By Dayo Adesulu
The maiden quarterly summit involving the management of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Executive Chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) from all over the country, which recently held in Port Harcourt, turned out to be an eye-opener for most state governments in the country.
During the four-day meeting, the visiting SUBEB Chairmen had the golden opportunity of seeing for themselves the ultra-modern primary and junior secondary schools that earned the award of the best SUBEB in the South-South geo-political zone for Rivers State last year.
The Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr Ahmed Modibbo Mohammed, who led his management team on the inspection tour of some of the project sites in the state was particularly fascinated by the modern school buildings which are equipped with state-of –the-art facilities, describing the State Model Primary School, Elekahia, State Model Primary Schools in Ebubu, Eelme as well as the UBE Model Primary Schools at Orominike, Ndele, Evekwu and in many other communities across the state as amongst the best in the world.
Equally commended by the UBEC boss is the modern UBE Model Secondary School, Rumuopraeli which has hostel facility where only two students are accommodated in a room. This impressed him so much that he asked the Rivers SUBEB to showcase these infrastructure to the world through a documentary, asking other SUBEB Chairmen to take a cue from the sundry accomplishments of their host.
The quarterly meeting between the management team of UBEC and SUBEBs, which is to be rotated among the states of the federation, is to enable UBEC have an on the spot assessment of UBE projects of states as well as to see the challenges facing the SUBEBs rather than rely alone on the reports of officers specially designated to monitor and evaluate UBE programmes in the country. It is also meant to provide a platform for Executive Chairman of SUBEBs to compare strategic and tactical notes on the management of UBE programme, to constantly review progress in basic education delivery in order to do justice to the UBE mandate as well as to deal with other issues of interest that could ensure improved performance in basic education delivery by SUBEBS, Local Government Education Authorities and Schools.
While making his welcome remarks, the Executive Chairman of Rivers SUBEB Sir Alli Oruitemeka said the state has adopted a Total School Concept that involves the construction of 750 Model 14 Classroom Block schools equipped with state-of-the-art. Information and Technology as well as laboratory equipment. He added that as at October last year, the construction of 125 Model Schools had been completed while another 350 are close to completion, the totality of which will provide accommodation for more than 250,00 pupils at 30 pupils per classroom.
Oruitemeka, whose Board was inaugurated on July 24, 2009, gave kudos to Governor Rotimi Amaechi for declaring a state of emergency in the state’s education sector in 2007 shortly after he was sworn in, adding that the near total collapse of the school system caused by dilapidated infrastructure, low personnel morale and lack of commitment by pupils goaded the governor to take that step.
The state SUBEB boss commended Governor Amaechi for releasing to UBEC last year the counterpart funds for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 which enabled the state government to access Federal Government intervention funds from UBEC, explaining that these funds are now being utilized for the construction and equipping of additional 23 Model Schools of 14 classrooms all over the local government areas of the state. These schools, according to him, will be exact prototype of the Model Primary School at Elekahia, adding that Rivers State may be considered a model of the UBE programme.
Apart from the payment of the state’s counterpart funds and the construction of modern school buildings, says Oruitemeka, the other emergency measures taken by the governor which have turned around the state’s education sector include the taking over of payment of salaries and allowances of teaching and non-teaching staff at the basic level, liquidation of salary arrears and leave bonuses and the provision of durable and comfortable pupils’ and teachers’ furniture.
He says further: “In order to give effect to the goal of free education for all at the basic education level Governor Amaechi in October last year also instituted a programme of providing free school uniforms, sandals and books to pupils. On the part of the Board, we have intensified monitoring and evaluation of teaching and learning, restructured and merged schools for greater efficiency, carried out needs based training programmes for both teaching and non-teaching staff; provided teaching aids and consumables in schools and executed achievement tests for pupils”. Speaking in the same vein, Hon.
Lucky Worluh, a Permanent Member 1 of Rivers SUBEB, the Board 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 in 2009 from its predecessor, the Board reduced them to a manageable 868 schools.
As part of restructuring of basic schools and their operations in the state, Worluh said that the appointment of head teachers, principals and their deputies was streamlined using standards of justice and fairness based on seniority, explaining that this was followed by numerous workshops for building the capacity of the personnel.
These workshops, says the Board Member 1, include that of effective teaching of English Language, Introductory Technology, Mathematics and Science; workshop on role of school-based management committee on self-help projects/JSS systems; workshop on basic computer training for primary school teachers; enhancing pedagogical skills for Jss1-3 teachers and that of professional development workshop for primary school teachers.
Training workshop for JSS teachers of English based on the new curriculum for JSS 1-3, two workshops on the Millennium Development Goals, workshop for newly appointed supervisors covering innovative methodology in quality curriculum delivery and effective record keeping and scheduled quarterly supervision of schools were also organized by the Board in the last 18 months with the state Ministry of Education under the commissionership of Dame Alice Lawrence Nemi complementing the Board’s capacity training program by forging a deal with the British Council on the training of teachers and managers of education in the state.
Within six months of its inauguration, the headquarters of the state’s Board was similarly restructured into various departments including Academic Services, Quality Assurance, Social Mobilization, Planning, Research and Statistics, Special Projects, Finance and Accounts, Junior Secondary, Primary, Early Child Care Development Education and Administration and Supplies.
The restructuring of the Board, according to Oruitemeka¸ is to position it to achieve its objectives of managing primary and junior secondary schools in the state, provide guidelines and estimates on the establishment of new schools and capital projects, liaise with other bodies and co-ordinate the implementation of UBE related activities in the state amongst others.
Worluh also revealed that the Board gives priority attention to building teachers’ capacity, especially to empower them in the area of implementation of the 9-year Basic Education Curriculum, he says, while over 2,000 others have undergone training organized by the National Teachers Institute.
Speaking at the event which held at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Amaechi said his government spent about N70 billion on education alone last year, saying that the expenditure is expected to increase this year. He reiterated his administration’s determination to provide free, qualitative education for Rivers indigents.