I chose to write this piece in view of various ill-advised promises made by gubernatorial aspirants in Anambra State regarding education policy. Topmost of such promises is the promise of unrealistic and unsustainable free education for all Anambrarians from primary to tertiary education level.
It is one thing to make campaign promises and another thing to keep such promises. The masses to whom such promises are made need to separate realities from mere revelries.
I wish to categorically and unequivocally state here that it is a big crime against humanity to obtain the votes of the electorate through deceptive unrealistic campaign promises. What does one gain from promising to turn Anambra State to Oxford, Massachusetts or Cambridge in just four years when one knows that even sixteen years is not enough to enact such a feat?
Let us take a look at the widely acclaimed enviable improvements in education in Anambra State. Available records show that Anambra has made the best improvements in education in the whole nation, thanks to former Governor Peter Obi’s ingenuity.
This fact has been supported by statistics from examining bodies such as WAEC, NECO and JAMB. Having lived and worked in two of the best schools in Anambra State, I am a living witness to the mass movement of students by their parents from various parts of the country to Anambra State in search of quality education.
Such parents were ready to pay very high fees charged by those schools in order to get the best out of their wards. It was as though coming to Anambra State for secondary school education could be likened to traveling overseas for the same purpose.
No sooner did former Governor Obi kick-start his education revolution than the innovation started paying off as evidenced by the successful handover of schools to the missions, renovation and equipping of public schools with state-of-the-art science and ICT laboratories, libraries and sporting facilities as well as enthronement of a regime of proper management in the school system.
Obi went as far as funding privately owned schools by giving them laptops, financial aids, etc. He did this for the simple reason that the private schools also teach Anambra students. He went ahead to bequeath to Anambra one of the most beautiful and most equipped state-owned universities in the country, the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Universiy, Anambra State.
What a good leadership. In all these, school fees rather than nosedive, saw a steady but highly affordable increase to match the level of services provided. Students were better for it. Parents and teachers were happy for it. The result is our present enviable status as ‘the state that has made the best improvements in education in the whole federation’.
A comparison of our current status on education with that of our neighbouring state of Imo, where free education was introduced by the state government up to tertiary level, shows that what is required is a well-articulated roadmap towards sustainable education in the state. Having taught in Anambra and currently lecturing in Imo State, I am in a vantage position to compare the two states educationally.
Before I continue, I will like to share an experience I had. In October 2015, I went to a government-owned secondary school in Owerri to register my relation for the WAEC exam. This relation of mine just finished SS2 in a school at Ozubulu, Anambra State.
We went with her SS2 annual result printed from the internet. On presenting the result to the Principal of the school, he told us that the result was inadmissible since, according to him, it was not signed by the Principal of the school at Ozubulu.
I told him that the result was downloaded from the school’s website. Meanwhile, the result had the school stamp and Principal’s signature on it. The man insisted that the original ‘pen ink’ of the Principal should be on the result, maintaining that what we presented was a photocopy.
I tried to educate him to understand that nowadays, results are stamped, signed by the school authority and uploaded to the internet for ease of access no matter the student’s location. The man maintained that it was an impossibility. He asked me how one could verify the authenticity of such result.
I told him that it was very simple; all he needed to do was to log on to the issuing school’s website, navigate to the ‘contact us’ section and send an email to the school, attaching the result meant for verification.
Then the school would reply him. Looking confused, the man told me that such was not possible in Nigeria. I was embarrassed. I later discovered that the state’s education system was yet to key into ICT revolution. As a matter of fact, few schools in the state had computer teachers.
Laboratories and libraries, where they existed, were nothing to write home about. Dilapidated structures adorned the entire landscape of government-owned schools. Products of such schools reflect poor foundation when they proceed to higher institutions. We lecture them and what we see in them is horrible.
Such is the ‘benefit’ of free education at all levels as it were. Today, the state government has jettisoned the free education policy citing unsustainability. The question is: who is fooling who?
Anambra does not need to listen to those promising them free education at all levels of education.
The promise of charting a new course for our education system which will incorporate free education at all levels is one of those deceitful campaign promises that must be disregarded for the good of our dear state.
If implemented at this stage of our developmental experiment, it will prove to be counterproductive. As a classroom expert, I wish to tell my fellow compatriots and lovers of our state that Anambra is already on her desired education roadmap.
What is needed at this point is sustainability and more improvements to be in tune with emerging technologies. Our people should not forget that education is costly while ignorance is more expensive.
In order to sustain and steadily improve on our educational gains, incoming administration should invest in the use of interactive whiteboard in Anambra State school system. This may sound very strange to many; but, it is in tune with global best practice. It is an ‘affordably expensive’ technology used in lesson delivery.
It should be introduced in both secondary and tertiary institutions in the state. Nursery and primary schools can continue with whiteboards and markers currently in use, but this should gradually be phased out and replaced with plasma televisions and laptops.
This is the global best practice. Teachers should be trained on the use of these state-of-the-art technologies for improved lesson delivery. The incoming government should provide all schools in Anambra State with Wi-Fi network and overhead projectors.
Teachers’ salaries should be reviewed upwards to encourage our teachers to put in more efforts, especially in view of the fact that despite the enviable status of Anambra school system, available records show that our teachers are one of the least paid in the whole federation.
The incoming administration should be innovative enough as to introduce state government-sponsored annual quiz, debate and essay competitions to be contested by all secondary schools in the state.
These competitions should be in three (3) stages:
Stage (1) to be known as qualifying series where schools will compete at the local government level. This should be done in the first term. The winners in stage (1) will proceed to Stage (2);
Stage (2) will be known as semi-final and will see local government champions competing at the senatorial zone level. Winners at the senatorial zone level will proceed to stage (3).
Stage (3) is the final stage where zonal champions will slug it out at the state level for prizes that will be determined by the state government.
Both stage (2) and stage (3) will hold in second term. The final winners will be decorated with first position prize. Their teachers who prepared them should be rewarded as well.
The runners up will go home with consolation prizes. This will help in no small way in the reorientation campaign for our youths. It will enable Anambra to continue to fly ahead of her peers in education.
In conclusion, dear compatriots, it is good to add my voice to that of former Governor Peter Obi who opined: ‘education is expensive; therefore, parents should be ready to pay their children’s school fees’.
I believe that the best form of free education is to institute a scholarship scheme for students who have distinguished themselves and probably for indigent ones, if the need arises.
Fellow Anambrarians, the above is part of the dream of Hon. Dr Tony Nwoye for our dear state. Vote Hon. Dr Tony Nwoye for a better Anambra.
Engr Ifeanyi Anagwu is a lecturer of Chemical Engineering and National Vice-President, South-East, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Alumni Association
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