By Uwakmfon Dan
The annual Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), has continued to provide the world’s most respected assessment on the state of the world’s economies. The WEF looks at data on diverse areas, to compile a picture of the economy of almost every country on earth. The 2010- 2011 edition of the said Report released at a time of great uncertainty about the global economy and a shift in the balance of economic activity, from advanced Nations toward emerging markets, ranked Singapore’s economy as first in Asia and third in the world. What factors constitute to a small Nation achieving such a remarkable feat?
Being a not too giant Nation with limited resources, Singapore can only count on its precious asset -human resources, to aid the country in its economic growth. Hence, the government resumed hefty investment in its people by placing great emphasis on education ever since it gained independence in 1965. According to the figures of Singapore’s 2010 Budget, $9.664 Million was allocated to the Ministry of Education. It was twice, the sum allocated to the Ministry of Health of $4.181 Million. It gained so much attention from international observers, but then, Singaporean
Government never revealed any reason for such allocation to the said Ministry.
In 2015, a London-based think tank, the Legatum Institute, ranked Australia seventh in that year’s Prosperity Index, out of 142 Countries worldwide. The reason wasn’t farfetched. The Study looked beyond economic indicators such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to focus on a wide range of factors, of which Australia topped the chart in terms of education. It goes to show how much value fast developing economies attach to education and how education provide the foundations on which nations can grow.
The role of education in the development of any nation cannot be over emphasised. Just as Will Durant, great American Writer and Philosopher, once said, “Education is the transmission of civilization.” Durant delved into the study of several civilizations throughout history in some of his publications, and noted the imperative of education as it applies to society, including its economic growth. He noted that a nation’s brilliance and ability to prosper, is directly dependent upon its people’s edification. Without continually opening one’s mind and allowing oneself to be taught, a person and by extension, a nation, becomes stagnant, ignorant and frozen in time.
The process of education and attainments thereof, have impacts on all aspects of life. It is a critical invasive means for bringing about social, economic and political growth of a people.
However, as important as that may sound, it seems the third world countries sadly, have not only shown a carefree attitude to education, but outright marginalisation of the education sector to almost, total decay.
In Nigeria, it may not be too odd to say that the education system, as it is currently, is lifeless. The tearful state of the country’s education has been attributed over time to a number of factors including underfunding, low-quality teaching personnel, poor infrastructure, poverty of curriculum and absence of dedicated practitioners. From primary through secondary, to the tertiary level, the rot is mind-boggling, it is terrible.
Notwithstanding the situation, the Nation is blessed with very few leaders who, despite discouraging factors, have resolved to secure a better future, through quality education. Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel is a fine example. His reign, without without gainsaying, has brought laudable strides, in line with his five-point agenda of job creation, poverty alleviation, wealth creation, economic and political inclusion and infrastructural consolidation and expansion.
For just three years and few months on the saddle, the Governor has practically under promised and over delivered, especially, in education. He has drawn-out superb policies and programmes, and has left no one in doubt of his capacity to continually improve the education sector, if given another opportunity.
At the Primary and Secondary levels, the administration has not only worked to sustain, but has improved upon the Free and Compulsory Education Policy of the State Government and also added quality to the policy, through massive rehabilitation, reconstruction of school blocks and hostels through the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Co-ordinating Committee, supply of desks, provision of science and laboratory equipment, procurement and distribution of free exercise books, textbooks and other educational materials in key subjects like Mathematics, English Language and the Sciences, to public primary and secondary schools across the 31 Local Government Areas in the State, thus, creating a more conducive learning environment for our young minds.
Governor Emmanuel’s Approach to education is impressive. In addition to free tuition enjoyed by every child of school age resident in Akwa Ibom, regardless of State of Origin, the State Government pays a subvention of N100 per Primary School Pupil and N300 per Secondary School student per term, to cater for logistics.
With keen desire to eliminate issues of financial constraints, the government had since taken up financial responsibilities for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), for all students in public Secondary Schools in the State, including fee payment for the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) for students in public Technical Colleges. It means that all a student need, is just read for these examinations, with no worries about fee payment. Such step has not only lessen financial burden on the parents and guardians, but has a way of reshaping a child’s psychology, while at the same time promoting academic excellence.
The Emmanuel’s Approach understands that the quality of the teaching personnel is central to the educational system and recognises motivation as key factor for productivity. Hence, the Governor has also ensured the provision of an enabling environment for optimal performance. His administration has been consistent with prompt payment of salaries for Primary and Secondary School Teachers despite reduced Federal Allocation. There are lots of incentives, coupled with regular promotion for deserving and hardworking teachers.
While speaking through his Commissioner for Education, Prof. Victor Inoka, Governor Emmanuel revealed that his administration has provided counterpart funding to access Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), funds, for over 300 projects across Schools in Akwa Ibom State. The Governor is not relenting efforts in the education sector. No fewer than two Government Technical Colleges have been equipped with standard ICT centres to boost teaching and learning. That’s Emmanuel’s Approach.
Beyond the primary and secondary levels, the current administration has seen to the upgrade of facilities in most tertiary institutions in the State. A considerable number of new classroom and office blocks, coupled with access and internal roads have been constructed at both campuses of the Akwa Ibom State University, Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua and College of Education Nsit Ibom. Confirmed reports are, that the Governor has provided subvention for the payment of newly recruited staff of the Akwa Ibom State University, with ongoing consultations with stakeholders in public and private tertiary institutions, to re-position and stabilise the school system in the State.
The love song hasn’t ended. Aside the recent upgrade of Akwa Ibom State College of Arts and Science in Nung Ukim, Ikono LGA, to College of Science and Technology, Governor Udom Emmanuel has also worked for the accreditation of several courses in the state’s tertiary institutions and public technical schools, trained thousands of primary school teachers on effective classroom management skills, basic classroom teaching methods and techniques, language communication skills and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). These are steps that should be commended.
The Emmanuel’s Approach has genuine concern for Akwa Ibom Students. Recently, the Governor through his Special Assistant on Students Matters, facilitated the augmentation of fees for Students of the University of Uyo who had no complete tuition. It was an attempt at preventing most students from suspending studies and over 400 students were saved. Recently too, the Government embarked on a rescue mission to save our sons and daughters studying in the University of Jos, following renewed violence in Plateau State. Since arrangements could not be made for the Students to be airlifted due to the urgency of the incident, immediate action was taken and buses were sent to convey the students back to the State, while the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Victor Inoka was on hand to receive them.
The gains are much. The bar in qualitative education has been raised. The fruits of these huge investments may not be felt today, but will be appreciated in the future. With the various cottage industries established by the State Government, it is hoped that with more training, there will be qualified indigenous manpower to take charge of these establishments in the future. It would not only reduce the burden of employing foreign manpower on government, but will also create more jobs for the unemployed citizens, reduce societal restiveness and grow the State’s Internally Generated Revenue, which are the dreams of any genuine government. It’s purely futuristic and therefore means the Governor who will certainly quit the saddle someday, has secured the future through education.
Truth is, one step must be taken at a time and if commendable attempts have been by the government in the education sector, it means there is room for improvements and hope for the better.
With his approach to education, the Governor is moulding the future of the Akwa Ibom State, providing our children with a balanced and well-rounded education, developing them to their full potential, and nurturing them into good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities to family, society and country. The Governor has sown a seed which will in the nearest future, spring forth economic growth, improve personal endowments, build capabilities, overcome constraints and enlarge available set of opportunities and choices for a sustained societal well-being.
That’s Emmanuel’s approach, thoughtful, responsive, proactive, goal-oriented, and futuristic.
Dan is a Journalist and writes from Uyo.