There was pandemonium at the otherwise serene University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Choba, last Monday.
It was triggered off by the erstwhile Niger Delta militants who are camped at the Leadership Training Centre, Aluu by the Federal Government in line with the amnesty package for former violent regional rights agitators. The centre and the university share a common boundary.
On the fateful day, the ex-militants plied their abandoned trade, though, without guns. But it was devastating as the university community, the host communities as well as passers-by who fell prey are still counting their losses from the volcano.
Cars were purportedly vandalised, valuable items ranging from handsets to computers were carted away by them. University girls and others were also said to be raped.
Brigandry was the weapon chosen by the ex-Niger Delta warlords to agitate alleged non-payment of their stipends and neglect by the federal government. Many had condemned the boys’ approach to express their feelings to government.
Both the academic and non-academic staff of UNIPORT have withdrawn their services from the university until the ex-militants are relocated to another site by the federal government.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNIPORT branch, Dr. Andrew Efemini, last Thursday flayed government’s purported negligence on the amnesty deal. He did not only foresee a deadlier agitation by the boys if government failed to satisfy their needs.
Dr. Efemini said those behind the camping of the ex-militants in the area threw the sanctity of a university to the wind, hence restated that with the presence of the boys, the university was no longer safe.
Visibly angry ASUU boss was vehement when he stated that the ex-militants should be relocated to the nation’s seat of power, ASO ROCK. He said the boys should not only live with Mr. President, but also serve as his security aides and for the state chief executives too.
The chairman cautioned the ex-warlords not to provoke students of the university again, and stated that a repetition of the dastardly act would attract unpalatable reaction from the students, whom he described as “potent force all over the world”.
Students of the university, last Tuesday, trooped to the Rivers State Government House to press for the relocation of the ex-militants.
The secretary of the Students’ Union Government and Human Physiology Student, KingJoy Kedee in an interview with The Weekend Tide, on Thursday, pleaded that the repentant militants should be relocated immediately in the interest of peace on campus.
President, Akpor Youth Organisation (AYO) said, “AYO applauds government’s amnesty deal with the ex-militants, but not happy for camping them at Aluu, near UNIPORT because we are now witnessing incessant violent demonstrations within and around Akpor Kingdom”.
Seventy-year old ruler of Omuchiorlu Community, Aluu, Chief Elijah Chuku feared that purported anti-social behaviours of the ex-militants since they came to the locality would be imbibed by the vulnerable youths, hence pleaded with relevant authorities to relocate them.
Meanwhile, report from Government House, Port Harcourt, Thursday, stated that the Rivers State Government had stated that any ex-militant that engages in crime would face the wrath of the law as the post-amnesty programme has no room for criminality.
Governor Chibuike Amaechi stated this Thursday when he addressed the authorities of the University of Port Harcourt at Choba over the recent violent demonstration of ex-militants on the school campus.
Governor Amaechi, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Magnus Abe, said the havoc caused by the ex-militants on the institution is unacceptable and would not be tolerated by the state government.
The governor explained that the amnesty period elapsed on October 4, 2009, and therefore, raping, looting and destruction of people’s properties, which are not covered by the amnesty programme, attract punishment.
He restated the state government’s commitment to the rule of law and assured that anybody who commits crime would face the wrath of the law because the state government would not allow a recurrence of the criminality.
Governor Amaechi said the ex-militants were brought to the Aluu camp to be re-orientated and rehabilitated, to make them better people, but noted that under the circumstance, it is wrong to allow them stay near the institution.
The State Chief Executive used the opportunity to convey the deep concern of the government and people of Rivers State to the University Community over the incident and appealed to the victims to put themselves together while the victims of rape were to be given proper medical attention.
Governor Amaechi stated that the federal government has been fully briefed on the issue, emphasising that the non-payment of their allowances should not have attracted the violence they perpetrated on the school community.
He, therefore, urged the Vice Chancellor of the institution to reassure members of the school community that the incident would not recur and advised them to go back to work.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Don Baridam, thanked the state government for the concern they had shown to the school and the reassurance of adequate security measures.
Prof. Baridam said few weeks after the murder of the school’s Chief Security Officer and the violence perpetrated by the ex-militants, a state of fear has now enveloped the institution, leading to workers absenting themselves from work for fear of their lives.
The Vice Chancellor said the ex-militants raped 12 girls, looted properties and vandalised others, emphasizing that the solution to the problem remains the relocation of the camp.
He remarked that the school environment is where people come from different parts of the world to undertake academic programme and urged the state government to do something quickly to save the situation before the ex-militants indoctrinated the students’ population.
Nigerian Children: Their Dreams, Hope, Constraints
Nigeria is blessed with an abundance of arable but uncultivated land, resourceful citizens and an array of mineral and natural resources embedded in its soil. In fact, there is no part of the country that could not be self sufficient in revenue generation if the available natural and human resources when they are judiciously harnessed for the benefit of all and the overall development of the country.
However, it appears a bit ironical that a country that is so endowed would have a high proportion of its children out of school, even as today’s child is touted as the prospective leader of tomorrow.
Given a scenario whereby children between the ages of six and twelve years, form a greater percentage of street hawkers, even during school hours, one wonders what the future holds for Nigeria in the social, economic, political and security spheres.
Mindful of the future role of children in the development of their various countries, the United Nations, UN, decades ago took steps to underline its interest in the welfare of children the world over.
Thus, in 1946, the UN established the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF, as a temporary measure for children’s care, especially in areas devastated by war.
But in 1955, this emergency fund was turned into a permanent organization known as the United Nations Children Fund.
Hence, for over 60 years, the UNICEF has been providing for children throughout the world with food, clothing and medical care and has been able to look after children’s needs in general.
Similarly, in 1976, Heads of State that constitute the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU) designated June 16 as the day of the African Child in commemoration of children who were massacred in Soweto, South Africa in 1976 when they dared to protest the evils of apartheid.
In the same vein in 1989 the United Nations convention on the right of the child was adopted by the general assembly of the world body. The essence of the convention was basically to improve the quality of life of the children the world over, enhance their dignity and focus global attention on the development of the child.
Hence, it is regrettable that in spite of all these declarations the Nigerian child still suffers untold deprivation, albeit in the face of plenty.
All over the land the plight of the Nigerian child is glaring as they suffer neglect, denied basic rights to education and good nutrition, especially in the urban areas where they are commemoration hawking various items all day in the struggle for survival.
But in fairness to some state governments a lot have been put in place towards improving the welfare of children.
In Rivers State, for instance, the wife of the governor, Dame Judith Amaechi established the Empowerment Support Initiative, ESI, to among other goals, cater to the needs of children from the nursery school level, particularly those in the rural areas who may not have access to quality education for various reasons.
This is in addition to the efforts of various state governments which, apart from building and equipping more schools to accommodate the ever growing number of children of school age, have promulgated laws to make hawking by children during school hours, illegal.
But commendable as these moves are, they have not been able to keep children of school age away from the streets during school hours.
In this connexion, kudos must be given to the patriots, non-governmental organizations and world bodies that have fought to make the Childs Right Act a reality. So far, 23 states, in Nigeria have ratified the Act in line with the dictates of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, convention which stipulates that work age should be consistent with the age of finishing formal schooling, put around age 15. Though the national minimum employment age in Nigeria is 12 years, there have been calls to raise it to the 15 years recommended by ILO.
Beyond the foregoing, however, the fact still remains that the question of child abuse, child labour and all that would remain with us for a long time, except deliberate measures are taken to check the high level of unemployment in the country, which accounts to a large extent for parents inability to take adequate care of their children. In a conversation, Madam Titi narrated how things fell apart in her family since her husband lost his job in a factory. According to the middle aged lady who claimed she caters for the well-being of her entire household, there was no way she would not involve the children in hawking “pure” water, groundnuts and other items, to help make ends meet, moreso as she alone could not bear the burden of their schooling. This position was corroborated by Mrs Agina who, in tear narrated that her husband left home three years ago as he could no longer bear the pain of helplessness of his children whose education he could no longer sustain since he lost his job. But the story of Kate is different.
She is a single mother, uneducated and unemployable but whose only daughter assists in selling roasted yam at a street corner. According to her, sending her child to a relative would mean sentencing her to much more suffering, including life as a commercial sex worker.
The issue of underage children hawking various wares on the streets even late in the night would remain with us for a long time, asserts a sociologist who pleaded not to be named, except government moves to create avenues for massive employment, particularly through the agricultural sector. This lecturer argued that with the preponderance of unemployed adults, the backlash is sure to be felt by their dependants, hence the increase in the rate of criminal activities, commercial sex workers, and the teeming number of children whose parents could ill-afford to cater for.
However, it appears all hope is not lost but to Mr Innocent Onyeiwu, a trader, having his children with him in the market is one way the family could meet their ends. Because even his eldest child who is a welder, most of the time is idle as there is hardly steady power supply to enable him practice his trade, hence, the need for governments at all levels to do more in the power sector to boost self employment and free children of school age to prepare for the task in future.
NLNG Partners Media For Talents Hunt In Rivers
The stage is now set for the commencement of the maiden edition of the Rivers State music choral competition being organised by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
This follows the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the company and the media partners involved in the coverage of the competition.
The media partners involve in the project are the Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (RSBC), Radio Rivers, the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Publishers of The Tide group of newspapers, and the Rivers State Television Authority (RSTV).
Others are African Independent Television AIT / Ray Power FM, CMTV/Love FM, Rhythm 93.7, Silverbird Television amongst others. The ceremony, which took place at Protea Hotel attracted a number of dignitaries including musical choral groups.
Expectedly, about 105 choral groups were represented.
Also present was the NLNG choral group which gave a beautiful rendition, while Timi Okora Schiller and Precious Omuku also thrilled the audience with beautiful songs.
Apart form the choral groups, other personalities which also graced the event include, HRM Eze Robinson, .O. Robinson, the Eze Ekpeye Logbo, Dr T.A.T Allison, wife of the Rivers State Governor, Dame Judith Amaechi represented by the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Manuela George-Izunwa, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Sir J.P. Nally amongst others.
In his opening speech, the Manager, Community Relations, Mr Ifeanyi Mbanefo described the ceremony as the first step towards bringing to fruition the competition.
Mr Mbanefo who represented the Manager, External Relations of the company, Miss Sienne Alwell Brown said that the application by 105 choral groups to participate in the competition had shown that Rivers youths were ready to participate in the choral competition.
Also speaking, the wife of the Rivers State Governor, Dame Judith Amaechi said that her office was in total support of the competition.
Dame Amaechi said that the dream of the Rivers State Government was for Rivers State to encourage the youths to have a future and expressed optimism that the competition would have positive impacts on the state.
Speaking in her capacity as the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs George-Izunwa urged corporate organizations operating in the state to put in place programmes that would improve the lives of women in the state.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Information and communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari said that the competition would encourage youths in the state to channel their energies to productive venture.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Sir J.P. Nally urged other corporate bodies operating in the state to emulate the NLNG by coming up with programmes that would be of immense benefit to the state.
The commissioner used the occasion to assure the company that the ministry and its parastatals would partner with the company to ensure the success of the competition.
In his welcome address, the Managing Director of Nigeria Liquefied National Gas (NLNG), Mr Chima Ibeneche said that NLNG agreed with the results of numerous studies that music can make a difference in a child’s education.
Mr Ibeneche revealed that the company decided to embark on the project, following the current crisis in the teaching and learning of music in schools that has left music on the fringe of them school curricula, “our intention is to bring our youths together to sing to each other.”
He also added that the competition would help to preserve the cultural heritage of the state.
In his words: “As a people, we sing songs to praise, satirize, eulogise, indict, sermonize, and tell stories.
“Our folk songs and rituals show how composite our culture is and how it distinguishes itself from other cultures.”
The NLNG MD further emphasized that the competition would stimulate music teaching and learning, reward creativity and bring good singers and conductors to public attention.
Earlier, the chairman of the competition organizing committee, Professor Richard described the M.O.U as unique, stressing that it was a new initiative by corporate organisaitons to improve the situation in Rivers State, pointing out that it was in line with the Millennium Development of Goals.
According to him, it would encourage interest in music as a career path for talented youths, pointing out that the competition would be equipped to promote Niger Delta cultural nationalism.
RSUOE: Grappling With University Status
The Rivers State Univer
sity of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt is one of the nation’s first specialised university in the area of education. The university which was established in the early 70s as Advanced Teachers Training College, Port Harcourt was later upgraded to a College of Education and affiliated to the University of Ibadan.
Today, with the passage of an enabling law by the Rivers State House of Assembly, Port Harcourt, the former college of Education has transformed into a full fledged University of Education.
The transformation of the hitherto College of Education to a University has brought many issues to the fore: the issues of accreditation of its courses and programmes, structures, finances and students enrolment. Some people have alleged that there had been rows between the new University and the University of Ibadan over unpaid bills.
However, the Rivers State University of Education has been established as a legal entity and would remain so until the law was revoked. But that may not be.
Speaking with The Weekend Tide, Miss Ijeoma Egumegu, a student at Faculty of Humanities of the University, said that the university has come to stay and there was no going back to its former status.
She said that the standard was high at the institution and noted that the school would continue to maintain its high standard, despite teething problems.
Miss Egumegu opined that most of the courses had been given full accreditation by the National University Commission, (NUC).
According to her, “I prefer the autonomy we have now to the time the school was affiliated to the University of Ibadan. Each time the University of Ibadan visitation team visited RSCOE then, the management team would catch fever. It is interesting to know that we are autonomous. You see, the institution has quality academic and non academic staff that is why most of the courses were accredited. Besides, the structures we have at Rumuolumeni are enough for now.”
She gave kudors to Prof. Rosemond Green Osahogulu for her pioneering skills as the vice chancellor of the state University of Education.
She described her as a visionary leader who was ready to take the institution to greater heights, and noted that the vc was a quintessential and virtuous woman.
The student remarked that Prof. R. D. Green Osahogulu would continue to do well as an administrator because she was carrying everybody along.
Miss Egumegu said the students’ enrolment was high and pointed out that one thing that made RSCOE as it were, different from other institutions of higher learning was its reluctance to go on strike, no matter the circumstance.
Miss Egumegu, who is a third year French student, said they had a good language laboratory at the faculty and explained that a French graduate from the university could compete with his contemporaries any-where in the world.
Besides, the students have good learning materials “that is why we are doing well academically.”
Also speaking, Mrs. Anana Christian Oyo, an alumnus of the institution, said it was interesting to know our dear College of Education has transformed into a university.”
Mrs. Oyo described the transformation as worthwhile and heartwarming. The alumnus said the university would go places with the calibre of lecturers it has.
She also praised the vc of the university for her leadership qualities and urged her to continue to do her best for the institution, and added that said she would continue to relish her days at the institution because of the quality of education she had.
According to her, “the transformation of COE to a full-fledged university is remarkable and I believe that it was born out of the contributions of the institution to the society. COE was not just a teachers training college. It was more that.
In Rivers and Bayelsa States, it has not only trained teachers; it has trained people in all walks of life. Many politicians in both states were trained in COE. Honestly, I savour the elevation of the institution to a university.”
Another person who spoke with The Weekend Tide, Edward Isaiah, a staff of Risonpalm Nucleus Estate, Ubima,said he was happy with the elevation of COE to a full fledged university but noted that he was praying that government should live to its billings.
He said it was not enough for an institution to be so described or elevated but government must translate words into action.
According to him, “what this means is that the state has about five institutions of higher learning. The university status is quite commendable but the enabling environment must be there for it to succeed.”
Mr. Isaiah wondered why there should be a separate university for education when faculties of education abound in all universities in Nigeria.
He said colleges of education were borne out of the dire need for teachers as it were. Mr. Isiah explained that teachers were no longer in short supply today and wondered why teachers should have a specialised university.
Mr. Isaiah who is an alumnus of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, regretted that the preponderance of teachers produced for the college were yet to gain employment and pointed out that the establishment of university of education would lead to the glut of teachers in the labour market.
He said that technology was the (in-thing) vogue in contemporary world and the attention should have been given to the area of science and technology in order to develop our nation.
Isiah who trained as an agriculturist at RSUST, however, praised government for the establishment of the premier education university and hoped that the Senate and the governing council of the university would champion the entrenchment of virile and standard university.
“All hands must be on deck to ensure that the university succeeds. “He noted that teachers were essential facilitators of development. He pointed out that no nation would grow above its teachers.” Mr. Isiah stated the quality of teachers produced in a country would determine the direction the nation goes.
Also speaking, Friday Ogbugo, an alumnus of College of Education, Port Harcourt, said that the elevation of the institution to a university was long overdue. He said that he was optimistic that the institution would continue to maintain high standard.
The teacher, who resides in Port Harcourt, noted that the products of RSCOE had performed well in different spheres of life and pointed out that the elevation of the college was not misplaced.
Mr. Ogbugo, who studied Economics Education, said the college had produced quality teachers and remarked it was important for the culture to continue.
He said for the institution to sustain its high standard there must be a deliberate effort on the part of the academic staff to check examination malpractice.
The teacher regretted that examination malpractice was a cankerworm and prayed the Senate and the governing council of the institution to nip it in the bud.
Mr. Ogbugo stated that he reposed confidence in the VC’s ability to move the university forward. According to him, “the present V.C would do well because she has become part and parcel of the institution. She trained in the college, lectured in the school and today she is heading the institution,” he stated.
Also speaking, Mr. Isaiah Dioku, a journalist based in Port Harcourt, said the elevation of College of Education to a university was good.
Mr. Dioku remarked that it would lead to the production of quality teachers and it will stop the (expenses) money that is wasted on affiliation to Ibadan.
He described UoE and the relationship between the University of Ibadan as parasitic and noted the elevation would prevent the wastage of resources.
The journalist noted the elevation of the college to university had among other things created employment opportunities for Rivers indigenes both as academic and non-academic staff.
He pointed out that the elevation had put an end to the discrimination against them as a college and would inspire greater student’s enrolment.
Mr. Dioku said that there were a lot of facilities on ground and noted that the university would do well because of the calibre of the Vice Chancellor.
According to him, “Prof. Osofogulu is a hard working woman. She knows the university in and out and is in the best person to move the institution forward.”
The journalist remarked that the university status was a welcome development and urged the teachers, the senate and governing council to brace up for the challenges of the new status.
He implored River people and the government of Rivers State to provide an enabling environment for the success of the university.
Mr. Dioku said it had been proved that Rivers people were very innovative but what was still in doubt was their ability to effect their vision.
He warned that the institution should not be allowed to go the way of Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt.
He noted that the incidence of examination malpractice was already high in the institution and urged the Senate to do something urgently to address the trend.
Mr. Dioku said both teachers (lecturers) and students were partners in crime in aiding and abecting examination malpractice.
The journalist said ‘sorting’ should be discouraged because of its effect on both the students and the society at large.
Another person, who spoke with The Weekend Tide, Mr. Amos Onwuka Edison, the President of National Coalition of Niger Delta Graduates for Non-Violence, said it was a welcome development to both the state and the nation at large.
He explained that it would create opportunities for admission as well as employment for the youths.
Mr. Onwuka remarked that the University must endeavour to produce quality teachers, who would contribute to the transformation of the society.
Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Education, Prof. Rosemond Green Osahogulu said the University was ready for the challenges ahead.
Prof. Osofogulu said that the University had received 100% accreditation in 2008 and explained out of the 26 courses offered in the University, 23 had received full accreditation by the National University Commission (NUC), while three had partial accreditation.
She said it would take five years for another accreditation for those with full accreditation, while those with partial accreditation would be accredited in two years time.
The VC said by the end of this month (July) the academic brief would be ready and noted the licence would be ready as well.
According to her, “we have enough lecturers. We have employed 200 lecturers. Education Trust Fund offers academic staff development fund and we have told the lecturers that any one ready should apply and get admitted so the University of Education funds their training.”
On the facilities on ground for the take off, she said that they were ready and very soon the institution’s master-plan would be out.
She said the University was focusing on bringing solid teachers for our schools.
On the challenges, she said because of the enormous fund required to run a University, funds were hardly enough but pointed out that the school was moving forward with the little at its disposal.
She dismissed the rumours that there was a row between the University of Ibadan and RSUOE over unpaid affiliation bills.
The VC explained that when she came on board in 2008, she had to pay N83m owed to the University of Ibadan.
She noted that RSCOE was no longer indebted to Ibadan.
The VC, however, stated the problem between the two institutions was purely academic over standards.
She explained that RSCOE opened remedial programme for students, who did not meet Joint Admission Matriculating Board (JAMB) cut-off point but had University requirements (five credits).
Over the years, she said RSCOE started accepting four credits, which was the cause of disagreements between the two institutions.
On whether the University would run non-education courses, she noted that they were focusing on only education courses. “We want to put ourselves among the world class Universities,” she stated.
“We want to be like the Colombian university of Education”, she further stated.
The VC noted that the institution was tightening up on examination malpractice and urged all to continue to support the university.
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