Education: Where Are We Now?

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Education according to experts is the bedrock of any nation. Researchers have also made it clear that once we get education right, every other issue affecting the citizenry would be right. This perhaps explains why Governor Chibuike Amaechi’s administration deems quality education as one of the legacies it would bequeath the youth of Rivers State.

   The education sector in Rivers State has been described by many, both at home and abroad as world-class, a pedigree which other states of the federation are now trying to emulate.

   When you say that Rivers State has become a model for education in Nigeria, you are no doubt saying the obvious. The  education sector has witnessed a massive transformation under the leadership of Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. When Governor Amaechi assumed office a few years ago, he decided on pulling down the old and dilapidated primary school buildings and erecting world-class edifices with state-of-the art facilities that cannot be compared with any of its kind in Nigeria.

Apart from furnishing the primary schools which have football fields with synthetic tracks, larger capacity halls, sick bays with modern medical equipment, libraries and generating sets, modern computer laboratories with projectors and internet facilities, the head teachers’ offices are also furnished with functional computers to make teaching and learning easier and faster for the pupils for whom Chibuike Amaechi had declared free and compulsory education. Every child of school age is provided with text books, school uniforms, and physical education (PE) wears, school bags, shoes, sandals and a pair of socks.

It is also of interest that the dormitories are constructed as rooms with two-bed space, wardrobe, reading tables and chairs with the floors completely tiled.

How else could pupils and students of those model schools be comfortable? It shows that Governor Chibuike Amaechi, means well for the people of Rivers State.

It could be recalled that before now, some pupils and students in some schools sat on the floor because, there were no desks. Many of them learnt under trees. There were not enough teachers to handle some key subjects’ areas in some schools.

But today, the story is different. The kind of desks one sees at the new model primary and secondary schools are fantastic. The present administration moved some teachers from where they were not contributing optimally  to the schools which lacked teachers and where they could be more productive.

The education sector under the supervision of the Commissioner for Education, Dame Alice Lawrence-Nemi, is no doubt achieving its goal.

Toward ensuring quality teaching, not less than 10,000 teachers are to be recruited  in Rivers State to improve the teaching standard while others  including head teachers and principals will be trained   and retrained.

Recently, 40 teachers were trained in English Language skills by the government in collaboration with Etisalat (a Telecommunication firm) and the British Council in Nigeria.

The Commissioner for education, Dame Alice Lawrence-Nemi, also assured that upgrading of old public schools in Rivers State is the Ministry’s priority in 2012.

As part of programmes to restore academic excellence and cultivate good learning and discipline in schools, the state government organised science quiz and debate competitions to improve pupils’ and students’ vocabulary from time to time including French holiday lessons and tours.

Also, many Rivers indigenes have been granted scholarship to study overseas.

The Amaechi government has upgraded the former Rivers State College of Education to a University of Education, while the Rivers State University of Science and Technology is to be relocated  to the new Greater Port Harcourt City.

According to government’s mission statement on this, “the new university would be a leading centre of academic excellence in Africa and beyond; a world-class university with world-class facilities, which would be manned by a team of committed administrators, academics and researchers of high calibre, who share the founding vision of making the new university to be ranked among the best 1,000 universities in the world by 2020”.

It is hoped that by the time this objective is achieved, RSUST would be equal to none in Nigeria and in Africa.

Expressing its concern about the education of children who are tucked away in remote areas and who usually migrate to different locations of fishing settlements with their parents, the state government ensured that their education was              enhanced under the Migrant Fishermen scheme, by handing of boats and canoes to the headteachers of the migrant schools to ease their transportation.

As the new model secondary schools 

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are to be functional soon, the state government has already engaged the managers of the schools. The Commissioner for Education, Dame Alice Lawrence-Nemi, explained that the managers are a big consortium known as Educomps, who speicalise in managing schools around the world, (especially in England, India and the United States of America). The criteria for admission of students into the schools, she said, would be based on merit, after undergoing series of examinations which would be supervised by the school managers.

Concerning the recruitment of teachers, “It would be based on merit also”, the commissioner emphasised.

In a bid to ensure that the qualitative education promised the citizenry is achieved with the completion of new model schools, the present administration has directed that about 10,000 new teachers be employed. Governor Amaechi said the plan is geared at boosting the manpower in the education sector.

Earlier, the state ministry of education had expressed determination to ensure that its educational policy meets the required standard as the state governor has commenced steps towards engaging adequate and qualified manpower in its primary and post-primary schools.

According to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr Richard Ofuru, the recruitment would cover all subjects taught in both primary and secondary schools while the non-academic staff recruitment would be for laboratory technicians and security personnel.

The applicants, our correspondent gathered, would be subjected to a screening examination while only shortlisted applicants would be invited for interview. Recruitment will be based on merit.

In the words of the governor, “we are employing 10,000 teachers and Rivers State alone cannot give us 10,000 teachers. So it is open to everybody that is qualified and lives in the state”.

It would be recalled that Amaechi’s administration has built over 2,590 new model primary schools in the twenty three local government areas of the state, while many are at various stages of completion.

The Commissioner for Education, Dame Alice Lawrence-Nemi, said government would commission 200 model primary schools in 200 communities in 2012.

The education boss, said “this year would be a year, when Rivers people would be proud of the governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, adding that the new model schools would be for both the rich and the poor.

The truth of the matter is that the new model primary and secondary schools established by the Rivers State government have met international standards. One may be tempted to describe the model school buildings as university buildings.

It should be interesting to us in Rivers State that people come from other states to see and emulate this successful gesture by the present administration.

When those model secondary schools become functional with full academic activities and the pupils and students start benefiting, we will appreciate what the governor has done for the state regarding education.

Some of the  model secondary schools                 are:

i.   Model Secondary School           Ebubu, Eleme                 

ii.   Model Secondary School         Oyigbo                                        iii.   Model Secondary School Omuma          iv.     Model Secondary School                    Emohua                                  

v.         Model Secondary School Asari-                     Toru                            

vi.        Model Secondary SchoolAndoni          vii.    Model Secondary School                    Degema                      

viii.      Model Secondary School                    PHALGA        

ix.        Model Secondary School                    Isiokpo, Ikwerre

x.         Model Secondary School                     Ubima, Ikwerre

xi.        Model Secondary School Obio/                      Akpor

The budget for education this year (2012) according to the state government is about N68 billion. The reason, according to government is because of the governor’s vision of completing all on-going education projects. The development, many believe would greatly reduce the number of unemployed graduates in the state and help transform the education sector.

One of those who spoke to our Special Correspondent, Mr Rich Amos, commended the Rivers State government for opening up employment opportunity to include non-indigenes in the state.

Amos, a retired teacher, said such action would contribute positively to the manpower development of the citizenry because those who are qualified would give  what they have.

He said the gesture also indicates that the government is not biased. According to him, any non-indigenes who are employed into Rivers State civil service can earn a living and pay his rent and tax through the salaries he would receive.

A civil servant in Port Harcourt, Mr Orlu Ndah, stressed that the government may have planned such budget bearing in mind that it would add more 10,000 teachers into the education sector this year.

According to Mr Ndah, “I don’t think that would affect the government’s funds in anyway”.

Also expressing his views, a teacher in Port Harcourt, Mr Joshua Idu, said

“When you look at the environment of the new model schools, you would be convinced that the government of Rivers State can cope with the salaries and allowances of the new 10,000 teachers to be employed.

A computer instructor at the CPS Olanada, in Port Harcourt, Mr Victor Okon, explained that two (2) instructors are enough to teach computer studies in one school.

Mr Victor Okon, who is a staff of Link Serve Computers in charge of the training, stated that the use of projectors would make it easier to teach the pupils stressing that initially it was difficult because of the different background they come from.

Okon said now, the pupils know what computer is, can operate it effectively and even create some graphic designs as well as log in various portals using the internet.

Another teacher, Mrs Charity Emmanuel, explained that before now, they had overcrowded classes but after the building and equipping of the new model schools and the limited number of pupils to 30 per class, management of the class has become easier.

She noted that the number of pupils in a class facilitates teaching and learning because there is a closer interaction between the teacher and the pupils.

The second head teacher of CPS Olanada, Mrs Edna Benjamin said government really needs to employ more hands especially because of the introduction of new studies such as computers, projectors and video.

Mrs Benjamin advised that specialists in those areas should be employed to make the system real and effective adding that the additional subjects are a burden to the teachers since they are teaching all the subjects.

Another teacher, Mrs  Iwu said that time had come when teachers should teach according to their area of specialisation at the primary level as it is done at the secondary school level noting that it is better to build the children right from the primary stage. She mentioned areas of study such as Mathematics, English Language, French, Computer etc.

In her view, a primary 6 pupil in Port Harcourt, Miss Chinwendu Collins expressed appreciation to the governor of Rivers State, for building new model schools, donating of text books, bags, shoes and a pair of socks to the pupils.

She maintained that before, they were not using computer but this government of Amaechi had made it possible for them to be computer literate.

 

Eunice Choko-Kayode