Education has long been identified as the bedrock of individual and societal development. Be it formal education in the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions or informal education, which involves one being a journeyman to a qualified tradesman for a number of years, like in the making of a roadside auto mechanic, welder or auto electrician, to mention just these, the goal is the same.
It is through any of these forms of education that one could improve himself and then his family and society. Without one form of education or the other, survival in a modern society, particularly in the urban centres becomes an uphill task.
If one is not usefully engaged either as a self-employed person, or an employee of one organization or the other, he or she cannot raise the resources to pay his or her rent, pay the steadily rising electricity bills, and other utilities as well as feed himself and family. This accounts for the more than passing interest government at all levels pay to the education sector.
The objective of educating the youth in a manner that makes majority of them to be self-employed, and even employers of labour has become more imperative now than ever before in view of the acute unemployment situation in the country.
For example, the rising crime rate has been attributed to frustration on the part of the unemployed, and in some cases, unemployable graduates of our tertiary institutions, whose ranks continue to swell at the end of each academic session.
This position, therefore, makes it necessary for government to rethink its education curricula in order to evolve a strategy that would yield graduates or youths that, in the main, could be self-sustaining.
It is in this connection that plans by the Rivers State Government led by Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to unveil a new domesticated curricula for schools by September 2011 becomes relevant.
Happily, since the plan is envisaged to lay a solid educational foundation for youths at the formative and most difficult years of their lives during the primary and secondary school years, it is pertinent to suggest that the curricula be technical education-oriented.
That the Rivers State Government is very interested in the education and development of youths is not in doubt as underlined by the huge and extensive infrastructural facilities now being put on ground at the primary and secondary school levels.
In fact, the government’s vision, which is anchored on the more than 350 state-of-the-art model primary schools and 23 world-class model secondary schools, being built across the 23 local government areas of the state, is premised on this policy framework. Although some of these schools, especially the model primary schools, have been equipped and tastily furnished, what is left now is the provision of equipment for the remaining schools, with adequate staffing to drive the dream of government, to build a human capacity base that meets the increasing demands of the ever dynamic and competitive 21st century world.
But, we have seen that over time, the existing grammar schools dotted across the length and breathe of the state, have failed to produce skilled manpower that would be helpful in the technological advancement of the country, hence the need for emphasis to be placed on technical education for youths.
Indeed, the Osun State Governor, Gbemi Rauf Aregbesola, made the point crystal clear recently when he advocated a national policy on job creation and poverty alleviation through the use of vocational technical education to tackle rising unemployment, and the consequent high criminality profile in the land.
In his message last week to the 17th National Conference for Schools of Business Studies at Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Aregbesola noted that the policy, when in place, would ensure that education would offer less of books but more of bolts and nuts training, adding that upon completion, and with some help from government, products of vocational technical education would be equipped to practice their trades.
Aregbesola, in his address for the conference with the theme, “vocational technical education and national development”, also said that rising unemployment among the nation’s teeming graduates calls for the adoption of this type of education to address the problems.
From the foregoing, one could assert that adequate funding and rehabilitation of our existing technical schools, plus the raising of new ones in each of the 23 local government areas of Rivers State, would be money well channeled in the interest of the youths in particular and society at large.
At at now, the existing technical schools include the Government Technical School in Tombia, Government Vocational Training Centre (GVTC), Port Harcourt, Government Technical Secondary School, Oginigba, among others. In fact, at the higher level of education, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Nkpolu, and the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori, where the students who show exceptional ability or who excel in academics could go for their degree programmes in technical courses.
That vocational technical education is the way out of this massive youth unemployment is not in doubt, especially for youths in Rivers State, where there is ample opportunity for technically-trained persons to assist themselves, their families, communities and state, through the provision of much-needed services to the ever-increasing range of oil and gas industry players in this hub of hydrocarbons business in Africa.
The state government is, therefore, encouraged to explore this option in view of its potential advantages in engaging the youths in meaningful endeavours, and thus, arresting the bourgeoning spectre of militancy and other social vices now ravaging the society.
Moreover, it is high time the youth realized that the future of the country is in their hands, and this places on them enormous responsibility to ruminate on their future, which is fast approaching an epic stage.
Methinks that the Rivers State Government is equal to the task, but it is necessary to insist that all stakeholders, including parents, religious institutions and faith-based organisations, community leaders and mentors should impress on the youths the need to embrace vocational technical education for a better tomorrow. This is even more important now than ever before because of the growing trend toward world’s reliance on innovation, creativity and ingenuity to advance human and social development of society.