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Opinion

A Trophy Beyond Atrophy

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Trophies, in whatever form or substance, signify exploits in service to the community and advancement of human endeavour towards pushing the boundaries of knowledge, development or human enterprise; they are obtained at various levels and stages of life: at school, village, community, local government, state, national or international level, in public office, private sector, etc. Irrespective of what level or where they are obtained, trophies attest to human commitment to and achievement in development in every field and they are rarely hidden in chests or closets; rather, they are conspicuously displayed on walls of hallowed halls for passersby to see, appreciate and thereby be inspired and emulate. Generically speaking, trophies come in form of statuettes, shields, cups, etc, awarded as a mark of success in competition or for meritorious service to mark special achievements; these become keepsake, souvenir, mementos to proudly show off during one’s lifetime and even beyond by family.
A typology of trophies indicates that it is those that come in form of plaque imbedded in the concrete wall of the entrance of a building or cenotaph at some point of a social infrastructure that get the most exposure and attention. Largely, it is those that relate to the provision of basic infrastructure, especially those areas that affect the generality of the public in their everyday lives that are most relevant, most visible, most endearing to the public and, therefore, most memorable. For instance, Point Block, the tallest building in old Rivers State (Rivers and Bayelsa States), is the most conspicuous trophy of the Diete-Spiff administration; it is a memorabilia to be proud of. In this vein, September 2019 will go down the history of Rivers State as a month during which Rivers people witnessed the commissioning of an unprecedented number of completed projects in one fell swoop. Between September 9 and 27, 2019, Governor Wike commissioned fifteen projects that touch virtually every segment of the society from the educational sector through markets, entertainment, labour union, student union, housing to roads; it was really a bountiful harvest of completed projects.
Departing from the tangible ones, trophies can also be invisible, intangible and intrinsic. For instance, the generation of this author can never ever forget the robust scholarship programme of the Diete-Spiff administration. It is on record that in response to the acute dearth of manpower in the state in the immediate post-civil war period when Indians, Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos and people from neighbouring states manned the state’s Civil Service and taught in the schools, Diete-Spiff embarked on a liberal educational policy given which virtually every Rivers indigene with the requisition qualification and admission to study whatever and wherever on earth was given scholarship.
On Monday, November 18, 2019, the executive members of the Rivers State Government Committee on Accreditation and Approval of Private Schools (CAAPS), led by Prof Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele, submitted the final report of the 46-member Committee to Secretary to the State Government, Hon Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the Rivers State Government Secretariat, Port Harcourt. Established by Governor Nyesom Wike and inaugurated on July 8, 2019 to evaluate the functionality of private nursery, primary and secondary schools in the State, CAAPS, which was made up of professors, bureaucrats and seasoned technocrats, physically visited, reviewed and evaluated the facilities, equipment, personnel and operations of 2,586 institutions. The Committee devolved into several subcommittees and visited schools across the state from Ndoni at the northern fringes of the state to Andoni at the Atlantic seaboard. Between these two geographical extremes, they visited schools in Aseasaga, Aggah, Utu, Uju, Omoku, Rukpokwu, Obrikom, Rumueprikom, Ebocha, Igweocha, Mgbede, Ede, Egbada, Egbeda, Elibrada, Egbema, Degema, Igwuruta, Rumuokwuta, Abuloma, Ogoloma, Bodo, Mgbodo and other communities imbued with commonalities that run deeper than the superficialities of poetic rhymes and rhythms. At the end of the exercise, 1,405 were fully accredited, 754 earned interim accreditation while 427 were denied accreditation; this reflects 54 per cent accredited, 29.2 per cent interim accreditation and 16.5 per cent denied. Further analysis of these figures belongs in a forthcoming academic endeavour and another narrative.
It has been said that a major barometer for measuring the health of a nation is through the pulse of its educational system; also, at the gate of a major university in Africa, it is written inter alia that to destroy a nation does not require utilizing nuclear bombs and long-range missiles; rather, it requires lowering the standards in its educational institutions, allowing students to cheat during examinations and letting the teachers get away with underhand practices. Setting up CAAPS was, therefore, a product of a combination of factors: (1) the patriotic fervor of Governor Wike (2) his experience as Minister of Education and (3) the realisation that decadence in the educational system spells doom for any society. The point remains that while the work of the Committee left no physical structure or edifice to behold now and in times to come, its product is the establishment of a solid foundation with unquestionable integrity on which the superstructure of education in the state will stand firm, soar and produce educationally well-rounded citizens for Rivers State and Nigeria. This constitutes an invisible edifice that will outlive physical structures, which could be brought down like the Olympia Hotel, Port Harcourt; a fate the majestic Point Block narrowly escaped.
Obviously, if the standards set and recommendations made by CAAPS are maintained and sustained by subsequent administrations in the continuum of governance in the State then that would be Governor Wike’s intangible legacy; a bequest that will outlive every superstructure and continue to impact positively on the lives and standard of living of the people of Rivers State ad infinitum. It will be Wike’s invisible plaque that would defy display on walls, halls and cenotaphs. Undoubtedly, it is a trophy beyond atrophy.
Dr Osai lectures at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

By: Jason Osai

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Opinion

A Ticking Time Bomb

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The prediction by the World Bank that Nigeria crucially had to create millions of jobs to avert imminent bust requires a composite approach to better the economy frantically. The release further advised the country to establish at least 30 million jobs by 2030 to prevent the unfortunate augury from being fulfilled. Don’t forget, 2030 is only 10 years away.
The implication is that the economy must generate 3 million jobs annually for 10 years. But how is that possible when statistics have revealed that about 19 million Nigerians enrolled in the labour market within the last five years while only 3.5 million jobs were created within the same period, leaving a shortfall of 15.5 million jobless Nigerians? Also, the unemployment rate has quadrupled in the last four years attaining an all-high 23 per cent.
From the foregoing, it is explicit that there have been consistent job losses. Very few manufacturing activities happened while service providers only managed to employ a few people all due to an asperous business climate. Agriculture, the largest employer of labour, has lost attraction largely because of the activities of insurgents and bandits in some parts of the north. The prolonged herdsmen/farmers’ clash never bolstered matters.
As unemployment advances, population growth edges faster. While the population grows at 2.6 per cent annually, the economy progresses at a paltry 2 per cent. With a low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $397 billion, Nigeria’s population expansion has been projected to hit about 401.3 million by 2050.
Of course, this is portentous because it will exert enormous pressure on the economy, the job market and social infrastructure. As employment declines, extreme penury is on the rage. If the projection that unemployment figures will rise to 23.5 per cent this year is anything to go by, then we must anticipate a time bomb.
I believe the situation would have ameliorated if we operated a social welfare scheme. Rather, in the face of dwindling economy and increasing poverty, all what Nigerians can get are mere promises and at best ill-defined and rudderless social benefit schemes like “Trader Moni,” “Market Moni”, and “Farmer Moni” that disburse soft loans without collaterals.
The impact of the schemes is hardly perceptible. They have failed to prevent Nigerians from sliding into poverty every single minute of the day. Sadly, the number of extremely poor Nigerians has recently moved from 91.50 million to 94.4 million, fuelling speculations that a populist revolt may happen sooner than later.
Following the frightening figures, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. But how will he go about it when there are no sustainable policies to create massive jobs? On the other hand, State governments have never helped matters either as they have failed to reduce unemployment.
What do we expect? After all, this is what occurs when a country decides to practice a lopsided, “feeding bottle” federalism. A report by BudgIT (an NGO) stated that 33 States are heavily dependent on monthly allocations from Abuja and therefore cannot survive by themselves. Any wonder the States are unable to boost activities needed to generate employment.
While the States are irredeemably dependent, Nigeria heavily relies on other countries for survival thus financing jobs in those nations. This situation is clearly against sound economic practices. How does one explain a development where we import virtually everything including fuel that should be taken for granted by virtue of our role as a leading crude oil producer? Since oil constitutes more than 90 per cent of our exports, the economy is usually left to the vagaries of crude prices in the international market.
Truth is Nigeria can never get its economy right till it gets its political structure correctly. An economy that energises States to go cap in hand to Abuja every month cannot inspire growth and development. The present sharing system only breeds parasitism, indolence, graft, joblessness and poverty. To reverse this ugly trend, fiscal federalism is the answer to a structure that gives impetus to uncompetitiveness. Let States drive the economy, not the centre.
We must look at what has worked best in other climes to create jobs by focusing on sectors that have the highest potentials. Resolving the current power crisis is the beginning point. Then the private sector should be empowered to lead the way. Finally, we must always understand that the agricultural and manufacturing sectors hold great capacity for job creation.

 

Arnold Alalibo

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Opinion

The School Dropout Syndrome

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As education is becoming more essential and the level of illiteracy reduces globally due to technology and high demands in the job market, Nigeria’s education system is faced with increasing challenges.
There is one major challenge that is in most higher institutions. It is the fact that most students don’t complete their education and thus drop out before even graduating from school. ‘Dropout’ as the name implies, is a term that is commonly used to refer to students who for one reason or another terminate their studies before graduating.
Several reasons and causes have emerged that are believed to contribute towards students dropout of school. As we all know there is no action without consequences. There are several observable effects that do not only affect dropout, but the society at large. That is why we are looking at why many students drop out of school and how this decision affects their lives and the society at large.
Some of the reasons include poor parenting. This has been considered to be the greatest challenge that causes students to drop out. For instance, students that come from divorced and abusive parents are more likely to leave school before graduating than those that come from specially secure families.
Divorced abusive and lower class families face a high chance of failing to pay school fees and meet up the necessary requirements that are demanded and that may have a psychological effect on students. Abusive parents, on the other hand, affect their children’s performance in school by not giving them the love, trust and encouragement they need. Such children, therefore, become depressed and most of them end up running away from home to escape their parents’ bad conduct.
Peer pressure is a another factor that causes students to drop out of school. Most students in the same age bracket tend to have several things in common and will try as much as they can to share ideas both good and bad. One of the bad ideas from peers include the use of drugs. Young people who take drugs perform poorly at school as it is believed to be one of the strong factors that pull students out of school. Even though drug use is prohibited in most schools, the evil continues to thrive.
Another factor is lifestyle. As lifestyle changes with time, most students have the mentality that they are better accepted in the society when they drive expensive cars, dressed in superior clothes and display some ostentatious lives. Thus those students whose parents are incapable of meeting such standards feel misplaced and cannot stand this agony, particularly when they study with well-off students. In the long run they drop out of school.
Parental misguidance is also becoming a contributory factor towards the increasing rate of school dropouts. There are families that have lived good lives without relying on education. Such families do not accentuate the need for education for their children. When this happens, students are left to choose whether to complete or drop out of school.
Finance also causes many university students to drop out of school. Education today involves money and when the student doesn’t meet up the necessary requirement in school in terms of payment of school fees, textbooks, accommodation etc, the student may decide to work to earn more money to further their education instead of concentrating on studies. Dropouts who are concerned about their immediate, short-term financial situation may see a full time job as the best way to maintain the lifestyle they desire. Early pregnancy is also a factor that aids the school dropout syndrome.
The aforementioned reasons for students’ drop out are problems for the society and the government as well. For instance, when we have so many people living in poverty due to low income, it increases the rate of school dropouts.
It is very clear that education moulds the character of individuals and society. Where it is lacking, the results are unpalatable. They say knowledge is power. A country where students’ dropout rate is high, it indicates that all is not well with the education sector. Consequently, all manner of deviant behaviours will be noticed and no one can live in peace. Education, therefore, is the only guarantee for a better life.
Nwankwo wrote from Port Harcourt.

 

Anita Nwankwo

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Opinion

Securing Our Artifacts

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Culture consists of the beliefs, way of life, art and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society; the attitudes and beliefs about things that are shared by a particular group of people. In another definition, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the living dictionary, defines culture as activities that are related to art, music, literature and a society that existed at a particular time in history. Culture is an old as history. History cannot be complete without the culture of a people.
The African continent was known to be the home of culture. So many ancient art works in Africa had illicitly been taken away to other continents of the world. Illicit trafficking of cultural materials from Africa is because of non-documentation of art works produced by Africans. So many artifacts were illegally taken away by the colonial masters who colonized the African continent. Some artifacts of cultural value were forcefully transported out of Africa without the consent of the sculptors, artists or even the native communities.
Museum setting and management is a major problem in preserving the ancient art works produced some centuries ago. According to Binkat Manji Jennifer, a well-documented collection can never be achieved without important activities such as numberings. Since the aim of any museum documentation system is to attain a standardized format that would assist in safe-guarding and tracing collections then the aspect of numbering is inevitable.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments should step up to its functions in protecting and preserving cultural materials or artifacts by Nigerian artists. There were so many art works in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country without documentation and this has caused extinction of cultural materials in some well-known cultures in the country.
Cultural materials, in some cases, are not preserved by the people who use them. Today, the orientation and preservation of cultural materials are given prompt attention. And that is why many Nigerian artists are not celebrated in the country.
It is important for museums to know where the objects are at every given point in time as well as who has them. Cultural materials are trafficked to every part of the world without control. It is sad. There is no proper control or preservation of cultural materials in Nigeria.
The illicit trafficking of artifacts from Africa to the Western world has been on the increase, especially in this 21st Century. One of the reasons for trafficking of cultural materials to other parts of the world without traces is because the materials have no historical ownership.
For instance, the Last Supper Painting of Jesus Christ and his disciples is credited to a world class painter, Leonard Da Vinci, because of documentation carried out at that time. It is obvious that most of the sculptural pieces and paintings in Africa were not assigned or credited to certain artists.
The works of the Nok Culture, Ife Art, Benin Art and Igbo Ukwu did not have specific artists attached to them. Rather, they are seen as general art works of particular groups. But in Europe, most of the artifacts can be traced to the artists who did them. This is the problem of historical non-documentation in African society.
Examples of bad conditions on objects indeed, missing art objects appear incomplete due to areas that have been broken off, probably in the course of excavation of pottery items or broken while in transit. Some parts of objects that have broken off must not be thrown away in the course of exhibition; these parts can equally be displayed. Every part of an art work is important to the artist.
Last year, the Last Supper Painting of Da Vinci was auctioned in Europe for millions of dollars.
The federal, state and the local governments in Nigeria should protect and promote artworks made in the country. A situation where cultural materials are illegally taken away at the mercy of the artists should be discouraged.
Most countries in the world preserve their ancient relics in their national museums. Museums in France can boast of artifacts that have existed for more than one thousand years. Nigerian artists should be empowered by government to give them a sense of belonging.
Indeed, there is no ethnic group without cultural materials. But today, some ethic groups cannot identify or see their cultural material in real life. Some had been taken to foreign lands where their origin cannot be traced. Say no to illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts.
Ogwuonuonu wrote from Port Harcourt.

 

Frank Ogwuonuonu

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