By Mark Isibor
THE Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, recently disclosed that his administration is undertaking a holistic review of the basic education curriculum in the state. The governor was speaking on the occasion of the 2019 Children’s Day celebration at a Thanksgiving Mass at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin City. He stated that education is a veritable tool for building social relationships for the attainment of human progress and national development.
The enlightened governor makes integrity and authenticity the cornerstone of his leadership style that inspires respect and admiration. He believes in a goal that benefits others and his nation to advance the course of humanity. His vision is to promote educational revival and academic excellence in Edo State and ultimately in Nigeria through a caring leadership culture based on ethical and moral values, integrity and selflessness. The gem of the idea is to inculcate in youths ethical behaviour in accordance with a virtuous character and unparalleled sense of commitment to the task of national development and morality which is more concerned with which actions are right or wrong rather than with the character of the person who performs these actions.
He stated: “We want to use education to build a total human being so that at the completion of Junior Secondary School, a child can know what he or she wants to be in life and should fit properly into the society”. Accordingly, subjects such as Career Development, History, Guidance and Counselling, Ethics and Morality are part of the subjects proposed in the new basic education curriculum in the state. He observed that: “Over the last 40 years, education has gone through so much transformation in the country. What we are doing in Edo State is to start a reformation process from the foundation. This is why we are reforming our education sector to allow us build the kind of society that we want”.
Knowing that politics is not all about who gets what, when and how, but also the difference those in government make to enhance the welfare of those who they represent, Governor Obaseki remarked that building a better Nigeria depends on the kind of children being groomed for the future. He added: “We must focus on the children for a better future of our country. The Nigerian child should see him or herself as part of the Nigerian society and contribute to its development”.
Clearly, Governor Obaseki’s educational vision and initiative are timely given the fact that Nigeria’s reputation abroad is in tatters, especially in the USA and the UK due to corruption. Therefore, we all have a lot to do and must now set out to defend our values on the world stage in order to regain our dignity in the comity of nations. In his homily, the Assistant Parish Priest of St Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin City, Rev. Father Felix Isedu, urged parents against abusing their children in order not to diminish the child’s confidence.
It should be recalled that in the good old days, boys were boys, girls were girls, men were men and women were women; morals were high, parental upbringing of children excellent, and manner of dressing was modest. Today, we live in a decadent society where many people neither fear God nor respect man and the sanctity of human life. It is a sad commentary that things are no longer the same as the youths, adults and our leaders have thrown morality to the winds either in the name of being psychedelic or in an endeavour to get rich quick by cutting corners. Alienation and dislocation in the family and society lead to deviant behaviour and radicalism. We should treat other people as ends and not exploit or use them as a means to achieve our ends even if we do not believe that our duty to our neighbour is rooted in our belief about the nature of God. However, evidence in the recent study of atheism and the cultures of unbelief carried out by the University of Kent, UK shows that there are common grounds among the atheist and those who believe in the existence of God. For example, both groups believe in life after death among others. And the Agnostics believe in the sacredness of human personality. What is crucial is that “we should do unto others, what we desire that they do unto us”.
In a book titled Education for Value published by Foremost Educational Services Ltd, Lagos, Prof. UMO Ivowi – Former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC, Abuja and his highly distinguished academic colleagues stated that our problem is not lack of information about ethics and values in general, but a complete disorientation in the value system. They observe that “this manifests itself not only in the endemic corruption but also in the newly introduced element of criminal display with impunity of unethical behaviour in our public and private lives”. They emphasised that given the decay in the system which paved the way for poor value orientations in society, various kinds of dysfunctional tendencies reared their ugly heads, culminating in malpractices apparent in almost all sectors of the economy including national politics. In education, examination malpractices have become rampart and commonplace; admission to educational institutions has assumed the status of a disorganised, disoriented and dishonest exercise to the extent that learners are prepared to obtain pass marks for examinations in which they performed badly, and acquire certificates for courses they did not study. Sadly, universities which were once regarded as great citadels of learning have become aimless module. The same can be said for contractors who obtain payments for jobs they did not perform. Some politicians and legislators exhibit wanton display of irresponsibility and lawlessness, pub line idiosyncrasy and embezzlement of public funds. There is rising violent crimes such as murder, robbery, assassination, rape, arson and cultism in our society. All these are warnings that we are in a mess.
It is in this miasma that Governor Obaseki’s initiative to moralise education should be applauded as part of the national strategy to respond to the abysmal moral decadence which has become a national malaise. It is noteworthy to remark that bodies such as Nigerian Institute for Character Education and the Otonti Nduka Foundation for Values and Moral Education are addressing the situation from the standpoint of orientation and establishment of structures to promote commendable moral behaviour in our public and private lives.
The need for character education lies in the ‘moral crisis’ which pervades modern societies. This is necessary particularly in Nigeria as its survival is being threatened by violent crimes. It is expected that character education which represents a relationship between knowledge (general and specialised), values and skills necessary for success in life can help people to develop good character which can ultimately help to build good societies.
This is because it is education that nurtures and promotes the ethical, intellectual, social and emotional development of individuals – a continuous learning process that enables young individuals to become moral, caring, critical and responsible individuals. The great questions facing the individual person and the human race are moral questions, such as how do I live my life? And how can we live with one another? By the new educational policy, Governor Obaseki’s administration is making a difference to child education. However, in order to ensure that a child develops good character, home and school partnership is necessary. Therefore, parents and governments should see themselves as partners in the quest for providing good child character education and development as well as empowerment through exceptional basic education and good parental upbringing and discipline. As such, adults, teachers, political and religious leaders and other agents of change must live by good example by practising what they preach to achieve desired outcomes. Clearly, the success of the education policy depends on a combination of factors – the calibre of the teachers to teach the proposed subjects, their integrity and exemplary character and leadership. It is also necessary to step up the role and effectiveness of the State Education Board to enhance learning and promote academic celebrity. Education does not only mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave. Therefore, good education should develop the totality of the human being to ensure a sound mind in a sound body. It is hoped that other state governors in Nigeria would follow suit.
However, the issue of moral regeneration will amount to mere wishful thinking or chasing the shadow if limited to child education. Therefore, I suggest that in order to achieve the desired purpose, it is necessary to embed the teaching of Ethics and Moral in Adult Education to teach our leaders and other change agents to behave as they do not behave. The time is now to tackle the problem of immorality and social malaise in our society headlong by taking the bull by the horns. We must be prepared to ruffle some feathers no matter whose ox is gored.
Empowering of young entrepreneurs
I have implicit confidence (as many other people of Edo State have also expressed) that under the able leadership of Governor Obaseki, Edo State can be great again and transformed not only to a homogeneous state but a “Nigeria within Nigeria”. Today, Godwin Obaseki has proven that he has the qualities, competence, character and passion to take Edo State to the next level through difficult times. His abiding commitment to serve the people of Edo Stateand by extension Nigeria cannot be in doubt.His many achievements across several areas of the lives of the people speak volumes. He has reformed education and teachers are being provided with regular training to update them.
Moreover, he has promoted job creation in the state through the establishment of Employment Agencies to assist qualified applicants find suitable and rewarding jobs, and created factories for small scale industries to empower young entrepreneurs. Furthermore, he has beefed up the state security apparatus and successfully kept down crimes on the streets by introducing Air force surveillance to monitor criminal activities. Beyond that, he has restored sanity in motor parks by checkmating the nefarious activities of miscreants and social deviants who go about molesting and tormenting law abiding land owners and contractors who undertake to erect buildings on land in collaboration with the Oba of Benin by providing legal support to criminalise such barbarous behaviour. In addition, he has introduced the state health insurance scheme to facilitate access to good health care.
Therefore, the people of Edo state should be mindful of the character of the persons entrusted with power to run the affairs of the state which is the heartbeat of the nation. I join other people of Edo State to wish Governor Obaseki a second term in office to enable him consolidate on his good projects. This is a governor who has put his heart and soul to giving the people of Edo State the best service, and that remains his motivation. And that explains why he has refused to buckle under the pressure of political godfathers. I respect his sense of public duty because he is a hugely distinguished leader. We must not fail to remember that democracies have a special need for moral education.