By Julius Oweh
Education, the globe over, is regarded as the key that unlocks the potentials of the individual so as to contribute his quota to the development of his environment. That is why most developed nations place the highest premium on the availability of education to its citizenry. And this point was driven home last week when the commissioners in the educational forte gave account of their stewardship. The Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Honourable Chiedu Ebie and the Commissioner for Higher Education Engineer Jude Sinebe were at the Ministry of Information headquarters, Asaba and in interactive sessions with reporters, gave a good account of their stewardship. The undercurrent theme in both commissioners‘ press briefing was the uncommon passion of the Okowa administration to take the educational fortunes of Deltans a notch higher.
Honourable Chiedu Ebie gave a run down of the activities of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary education and listed some of the laudable landmark achievements since the inception of the Okowa administration. He spoke about repositioning of technical and vocational education, the universal basic education, the infrastructural upgrade in some secondary schools, the implementation of local language curriculum and historical studies, the teachers‘ professional development centre, the public private partnership and the development of sports and extracurricular activities among others.
Ebie explained the passion of the Okowa administration towards technical and vocational education against the backdrop the products of such schools who can fend for themselves without thinking of government employment. He listed some of the initiatives of the government in that area: ‘Upgrade of the facilities in the six technical colleges in the state with three of them completed and three ongoing. To date over N2.5 billion has been spent on infrastructural development, refurbishing and supply of equipment to the technical colleges. Recently, obtained full accreditation of programmes in the six technical colleges by the national Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Teacher’s re-distribution to technical colleges to ensure the availability of subject specialists and review, harmonization and enrichment of the curriculum for the five trade subjects‘. He also disclosed that more vocational centres have been built and established at Ubulu-Uku, Afiesere and Orerokpe while the federal government recently completed one at Mbiri, bringing them to eight vocational centres in the state.
On the fortunes of the Universal Basic Education, he said that the state was able to access the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 funds. He speaks further on UBE and the access to funds: ‘ In furtherance of the above and to ensure we continue to access the UBE funds, the state executive council recently approved the release of N1, 286,343,183.55 counterpart fund to enable us access the 2017 UBEC fund which places it as one of the few states in the country to do so. It further underscores the fact that this administration places education in the forefront of its development strides. It is therefore not surprising that so far, from UBEC grants and state counterpart funds SUBEB has received a total sum of N7,803,726,726.84 which funds have been judiciously utilized in the following areas across basic education institutions : construction and renovation of a total 1,779 classrooms, provision of 36,694 pupils‘ desks and 7,354 teachers‘ furniture, perimeter fencing and corresponding gatehouses of 81 schools, construction of 79 solar powered boreholes, construction of 243 modern toilets and several on-going projects to facilitate teaching and learning‘.
In order to prove fertile and conducive environment for learning, according to Ebie, the state government completed four inherited model secondary schools and that construction work and upgrade in five model schools were ongoing. He also talked about the total renovation of legacy schools beginning with Chude Girls College, Sapele, Urhobo College, Effurun and Government Model Secondary School, Patani.
On the teaching of local languages and history, this is the view of the Education Commissioner :‘Following the development of curricula in some indigenous languages in the state and the dearth of teachers in those language areas, some schools have been designated as pilot schools for the teaching and learning of Urhobo, Isoko and Ika languages. While the development and production of Enuani and Itsekiri languages are at different stages with the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Centre. The teaching of historical studies is now re-introduced in the school curriculum across board. The curriculum was only recently unveiled in Abuja and implementation will commence in the 2018/2019 academic year in the state. The Ministry is working round the clock to deal with challenges we envisage in the areas of personnel and books. ‘
One major achievement, according to Ebie, of the Okowa administration in the educational development is the establishment of Teachers Professional Development Centre. It is a centre meant to horn the teaching skills of teachers and Ministry staff that have one thing or the other to do with education. The centre according to him is the first of its kind in Nigeria and would partner with the National Teachers‘ Institute and the Teachers Registration Council so as to secure linkages with national and international development partners with a view of making the centre one of excellence as regards teachers’ education and re-training.
Knowing full well that only government cannot stimulate the growth and development of education, Ebie disclosed that his ministry was strengthening the department of public private partnership to give more vigour in the development of education. He listed the following as some of those steps towards that direction: The Zenith Bank Principals‘ cup, the Delta State Academic Award sponsored by Eroton Oil, the Samsung SMART School Programme in Government Secondary School, GRA Asaba and Equipping of 10 schools with television sets, furniture and provision of DSTV programme by MultiChoice.
On the part of Engineer Jude Sinebe, he listed some of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Higher Education as to : initiate and implement educational policies of tertiary institutions, students‘ financing, special education, remedial education, development of public library, educational research and planning, higher education and book development. He also said that within the availability of funds, the state government was discharging its financial obligations to Delta State University, Abraka, the three polytechnics, the three colleges of education and Institute of Continuing Education, Asaba.
The commissioner also disclosed the unique stance of government in extending financial assistance to the private universities in the state. The universities are Novena University, Ogume, Western Delta University, Oghara, E K Clark University and Michael and Cecelia Ibru University.
On the state owned university, Sinebe listed some of the achievements of the government as : Termination and on-going process of re-awarding of contract for construction of a Faculty of Science Complex, Abraka campus, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Asaba campus and MBA Lecture Theatre, Abraka campus, completion and commissioning of the Faculty of Law Complex, Oleh campus, construction of Lecture theatre at the Faculty of Engineering, Oleh campus and construction of senate/Administration Building, Abraka campus.
On the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, Sinebe told the press that the school has introduced computer based examination for NDI and HND I. This, according to him, was done to checkmate examination malpractices and put an end to some lecturers‘ compromise to marks and instil a reading culture on the students. He also spoke of the re-introduction of part time programme to assist candidates working in the state and the training of 120 academic staff on the use of productivity of software and internet to enhance their research ability by Digital Bridge Institute.
On the Delta state Polytechnic, Ozoro, the commissioner spoke of the new rector determination in radical transformation of academic standard, teaching and research and change of attitude among staff and students towards teaching and learning. On IGR in the polytechnic, he said that the school was planting sweet potatoes and maize geared towards self reliance, the establishment of polytechnic demonstration schools from Nursery to secondary and the on-going construction of the Polytechnic Guest House to cater for guests on official assignment to the institution and to boost of the internally generated revenue.
He also maintained that there were so landmark achievements at the College of Education Agbor. He listed some of them as : renovation and face-lifting of the Staff Model Primary and Secondary School, Acquisition of tractors and mowers to lower weeds and grasses, reconstruction of drainages to curb erosion, introduction of commercial farming venture in crops and livestock and production and sustenance of peace within the college community.
About the developments and achievements at the College of Education, Warri under the Okowa administration, Sinebe stated that over 50 staff were sponsored to conferences in various parts of the country and that over 150 academic and non academic staff were promoted. He lauded the efforts of the college authority as regards the collection of results of NCE students to enable gain them admission into universities and that graduating degree students can now go on NYSC as bottlenecks militating against that had been removed.
Against the insinuations in some quarters that the Delta State Bursary and Scholarship Board was in limbo, the commissioner empathically maintained that there was no truth in such views and he rolled the achievements of the board. His sentiments: ‘The board currently offers over 7 windows of opportunities for students to access the state government financial support services. Some of the achievements of the board are : payment of 2013/2014 Student Special Assistance Scheme to regular students (12,447 students paid), payment of 2015/2016 Student Special Assistance Scheme to regular students (10,871 students paid), payment of 289 children of deceased civil servants of 107 families in 2017 under the Physically Challenged Students and Children of Deceased Civil Servants Scheme and payment of second trench of 2011 Ph.D beneficiaries (50 persons) in 2015 Local Scholarship Scheme. The two commissioners in their press briefings have explained government achievements in the educational forte and it is now for Deltans to drink from the fountain of education.