Senator Annie Okonkwo, a frontline gubernatorial aspirant in Anambra State has attributed the problems of this country to our educational curricula, which are structured towards white-collar jobs. This, he said, has contributed to the very high rate of unemployment we are experiencing in Nigeria.
While unfolding his programmes on education in Anambra State, Okonkwo, a serving Senator representing Anambra Central remarked that educational curricular in the state would be tailored towards entrepreneurial and information communication technology (ICT).In this interview, he responds to the following questions:
How do you see education in Nigeria generally and Anambra State in particular?
Education is in sordid state in the country. The university teachers are now on strike and being joined by the non-academic staff. It means the public universities in the country are not in session. When they call off the strike, which usually last months, the students are given examination to write on what they were not taught.
No wonders that well do do parents now send their children to neighbouring Ghana for university education. This is very shameful considering our claims of being the giant of Africa. Remember, thereabout 2001/2002, secondary and primary schools in Anambra State were shut down for almost a year.
This happened when there were concerted compaigns to improve on school enrolment in the state by encouraging our youth to embrace education before venturing in to business.
The state was having very poor out of male registration in school. This dealt a crushing blow to that effort and made Anambra to be classified among the states with low students enrolment in school. Most of the students dropped out from schools fro apprenticeship trading.
The foundation for our growth or development as a nation or state is premised on a sound education. This is what the country has not addressed. Ditto in our state, successive administrations have not identified education as collapsed because the centre could not hold in the education sector.
For reason very difficult to explain, the government at various levels contributed to the death of public schools. Even in advance country like the United States of America, public school still plays greater roles in the countryâ€™s education system.
But in Nigeria, our leaders have destroyed public schools and now those who donâ€™tâ€™s want to send their children to the highbrow private schools in the country send their children abroad. Segregation is stealthily productive in the future. Public schools are now for the poor and that is why the government are not touchedâ€.
Anamabra was one of the leading states in education but now itâ€™s turning to an education disadvantaged state. Why?
You are correct, Anambra was a leading state as far as education is concerned.
I have always asked this question on education in our state: Is it that the barber has lost his professional touch in cutting hairs or the razor is blunt or the head has refused to grow hairs? This is a serious issue.
The problem started with people though educated never appreciated the value of education or did not want others to be educated. Which state have you ever heard it happened that secondary and primary schools were closed down for a year. Teachers were on strike for a year. Its effects are still with us.
If we are to save ourselves from certain and inglorious future, we must begin now to reject those elements that entrap us in a chamber where we see thinking as too much trouble and knowledge, a non-essential commodity.
How are going to reverse the trend and bring back the lost glory?
I have taken time to visit many primary, secondary schools and tertiary institutions in our state. The situation is pathetic and would require a high degree of commitment and sincerity of purpose and enormous resources to address this.
It is achievable and we should strive towards it because by the time we implement our programmes in all the sectors, we would need much manpowerm which are not presently enough in the state unless we are going to bring in people from other states to come and manage our resources.
We shall implement fullt UNESCOâ€™s policy on funding of education with about 20 percent of the stateâ€™s annual budget going in to education. With this, we shall carry out a radical transformation of the schools by renovating the buildings, equipping the laboratories and libraries and position rhe state on the path of 21st century education system.
We are going to discourage the present education system that only prepares our students for white-collar jobs and when the jobs are not forthcoming they become frustrated and indulge in anything including vice. We are going to inculcate entrepreneurial education in ur curricular so that while in school, the students and pupils will be equipped with the necessary tools to be on their own and employ others after school.
Knowledge industry will forever rule the world. In this vein, we are going to make information communication technology a necessary part of our education system. Right from primary schools, we are going to build ICT laboratories. Are the teachers well motivated? You can answer this question taking into the account the strike regime we have.
If the implementation of the Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) will make the primary and secondary school teachers to put in their very best, we shall not hesitate to do that. Because of the poor motivation, the teachers has lost confidence in themselves.
That is why hardly see any primary or secondary teacher that sends his or her child to public schools where they teach.
By this action, they are telling the public schools that the teachers donâ€™t even have anything to offer. We are going to ensure that only qualified teachers that fall in line with the 21st century standard are in our education system.
That state owned tertiary institutions would also be funded greatly as they are going to be engine room of our technological development.
While other tertiary institutions in the country are on strike, there will not be any reason for those Anambra to go on strike or join them. These are just tip of iceberg of the research we are carried out on restoring the glory of education on Anambra State.