Joy and ecstasy knew no bounds for the staff and students of the former Rivers State College of Education, Port Harcourt on Tuesday, October 20, 2009.
It was the day Governor Chibuike Amaechi signed the bill upgrading the institution to a full-fledged University – Rivers State university of Education (RSUOE), into law. Their joy was, however, not misplaced. The school, long ago, had all it takes to be the pioneer Education University in the country, but was over- taken by the one named after late social crusader, Tai Solarin in Ogun State.
Staff and students of the new University set aside a day for a solidarity rally for Governor Amaechi in appreciation of his love for the school and by extension, the people of the state.
Its Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rosemund Green Osah-Ogulu in The Tide’s Rountable had promised to develop programmes to stand the institution out in the comity of universities in Nigeria.
The Vice-Chancellor did not mince words when she stated that the university can take-off with the personnel and other facilities in her arsenal for now.
The University’s pioneer Director of Consultancy Services, Dr. Jessica Ezekiel-Hart, re-echoed the Vice- Chancellor’s assurance to carve a niche for the school when she vowed that the institution, which was an affiliate of the famous University of Ibadan (UI), will not go below UI’s standard, in an interview with The Weekend Tide in her office, last Monday.
Her words: “Our new status will make us re-double our efforts. Besides, we have been doing it with Ibadan and we have that name to protect which is why we are not going to fall below that high standard. We have gone through National universities Commission’s accreditation process for our programmes and we have done well. If we were doing well as a College, we must surely do well now as a University.”
Dr. Ezekiel-Hart, an Associate Professor of Sociology of Education, has been in the employ of the school since 1978, after the National Youth Service Corps programme. She graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1977, later proceeded to the Universities of Port Harcourt and Buffalo for higher degrees.
What really influenced her at the time to study education which appeared less attractive to most young people?
“I had teachers who were good and I wanted to be like them, I cherished their whole personality and they knew so much,” she recalled.
For her, “the journey has been beautiful as teaching is a very noble profession, making impact in peoples’ life is rewarding, which though, cannot be translated to money. Sometimes, people see me on the way and tell me I taught them in school”.
Nevertheless, Dr. Ezekiel-hart, who is the immediate past Dean of the institution’s Education faculty is confronted by some challenges.
According to her, “the decadence in society is constantly reflecting in the school system, because the school is a miniature society. The kind of corruption now wasn’t there. Today, students are not willing to read. And some colleagues, we hear, engage in unimaginable unethical things. We hear of things like ‘sorting’. It pains your heart, knowing that we didn’t ‘sort’ anybody to go through. What we made was our effort. I didn’t pay for any handout all through my stay in ABU, the teachers gave to us free”.
Not withstanding this scenario, the consultancy boss does not believe that the nation’s educational standard is low.
“Although, there are shades of opinion on standards, the fact that some students are not willing to learn does not mean that standard is lowered.”
But is the teacher’s reward actually in heaven?
It starts here, because if you don’t know how to enjoy it here, you won’t know how to enjoy it in heaven,” she enthused.
On the preponderance of private schools in the country, the educationist opined that they should not be abolished, but advised government to monitor their activities as according to her, “some of them do not worth the name as they operate in garages.”
She did not hide her excitement for the strides of Governor Amaechi, specifically in education.
“He is doing very well, I mean it. I ‘m not singing his praise. Apart from changing the status of this school, there are model schools springing up everywhere in the state. I pray that they will not be model only in physical outlook, but also in their content. And this will be achieved by paying attention to the training and retraining of teachers.
“Before now, teachers did not go for refresher courses and they worked with obsolete ideas and materials. That was the picture of the Nigerian teacher. So, they must be constantly re-trained to enhance their productivity”.
Almost on daily basis, the Director tells her students “to always work hard because hardwork does not kill. What you sow is what you reap. If you sow laziness, you will reap it, maximise your opportunity.”
Dr. Ezekiel-hart, who is also Chairman, Rivers State branch of the ABU Alumi Association said that, “in our days, our certificate was sacrosanct, but these days serious-minded employers won’t employ you on the face value of your certificate. It is no longer sacrosanct. If you get a certificate through foul means, it will tell on you. For example, if you ‘sorted’ yourself through, there is a limit you can go with that certificate because you must surely be put to test by employers”.
The Chairman used the forum to highlight the activities of the association in these words:
“The Association had for several years pioneered efforts at improving infrastructural content of their almamater and the overall development of university education in Nigeria. Individuals and corporate bodies should join hands with the government in bringing succour to universities in the country, because government does not have the wherewithal to do it all alone”.
She lauded President Umaru Yar’Adua’s efforts at developing the Niger Delta region, pointing out that, the recent lecture organised by the ABU alumni in Port Harcourt with the topic – ‘strategies for solving the Niger Delta problem’ was aimed at addressing some issues affecting the corporate existence of the country.
On what she intends to do whenever she drops the chalk for retirement, the devout Christian, who is a member of the Foundation faith Church, simply responded that, “God will decide the next level”.
Hamilton Amadi & Marvellous Agonsi