By Uwemedimoh Umanah
It was Victor Hugo, a novelist and philosopher that said that , “he who opens a school door, closes a prison”. A school is where formal learning/ education is inculcated for the overall personality development.
Education is synonymous with development. Some the world’s most ravaging problems were solved through research findings. Research and scientific discoveries orchestrated the Industrial Revolution in England in 18th in the Century. The East -Asian Economic Miracle of the 1960s and the Meiji Restoration in Japan were fueled and reinforced by sound educational policies.
In Japan, for instance, the Meiji regime initiated a free, compulsory and qualitative education for Japanese. They were offered scholarship by the state to study science and technology courses in universities in the West. The Meiji regime made it an offense to deny a Japanese child education.
Interestingly, by the mid 20th century, Japanese graduates were competing favorably with their western counterparts and contemporaries in the area of science and technology. Interestingly it has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
In Akwa Ibom, Governor Emmanuel’s educational policy aligns with the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, which underpins that education should respond to the changing needs of society. He believes that ‘schools should become environments that develop individual capabilities and further the idea of democracy and sensitivity to social and ecological responsibilities’.
The Governor’s intervention in education is premised on his unruffled commitment to lay a solid foundation for the future. He also envisages a sophisticated workforce and optimum population for the state. In this regard, the Free and Compulsory Education has been strengthened through effective monitoring, training and retraining of teachers. To ensure that the Free & Compulsory Education Policy performs optimally, government provides a subvention of N100 and N300 to the schools for each pupils and student in public primary and secondary schools respectively.
The success of the Free and Compulsory Education depends on the quality of teachers in public schools. Governor Udom Emmanuel regularly approves the training and re- training of teachers to sharpen their skills and teaching capabilities. This program includes those at the Principal and Inspector ranks, for an efficient service- delivery.
Through the Inter -Ministerial Direct Labour Committee, over 364 dilapidated classrooms blocks in state- owned schools have been refurbished/ constructed to create a conducive environment for learning. Also, desks and office accommodation for teachers which were in gory states are being provided and rehabilitated respectively.
Worthy of note is the fact that Akwa Ibom is among the top 5 states with the highest number of public schools in Nigeria, totaling 1,402. Agreeably, it’s no mean feat to efficiently maintain infrastructure in these whopping number of schools. However, the administration of Governor Emmanuel has not reneged on its determination, zeal and commitment to the provision of a better environment for learning, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
To encourage more enrollment in universities, the Akwa Ibom State Government invests N600 Million Naira annually as West African Examination fees for indigenes of the state. The Governor sees this huge investment as a worthy gesture capable of growing the Optimum / Productive Population for the state.
My research reveals that Udom Emmanuel belongs to Neo- Liberal Economic persuasion. This School is the main proponent of globalization. Neoliberalism considers infrastructure as being catalytic to globalization.
Perhaps, this ideological thought has led to Governor Emmanuel’s unflinching penchant for quality infrastructure. For instance, the pace and quality of work on internal roads and lecture halls in state- owned tertiary institutions is unprecedented. Both campuses Akwa Ibom State University, Akwa Ibom State State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua and College of Education, Afaha Nsit wear an impressive look in terms of road network, landscape and many other facilities. Interestingly, these institutions now have full accreditation, courtesy of the Governor’s dogged commitment to education.
Governor Emmanuel’s partnership with the Federal Government in educational has resulted in the siting and construction of Military Schools in the state. The state government has built and donated schools to the Nigerian Navy for a Naval College in Ikot Ntuen, Oruk Anam and the Nigerian Army in Efa, Etinan Local Government Area.
Another Federal Government educational project in the state which has experienced a leap through Mr Emmanuel ‘s strategic touch is the Girls Model Secondary School, Ikot Ekang, Abak from a near -abandoned project.
The Governor’s magic wand turned the facility into one of the most equipped schools in the country with a state -of -the -arts laboratory and library, modern classrooms, residential quarters for teachers, dormitories and teaching aid, dining hall, among others.
There are also qualified teaching staff that have made the school an enviable one. What makes it the more so, is the regular training and Re- training programs/ courses for teachers in state, courtesy of the Governor’s magnanimity and undiluted passion for education.
Critics may understandably question the Governor unwavering interest in intervening in some of federal projects. The Governor sees these project as being of greater benefit to the state, hence opportunities should be maximized for an enhanced capability.
Education is the greatest investment any Government can make for the citizenry and Governor Udom Emmanuel, through an unconventional business strategy, is a top -flier in this regard.
Uwemedimoh Umanah is a Public Affairs Analyst