissioned remodeled Obio Akpa campus of the Akwa Ibom State University, AKSU, in Oruk Anam, which now boast of new major projects which includes: a digital Language Library, a commercial farm palm oil mill, a commercial farm feeds mill, vegetable Green House, Ultra-Modern Mass Communication Studio and a magnificent Arts theatre are worthy testimonies of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s commitments and determination to actualise sustainable global educational standard in Akwa Ibom State.
To further position AKSU as a referral for global academic standard, the entire internal and access roads in Obio Akpa campus now wears an amazing ambience of newly constructed streets with side drains courtesy of the Governor. The University of Uyo just got her first Arts Gallery building courtesy of the first family to honour Late Prince Bernard Sampson Idiong and Professor Stella Idiong; parents of Her Excellency, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel.
The Emmanuel administration has not only sustained the free and compulsory education from Pre-Primary to Senior Secondary three, but consistently, undertakes payment of Senior Secondary Certificates Examination (SSCE), fees running into hundreds of millions for all indigent students. There are 1401 public primary, secondary and technical schools, 895 private nursery, primary and secondary schools and four tertiary institutions under his watch. It is not easy. In addition to free tuition, the state pays a subvention of N100 per primary school pupil and N300 per secondary school students per term to cater for logistics. With over one million five hundred thousand students, enrolment in public schools has tripled since the introduction of the programme.
Governor Emmanuel spoke during the summit in a way that many political leaders won’t do; about the youth involvement in politics in the state: “If we are calling on youth by 2 p.m. on a workday we can get up to 50,000 youth. It shows that something is wrong with society. I shouldn’t be getting 50,000 youth during workhours. I should be waiting after work. Even after work, I should be scared if they are tired. They should be somewhere engaged, they should be somewhere managing their businesses.”
He further said, “We are determined to change the structure, the outlook and the content of the educational system in Akwa Ibom State. To me, education is an investment, it is not an expense. This education summit is to address a particular infrastructure that any state, any country must look forward to, which is what I call the soft infrastructure.
“It is not enough for us to concentrate on those physical and hard infrastructures. I must sit back with all stakeholders and we are going to create what I call a state of urgency in order to try this, because we want to create a structure that is enduring and is sustainable.
“I want to reassure you that we are committed and would reach that goal. We are determined but government alone may not be able to do it. Let corporate bodies and other individuals assist us. We can all have foundations too, even if is to provide us with chairs.”
The state government has pledged to match its commitment with fast paced action plan. It should set up its own Education Trust Fund to assist in the delivery of qualitative and affordable education especially with indigent but talented students in mind. It should deliberately work to ensure the placement of its indigenes in advantageous and technological courses in tertiary institutions and to employ Guidance Counsellors. The provision of education using critical ICT skills for teaching, learning, examination together with the constant training and re-training of Teachers must be made a priority.
Everyone thinks of Akwa Ibom state as the home for oil; the large corporate entity of Mobil, but it also has a thriving entrepreneurial culture and the Dakkada philosophy came to fortify its culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. Inaugurating the Committee to organise the Education Summit, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem had said the initiative would deliberate on the template for a qualitative educational system in the state.
He had decried the present educational system where students were trained and graduated for paid employment and stressed the need for a review of the school curricular that would afford, “our children the opportunity of being trained in tertiary institutions to become self-reliant.”
He noted that most artisans in Nigeria today are imported from the neighboring African countries to handle tiling and screeding jobs, which ordinarily would have been done by our local artisans, if they had acquired the necessary skills.
Speaking at the summit, the governor disclosed that 10 indigenes of Akwa Ibom state were to be enrolled for studies in textile engineering in a Europe based institution come September 2020.
“Yesterday, officials of an institution in Europe watched this programme live and communicated to me, saying that having watched this programme and listened to my passion for technology-based education, by September next year, they will grant scholarship to ten Akwa Ibom citizens to study Textile Engineering.”
Indeed, the summit was about preparing students to enter the business world and to stand out from others in the nation.
“So what do we do?” Governor Emmanuel asked. “We must change tactic, approach and strategy. You cannot say we are the only country that has had this growth in population, no.
“I cannot be waiting as a governor for the curriculum from the Federal Government only to run a state that the population is staring at my face; I will not wait for that. I will not wait for the education policy up there for me to be able to move economically.”
Emmanuel wants to create the job creators of tomorrow. Employers and businesses are looking for talent all over the world and the real differentiator is education and a talent pool they can access. This is the governor’s dream. Not party thugs.
Bassey wrote from Abuja