The world is constantly in continuous paradigm shift. From the economy to education to the health sector, infrastructure, technology and other facets, there are pragmatic changes in modes of operations signaling new ways of doing things. Every society is summoned by moral suasion to embrace this paradigm shift if it wishes to remain contemporary within the global spectrum and only leaders who are change agents can midwife this cause.
Governor Udom Emmanuel falls into this class of leaders. His leadership style attest eloquently to this postulation. His background, exposure, psychological make-up, vision, character and inclination towards knowledge driven leadership are defining hallmarks of his administration which acquiesce with cutting edge indices.
One of the areas that has enjoyed the cutting edge approach is the education sector. This is visible at the level of investment and passion, perhaps, with the understanding that education is the bedrock for the development of any society. The administration’s investment in the area of education is enormous and diverse with considerable efforts towards covering every gamut of the sector.
Apart from the novel but well orchestrated Free and Compulsory Education which the state remains one of the few to so offer, the added benevolence of WAEC fees for finalists of both junior and secondary schools and involvement in other areas within the sector which also exact huge cost toll on the administration are evidential realities of a deliberate paradigm shift he has introduced in the educational sector. Lack of school fees which hitherto impeded access of indigent pupils and students to education and examination fees which often showed up like a leviathan to annul the fate of candidates of WASC Examination have both been vacated by the compassionate administration of Governor Emmanuel. It is salient to bring to public attention that he also pays subvention to public primary and secondary schools amounting to N100 per pupil and N300 per student.
But the Governor knows that the above does not complete the cycle of needs and so is conscious of many other determinants that are required to turn the sector around and produce quality manpower that can stand shoulder to shoulder with others from other climes with the state leading among the Comity of States. Basing his vision on needs assessment of the sector, the administration identified needs which conduce with contemporary demands and aggregated them to fashion out a sector that is in sync with global best practices .
Some of these needs assessment have witnessed the recruitment of qualified teachers for public schools in the state. Gone are the days when the Teaching Service was considered a dumping ground with some accepting teaching as the easy way out of the unemployment quagmire. Today, teachers recruited have the irreducible minimum qualification of NCE for primary schools and degree for secondary schools to leverage them to impart researchable and contemporary knowledge to the projected workforce the state is preparing for the future.
Governor Emmanuel believes that teachers must not only be effectively and mentally equipped, they must also be in tune with modern teaching techniques. Government therefore considers periodic training and retraining programmes as compelling integrals of manpower upgrading in respect of the said teachers. Also, Government has so far conducted a diligent recruitment process wherein it offered provisional employment for about 3000 teachers to be further shared to the 1,160 primary schools in the State, since teachers have a shared responsibility in raising children.
The Udom administration believes that you cannot train manpower without the corresponding provision of opportunities for the deployment of the said manpower. Consequently, the administration has been innovative and daring. Recently, it took over 7 community secondary schools and transformed them into model and modern schools equipped with modern amenities. It has also constructed and renovated over 365 school blocks, and carried out massive intervention projects in Public Primary/Secondary Schools across the State. Governor Emmanuel has also carried out strategic interventions in the area of internal roads in tertiary institutions in addition to the provision of equipment and academic blocks.
Aside from the myriad of commendable things that Governor Emmanuel has done in the education sector, his passion for education perhaps enjoys full expression in the decision to attract and partner the military in the establishment of the Nigerian Navy School in Oruk-Anam and Army School in Etinan. The Navy School which boasts of modern infrastructure and equipment was recently inaugurated by Governor Emmanuel in a well received ceremony that had the trappings of pomp and pageantry. There is no doubt that military schools which are known for churning out high grade human resources would add value to the educational standing of the state.
Another aspect which further reflects Governor Emmanuel’s intention to midwife an educational sector that would meet the needs of the cutting edge is his programme of procuring and distributing free exercise books, text books and other educational materials in key subjects like Mathematics, English language and the Sciences to public and private schools in the state. This support may look ordinary but it certainly goes a long way in encouraging the students and providing them with instructional materials that would help in deepening their knowledge of those critical subject areas. Of course, the donation of laptops to medical and law school students, Government Technical College, Ewet and those who recited the Dakkada Creed during 1stOctober Celebration in 2015 further encapsulates Governor Emmanuel’s vision to put products of the State’s school system in a contemporary pedestal that would enable them compete with people from other climes.
Tertiary institutions in the state have also fared well under Governor Udom Emmanuel. Apart from the upgrade of facilities and construction of internal roads in many of them, the administration has also found the need to upgrade Akwa Ibom State School of Arts and Science Nung Ukim, Ikono to College of Science and Technology. This decision would certainly impact positively on the manpower needs of the state and indeed the Nation especially in this technologically driven era. His quest to turn the sector around in terms of manpower needs has also witnessed the State’s sponsorship of 30 students for post graduate courses in India who have since returned to add value to the State. Still at tertiary level, Government has approved the upward review of monthly subvention to Akwa Ibom State University as well as the payment of salary of 279 staffs recruited in 2013.
The Udom Administration also recognizes the need for training and re-training and has taken steps to ensure that it is addressed. It has therefore facilitated the training of school inspectors, education officers and principals in quality assurance and best practices in education. This is done in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education, UNICEF, UNESCO etc. It has further undertaken the training of officers in Examination and Certification Division on ICT and computerization of examination results.
Governor Emmanuel’s achievements in the education sector is distinguishable. His investment in the sector is daring and indeed an act of righteous courage. It is a verifiable assertion that education is the key that unlocks the future of any State or Nation. No wonder the Governor’s effusive and cerebral submission that what he has put into the education sector is an investment, not an expense. It is indeed an investment for the people and the State.
Joe Iniodu is a Public Affairs Analyst.