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Revitalising the education sector

By Samson Ezea

IT was GaunZhong (720-645 BCE), a great visionary politician in the Spring Autumn era of China, who once said that the best investment for one year is to grow grains; the best investment for ten years is to grow trees; the best investment for a lifetime is to educate people. What you gain from one year’s growth will be grains; what you gain from ten years’ growth will be trees, what you gain from a hundred years’ growth will be people.”

The above dictum is as axiomatic as it is relevant till today. It is the way forward for any nation that aspires for greatness in any sector. China of today is a typical example of what age-long investments in education and technology can achieve. While it takes time and huge resources to educate people and turn them into productive members of the society, such is not an easy task like growing crops or trees whose benefits could be seen or enjoyed in one or ten years interval. Education is indeed a worthwhile effort that the society and government must invest in adequately for rapid development to take place.

education, sector

The above assertion together with its importance in building a better and modern society of note is one which the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has long adopted as an article of faith. This he has sincerely demonstrated by investing hugely in the education sector since he came into office in 2015, especially after being confronted by the worrisome rot in human and material resources in the sector, particularly in the rural areas where majority of the people reside and attend schools. In continuation of his administration’s quest to establish the basic foundation for quality education in the state, which remains a catalyst for rapid development, especially in a civil servant-dominated state like Enugu, Ugwuanyi, upon his reelection for second term in office, has continued to invest adequately in the education sector.

So interesting, encouraging and cheering about the state government’s interventions in the sector is the fact that the challenges in the state-owned primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are being gradually, adequately and fundamentally addressed. One of such laudable interventions in the sector by Ugwuanyi’s administration is the recent approval for the recruitment of 1500 teachers in the state, with the proviso that applicants must be holders of National Certificate of Education, NCE, or a degree in Education and must be ready to teach anywhere in the state. The approval is in addition to more than 4000 teachers the administration had employed since coming into office.

Buhari’s victory and the burden of political liabilities

But noteworthy about the state government’s approval for the recruitment is that it came at a time President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the N30,000 minimum wage bill. This calls for concern and worry on how and where Governor Ugwuanyi will raise more funds to pay the workers the new N30,000 minimum wage alongside the soon-to-be employed new teachers.

This is considering that Enugu is not an oil producing state and is almost last in states’ cadre in the monthly federation allocation. But it seems obvious that the governor is ready to bend backward in his usual humane and altruistic nature to make more sacrifice in this direction, provided the state gets the needed basic foundation for future educational excellence and breakthroughs. Also approved by Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration alongside the teacher’s recruitment is the release of N252,456,917.67 for the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu to pursue the re-accreditation of its courses whose prior accreditation had expired. IMT is one of the state’s owned tertiary institutions that had benefitted immensely from the administration’s interventions in the education sector in the state. With the support of Ugwuanyi’s government, IMT Enugu had commenced degree awarding programmes in banking and finance, business administration, accountancy, statistics, public administration and marketing in affiliation with the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN. It would also be recalled that in April 2018, the Ugwuanyi administration approved the release of N810 million to IMT for the construction of ultra-modern classroom complex, a purpose built and fully furnished office complex, a complex for Exams and Records Division, two buildings that will house modern public toilets for staff and students; and a fully furnished medical centre.

Presently, the state government is reconstructing the dilapidated internal roads and drainage channels in the institution, starting from the school gate down to the Rector’s village. It is of note that after IMT’s convocation in 2007, the institution was unable to organise another one due to poor funding, human and material challenges bedeviling it. On assumption of office, Ugwuanyi’s administration took the bull by the horn by addressing the challenges frontally, thereby making it possible for the management of the institution to organise a convocation in December 2018. Also in 2017, Governor Ugwuanyi offered 340 indigent students of IMT and Enugu State Polytechnic Iwollo scholarship. The scholarship covered their tuition fees for four years of academic sessions in all engineering programmes of the institutions. The beneficiaries of the scholarship spread across the 17 council areas in the state, translating to 20 students per council. The administration has donated ICT equipment in many secondary schools across the state and had also revived the moribund State Scholarship Board, thereby enabling students of the state origin studying in different schools across the country to benefit from the scheme. The administration also offered scholarship to Miss Chinecherem Cynthia Ali of Shalom Academy, Nsukka to any university of her choice for scoring A1 in all the nine subjects in the 2017 West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, examinations.

It is also of note that immediately after Ugwuanyi was reelected for second term in office, the state exco members in a meeting presided over by the governor gave approval for the award of multiple developmental projects in the state with the education sector taking the lion share. Approved to be awarded in the education sector was the construction and reconstruction of 263 classrooms across the three senatorial zones. Others include purchase of 22, 150 set of lockers and chairs for students; 1,228 set of tables and chairs for teachers; 1,130 marker boards for teaching and 1,960 ceiling fans for conducive teaching and learning environment.

Also approved was the construction of the administrative blocks for the take-off of the newly established Enugu State University of Education Ihe, Agwu, which is the first university of education in South East zone at the cost of N162,913,167.90.  Governor Ugwuanyi had since performed the foundation laying ceremony and construction works are ongoing rapidly at the site.

No doubt, the effects of Ugwuanyi’s administration’s massive interventions in the education sector in the state may not be fully and totally felt immediately. This is because of the backlog deficits his administration inherited in the sector and the fact that results of investments in education take time to materialise. But let it be said that there are already visible or tangible effects, especially in the area of human and material resources as teachers, pupils and students now teach and learn in a better and more conducive environment. Teachers are being paid salary regularly and they get their promotions and other entitlements regularly. Parents and guardians now see reasons why their wards and children should enroll in public schools and institutions in the state, instead of the highly exorbitant private schools that not many people, especially the downtrodden in the rural areas, can afford.

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