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New School Curricula We Need

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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.

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Opinion

Approaching Death Without Fear

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Panic, anxiety and fear caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic are indicators of human attitude towards death. A university don, embittered because he was turned back from travelling abroad to deliver a lecture, confessed that he had lost an opportunity to earn thousands of dollars for delivering a one-hour lecture. It took the nagging of his wife to make him stop brooding. His 14 year-old daughter added that “life has no duplicate” and that money cannot be more important than “having daddy around”.
Let us admit that many people who take on the task of educating the masses on serious issues concerning life and death, rarely say the whole truth, untarnished. This is so largely because many of them rarely know the whole truth themselves. The sad truth is that those who challenge the status quo and prevailing dogmas become targets of attack by those who benefit from the dominion of mass ignorance and gullibility.
What we call death is a misnomer because the human body neither lives nor dies. The body which has become an object of obsession, is merely an animated conglomerate of atoms which bond together for some period, and then disintegrate again – dust to dust. The soul which animates and uses the body composed to the dust of the earth, dwells therein for about three score and ten years.
The purpose of periodic animation and use of the body of flesh and blood by the soul, is to acquire wide and varied experiences in various climes and zones of the earth. During such rounds of pilgrimages, the soul also strives to drop off encumbrances, propensities and errors attached to it as a result of wrong attitudes, thinking and actions. Some people refer to this all-important process as detachment from the burdens of “karma”. Unfortunately, a number of preachers, hearing the word karma, think of occultism and such balderdash.
Yet, the process of repeated embodiment for the purposes of maturity and cleansing from prevailing guilts, is the greatest grace as well as opportunity provided for everyone to fulfill the missions of staying on the earth. But what do we find? Total distortion and misrepresentation of the issue! Thus are many people led astray from the Truth which is the ultimate basis of human salvation. Truth also includes the basic laws by which life is governed, one of which stipulates that everyone reaps what he sows.
Human salvation does not consist of such easy stuff as many preachers hold enticingly to the public. Catching the crowd is not same thing as catching the soul. Rather, what we find is a process of exploiting human weaknesses, fears and ignorance as a means of spreading old and hackneyed dogmas that hold no water.
The time has come when the masses should be told the untarnished truth, bitter as it may be. One of such truths is that repeated incarnations constitute a grace and the means to correct the errors and guilts which individuals have accumulated and which must be atoned for. Another truth is that the body of flesh and blood is NOT the unit of ultimate value in human life. Serving as temporary garment of earth-life, the body is discarded several times like any garment, and another body taken on in another incarnation.
Serving as an outermost layer or cloak, the body has other inner layers, one of which is the soul which is the unit involved in life’s shuttles. The soul shuttles between the earth as a field of actions and cleansing, and beyond which can be called ethereal zone of the world of matter. Spirit, which is the real essence of man and the ultimate unit that must mature and ascend, constitutes what must return to paradise in the spiritual sphere of creation.
Death of the physical body which is a garment of transit, is not a calamity but a necessity. The body must be discarded several times, while the experiences gained through the instrumentality of the body are extracted and serve for enrichment purposes. Errors, negligences and guilts accumulated during physical pilgrimages form the balance sheet which confronts the soul in the beyond, as determinant of another incarnation.
Many of the senseless errors and excesses which people commit on earth arise from ignorance of the true facts of life, personal weaknesses and propensities which people find hard to drop, as well as misinformation from various quarters. Preachers and teachers who cannot expound and explain the true facts and laws of life as they truly are, should examine themselves before taking on the task of educating others.
Death of the physical body which has become an obsession to many people, is not a big deal, neither is it a calamity. Physical death becomes a calamity because of the fear arising from the demand for atonement. If those who loot public treasury by various clever means know that in the future they would walk the streets of cities with plates in hands, begging for alms, surely, they would mend their ways now, quickly!
Ignorance or lack of true knowledge is man’s greatest plight and, a part of such ignorance includes the issue about what we call death. In reality death means absence or degeneration of responsibility, alertness, consciousness and inability to strive towards the ultimate purpose of life on earth. What is dead is what becomes useless in creation, arising from lack of personal exertion. Those who are truly living approach death with cheers and confidence, because it means progress.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

X-raying Indecent Dressing

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Dress the way you want to be addressed is a popular saying that buttresses the fact that the way you dress speaks a lot about you.
This saying has, however, been compromised in recent times by our youths. Most of our streets, public places and institutions of higher learning are now adorned with indecent dressing. Ladies are the most culpable.
A dress is simply defined by the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary as “a piece of women’s clothing that is in one piece and covers the body down to the legs, sometimes, reaching below the knees or ankles”.
But for some of our female folks, the reverse is the case. Their own definition of dress is a piece of women’s clothing that is made in many pieces and exposes the body down to the legs and, most times, flying above the knees to the lap.
Some ladies have thrown away their values and our beloved culture as Africans to embrace the Western ways of dressing. They seem to have forgotten that a typical African woman is cultured and is expected to always cover the sensitive parts of her body.
What most of our ladies put on as skirts, especially on school campuses, is just an inch longer than the underwear they put on. Whenever they put on such dresses, they struggle to sit down, let alone bend down or stretch their legs.
Apart from the skimpy and tight nature of these dresses, they are also transparent; revealing certain parts of their bodies to the glare and embarrassment of decent people. It is the equivalent of what my lecturer would call “mobile pornography”.
Some students are so engrossed in this “dress to kill” mentality such that they have thrown decency to the wind, and even outdo the Westerners they try to emulate. The question is, why do we always seek to outdo the West in matters like this and not in science and technology or even any other endeavour?
This indecency was advertised to the embarrassment of some of us during the students’ week of the Rivers State University (RSU), then Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) in 2012.
The week which featured among other things, the Old School Day, witnessed some female students marching within the campus with their low slung knickers (bom shorts), skimpy and body exposing tops, and afro weavons under the guise of mocking the old school style.
In retrospect, in the 1960s and 1970s, one could hardly see young ladies – who are now parents, dressed in such manner. Then there was self-discipline and many students knew why they were in school. They were not distracted. Instead they were properly focused.
Newspaper reports sometime ago showed that some students of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, and Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, who dressed indecently were sent back home. They were prevented from entering the school premises. But can that happen today without fear of reprisals from the students?
Such disciplinary measures have helped the two institutions so much to improve and instill morals in their students. The authorities of higher institutions in the country should emulate this and instill similar discipline in the students.
While undergraduates, especially the female ones, are free to be fashionable, this must be done with some decorum and decency. We should not forget that the primary motive of attending school is to acquire knowledge and be exemplary in learning and character.
There is nothing bad in looking good and smart, but the way we go about it matters and tells a lot about us. Our ladies should, therefore, strive to jealously guard their dignity. Of course, dressing to show one’s nakedness or vital parts is ungainly.
Dressing indecently does not add to one’s beauty nor make one a big girl’ as many ladies wrongly assume. Rather, it takes away one’s dignity and exposes one to ridicule and embarrassment. No amount of modernity can disclaim this fact.
There is no doubt that a lot of sex related problems such as rape and other forms of sexual abuses will be reduced in various institutions of higher learning and the society at large  if our ladies can strike a balance between modernity and modesty.
Ibigotemiari wrote from Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Africa And Protection Of Children’s Rights

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Africa’s foremost sage and rights activist, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, on 2nd August, 1996 groaningly emphasized, “Africa is renowned for its beauty, its natural heritage and prolific resources – but equally, the image of its suffering children haunts the conscience of our Continent and the world”. Similarly, at the launch of the Blue Train, Worcester Station, South Africa on 27th September, 1997, Mandela ardently expressed, “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children”. Yet again, at a luncheon hosted by the then United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, another pride to the Continent at the Special Session of the UN for Children, New York City on 9th May, 2002, Mandela exploded, “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children”.
From these remarks, Mandela aristocratically, foresightedly fixated his eyes on the future of the society considering children as the leaders of tomorrow. Orchestrating the garbage-in, garbage-out recipe, invariably – whatever investment made in a child today extensively determines the society’s future. Unfortunately, the wellbeing of children particularly in African countries leaves much to be desired. The pertinent question precisely to leaders is; what future is in view vis-à-vis investment in children in the society outside their own?
To lend a hand, the pathetic conditions children in most public schools find themselves cannot be overemphasized. The psychological effects alone are awful. Some pupils even sit on bare floors owing to shortage of chairs. That’s where there are actually classrooms. Above all, children’s hawking defiantly to Article 28 of United Nations Convention on Child’s Rights (CRC) particularly during school sessions poses another question for parents, guardians and governments. Calculably, the Convention hit thirty years this year, 2019.
For emphasis, Article 28 states, “All children have the right to a primary education, which should be free, and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education, schools must be run in an orderly way – without the use of violence. Any form of school discipline should take into account the child’s human dignity”.
Correspondingly, an Italian renowned educationalist, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) remarkably avowed, “Early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society”. Could this consequently imply the society is deservedly reaping what it sowed by oversights of some fundamentals in the past? For example, the number of children and teenagers consistently participating in protests in the recent times in Nigeria’s federal capital is worrisomely, a pointer to out-of-school large population. The ugly situation unconsciously presents a clue of high numbers of supposed pupils and secondary school students roving the streets. Concisely, this is abysmal failure on the system.
By Article 1 of the CRC, “Everyone under the age of eighteen has all the rights in the Convention”. Article 2 elaborately provides, “The Convention applies to every child without discrimination, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status, whatever they think or say, whatever their family background”.
The CRC is the first legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities. The provisions and principles of the CRC guide UNICEF in its operations with 54 Articles and three Optional Protocols. Equally, the Convention spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
An Optional Protocol on the other hand, is an accord that complements and adds to an existing human rights treaty. For this reason, only States that have already agreed to be bound by a parent treaty may choose to be parties to optional protocols. However, it is fundamentally pertinent to note that whilst the Convention protects children from harmful and exploitative works, it doesn’t prohibit them from helping out at home in ways that are safe and commensurate to their age. Notwithstanding, under no circumstances would children’s work jeopardize any of their other rights, particularly the right to education.
The Unitarian Universalist – United Nations Office (UU-UNO) through its “Every Child is Our Child” (ECOC) programme has supposedly recorded laudable feats in ensuring that vulnerable children reach their full potential by providing them with opportunities to attend school and receive all necessary medical attention.
Splendidly, UNICEF–Nigeria has been in the lead of avid crusades on the protection of children’s rights in the country especially through public enlightenment programmes. Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Primary School Pupils’ Feeding Programme; a policy for promoting child-education is a booster. From investigations, the feeding-programme has remarkably, strategically increased the population of pupils in schools it is operative. Nonetheless, a lot still needs to be done. Government at all levels should make it a priority to provide standard learning environments alongside competent teachers and teaching materials.
Commendably, the Inner City Mission; an arm of Christ Embassy Church, established and efficiently manages a standard school – The Inner City Schools for indigent children in the society. Other corporate organizations can considerately join forces as a social responsibility. The bad news – any untrained child may turn into a terror later against the entire society including the trained ones, thus, an undesirable convergence point.
Permit me to sum up with Nelson Mandela’s remarks in 2003 at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. The noble said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Conceivably, the Boko-Haram and other deadly sects in Nigeria may not have come into existence if past leaders did the needful by making child-education appealing in the society. Possibly, amongst the sects today could have been scores of eminent medical doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors and other professionals had the governments avidly promoted child-education accordingly.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

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