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Nne Kurubo Entrance Exam: I See Hope

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I start this piece with a quote from Professor
Michael Omolewa (2007) who stated that “Educational reforms emanate from the
basic conviction that considerable progress can be made  in the nation by its people through careful
engineering all of the educational process” .

Whether our reforms have been able to achieve
considerable progress with all the various engineering of the educational
process is a matter we could review another day. My tilt here is the fact that
whatever re-engineering process to be done would work better when all stake-
holders recognise that it is a task of everyone from the family unit to the
country which includes the education experts agencies, ministries etc saddled
with the responsibility of carrying out the tasks.

An exemplary re-engineering was witnessed on the 10th of
November during the entrance examination into the Nne Kurubo Model School,
Eleme, written by many across various classes.

Exclusive for obvious reasons, are students in the  examination classes.Personally being
an education enthusiast and one who appreciates the beauty of any justifiable
process, also, with so many known people participating in the exam, it was
paramount to have a first hand experience of what the process would be like.

Arrving at the Rivers State College of Arts and Science
where the exams for entry into Junior Secondary School One was to be written,
the first things that catch your eyes are the anxious faces of parents running
in different directions, some unsure of the expected process and others
searching frantically for either proposed examination halls for their wards or
location for local government or simply just searching for examination numbers
for their wards.

In view of an examination proposed for 9’am,these
preliminary activities took the chunk of the better part of the morning. To
this, many expressed concern and others exasperated. Interesting cases included
parents who claimed to have examination numbers but no halls for the entrance,
others were on why the halls should be divided into Local Governments Areas.

Yet, another
included a man who wondered why the non-indigenes should be kept
separately as that may jeopardise their chances and so rather than concentrate
on his search for the appropriate exam hall, he went on with claims as to the
fact that he had stayed long enough in Port-Harcourt to be given a status as a
Port Harcourt Local Government Area (PHALGA) indigene.

Indeed,. Edu Corp, the organisers in collaboration with
the Rivers State Government would have surely gone through a rigorous process
of thinking through and if we recall their earlier statements, that the several
postponement of the examination dates in the first place was due to the fact
that flood and other challenges may have contributed to the low awareness
consequently, the poor submission of application forms from some local
government areas and if indeed balanced representation was to be achieved, this  cannot be overlooked. So more awareness was
done in this regard. This was the explanation I managed to give to the
infuriated man before he generally calmed down and sought the halls to which he
rightly belonged.

After these and more hiccups the next step witnessed the
organisers doing all humanly possible towards ensuring that no single parent or
custodian were found within or around the examination halls to ensure total
prevention of any influence of sorts. I and the team with us were literaly shifted
to one end of the compound to avoid being close to CAS 3 and 4 that hosted
wards from PHALGA and Obio Akpor Local Governments.

Now, with the arguments, the anxiety on hall searches
and more over, the exams finally started at 11.30am  for the proposed almost 3hrs exams. The kids
took 200 questions covering Mathematics, English, Basic Sciences and
Quantitative. All kids within these periods, worked totally independently after
the sealed exam papers were brought and distributed. Having eased up before the
exams no single child was allowed out of the hall besides the exceptional case
of a  little girl who was perhaps
intensely pressed.

On conclusion, a prayer by the invigilators was rendered
after which the children rose. Parents were asked not to overwhelm them and so
each child walked up their respective parents.

Throughout all the phases of the process, there was no
record of torn list, jumping through windows, cheating, parents calling out to
children in the halls like in a recent common entrance when some parents even
had the audacity to want to go into the exam hall to attempt to write for their
kids or send mercenaries!.

The orderliness and seeming obligation of the parents
and children to be at their best laid credence to the fact that we can get it
right as a nation especially if we started right by catching them young and
imbibe in them key values at an early age. Various parents after the exams
expressed the same sentiment making it obvious that in an 80percent ratio, any
child who succeeds in gaining a place in the school may indeed have done so
primarily with some element of merit. I know of many parents who, since they
barely had funds to pay for another secondary school refused their kids
entering any other school also because they had solid hopes on gaining entry to
Ambassador Nne Kurubo School. Indeed there was the category of parents who even
after the exams had started or ended, trooped in saying they missed their way,
or didn’t understand the instructions or came from a distant hinterland claiming
further that one of the “invigilators” told them there will be a “second
session”. Well, these things happen and just like the day people realise that
the phrase” Time” will soon be phased out, and a re branded sense of timing in
its place, “latecomers” to critical projects will continue to be found in
various pockets here and there.

I witnessed a public examination which saw kids …. who
confidently went in and came out saying to themselves, “I did the best I could
and would keep improving” and I knew that all hope cannot be lost in the
rebuilding of the education sector.

I enjoin the organisers not to relent at this point
because it is one thing to get the preparatory phases of a project up and
running like this, set the standards and another to maintain both standards,
quality and all that will go into placing a school like this at the fore, ahead
of others. It would require courage, determination, political will and
ultimately grace from God to make a name in a sector that has generally, nationwide
been considered as irredeemable, moribund or such. Yet, all these elements
required are available.

The world needs to see that quality education doesn’t
necessarily have to be back breaking expensive and of course poor and rich
alike have best brains amidst them. This tempo needs to be sustained by
relentlessly and continuously reviewing the plan of action. If we understand
that the children proposed for this first model school make up over 30per cent
of the states population, we will recognise that quite a sizable number will be
left unadmitted and these must find places where they can belong and continue
quality education unhindered.700 is just a fraction of the number that will not
have a chance to be taken at this time.

Ogbanga resides in
Port Harcourt

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Opinion

Avoiding Brain-Drain In Medicare

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The industrial action embarked upon by resident doctors in Nigeria has lasted for several weeks. A few months ago, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was alleged to be demanding certain allowances, including that of COVID-19 inducement allowance.
The Federal Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, the NMA and other stakeholders shifted grounds on the issues and came to a resolution which made them go back to work. This time around, the authorities concerned should also come together, sort out the problems concerning the medical practitioners so that the nation’s healthcare system is taken care of.
There is the fear that if they are not treated well, some of them may travel abroad for greener pastures. A situation where well-trained medical doctors will be leaving for other countries because the Nigerian system does not bother about them, should be avoided.  Not just the doctors, nurses too should be taken care of as more of their services are needed in our public hospitals.
Although other professions are affected but that of medicare is more important as it deals with health. Health, they say, is wealth. A situation where a senior doctor may want to leave the country with his former students who have grown on the job for several years, to other countries because of the system in Nigeria calls for concern.
Those who may be wishing to leave should be patriotic. We are aware that many countries of the world like Canada, Australia, Germany, South Africa, to mention but a few, are seeking the services of Nigerian trained medical personnel. But it should be noted that their services are also needed in their country. As Nigerians, they need to be trusted to make some sacrifices as far as their services are concerned.
Some years back, when resident doctors embarked on strike in some of the states, there were threats of “No work, no pay”, their colleagues in other states voluntarily contributed and made funds available to them. 
They should not be poor, but such calibre of persons should not be as it will be degrading. If they lack money as a result of non-payment of salaries and allowances, as punishment for industrial action, they have families and loved ones to cater for. Those who are leaving Nigeria for other climes may not be unpatriotic but need the kind of wages that are commensurate with the jobs they perform.
Researches have shown that brain-drain in Nigeria started in the early ’90s. One worrisome issue is that there are persons who at one time or the other have belonged to these associations before being at the helm of affairs. You discover that there will still be series of industrial action under their watch. So you begin to wonder whether these anomalies cannot be corrected as they are in charge.
Some persons have argued that Nigeria’s education system is poor. How come the nation’s medical graduates are good to the extent that other countries seek their services? I know that Nigeria has well-trained medical personnel who studied at home and can compete favourably at the international level.
Recently, I had an experience with some of our medical doctors, specifically in a female ward in one of our public hospitals; I was amazed at the way they were analysing health issues about women and prescribing the right drugs for the various ailments.
I began to wonder why anybody will say that we are nowhere. The truth is that we have qualified medical doctors. I think the problem is how to attend to their needs. If medical practitioners are asking for, let’s say, COVID-19 hazard allowance, they should be given so they don’t contract the virus.
The stress of a medical personnel attending to so many patients may not be easy, even at nights. When you visit the hospitals, one will not be in doubt that those groups of people deserve better working condition.
Nigerian medical doctors should be patriotic no matter their grievances, bearing in mind that “home is home”. The understanding between the indigenous medical personnel may not be the same as that of foreign medical team. Although there are some whose expertise are higher and left their countries of origin to render one assistance or the other in Nigeria.
There are also Nigerian trained medical doctors based overseas who, after taking a look at the situation in Nigeria, once in a while come home to render healthcare services. That’s a show of patriotism. 
Education of a medical doctor in Nigeria is very expensive. In fact, securing admission to study medicine in the university does not come easy. So it’s like, “handle with care”.  
While the Federal Government may need to look into the demands of resident doctors, NMA as a way of being patriotic, should shift ground during negotiation.  
Brain-drain may not serve Nigeria well so they should not allow some of the best hands to leave.  More so, you cannot tell whether they will return or not.  All hands must be on deck because this is a period of pandemic.  
Here in Rivers State, hospitals have been equipped with facilities of international standard which our medical personnel are competent to handle. The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) have been equipped by both the federal and state governments. Spirited individuals and organisations have also donated facilities to those hospitals. The Military Hospital in Port Harcourt has also been equipped for anybody’s comfort.  
In fact, the gigantic Mother and Child Hospital built by the Nyesom Wike administration is a testimony that healthcare system has been boosted. I think it is for the right medical personnel to man those facilities.  
If our medical doctors are adequately taken care of, they will not leave the country for any reason. If you think any country is better than Nigeria, such place was not developed in a day. Whatever infrastructure you have overseas was developed over the years.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Abuses Of Indemnifying Provisions

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Like in insurance brokerage, indemnifying provisions are promises made to pay persons whose insured possessions get damaged, lost or stolen, some money covering the value of such property. There is also life insurance, especially for persons whose activities or occupations involve some risks. These are common practices meant to foster confidence and reduce security risks in the affairs of life.
There are situations where people who take such insurance policies abuse the provisions, with intent to cheat the insurance companies. People have been known to fake their own death or deliberately destroy insured possessions, with the intention to defraud and abuse provisions of the insurance policy. There is hardly any possession of value that cannot be insured neither are abuses of indemnifying provisions limited to insurance brokerage alone.
We have heard quite a lot about repentant and de-radicalised “bandits” surrendering to military authorities in some parts of the country. There have been several questions and mixed feelings among Nigerians concerning such turnaround gambits, especially in view of the harms already done to the nation. When and how such bandits took up arms against the society have remained controversial, neither are many Nigerians aware of their demands and causes of the brawl. More importantly are the questions of sponsorship and procurement of arms with which the bandits have pursued their aggression against the society.
Apart from the issue of nomenclature, activities of bandits in Nigeria have been quite terrifying and traumatic to many people and communities. Also, to compare activities of the bandits with those of the Niger Delta militants would be a faulty reasoning. The militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) from unfair economic policies, with regards to the oil and gas politics, had definite and clear demands. That the Niger Delta militants were granted amnesty was because the Nigerian economy would collapse if such step was not taken.
The bandits and their various allies did not engage in banditry to protect the gold deposits in the soil of Zamfara State from unfair exploitation. Neither did activities of the bandits stop with hooliganism and brigandage, common with banditry. There are records about farming communities being terrorised and farmlands being destroyed by unknown bandits, as well as women being raped in their farms. Worshippers had been murdered in places of worship by marauding herdsmen that no one would identify or arrest.
The clamour for Sharia law across Nigeria took a clever guise which thinking Nigerians would not fail to recognise, of which cattle is playing the pioneering role. When a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, gave an alert about Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda, not many Nigerians took him seriously. Similarly, Dr Obediah Mailafia raised same concern. Now add these concerns to the Federal Government’s preoccupation with current agenda of farm estates across Nigeria, then any one can see the shape of things to come. Is it not obvious that some groups have some hidden agenda?
The concept of indemnity includes the fact that individual human beings, groups as well as nations are usually given several opportunities to correct deficiencies, negligences and imbalances. This derives from the fact that life on Earth is a learning process, whereby imperfect humans strive continuously to learn and improve for the better. We find in the upbringing of children that parents do not destroy or maim children because of childish infractions. Rather, parents reprimand, penalise and spur erring children to do better, which also includes exemplary leadership.
Even when children, like any other individuals, become recalcitrant and obdurate, there is always the expectation that bitter experiences provide some opportunities for remedial outcomes. This is why it is said that experience is the best teacher. Individuals and nations have been known to be recalcitrant and obdurate, wanting to push issues beyond safe limits of tolerance. Unfortunately, humans not only abuse the opportunities available, but also make unreasonable demands, where they can intimidate others without facing serious challenges. If No to Ruga, then take farm estate!
Thus, there is this human peculiarity of giving in to personal weaknesses, whereby evil continues to grow because of continuous toleration of weaknesses. Personal weaknesses, both in the average individual and in leaders, constitute vital points through which any individual or leader can be destroyed. Not quite the weakness itself, but having to indulge in it without a determined effort to stop it, counts as the danger. Weakness is indeed a present danger.
From whatever perspectives that abuses can be defined, they include indulgence or tolerance of personal weaknesses, to the extent that they become present danger to others. Smoking of cigarettes, for example, is not only dangerous to the smoker, but also to other people who inhale the smoke. So, a problem posed by personal weakness goes beyond the victim whose indulgent lifestyle spreads a peculiar virus.
One of the challenges which we must contend with in Nigeria is the culture or habit of indulgence, or continuous toleration of what we consider minor wrongs. Great harms usually grow from minor beginnings, when they are not checked early or nipped on the bud. What accounts for current acts of banditry can be traced to the attitude taken towards previous acts of brigandage and lawlessness. Political officer seekers explored and also exploited existing weaknesses to enthrone a culture of tolerating and ignoring minor wrongs, through throwing their political weight to protect wrong doers, for self interest.
The message for Nigeria is that we are currently reaping the sad harvests of previous sowings. More so, we grossly abused indemnifying opportunities we had in the past. What we call Nemesis provides several indemnifying opportunities before it strikes. When a petty thief takes too much for the owner to know, what happens is that the long-suffering owner sets secret snares to catch the thief when he does not expect. There is always a day for the thief who abuses several indemnifying provisions. Dr Mailafia is right to warn that Nigeria may soon become ungovernable! Watch out!

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Texas Of Icy Trauma

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I had earlier stated in this column that even with all the hoopla about the United States of America being a very lovely dwelling place on Earth, her geography still comprises a tale of some deadly weather vagaries.
Depending on which part of the vast subcontinent one looks at, disaster can come from a severe snowstorm, tornado, hurricane, earthquake or wildfire. While snow and wildfire can be associated with particular seasons of the year, the rest are very likely to occur at any moment and on any day. The good thing, though, is that nearly all can be predicted by the relevant agencies of government with alerts posted in advance and emergency preparations made. Of course, things work pretty well over there – quite unlike they do here.
However, climate change seems to be testing the skills of geographers and their weather instruments. In the US, the government had since signed up to the Paris protocol on climate but that was until the outgone administration of President Donald Trump elected to pull the nation out of the deal. Luckily, his successor, President Joe Biden, is pushing to take God’s Own Country back to the comity of nations on global warming.
No doubt, Trump’s action must have angered the likes of Sen. Al Gore, a former vice president and the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2000, who has garnered global acclaim on account of his effort to promote a sustainable green culture in the world.
It is already obvious that the erstwhile Republican president never reckoned with the fact that states in southern US which had hitherto served as hibernation grounds for people from the snowy northern and central regions are now beginning to experience blizzards of their own. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are among states in this region.
Until recently, snowfall in the region had reportedly been mostly mild and incident-free. Whereas the winter season became evident in the north from late November, its effect was rarely felt in these southern states until January. So also did it recede fast, sometimes beginning from late February. But last winter was of an entirely different species. Not only were there reports of strong winds and snowstorms, the ice also manifested an unprecedented staying strength. The case of Texas was made particularly more pathetic because of its energy systems collapse which left many families without electricity, gas or even coal to heat their homes.
Texas is said to operate about 15,000 wind turbines aimed at providing electricity while also promoting green energy; but at the onset of the cold snap, ice on the rotor blades had reduced the speed of more than half of them; thereby hampering their collective power generation capability. More than four million Texans were said to be without electricity for much of the period. And the state obtains a quarter of its electricity from these turbines.
Gas pipes and water supply lines were also reported to have been frozen by the extreme weather condition. Those who still had running taps were advised to boil their water before use as water treatment plants lacked electricity to function. Some of the unlucky ones simply collected snow from outside their homes to melt for water. Believe me, it was said to be that bad in America’s Lone Star State. Close friends and relatives living in Texas and Georgia called to confirm this to me.
The deadly storm which was said to have begun on February 13, had endured for five days. And while it lasted, temperatures plummeted to as low as zero degree Fahrenheit; resulting in the closure of schools and some hospitals. A number of popular roads were also closed due to the unprecedented build-up of snow. People, especially the more vulnerable children and the elderly, were mostly wrapped in layers of heavy clothing and restrained indoors for much of the day. Food became scarce as grocery stores quickly ran out of stock with anxiety over the arrival of any fresh supplies. Even the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines was hampered.
Residents who could not stand the frightening scenario and had the means reportedly left for nearby Central American countries; including Texas Republican senator and former presidential aspirant, Ted Cruz, who was berated by the American press for going on vacation at a sunny beach resort in Cancun, Mexico when his state’s voters were battling with freezing conditions made worse by food and utility shortages. As at July, the total tally of casualties across Texas was put at 210. I want to believe that Texans have now shaken off their trauma and are fully braced for the start of the next winter season this November.
The big lesson here is that while nations are making attempts to embrace renewable energy, they should not be in a haste to jettison fossil fuels. It would have been worse if not that Texas had a strategic reserve of refined petroleum products to serve as a stop-gap measure at the time the wind turbines packed up. It is even said that officials in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and some other Northeast US states have suddenly become sceptical of their ongoing development of wind turbines following the Texas experience.
For the people of Mexico, the events in Texas can only suggest one thing – severe winter is just a matter of years, if not months. Climate change is real. But rather than being checked by the increasing global heat, snowstorms are fast reaching for the tropics. For Nigeria, who said we’re unlikely to witness icy weather sooner than later?
Howbeit, some experts have opined that, considering its huge investment in wind turbines, Texas officials should have equipped such facilities with heaters and anti-freeze fluids as is the case in some parts of Alaska and Canada which experience equally harsh but longer winter seasons.
Much of Texas already lies in America’s Tornado Alley. Its major southern towns of Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont are often battered by tropical winds from the Gulf of Mexico. The oil-rich state is also known to be earthquake prone. And now it has joined the infamous club of deadly snowstorm states. Haba, Texas!

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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