Mrs Veronica Nwachuckwu is a resident of Onitsha, Anambra State.
Recently, she bought four long-playing videotapes on different historical subjects; so as to encourage her children to stay indoors during the approaching end-of-year holidays.
However, her gesture fails to entice one of her daughters, Chioma, a Primary 5 pupil in a mission school in Onitsha.
“Mum, I do not think I would have time for these videos,’’ she murmurs.
“Our class teacher has given us four novels to read. We are also asked to weave a basket, make some beads and carry out some quantitative reasoning exercises during our holidays.
“Our new headmaster said that henceforth, our holiday exercises, tests on them and class participatory work would form part of our continuous assessment marks for our promotion,’ Chioma says.
Mrs Nwachukwu was a bit startled by her daughter’s reaction because she has always been worried about the playfulness of her children, Chioma in particular.
But Chioma’s posture is just reflecting the emerging orientation in the schools which the Anambra State Government recently handed over to missionary groups, their erstwhile owners.
The handover was the thrust of the government’s new educational policy, aimed at resuscitating the quality of education that is characterized by sound moral training and commitment to learning.
As part of the deal, Gov. Peter Obi ceded the management of 749, out of the 1,040 primary schools in the state, to the missions, their original owners, while N6 billion was approved for the maintenance of all the primary schools.
The governor said that the N6 billion would be disbursed to the Catholic and Anglican mission schools, as well as the remaining government schools in four instalments within the next 15 months.
“The Catholic Church, which owns 453 primary schools, will receive over N762 million and the Anglican Church with 296 schools will receive N498 million, while the remaining public schools will share N489 million, in the first tranche of N1.75 billion.
“The second and third instalments will gulp N2.50 billion, while the fourth installment will cost the government N1.75 billion.
“The money is already available in the bank and it will be released to the missions within 30 days after submitting their work plans,’’ he said.
Obi, nonetheless, stressed that the work plans were expected to contain structured curricula, which, among other things, should be designed to restore social sanity among the pupils.
“Such vices like cultism, sexual immorality, kidnapping, armed robbery, hooliganism and other aberrations plaguing our society today, especially in Anambra, are some of the vices which the missions will have to wage war against in the schools.
“Let us all resolve today to be positive change agents, especially now that we have a government that is ready and willing to work with individuals who can complement government efforts to promote a better society,” he said.
Commenting on the government’s action, the Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, the Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, said that the handover of the schools to the missions was one of the most desirable government decisions ever taken in the state.
“Gov. Obi has written his name in gold; he has wiped off the tears of our people.
“The governor has rectified the anomalies of the civil war; he has rectified the fault of past leaders. With this action, the Church has forgiven the government for the forceful takeover of our schools,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Most Rev. Christian Efobi, the Archbishop of the Niger Province of the Anglican Communion, said that the governor’s action indicated that whenever ‘a righteous man ascend the throne, the people rejoice. “I am assuring the governor that we will continue to pray for him as he continues to make progressive decisions,’’ Efobi said.
The Federal Government is apparently in support of the Anambra State Government’s decision to return the schools to missions. The Minister of State for Education, Mr Ezenwo Wike, commended the action, describing it as capable of improving the quality of education, while reviving moral values in the schools.
“I urge other states to emulate Anambra. The handover of schools by the Anambra State Government is a step in the right direction and one that will boost the quality of education,” Wike said.
All the same, observers believe that the new partnership will certainly check moral decadence, particularly in primary schools, where pupils could be mobilised and educated to adopt positive and desirable ethics.
Prof. Emeka Okpara, the Vice-Chancellor of Renaissance University, Enugu, lauded the government’s decision to cede the management of some primary schools to the missions, saying that it would enhance the supervision of the schools’ teachers.
“With the increased supervision of the teachers, the excesses of these children would be checked and possibilities of their joining bad companies would be significantly curtailed,’’ he noted.
Okpara, nonetheless, rejected the idea that the management of all public schools should be ceded to the missions, insisting that such a proposal would be counterproductive, as it could make the cost of education unaffordable to some indigent families.
“Truly, the money the pupils pay as school fees may not be enough to engender the requisite transformation and the required level of quality in terms of moral education and school structures.
“But I hope that the Anambra State Government will not shirk its responsibility of providing qualitative education for primary school pupils since the missions would push the cost of renovating the dilapidated school structures diplomatically on the parents.
“Structurally, many public schools are in a state of disrepair. As regards instructional materials, most of the schools are 20 years backward,’’ Okpara, who is also a member National Institute for Policy and Strategic Study (NIPSS), said. However, Mr Nnamdi Nnayelugo, an 82-year-old retired headmaster, commended the government’s handover of the schools to the missions, saying that it would bolster the moral upbringing of the children.
He noted that the prevalent moral decadence in the country nowadays could be attributed to the lack of commitment by parents and communities to the youth’s upbringing.
“I recall my experience as a headmaster in the 70s; if a child erred and escaped punishment from me or my teachers, the child would not be able to totally escape being reprimanded, as the community or church that owned the school would soon report him or her to the school authorities.
“These days, children are more prone to join bad companies; and when you intervene, nobody is there to flog an errant child. Often times, the schools’ headmasters and teachers are not even around,’’ Nnayelugo said.
Expressing a similar viewpoint, Rev. Fr. Martin Onukwuba, the Coordinator of Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) in Onitsha, said that the government’s handover of the schools to the missions was a long-awaited decision.
Onukwuba said that the forceful takeover of the schools by the government was morally wrong in the first instance, stressing that it was the genesis of moral decadence in the state’s educational system.
He argued that the recent handover of the schools to their original owners would restore order and rectitude to the schools within a short time because the missions also had the powers to hire and fire teachers.
“What Gov. Obi has done is to get the churches and by extension, the community involved in the management of these schools. Through multiple checks on the teachers, the pupils’ lifestyles would be moderated.
“The Church, which holds high morality as its standard, could imbibe sound morals in these children and redeem them from experiencing the societal rot even at such a tender age.
“The Church, I know, cannot afford to fail since it entered into the agreement with the government on the schools, purely on the grounds of morality and not for profit-making purposes,’’ Onukwuba said.
Observers note a striking consensus of opinion among all stakeholders that the return of the primary schools to the missions has paved the way for a return to the glorious old days when education still had the glitters.
Nwanosi writes for NAN
Ikpeazu Charges Stakeholders To Sustain, Improve Gains Made In Education
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu has challenged the state’s Ministry of Education to rise to its co-ordinating responsibility that will build stronger synergy amongst major stakeholders in the education sector.
He said the synergy must align with the global vision of producing children capable of being society’s desirable leaders of tomorrow.
Ikpeazu who gave the charge during a meeting with education managers in the state at his Aba Lodge identified capacity building, conducive learning environment and harmony among the education stakeholders as the leading factors toward the vision of bequeathing qualitative education for Abia children by his administration.
He noted that the setting up of the Continuing Education Center for teachers training, renovation of about 700 classroom blocks, the building of four model schools, procurement of smart boxes to enable Abia State Universal Education Board (ASUBEB) startup with the digital teaching platform for Abia children were all aimed at equipping school children for their future endeavours and enable them compete favourably with their peers.
The Governor also disclosed that plans have already been concluded to establish a Garment Factory within the year in addition to Enyimba Automated Shoe Factory which will produce uniforms and shoes for school children
He described them as motivations towards realising and sustaining high public school enrollment which the State’s School Feeding Programme has achieved.
He also reminded the stakeholders of the need to adopt innovations and technological ways of teaching that will expose the children to the current and dynamic learning trends of today’s world, adding that education is a pillar and enabler to any career which his administration recognised and adopted even to the point of formalising artisanal shoemaking.
Contributing, the Deputy Governor, Sir Udo Oko Chukwu expressed appreciation to the Governor for the immense interest he has shown towards improving the education sector which he described as a paradigm shift to the global challenge, and encouraged the education stakeholders to complement these efforts by restructuring the school system of the state.
Anambra Begins Recruitment Of Primary School Teachers
Anambra State Government has commenced recruitment of 500 teachers into primary schools across the state to enhance teaching and learning.
Chairman, State House of Assembly Committee on Basic Education, Hon. Ejike Okechukwu disclosed this at the House of Assembly complex in Awka during an interactive session between the committee and Head Teachers in Aguata Local Government Education Authority.
He explained that the recruitment exercise would fill the gap created by primary school teachers who had retired from active service and improve the standard of primary education in the state.
He assured that all challenges outlined by the Head teachers hindering the progress of primary schools across the state would be tackled to the barest minimum to ensure the upliftment of education standard in the state.
Okechukwu encouraged the teachers to remain dedicated to duty and shun all forms of sharp practices that could portray the state in bad light.
Reacting, Education Secretary, Aguata Local Government Education Authority, Lady Ijeabalum Obi commended government’s performance in education sector.
She explained that the meeting offered the teachers and the committee the opportunity to brainstorm on ways to sustain the state’s legendary performance in education and tackle issues bordering on teachers welfare.
In a vote of thanks, Mrs. Ebere Nwankwo from Eziagulu Primary School, Ekwulobia appreciated the committee for living up to expectations, pledging the teachers’ preparedness to follow the lawmakers’ directives.
Educationist Wants Early Introduction Of Art To Learners
Director of Studies at Pampers Private School and Rainbow College, Dr. Olayinka Oduwole, has said Art should be introduced to children in the early years as it aids physical, cognitive, and behavioral developments.
Oduwole in a statement made available to The Tide, said Art was a creative expression that nurtures the imagination and allows children to externalise their feelings.
To celebrate Children’s Day this year and improve learners artistic skills, he said the learners of Pampers Private Schools and Rainbow College published a joint e-book titled, “A Collection of Stories by Pampers Private School and Rainbow College.”
“Through painting, sculpture, collage, music, dancing, acting, clay, drawing, or any other medium, art is a way for children to work through emotions, make decisions, and express their ideas. It should be introduced to children in the early years to aid physical, cognitive, and behavioral development. When children work together on art projects, they interact and share with their peers. This collaborative work promotes social learning.”
He explained that children who performed arts regularly had been noticed to control their emotions and expressed the same in productive ways.
“Manipulating art materials provides children with a sense of freedom while encouraging focus and concentration, this informs the rationale for the promotion of art education and creativity as the bedrock of Rainbow College curriculum plan and implementation,” he said.
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