Sometime in March 1990, Nigeria and other nations met at a conference in Lomtien in Thailand to promote “Education for all by the year 2000.” All the 160 nations pledged to work hard towards the achievement of this noble goal.
Twenty years after the historic conference, Nigerian government, apart from failing dismally to make this agenda a reality, has left most of its children of school age in the streets, with poor school environment and declining teachers’ morale. Both students and teachers are not committed. While the students abandon school, their teachers engage in petty trading during school hours, menial jobs after school hours and an outright lackadaisical attitude towards the teaching profession.
The effect of the shortcoming in the education sector became the subject of a national discourse recently when the National Examination Council, NECO, released the November/ December 2009 Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, (SSSCE), result in which 98 per cent of students who wrote the examination failed.
The registrar of NECO, Professor Promise Okpala, said only 1.8 per cent that represents 4,223 candidates passed with five credits and above including English and Mathematics, which is the requirement for entry into university out of a total of 234,682 candidates that wrote the examination which was held in 1,708 centres across the nation.
Hon. Farouk Lawan, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Education, recently described the development as the worst in the history of public examination at secondary school level in Nigeria. Against this backdrop, the House has begun investigation into the matter.
Even though everyone in the country knows the circumstances and reasons for this type of result, investigating it may not be out of place, particularly when it could be recalled that this ugly trend happened in the last two previous examinations conducted by the council in varying degrees. However, what is more surprising is the fact that in spite of the mass failure, the government is yet to declare a state of emergency in the education sector.
Thinking along this line, Dr. (Mrs) O.B Owei, a lecturer at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Port Harcourt, says: “The fact that there is no national uproar after 98 per cent of the students who wrote a national examination failed, shows the hopelessness of the country.” The university don who could not hide her feelings, said it was shocking that 98 per cent of the students that wrote the examination could not pass five papers and “we are all sitting down as if nothing serious had happened. The situation calls for national debate, uproar and analyses. A serious country would try and look at what has gone wrong and how it could correct the situation,” she added.
Right from the era of the military to the current democratic dispensation, education has never been made a priority in the country. In the nation’s spending priorities, education does not rank among the first five. This is a nation that can afford to spend billions of naira on a foreign coach to take our national team to the World Cup, while our education needs receive no attention. There are many industrialised countries today that have not won the World Cup, yet they don’t invest so much on sports particularly to the exclusion of vital sectors.
Mr. I.R Lawson, a retired principal from a government school, regrets the situation. According to him, “our children can not compete with children from other countries in the competitive global market. We seem to have no priorities in the country let alone get them right and this is what has made us hewer of woods and drawers of water for other countries. We have left what matters most which is education and dwelt on mundane issues like sports and politics.”
Mass failure phenomenon in public examinations like JAMB and SSSCE is no longer an eye-opening event. What would have been most appaulling is the reverse of the phenomenon. Nigerian students are not intellectual-minded. Most of the time when they should be at their reading tables, they are busy watching home video on cable network television or they are playing video games for hours. Many more engage in things that are not academically useful to them.
Besides agreeing that students of all categories indulge more in activities that would profit them little academically, a former lecturer at the then Rivers State College of Education (now University of Education) Port Harcourt, Ms B. Inko- Tariah, thinks the absence of the enforcement of relevant laws on examination malpractice in the country is the chief culprit. According to her, if examination malpractice is not sanctioned severely, students would not make adequate preparations for examinations. “Government should re-visit our relevant laws on examination malpractice and enforce them, failure will result in students using all manner of methods to pass examinations including “soughting.”
When students are not engaged in things that will increase intellectual capacity, the result will be that they will become veritable materials for ethnic crises, militants, armed robbers, kidnappers and of course, cyber criminals, who will unleash terror on the society in the fullness of time.
What should be the role of corporate institutions in all of this? Curious enough many of these institutions do not contribute to the education sector. Some of them prefer sponsoring dancing competitions with millions of naira and pretend as if they were not aware of the decay in the educational sector.
Dr. A.G Warmate, a lecturer at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, agrees with this position. He says: “Most of the big firms in this country are evil. They give millions of naira to winners of their shows, while winners of debates, science and quiz competitions get paltry sums of money. These firms promote singing and dancing competitions with millions of naira, while public libraries have no books.”
The funding of education in the country is so poor to the extent that it does not in any way come near the recommendation of UNESCO which prescribes about 25 per cent of the nation’s budget for education. Our leaders have deliberately refused to fund this sector thus denying the average Nigerian student the needed quality education.
The poor NECO result is the consequence the nation has to face for neglecting education. Until the nation goes back to the drawing board and tackles the issue of education holistically, nothing positive will come out of the sector.
Regulating Social Media Towards Peace Building
Can the social media space be regulated in a manner that it will give young people the opportunity to unleash positive energy on the society without stifling their voices? Experts say it is possible. Youths constitute the bulk of those who use the social media space for interactions, empowerment and self-actualization. They have leveraged advancements in information and communication technology as a medium of communication. Among the leading social media in Nigeria are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While youths may have limited political power to champion their views they can harness the potential in the social media to promote peace in Nigeria. Although the social media has its own negative sides, it also comes with numerous advantages, such as facilitating access to mentorship, socialization and creativity.
Through its networking mechanisms, social media spreads news faster and has wider reach than the conventional media. It encourages group participation in discussions and activities thereby providing a platform to push critical information and nurture ideas. Youths can take advantage of this uniqueness to propagate positive atmospheres such as peace and nation building. While many young people have used social media to create wealth, education and sourcing information and entertainment, many have used it to propagate violence conducts and other social vices. Experts say the Federal Government has a role to play in re-channeling youths’ social media culture and orientation from the negative to the positive through proper regulation. The federal government is cognisant of this as demonstrated by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
In June 2021 while appearing before a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives, Mohammed asked the lawmakers to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) act to empower the agency to regulate social and online media. The minister said: “Internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter.” Similarly, in June the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) also announced a draft document for the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria.
The code seeks to, among many others, compel online platforms to provide any backend information to assist government agencies for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting users who breach the provisions of the code.
Reinforcing these thoughts, Dr Bakut Bakut, Director-General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, said: “Preventing the conflict of tomorrow means changing the mindset of the youth today.” Bakut, who said this while delivering an address of welcome at a conference in Abuja recently, said the youth could be redirected to use the social media as a tool for peace building. According to him, youths use social media more frequently and are more likely to become victims of violence and can also be recruited by extremists.
The two-day conference, which was organised by IPCR in collaboration with the University of Ilorin Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, CPSS, had as its theme, “Youth, Social Media and Community Peace building.” “This is a significant issue because technology can either be a medium through which terrorists recruit young people or a means through which young men and women can help in building peace. “Although young people are crucial players in peace building, they have been excluded from the process and are instead thought of as `manipulable` tools for violent conflicts and social unrest,” he said.
Bakut recalled the #EndSARS protest of October, 2020, which was organised by Nigerian Twitter users largely made up of youths against police brutality. He said it demonstrated that social media was dangerously spiraling out of control and a breeding ground for fake news, hate speech, misinformation and online incitement of unrest, hence the need to regulate it. He said the conference offered opportunities for fresh ideas to gain the youth’s support for community peace building initiatives and incorporating social media, especially given the current insecurity concerns in Nigeria. Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, while corroborating Bakut’s view said regulating social media would curb online abuses and engage youths to promote peace.
Speaking on the topic, “Social Media Use and its implications on Community Peace building Among Nigerian Youths,” he said that social media regulation was the best way to ensure that youths used social media positively. Represented by Prof. A.L. Azeez, Dean, Faculty of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, Sulyman said the social media must be regulated if the youth’s recklessness in using social media space would be drastically curtailed. “How can we make the youth to use the media positively; to empower themselves while at the same time deploying it for peace building? The best way is by controlling and regulating the social media space. “The regulation and control of social media space on grounds of humanity, peace and security are ostensibly plausible as such justifications have been invoked in Pakistan, Malaysia and India. “This is why many scholars of communication and peace have intensified their support and agitation for a legal framework for regulating Nigeria’s social media space through the social media bill,” he said.
The former vice-chancellor said that social media platforms should be used to facilitate virtual dialogues among stakeholders towards achieving peace and security. “The youth’s use and adoption of social media should be aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups. “Through social media, the Nigerian youth should build strong consensus on issues that affect their lives and wellbeing. “No meaningful socioeconomic and human development can take place in a nation where its youth are preoccupied with sharing divisive and inciting rhetoric on social media,” the don said. Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), underscored the need to directly engage the youth on peace building. “One of the ways that we can push these kinds of conversations concretely, going forward, would be to invite the youth to be part of this kind of debate,” he said.
According to him, the Nigerian policy paper defines the youth as someone who is between the age of 15-30, which means he or she is under custody and not yet autonomous. “I will however extend that definition to mean that the youth is a social category, so a youth is he or she that a particular person says he or she is, notwithstanding age. “So if you have a consciousness of being young or old, that’s who you are. There are people who are 40 but they already feel they are old, so let it be with them that they are old”, he said. Prof. Oyeronke Olademo, Director, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies. University of Ilorin, urged adults to use social media platforms to counter the negative narratives about youths and the country.
“For me, curbing the excesses of the youth on social media and redirecting them to peace building, requires that older persons should flood the cyber space with positive narratives. “This will overwhelm any negative narratives or fake news, which the youth may spread on these platforms,” she said.
Experts say while it is important to regulate the social media space caution should be applied in doing so to avoid gagging the media, infringing on free speech and fundamental human rights.
By: Raphael Pepple
NDEP Gives Rivers Flood Victims Succour
In a bid to alleviate the sufferings of flood victims in Rivers State, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the Niger Delta Exploration and Production (NDEP), has donated relief materials worth millions of naira to the state, affected communities as well as their host communities.
Presenting the items to the communities’ representatives and governments in Port Harcourt City and Ahoada East Local Government Areas, respectively, the Company’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, (MD/CEO), Gbite Falade noted that the donations were made as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to its host state, local governments, communities and traditional institutions to help relieve the sufferings of the victims of the natural disaster.
Represented by the Manager, Security Services and Community Affairs, NDEP, Alhaji Umaru Buba Njobbo, Falade observed that the flood this year, was devasting as homes, properties, livestock, farmlands and humans were destroyed.
According to him, “in response to the impact of the flood, NDEP set up a task force to coordinate the distribution of relief materials to host community residents.The relief efforts of NDEP are aimed at cushioning the devastating effects of the flood on the residents, their properties and means of livelihood.”
He pointed out that it was important that the three tiers of government took measures to curb flood disasters to reduce the devastating effects of future occurrences of natural disasters in the state.
The NDEP number one man reaffirmed the company’s commitment to its host communities, adding that as a sustainable business, NDEP was aware that excellent peaceful co-existence with its host communities was pivotal to its vision, stressing that NDEP was empathetic its host communities and would always stand by in times of grave need.
The NDEP officials were received on arrival at the Palace of Kingdom, members of his chiefs-in-council, and the Chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Area, Hon Ben Eke.
Addressing the Eze Upata, Upata Kingdom, Dr. Felix Otuwarikpo in his palace, where the items were presented, the Manager, Security Services and Community Affairs, NDEP, Alhaji Umaru Buba Njobbo, stated, “We are here in respect of the flood that has ravaged the entire Nigeria and this side is one of the most affected areas so the company, Niger Delta Exploration and Production deem it fit that at least in its own small way should be able to sympathize with the victims and also assist the government, the traditional rulers, the local government councils which have been battling to help the people survive the period.
“The company earmarked some certain relief materials which part of it is going to be given to the Rivers State Government so that it can also reach other victims who are not within our areas of operations”.
Furthermore, he said, “our coming here, with us we have some relief materials there is one that is meant for their attire Ekpeye because it cuts across Ahoada and some other areas, we are not unaware of that, so we have made provisions for all of that. We have also made provisions for the local government council because there are areas that are not also within our areas of operation that they would want to reach.
“We have made provision for Opata Kingdom because there are other areas within Opata that are not within our host communities so those people also need to be reached. We have also made provisions for all our host communities. We have also made provisions for Abua Odual Local Government Council. We have two host communities in Abua Odual LGA, we have made provisions for them, we have also made provision for the council to reach those areas that are not our operational area”.
Receiving the items on behalf of the traditional council and the entire people, the Eze Upata, Dr Felix Otuwarikpo, thanked NDEP, for coming to the rescue of the flood victims in the Kingdom; nothing that the Upata had people had solicited assistance from a lot of companies, that the magnanimity of NDEP was unprecedented.
He said, “Today on behalf of the officer traditional council and the entire people of the Opata kingdom we thank the managing director of the Niger Delta exploration and Production Company, members of his management and the entire for coming to the aid of the flood victims in Opata Kingdom. We solicited for assistance from many companies but this is one company that has come out very bold and made this robust contribution to mitigate the suffering of our people.
He added that, “Government cannot do it alone; there is no society, no country that all responsibilities affecting the society is left to the government. The problem of flooding in Orashi Kingdom is much more than we imagined and given the quantum of water this year, assistance was sought from all over, and as usual, NDEP has not failed the people of Ekpeye.
“They have demonstrated that spirit of togetherness, they have shown that they are a responsible corporate organisation, and this should serve as a lesson for other companies; this is the way to go. When your communities are suffering, you identify with them; it is not all about reaping profits. We sincerely thank NDEP for coming to the aid of the people and we want to assure you that together, we will work to make the environment very peaceful for you to operate…you are not supporting only Upata people you are supporting the vision of Governor Nyesom Wike for a better Rivers State.
“Upata is a peaceful kingdom, and we will continue to ensure that there is peace in the Upata Kingdom,” he assured the officials.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Ahoada Local Government Area, Hon Ben Eke, expressed appreciation to the management of NDEP for their show of love, pointing out that they have not only demonstrated responsibility, but have also indicated that they are a responsive corporate organisation.
He promised a conducive environment for the company to ply their trade, while thanking the company for their kind gesture, saying, “We will on our part ensure that they do their business here without any form of molestation or harassment from anybody. So, may I once more thank you for what you have done I pray for you that you continue to go forward from strength to strength” and assured that “these items first will go to the Eze Ekpeye, Logbo-in-Council. Let me tell you the materials will get to the affected victims”.
On his part, the representative of Abua/Odual Local Government Area, Dr. Kikpoye Gogo thanked the firm for being the first company to identify with the people of Abual/Odua in their trying period, noting that their local government area hosts other oil firms, but NDEP was the only firm that had given them a helping hand to ensure that “you ameliorate our pain in respect of the flood.
He assured the company that the materials would properly distributed to the real victims in their domain and promised to ensure a conducive environment for the company to continue to do their business.
Responding to questions from pressmen, the Eze Upata, noted that 97 per cent of mud houses in the area had been swept away by the great waters, stating that as part of their post flood measures, the displaced persons would be allowed to stay at the camps longer than expected, while the household items would also be given to them as part of rehabilitation measures.
Also responding to journalists, the council Chairman, Hon Ben Eke, said there were plans to resettle the farmers especially the women through a post flood scheme tagged Back to Farm, where seedlings would be provided for over 200 women farmers between December 2022 and February 2023 to enable them return to their farms.
The company provided the five affected LGAs, including Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Abua/Odual and Emuoha local governments areas with 15 truck-loads of food, toiletries and sanitary items as well as sleeping materials, comprising, 600 bags of rice, 600 mattresses, 600 pillows, 600 blankets, 600 mosquito nets, 15 cows, 720 cartons of noodles, 600 cartons of drinking water, 120 cartons of soap, 120 cartons of tomato paste, 120 cartons of sugar, powder milk and cocoa beverage.
The beneficiary communities include Ogbele, Omaraka, Otari, Obumeze, Oshiugbokor, Rumuekpe, Omerelu and Rumuji.
Niger Delta Exploration and Production, is the operator of Oil Mining Licence (OML)- 53 and OML- 54 in Ahoada and Abua/Odual,operational activities spread to neighbouring local governments and communities around the area.
By: Tonye Nria-Dappa
Breast Cancer And Lifestyle Modification
As over 2,000 benefit from breast cancer self examination training, health experts have said that breast cancer disease kills about 40 women daily in Nigeria hence the need for women and men to be mindful of the factors that cause the dreaded ailment which is described as the disease of the genes. They outlined some factors that trigger changes on the genes to include: unhealthy lifestyle, exposure to some dangerous health chemicals and radiations, heredity as well as viruses. They also fingered breast cancer as one of the commonest killer disease and leading in death in Nigeria, which often occur in one out of every 10 women and in one out of every 100 men. Some of the common symptoms of breast cancer were named to include a lump or lumps in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple and changes in the shapes of the breasts, size, reddishness or texture around the nipple. The stage four breast cancer, also known as the advanced breast cancer or Metastatic breast cancer spreads beyond the breast and around the lymph nodes to other parts of the body; most times to the bones, lungs, brain or liver. In a bid to increase awareness campaign on breast Cancer, a leading medical consultancy firm in Nigeria and a Non-governmental organisation, Diamond Helix Medical Assistance Limited (DHMA), have taken their sensitisation and awareness campaign programme on cancer disease to over 2,000 staff at the Headquarters and state branch of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Rivers State.
Speaking during the health seminar training with the theme: ‘’Breast Cancer And Lifestyle Modification for prevention Of Breast Cancer,’ held at both the NDDC Headquarters and State branch in Rivers State, October 31, 2022, Head of Department, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Professor Rosemary … says about 40 women die daily of breast cancer in Nigeria as a result there is need for increase in awareness on what must be done to stop further spread of this deadly disease in the country. “Because of increase in awareness, the number of cancer victims are also decreasing. Victims are now ready to come out of their closets to show how bad it is on them so that they can get treated and well again. All must be intentional about doing something to prevent it from further spread as well reducing the number of people that die as a result of it.
Professor Ogu described cancer as a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue, adding that this disease occurs when an abnormal cells starts growing in genes, explaining the different stages of breast cancer to be from stage 0 to stage 4. Pointing out some of the causes of breast cancer in both men and women to include unhealthy eating habit, such as consuming more of junk foods instead of eating more organic foodsfoods. Overweight is a strong risk factor, therefore there is the need to maintainin good weight by doing some 150 minutes physical exercise breaking it into 30 minutes daily. She explained that exercise lowers estrogen as well as other hormones levels, reduce inflammation, enhances the immune system, reduces stress and insulin levels which in turn ultimately reduces cancer risk, among others. Meanwhile, different types of cancer exist today, the most common types of cancer were named as follows: Breast cancer; described as such formed in the cells of the breasts; Prostate cancer, a cancer in a man’s prostate, a small walnut-sized gland that produces seminal fluid; Basal cell cancer, a type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells; Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
The Professor explained more types of cancer disease to include Colon cancer, a cancer of the colon or rectum, located at the digestive tract’s lower end; Lung cancer, a cancer that begins in the lungs and most often occurs in people who smoke, Leukemia, a cancer of blood-forming tissues, hindering the body’s ability to fight infection; Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, among others. Prof Ogu, pointed out some of the preventive methods for cancer disease as follows: Self Breast Examination; practice a good eating habit by avoiding fatty foods; do 30 minutes exercise like just jumping in your room everyday; avoid smoking; avoid taking much alcohol; marry early to have your children before age 28, breastfeed your babies properly; maintain good emotional health by getting enough sleep daily. “The preventive methods are practice good diet, love high fiber diet. This is to say that one must eat the natural foods, do exercises everyday take 30 minutes every day to walk or jump to help reduce hormonal levels, stress as well as cancer causing agents in the body. “Reducing alcohol consumption and ensuring to have enough sleep, reduced stress can prevent cancer in the body,” Prof Ogu added.
She revealed that there are different stages in a good sleep, of all these stages, the most important stage to ones’ health is when the cell is actually repairing itselves. For her, the Doctors, Pharmacists, Individuals, Medical team, Family and friends, the government, the survivors must know their major roles to play to stop the spread of the deadly scourge. She charged participants on the need to do self breast examination daily, adding that they cannot prevent it, but they can detect it early through breast self examination, thereby leading to early treatment which is key to surviving it. She further charged government at all levels to create more breast centres as well as mastectomy boutiques, so that it would encourage victims to open up and willing to remove their breast, especially when that becomes the very best option as the victim life depends on it for survival. Also speaking Dr Ireju Ajie added that the same symptoms oberseved in women were almost likely to be the same in men, noting that breast sizes does not affect these symptoms. Dr Ajie charged participants to always observe daily Breast Examination as well as those already diagnosed positive to visit any nearby hospital for their routine Mammographic checks, stressing that these were the only way to fight the scourge. On her side, one of the participants, a victim of multiple lumps, confirmed that not all lumps were cancer.
She explained how she traveled abroad for test and was diagnosed of multiple lumps, amidst of fears, when the result came out, she was cancer free, she thus charged everyone to invest more on their health by going for regular check ups as well as doing the necessary tests needed to keep fit, saying that: “It is one who is alive that will eat, beautify the body to look good. “When I traveled out for medical test based on my health challenge, I was diagnosed of multiple lumps and asked to stay back beyond my earlier plans and less cash at hand, but I had no option, but to sell all my jewelries and called my people in Nigeria to assist with some cash to get my health back and today by God’s special grace I am alive and healthy.” It is worthy to note that Diamond Helix Medical Assistance (DHMA) Ltd is a leading medical consultancy firm in Nigeria, since 2008, DHMA has successfully built a reputation as the pioneer of medical assistance service in the country. Diamond Helix actively works to improve healthcare in the nation by providing Healthcare consulting, Hospital planning and design services, Wellness promotion, Continuing Medical Education and creating platforms for global healthcare deliberations. They advised that if there arise any suspicion about breast cancer such individual should visit the Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) Mammogram Centre, located at Obio Cottage Hospital, Trans-Amadi in Port Harcourt.
By : Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
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