By Adeola Adenuga
At the inception of Senator Liyel Imoke administration in Cross River State in 2007, the education sector was on the edge of a precipice. A lot had obviously gone wrong with the sector following neglect. But consistent innovation and remodeling injected into the sector these past six years have not only breathed new life into it but also ensured an enduring turn around.
Conscious of the critical role education plays as a catalyst for economic transformation and socio –political advancement, focus was placed on repositioning the sector. From the basic formative level, which is the primary, through to the secondary stage up to the tertiary level, comprehensive, rather than isolated transformation process, was adopted through the institution of a three- pronged approach to rejuvenate the sector.
The first stage was to assess the level of decay and adopt strategies towards combating the problems. A process, named Needs Assessment , was instituted and seventy five percent of the schools across the state, primary, secondary and tertiary, were visited and monitored for six months to collate data and information on the state of affairs and the measures to bring each school back to life. When the report came out, it was so depressing that when Imoke went through it, he was said to have been livid. But without apportioning blame to any single individual or administration, he went straight to work.
The three-way process adopted to tackle the problems in the sector are : Infrastructural Development, Capacity Building and Discipline. This led to the conceptualisation of a standard peculiar to the state where every primary school must have modern edifices, well designed classrooms, each with the capacity to sit at least 35 pupils or students, fully equipped with modern desks , resource room, library, assembly hall for extracurricular activities, teachers room, and a laboratory for basic sciences.
At the secondary level, each school, apart from the modern edifices and standard classrooms, must have a fully stocked library, equipped laboratory for ICT and functional laboratory for each of the three major science subjects: chemistry, biology and physics.
The infrastructure in schools such as the buildings, desks, instructional and learning facilities such as laboratories libraries were rehabilitated or installed while, on capacity building, training was adopted with every teacher in the state school system made to benefit through workshops and seminars while those without the prerequisite teaching qualifications were mandated to acquire same as the National Certificate in Education ( NCE) became the minimum standard for teaching in primary schools while first degree became the minimum for teaching in secondary schools.
On discipline, measures were adopted beginning from the local government level through zone up to the ministry. The provision of a full complement of these model facilities in both primary and secondary schools was spread across the state.
In recognition of the fact that Brazil, which, some few decades past, was seen as a developing nation, has, through the use of e-learning, developed its technology and infrastructure, the state sought to pattern its educational system along that line by adopting e-learning.
Each school was provided with an e-learning laboratory fully equipped with computers, internet facilities and every teacher in the state provided with a laptop. As efforts were made to imbue the teachers with the appropriate skills so they could teach the students, the state went into partnership with a private company, Educom India, to train the teachers on computer skills acquisition and maintenance.
With e-learning taking place in schools across the state, Cross River State has become one of the first that is approaching e-learning in a holistic manner. “The whole idea and essence is to ensure that a child that passes through secondary school in Cross River State should have acquired basic computer skills and in the next three years this target will be attained.
Ten thousand teachers in the state now own computers and we arranged a payment system with ECOBANK that will not impinge on their pockets and these teachers are receiving training and, in the next three months, every one of them shall have acquired basic computer literacy certificate so they could teach and function with the computer”, Prof Offiong Offiong, the state Commissioner for Education, said.
Elder (Mrs) Eke Bassey Edim, the principal of Government Secondary School, Anantigha, says the last five years “have witnessed tremendous changes in the school system in Cross River State since I became principal fifteen years ago”.
From a pass rate of just about five per cent, Cross River is now one of best performing states in national examinations. Work has also progressed on the establishment of a polytechnic modelled after the Highbury College of London.