By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
The two South-South states of Rivers and Delta are geographically next to each other.This close affinity appears to have rubbed off on the way they administer their schools as they have a pride of place among those states in the country that are excelling in the implementation of the Universal Basic Education programme.

One major area in which both states have expressed strong commitment to the UBE project is the construction of blocks of three classrooms across their local government areas.

Rivers has actually taken the building of classrooms to a higher level with its adoption of the whole school concept of building modern primary schools equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities as exemplified by the state Model Primary School, Elekahia in Port Harcourt which was completed by the state government last year.

According to the Executive Chairman of Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board, Sir Ali Oruitemeka, 23 primary schools, which will be exact prototype of the model school, are to be built all over the local government areas of the state. Oruitemeka, whose board just clocked one year in office, gave kudos to Governor Rotimi Amaechi for releasing to UBEC last year the counterpart funds for 2007, 2008 and 2009, explaining that the intention of the state governor is to complete 750 of such primary schools at the end of his first four years in office.

Arrangements are on, he says, for the payment of 2010 counterpart funds by the state government.

During last week’s media tour of the UBE projects executed by the state, it was discovered that the award of the best SUBEB in the South-South geo-political zone to Rivers was not a fluke afterall as the UBE Model Primary Schools have been duly completed and furnished at Orominike Ndele, Evekwu and in many other communities across the state.

The construction of UBE blocks of three classrooms in Delta State has also been excellently implemented. And the work of the state Universal Basic Education Board has, according to its Executive Chairman, Mrs Pat Ejeteh, been greatly enhanced by the release of the state counterpart funds by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan on regular basis, which is equally matched by the prompt release of UBEC’s counterpart funds.

Ejeteh revealed that Governor Uduaghan approved and released N1 billion early this year as counterpart funds for the 3rd, 4th quarters of 2007 which also covers the 1st quarter of 2008. About three weeks ago, the state governor also released another N1 billion counterpart funds which is to cover the 4th quarter of 2008, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters of 2009 as well as the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2010.

Consequently, the Delta SUBEB has completed all the UBE projects for 2006. A total number of 113 blocks of three classrooms were also completed and 11,864 school furniture for teachers and pupils have been distributed to all the 1,178 primary schools in the state.

In addition, 390,000 textbooks in core subject areas like Mathematics, English, Integrated Science and Social Studies have also been distributed to schools in all the 25 local government areas of the state.

While briefing the visiting journalists in her office, Mrs Etejeh revealed that contracts have been given out for  the renovation of 36 schools within the state as well as the construction of 90 blocks of UBE classrooms.

Interestingly, Etejeh is so passionate about the whole school concept already in use in Rivers State, adding that she is highly impressed by the Model School in Port Harcourt and that her state governor has been quite receptive to her idea of the need to build in Delta State the prototype of the Port Harcourt Modern Primary School at Elekahia. She expressed optimism that the whole school concept may likely take effect in the state “ when Governor Uduaghan begins his second term in office next year.”

If Delta SUBEB Executive Chairman’s wish becomes a reality, it would be a great complement to the sundry UBE buildings already completed and furnished across the state. Blocks of UBE classrooms were seen at St. Augustine College (JSS), Ibusa; Ubulu Primary School, Ubulu-Uku, which was founded in 1904 by the missionaries’. Akuma Primary School, Akumaze – Umuocha; Akumazi Junior Secondary School; Ukpeghoro Primary School II, Umunede and Ogbemudein Mixed Junior School I.

Others are Umiaghwa Junior Secondary School, Ovia-Abraka; Ekredjebor Basic School and Uruogbe Primary School II, Owhelogbo.
According to Ejeteh, the construction of each of these blocks of classrooms cost N8.5m in upland area of the state while it gulps N11.5m in riverine area.

Having been charged to strengthen basic school at its inauguration, the Rivers SUBEB did not only concentrate on equipping the schools with textbooks and instructional materials but also carried out a merger of the schools to ensure that  they are efficiently and effectively run. Thus, from the 1,077 schools which it inherited last year from its predecessor, the Rivers SUBEB  reduced them to 868 which both Oruitemeka and Mr. Lucky Worlu, a permanent member of the board,  see as step taken in the best interest of the state.

To ensure that primary school teachers are whole-heartedly committed to their job, the Rivers State government took over the direct payment of primary school teachers salaries and allowances since 2008 after Governor Rotimi Amaechi discovered that Local Government Councils were not paying the teachers regularly.

This singular move, according to Oruitemeka, has had a positive effect on the UBE sub-sector in the state as teachers now pay more attention to their job since their salaries are paid regularly.

As part of the efforts to build the capacity of teachers, especially to empower them in the area of implementation of the 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum, some 4,000 teachers in Rivers State have been trained by UBEC, an exercise that was conducted by the State University of Education while 2,000 others have undergone training in the last one year organised by the National Teachers Institute and conducted by the Ministry of Education.

The same thing happened in Delta State and the state SUBEB is planning to organise further training of teachers during this long vacation. It should be noted that the building of teachers’ capacity is part of the purposes for which the counterpart funds are expected to be used.

According to Ejeteh, the Delta SUBEB in the last one year has been deeply involved in professional development of teachers in both primary and junior secondary schools, explaining that they are subjected to rigorous training in curriculum, use of computer, ICT, in special education for the physically challenged children as well the training of teachers who handle children in kindergarten schools otherwise known as Early Childhood Education.

Mrs Ejeteh further disclosed that her board has purchased 20,000 customised exercise books for teachers’ lesson notes, 2,500 cartons of chalk for schools and has also awarded the contract for the printing of customised diaries and registers, adding that all the items will be distributed to schools before the beginning of next academic session.

The SUBEBs of the two states have also strengthened their Inspectorate Division in order to monitor the way the schools are run while Delta SUBEB has also committed resources for the purchase of two Hilux Vehicle for projects inspection.

In spite of the various projects already executed in the two states as well as the flury of UBE activities currently on-going there, many of the schools visited are still contending with some challenges such as lack of water and toilet as well as dearth of teachers, even if enrolment has increased tremendously given the incentives given to parents who are not paying fees, and whose children are being given textbooks and other materials freely.

Although the chairmen of Rivers and Delta SUBEB spoke glowingly of the proactive leadership of the UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr Mohammed Modibbo, they are of the view that both the state Federal Governments should do more by jerking up the funds meant for the UBE programme.

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