By Samuel Ayara
As schools in Akwa Ibom State braces to resume for the 2017/2018 session in September, there is nothing pretentious about government’s determination to not only sustain the free and compulsory education policy in the state, but giving it the quality desired of a 21st century academic endeavour has become Governor Udom Emmanuel’s prime focus.
This puts preparation and determination ahead of luck, as the governor hardly allows a passing moment without leading in the direction of putting the state on right educational footing, to rise from being one of Nigeria’s educationally advantaged states to one whose education focuses on building a progressive future, through commendable educational policy and programmes.
For the state chief executive, effort amounts to naught until desired result is achieved as clearly demonstrated in ways than few, by the growing positives, education in the state has recorded from primary to tertiary institutions, where he has clearly demystified what hitherto limited access to education.
Last year’s summit on education may have passed for a jamboree before succeeding months changed the narrative to “business unusual.” The summit, which brought critical stakeholders in education to brainstorm on ways to make education work, resolved among several other considerations, a review of the free and compulsory education policy.
True to type, agents of darkness allowed the governor no chance when they jumped to the streets, transacting the dummy, that there were plans to abolish the social policy on education. This rumour did not quite go well as it sent panic and fear in the minds of parents who had felt they were done working to pay school fees; at least for their ward’s basic education.
Governor Emmanuel’s hardliner posturing on getting things done silently allowed the pessimists a perfect market to peddle their falsehood, since to the governor there was no need joining issues with people who wished to know less than they should.
Results from both internal and external examinations after the summit was all Governor Emmanuel needed to silent dissenting voices as he moved on with implementing the summit’s recommendations of infrastructural redress, motivation for teachers and students as well as expanding capacity in science education, if the state must mount the throne as a leading destination for knowledge.
Beginning with addressing infrastructural deficit in public schools, the governor got to work, changing the fortunes of school infrastructures to standards that have earned the state higher productivity in education, by constructing, renovating and revamping public primary and secondary schools to take the status that can allow for effective learning.
Ensuring it is no compensation for nothing; the governor has been upbeat in ensuring every school gets a touch, as the Inter-ministerial Direct Labour Committee of government is undaunted with continually increasing the database of remodeled schools in the state, which avails the assurances that at the pace it is going, every school may soon receive the governor’s Midas touch.
An upward review of educational reward system finds expression in the accolades the duo of Ufot Ekong and Ms Ime Umanah got when they excelled in their educational pursuits, even as Ukeme Etim Ikot, who had the best result in 2016 WASSCE was rewarded to either spur him to greater excellence or encourage others to such feats.
It is no gainsaying that the prompt and regular remittances of subvention to schools in the state have in ways than few motivated teachers and school administrators to rise to the consciousness of delivering on the government’s template of qualitative education, since they now worry less about funding for educational materials and logistics.
Expanding capacity for science education at a time government was bracing to conquer the fear of capital flight in her industrialization agenda obviously needed no emphasis for Governor Udom Emmanuel, who foreknew the need to encourage science and technical education as the next frontier beckons to sustain the state’s acclaim as a preferred investment destination.
Little then wondered that despite unprovoked vituperations, Governor Emmanuel still considered engaging some of the 5000 teachers who were successful in the recently conducted revalidation screening, giving priority to science education by ordering the deployment of the first batch of 1569 successful candidates in subject areas of Mathematics, English language, Chemistry, Biology, Physics as well as Physical and health education.
Make no mistake, this is in no way the last of the 5000 government intends to engage, there is obviously an assurance of more to come. Deserving is the resolve of the state chief executive at ensuring quality control by living to the letters of his proclamation, when he said “I cannot commit the future of Akwa Ibom children to hands of teachers I cannot allow my children sit under” this in ways than few avails the assurance that better days are here for public schools.
Despite the biting economic realities, it is necessary to keep in mind that it is only in Akwa Ibom that the government is employing, while other states; including the Federal Government are laying-off. It is also worthy of note that the state ranks top among those that are up to date with payment of WAEC examination fees for students in the state (including non-indigenes) at a time other states are withdrawing such privileges on account of declining financial fortunes.
The silent infrastructural revolution at both campuses of Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) agreeably may be seen as an obligation by government to students who have kept their part of the deal through fee payments, until one realizes that the institution is one of (if not) Nigeria’s most subsidized state owned university.
Little wonder when the governor at AKSU’s last convocation despite inaugurating major projects including an ultramodern 3 storey administrative block, commercial farm feeds and palm oil mills; digital language library, vegetable screen house, mass communication studio and standard arts theatre, declared that no investment in education would be considered expensive by his administration.
This conviction to holdback nothing in educational investment in the governor’s thinking, is geared towards building an irrepressible manpower in the state to benefit from government’s audacious commitment to industrialization, which will reduce capital flight and raise the peoples capacity and consciousness to playing lead roles in the socioeconomic rejuvenation the state is positioned for.
Beyond the talk, Governor Emmanuel who has demonstrated tremendous will in ensuring work force is not imported to the state has also not wavered at helping the rest of Nigeria provide a platform for quality education, in seeing that despite its status as a state owned university non-indigenes are allowed equal opportunities.
Testimonies of his hands-on interventions abound in other state-owned tertiary institutions including the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic and the College of Education, where infrastructural consolidation, improved curricula content, welfare of staff and students as well as full accreditations are awarded courses offered.
University of Uyo despite being a federal government institution has not ceased to benefit from Governor Udom Emmanuel’s magnanimity as the state have remained upbeat in its resolve to build an ivory of international acclaim in the state, which in the governor’s sentiment would be of immense benefit to people of the state who form the majority population.
Whatever concerns this may raise, it is incontrovertible that in Akwa Ibom State lies the root of determination and poise that seeks to berth a new development narrative by increasing access to education.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak Local Government Area.