Even when some hired armchair critics have failed to see anything good in the present government in Abia State since Governor Theodore Orji parted ways with his predecessor, the government’s investment in the education sector has continued to yield abundant dividends.
For instance, despite the poor results of this year’s West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, exams, Abia State, just like last year, emerged the overall second best in the country with 58.52 per cent performance. Having achieved the feat for two consecutive year is a clear indication of the giant stride recorded by the Abia government in education.
States like Lagos, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and others with many expensive private and public schools and enormous resources have not achieved this feat in recent time.
So where does this leave the doubting Thomases who have been criticising and demonising the state government’s achievements ahead of the 2015 polls? It is time for them and their paymaster to bury their heads in shame because the State performance in WAEC examinations in the last two years is unprecedented since the creation of the state.
The state did not witness such sterling performance during the era of the immediate past administration in the state when special centres took precedence over development and investment in public schools.
For those of us who are witnesses and beneficiaries of the present government’s aggressive and massive investment in the education sector since 2007, the state performance in WAEC examination did not come as a surprise. The state will do more than this in the years to come when the government interventions would have fully materialised.
It could be recalled that when the present government came into office in 2007, the education sector was in shambles. Apart from low motivation on the side of the teachers due to stunted promotion, owing of salary arrears and lack of good teaching environment, the worrisome state of public schools across the state was nothing to write home about. There was divide and rule approach in the state civil service orchestrated by the immediate past government. The situation was very pathetic, appalling and daunting.
But despite all these challenges, the present government, on assumption of office, took the gauntlet in addressing the age-long rots and challenges that had bedeviled education sector in the state. Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, a product and beneficiary of the public school system, leaves no one in doubt of his government’s commitment to see that education is improved in the state.
The government increased the monthly subvention of all the tertiary institutions in the state. The State Scholarship Board that has been moribund was reactivated. With the reactivation of the Scholarship Board, the regular bursary disbursements to indigent Abia students was resurrected and beneficiaries have continued to enjoy it till date. The Board also reactivated the Overseas Scholarship Scheme through which it has granted bursaries to over 40 students of Abia State origin studying in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Asia. Students of Abia origin currently in Nigeria Law Schools across the country were recently paid bursary by the state government.
Apart from that, the Governor instituted a private scholarship scheme known as Ochendo Scholarship Scheme which took off with 25 undergraduates in various disciplines within the country as beneficiaries. The project which was strictly private has the respected Catholic Bishop of Umuahia, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji as its Board Chairman. One of the beneficiaries of the scheme, Mr. Solomon Odochi Chibuzo of the Department of Animal and Environmental Biology Abia State University Uturu, emerged the overall best graduating student of the university in 2013 with CGPA 4.8. He was rewarded with automatic employment by the university authorities. That is how the poor boy, through the Ochendo Scholarship Scheme, became empowered.
The government also increased the fleet of buses in its Free-School-Bus Scheme for students in secondary and primary schools and had also repackaged the scheme to ensure effective and efficient service delivery. Teachers’ salaries and allowances are being paid regularly and as at when due. The same goes with their promotions and entitlements that accompany it which hitherto were stunted. That is why since 2007 teachers in the state have no reason to go on strike, rather they have continued to do their work happily and wholeheartedly.
The government embarked on massive rehabilitation and construction of standard classroom blocks, offices and other facilities in schools across the state. Presently many of the rehabilitation and construction works at the schools have been completed. They include construction of classroom blocks at Nde Ebe Primary School Abam, Arochukwu; construction of many administrative blocks at a school in Okeikpe Ukwa-West; construction of administrative blocks and borehole at Ogbor Central School old Umuahia.
At Isikwuato High School, three classroom blocks and a toilet were constructed. The same facilities were also constructed in Community School Umuobala, also in Isikwuato council area. Also not left out were Leru Secondary/ Primary Schools Leru in Umunneochi council area where several classrooms were constructed.
With the completion of works in the schools, the state government returned most of them to their original owners to manage, even it has continued to pay the teachers’ salaries till date.
The government through the Ministry of Education ensured strict supervision and monitoring of the activities of private schools in the state which has brought the closure of some of them that were caught cutting corners.
Also not left out by the state government in its intervention in the sector are the state-owned tertiary institutions. Monthly subvention to the Abia Polytechnic Aba, Abia State University Uturu and others were increased astronomically by the government to make education affordable to all in the state. Towards the end of last year government released the sum of N5.4 billion to the management of the state university, ABSU to tackle infrastructure projects in the school. The government also restored peace and harmony between the University and its host community, complete liquidation of the arrears of six month salaries of staff, which gulped a whopping sum of nine hundred and sixty million naira (N960,000,000.00). The government had also redeemed her promise to implement the 2009 FGN/University Staff union’s package in the University from January 2011 which cost the Government an additional five hundred and twenty eight million naira (N528,000,000.00).
Before now, the University Surgery and Medicine programme was facing the threat of de-accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, the government had rescued the university by providing all the requirement for the full accreditation of the programme. The governor approved and awarded contracts for two (2) major projects for the school, namely Medical Complex and an Auditorium for Abia State University Teaching Hospital located in Aba. The projects have been completed and handed over the management of the school since.
The government interventions in the educational sector has already started bearing fruits as can be seen from the plethora of laurels and awards garnered by the state at various national and zonal competitions. Sometime ago, the state took the overall best position in the Universal Basic Education Commission Good Performance rating for the entire South-East Zone; the state also came second in the South-East Zone, and was rewarded with a plaque and cash prize of seventy million naira. The present government in the state due to the inherited enormity of challenges in the education sector may have not tackled all of them due to the paucity of fund and other financial challenges confronting them, its strides in education sector has been tremendous. What is required is for the in-coming governments to sustain and improve on them.
Mercy Ozuobi, a teacher, wrote from Umuahia, Abia State.
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