The old adage has it that the taste of the pud-ding is in the eating. Indeed such should be the apt description for the recent giant strides recorded by Abia State government in the education sector. Just recently, the state came out tops in science and mathematics exhibition ratings organised by the Science and Mathematics Teachers for primary schools in the country. The event held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Probably because it is Abia, it is most unlikely that the feat will not dominate public discourse, lest the state will be accorded its due and such ripple effect may likely alter the plan of detractors.
Be that as it may be, one glaring thing is that the feat has rekindled the confidence of stakeholders, especially in the education sector, moreso with the damage-control by stakeholders in the sector globally. It is equally a boost to the untiring efforts of the state governor to leave legacies in the state during his stewardship.
Before now, the fate of education in Abia was nothing to write home about. Even though it is not really an isolated case, but since the damage was not done by the present government, we can ignore and overlook it, yet we will not give the present government its due.
I was to stumble on the comment by one of the arm-chair critics who takes delight in casting aspersions on the state government and its officials. This time around, his grouse was that the government was giving out vehicles to some jobless youths as a means of empowerment when states in the North made plans to sponsor their citizens for overseas training. But I know he was simply advertising ignorance.
It is not unlikely that his sentiments are buoyed by our traditional penchant to give preference to paper qualification without any adequate back-up in terms of practical and basic knowledge. At best our people are in dire pursuit of those “ core” professional disciplines not for anything else but the misconceived values the society has placed on them at its own detriment. Little regard is given to the salient but very vital areas that lubricate the wheels of the economy. We are also burdened with the class regimen of salutary academic degrees.
Whereas it is the obvious absence of the basic technical know-how that has plunged our country into the pitiable abyss of condemnable status of a consumer-society, we have often misplaced knowledge with paper qualifications. We have even upped the stakes today to include complementary foreign degrees to announce our accomplishments just as those who do not understand the essence of vacation now use Western summer peak to show “they also belong”.
That is the Nigerian slavery mentality though. Nevertheless, it is unarguable that avalanche of suspicious manpower or personnel without commensurate infrastructure is akin to a bishop without a diocese. It is at best no more in worth than the paper on which that so-called qualification is written.
The onus is on government to provide the infrastructure upon which the other goals would be realised and anything outside that is like putting the cart before the horse.
Let us take the Abia example of empowerment. It is a cause that in my judgement has served the dual purpose of getting the direct impact of governance on the citizen via the channelling of resources towards the upliftment of the standard of living of the people.
It has also resuscitated the near lost advantage of vocational and technical training which is the sustaining force of the economy.
TO the best of my knowledge and in true practice, the scheme has covered other areas like skills acquisition and technical training which are germaine to the growth and sustenance of a buoyant economy.
Until we are personally hit by the stark reality, it may not occur to us that there are no more apprentices for many of our skilled vocations like carpentry, automobile engineering and other allied professions. A friend lamented his frustrations in finding it hard to get a hand to assist him assemble an ordinary office table he bought from a showroom.
I recall when in our academic curriculum we had subjects like Technical Drawing, Introductory Technology and even Woodwork. There were days of the glory in public schools when our time tables were structured to enable us attend handcraft lessons in primary schools while the girls had their domestic classes.
Those experiences did not turn all of us into George Stevensons or Bill Gates, but it afforded a route of self discovery to those who were not academically endowed to realise their potential within the ambit of formal technical training, and remained persons to reckon with. That was one of the beauties of those famous technical colleges. There is no argument again on the dearth of the once highly rated technical schools of record that produced self-made professionals after formal apprenticeship.
The decision of the state government to remain unrelenting in the provision of opportunities for citizens to acquire formal and non-formal training is one that would ensure no missing link in a stable economy. Perhaps not many are aware that as sound, popular and deft as he is politically, Jacob Zuma of South Africa did not go through formal education to attain his desired goal. And there are very many of them. Yes, Abia does not believe in singing its own praises like other states take delight in doing. And some times I ponder why. If it does, perhaps it would have created a swan-song of what the present administration has done in the area of education.
I am aware that it is to the credit of the present administration that the moribund state scholarship board was revived and scholarship awards given to deserving indigenes of the state studying in various universities in the United States of America, United Kingdom and South Africa. The Mass Literacy Programme of the administration has been sustained and many beneficiaries have emerged.
The state government has undertaken quiet but constant and consistent rehabilitation of all the infrastructure in affected public primary schools in the state. In many cases, new befitting structures have been erected alongside the upgrade.
It might not be news, but it is pertinent to mention it that under many past administrators, Abia State, for 22 years, had no state library beyond the Divisional Library it inherited from the old Imo State squeezed obscurely in the ever-busy Bank Road Umuahia.
Today, not even many residents are aware that the state government is constructing and has nearly completed a state-of-the-art ultramodern e-library that is located in a very serene and conducive area within the state capital most apt for research and study. Before now the State Universal Basic Education Board under a thoroughbred educationist, Sir Micah Onyebuchi, has been recipient of various awards and commendations for giant strides in the education sector yet no drums are rolled out.
Today statistics have revealed that 10.5million of the 31million “out-of-school” children in sub-Sahara Africa are from Nigeria, with the North accounting for a whopping nine million and 1.2million classroom deficiency. Appeals have gone from major actors like Senate Committee chairman on Education, Uche Chukwumerije, who want stakeholders to show greater responsibility to the challenges by matching result with action in the quest for education for all by the year 2015.
The problem is really endemic and the United Nations as represented by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown believes the solution could start with the government paying a counterpart fund of $250million to meet up the $500million from international donors to give the Nigerian youth access to basic education.
Mr Kingsley Emereuwa, a political analyst, wrote from Umuahia, Abia State
For what it is really worth, this latest feat by the state as confirmed by Science and Mathematics Teachers is a clear indication that diligence and total commitment to a course have their reward. And the story should be told lest others will take the glory. Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie, in one of her presentations, charged Africans to learn to tell their own stories so that others would not distort their story for selfish actualisation.