It was Gaspar Jovellanos, a Spanish writer who said; “numerous are the streams that lead to social prosperity, but all spring from the same source and that is public education”. It is in recognition of this truism that the Udom Emmanuel administration set to work to reposition the education sector in the State. New policies, new programmes and qualified helmsmen to man the sector were put in place.
First, knowing the peace and security of the State depended on a great majority of the people having some form of education and considering the fact that children’s education should not be left to parents alone or to chance, the administration went to institutionalise the free and compulsory education policy. The programme runs from primary school to senior secondary school. Not wanting students to fail to write their final examinations, government undertakes the payment of Senior Schools Certificate Examination fees for indigenes and residents in public schools. This singular policy of giving education to as many as possible has resulted in the peace and security we have today in the State. Peace may be invisible, but it has translated into the industrial growth in the State. No entrepreneur would want to invest and do business in an environment where his investments would be threatened. Thanks to the peace and security in the State occasioned by the many young men and women who are in school, at least eighteen business concerns have been attracted to the State so far.
For the education sector to continue to deliver on its mandate of giving qualitative, effective and efficient teaching, government has recruited over thousands of qualified teachers into the system. In addition to this, and to ensure that the teachers are up to date in terms of modern teaching methods and technics, a first batch of some one thousand teaching staff have received training on Jolly Phonics. This is a departure from the past when teachers used the same method thirty years after leaving school.
In recognition of the changing times and considering the fact that Information Communication Technology (ICT) is the way to go, government has distributed three hundred and thirty seven ICT textbooks to thirty three junior secondary schools. It has also renovated ICT laboratories and installed internet services in technical colleges across the State as well as the introduction and building of sixty modular classroom blocks in selected secondary and primary schools.
In a bid to ensure quality learning and teaching and to create avenue for more children of the state to access the free and compulsory education programme of the Udom Emmanuel administration, some seventeen erstwhile community secondary schools have been taken over by government. The schools include Technical College, Ikot Udom, Ikot Ekpene, Urban High School, Ikot Akpan Essien, Oruk Anam, Excellence Comprehensive Secondary School, Ikot Unya, Mkpat Enin, Migrant School, Emeruke, Eastern Obolo, Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Ekeya, Okobo, Union Secondary School, Ibiaku, Ibiono Ibom, Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Ekeya, Okobo, Community Secondary School, Offi Uda, Mbo and Eket Vocational Technical College, Ettoi, Eket. Others are; QIC Comprehensive Secondary School, Ikot Osudu, Ikot Abasi, Comprehensive High School, Eweme, Okobo, Community Secondary School, Ikot Nsung Ikono, Uyo, Christian Comprehensive Secondary School, Ikot Abia Osom, Obot Akara, Comprehensive Secondary School, Mbiabet Ikpe, Ini, Community Secondary School, Mbak Obio Itam, Itu, AME Zion Secondary Commercial School, Mbukpo Oduobo, Okobo and Comprehensive high School, Idu, Uruan. A close look at the spread shows that the schools taken over by government cut across the three Senatorial districts of the State.
As efforts to encourage the girl-child to go to school, the Udom Emmanuel administration has ensured the establishment of Government Girls Model Secondary School, Ikot Ekang in Abak. The government has also facilitated the establishment of Command Secondary School, Efa in Etinan LGA, The Nigerian Navy Technical School, Ikot Ntuen in Oruk Anam LGA and The Special Police Protection Training Unit, in Onna.
With regard to tertiary education, government has strategically intervened in the areas of roads, equipment supplies, academic programmes accreditation and infrastructural renovation at the College of Education, Afaha Nsit, and the two campuses of the Akwa Ibom State University.
Facilities were provided for the accreditation of thirty eight academic programmes of Akwa Ibom State University by the NUC. In much the same way, government funded and provided facilities for accreditation of programmes of the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). The Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha Nsit was not left out in government pursuit of qualitative higher education for its citizens. In this regard, government facilitated NUC resource visitation to the College. This has given teeth to the expected commencement of degree programmes in eleven courses. The Akwa Ibom State College of Arts and Science, Nung Ukim, Ikono has been upgraded to a College of Science and Technology.
The physically challenged persons are not left out as far as ensuring that they have access to education is concerned. In this regard, government has provided training aids to mentally and physically challenge pupils at the Special Education Centre in Uyo. It has also donated hundreds of wheel chairs and Special Writing Desks to physically challenged persons.
A careful look at the Udom Emmanuel footprints in the education sector of the State will reveal that all sectors and all areas are covered including the payment of subventions to public primary, secondary schools and technical colleges. These past five years have witnessed a significant rearrangement of government’s priorities in respect of the education of its citizens. Government is aware that education assists in the formation of character. With proper education and the concentration of government’s efforts on getting as many of its citizens as possible, to acquire some form of education. That done, the peace and security we have in the State will continue to endure.
(C) Essien Ndueso