UNIBEN Pubic Lecture: “State of Education in Edo: The Way Forward”

STATE OF EDUCATION IN EDO STATE: The Way Forward

PROTOCOLS

It is a great honour to stand before you once again to discuss the myriads of challenges that truncate our development as a people as well as proffer workable solutions to them. I want to express my profound gratitude to the organisers of this event, Total Support For Good Governance, for their desire to enthrone good governance in the state. It is indeed encouraging to see young minds like you putting your brains to work in a society where value for hard work and reward for merit has taken a backseat. You have chosen a topic that is very dear to my heart “State of Education in Edo State: The Way Forward”. To put the state of education in a proper perspective, it may be necessary to go on a historical excursion to the past; what was and what is, today.

From time inmemorial, education was regarded as the single largest industry in Edo State, dating back to the First Republic when even local government authorities were competing amongst themselves to award scholarships and bursaries to their indigenes. Government had an integrated, holistic and systematic approach to education. The primary schools which is the foundation of all educational programmes, was well grounded with adequate funding, staffing, infrastructure, and motivation to learn. The Secondary school education followed, including teacher training colleges at Abudu, Uzairue, and Abraka, etc. Many of the secondary schools were of international standard with unparalleled reputation for academic excellence; e.g Edo College, Benin City, Immaculate Conception College (ICC) Benin City; Annuciation Catholic Church (ACC), Irrua, Government College, Ughelli, Federal Government College, Warri, Our Lady of Fatima College, Auchi, Eghosa Grammar School, Benin City, Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongidda-Ora and a host of others too numerous to mention here.

As result of this sound, all-round and well grounded educational background, Midwest region and later Bendel State maintained, an unprecedented dominance in public service as well as in the corporate world in Nigeria and globally. From pre-Independence era till very recently, most of the super permanent secretaries of the Gowonian era were Midwesterners, including people like Allison Ayida.

The military and para-military forces were no exception. It is noteworthy that in that era, government placed a well-deserved emphasis on every item of the Education Matrix. – teachers, facilities, infrastructure, students, and teachers were well-trained, respected and motivated by government. Schools were staffed by adequate number of teachers, qualitatively and quantitatively. The school environment was conducive for learning and necessary facilities were provided. Above all, students had motivation to learn because of the reward and recognition system of scholarship, bursaries and even loans.

During that era also, the Benin Native Authority, as Local Government Councils were then called, promoted a massive scholarship scheme that saw to the education of every willing and qualified Benin son and daughter to the highest educational level. Our parents and grand parents who did us proud in the public services, the corporate world as well as other services in the country and outside were beneficiaries of that scheme. This feat was achieved by the council through the prudent management of forest resources as well as investment in rubber plantations and export of same. I am proud to mention that my father Chief Robert Osayande Ize-Iyamu of blessed memory was secretary of Benin Divisional Council and scholarship was given to many Benin indigene to study various discipline abroad.

This period can rightly be called the golden era of Education in the state because the period epitomised what a good educational system should be. It is no wonder that the products of that educational system dominated the public services, political, academic, corporate, legal, medical, military and paramilitary landscape of Nigeria for a very long time.

The Ogbemudia military administration of 1967 – 1975 was surprisingly another golden era for educational development in the state (now Edo and Delta).That no one can forget in a hurry. The policy thrust of that administration was meritocracy: teachers were appointed and given training opportunities to the highest level purely on merit and various scholarships and bursary schemes as well as students loan schemes were institutionalized. That was made so transparent, effective and efficient that no brilliant student of Edo origin was allowed to miss the opportunity to go to school. This opportunity was for both secondary and tertiary institutions.

In terms of infrastructure, the Ogbemudia Administration set a record that has not be been surpassed by any other since most of the modern secondary schools were built and equipped then. Sporting activities were at the zenith, so much so that Midwest Region (Bendel State) was always at the top of the medal table on nearly every sporting competition. The Afuze Games Village was developed to international standard to complement Ogbe Stadium. Most secondary schools had standard sporting facilities and students were busy with their academics or having fun with recreational activities, leaving no single minute for crime, cultism or both.

The University of Benin was established then by the Ogbemudia Administration as Midwest Institute of Technology. Abraka College of Education was also established and Auchi Polytechnic upgraded to Higher National Diploma (HND) awarding institution. The teachers and students were motivated while teachers were willing and happy to teach the students who were also eager to learn.

The Ambrose Alli Administration can be best described as the era of explosion of educational opportunities, bringing secondary school education to the door step of every Edo indigene or citizen with the massive establishment of over 300 secondary schools. Teachers were recruited and trained, secondary school leavers were encouraged to go to teachers training colleges on in-service training, etc. Market women abandoned the markets to go to school because not only was education free, students were also receiving bursaries or scholarships. The teachers were well-motivated and recognised, culminating in the historical appointment of teachers as Permanent Secretaries, Mr. A, Etchie’s appointment as a Permanent Secretary from the classroom was an example. This was a moral booster to teachers who now saw themselves as “primus inter pares” (First among equals), with civil servants, unlike in the past when they felt inferior as under dogs.

Several Colleges of Education were established simultaneously at Iyaro (now Ekiadolor) Igueben, Agbor and Warri to train middle-level manpower for the educational system, especially the secondary schools that had exploded exponentially by over 800%.

The establishment of the Bendel State University now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, was a remarkable watershed in the educational system of, not only the state but Nigeria generally because this was the first state-owned university in Nigeria. Alli’s administration used the establishment of the university to correct the injustice melted out to Bendel indigenes who were always denied admission into federal universities in spite of their meritorious performance because of the quota system whereby persons from educationally disadvantaged States got preferentially admitted into federal universities. There were no private universities then. The Ambrose Alli era can best be described as very outstanding in terms of educational development.

The Igbinedion Administration took off after series of military administrations or “interregnum” and the educational system of Edo state was brought down to its kneels, culminating in the de-accreditation of several courses in the Ambrose Alli University and promotion of cultism and other anti-social behaviours in the secondary and tertiary, institution. Examination malpractices were rampart while private schools were springing up like mushrooms to catch on the apparent failure of the educational system.

The Igbinedion Administration responded with two key appointments: the appointment of Mr. Ebozoje, a seasoned educationist and retired Principal of a secondary school, as well as Rev. Father Uwaifo, as the Chairman, Governing Council of Ambrose Alli University. These two key appointments helped, in no small measure, in repositioning education in Edo State.

Under the able, seasoned and pragmatic leadership of late Rev. Father Uwaifo AAU was transformed to a first-class university, comparable to any federal university in Nigeria. This was reflected in the dramatic upsurge in the preference of students for AAU over so many other Nigerian universities, a situation that was completely opposite to what it was before the Rev. Father Uwaifo’s touch.

Qualified international scholars were attracted to the university, ultra-modern lecture theatres and classrooms, laboratories, engineering workshops, libraries were built, furnished and equipped. Academic courses in AAU earlier de-accredited, were now accredited and the university turned to a respectable and responsible citadel of learning and the envy of all other state-owned universities in Nigeria. The foregoing was not only the magic wand but the speedy approval for the commencement of payment of the University Staff Salary structure (USS) to AAU staff by the Igbinedion Administration. It was a tonic and the motivational impact was unimaginable, especially as most state universities could not do same. Cultism, and other social vices that had bedeviled the university were curbed and national and international glory and recognition were restored to the university.

The appointment of Mr. Ebosoje as Commissioner of Education brought sanity to the educational system then. Over 3000 qualified graduate teachers were employed, trained and retained. I make bold to say here that a bulk of all the teachers in the state today were recruited then as no significant recruitment of teachers has taken place again. After that, examination malpractices were curbed and reduced to the barest minimum, because classrooms had teachers and teaching facilities.

The establishment of model secondary school with full-boarding facilities at Evboneka, Fugar, Uromi and Ubiaja by the Igbinedion Administration was, as the name implies, to serve as a model to other public as well as private secondary schools. Till today, these schools are still the pride of Edo State, in terms of academic excellence. The School of Agriculture was revamped and modernised to compare with its peers anywhere in Nigeria.

Edo State Institute of Technology Usen was established to encourage technical education and absorb our teeming youths who could not get admission to the university, due to the pressure on university admission in Nigeria.

There is no doubt that educational development was at its apogee during the Igbinedion era, especially in terms of policy direction, availability of qualified teachers, availability of teaching facilities, as well as favourable condition of service or ambient environment for teachers, some of whom got two-three promotions after being stagnated on one salary grade level for decades. The motivation of the teachers directly correlated with improved academic performance of students that was the hallmark of that era.

The Oshiomhole Administration’s effort on education has been centred largely, if not exclusively, on reroofing some selected urban and sub-urban schools for political sloganeering and propaganda. The aluminum “red roofs” for these schools is not bad but it is good to put the effort into a correct trajectory in the sense that it is State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) money and a joint effort of the federal and the state governments where the former pays the lion share of the money.

The question is, is building or roofing the only component of educational development? How about adequate number of teachers, facilities, the environment, security, motivation to learn?

Recently an Old boy of Our Lady of Fatima College, Auchi (OLOFOBA) reported that the school now has 3(no) teachers who are all arts teachers. In this modern era of science and technology, the students of that school cannot key into most respectable professions that is if they can have a successful secondary school educational career. What is happening in Our Lady of Fatima College is a metaphor for what is happening in the entire state because nearly all the schools have no teachers in adequate number and specialisation. Some schools have a principal and no supporting teachers and some have all youth corpers. In some cases, the communities tax themselves to employ teachers for their children and wards. Apart from the fact that the so-called red roof is cosmetic, because insignificant numbers of schools are so roofed and there is no new construction, the classrooms are not equipped with desks and chairs. They carry chairs from one school to the other anytime they want to commission a newly-re-roofed school. This is not to say the governor did not make provision for chairs, he did make provision but decided to monopolise the contract by giving it to a single contactor in Abuja to supply furniture for all the schools in the state. What happened thereafter is unimaginable. While the company made the furniture, they did not supply them as they claim supply was not part of the contract agreement. When it was eventually supplied, it was cramped in some warehouses in town with leaking roofs. By the time they were ready to move the chairs, they realised that the chairs have all been destroyed by rain. What is even more painful was how it was kept secret from the public even as our children continued to sit on bare floors. These children deserve better and should not suffer for the government’s callous disregard for human lives and obsession for material acquisition. What is glaring to all Edo people is that the red roof was a fraud designed to deceive our people and hoodwink them into believing that Government was out to radically revolutionalise the educational system of the state. The scales have fallen out of the eyes of the citizens and they now see clearly that no teacher have been employed since November 12, 2008 when His Excellency, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was sworn in as the Governor of Edo State. Whereas states like Delta, Lagos, Kano, Ondo, Ekiti etc. have an average teaching staff complement of up to 10,000, Edo State has a paltry 3,000 or so, and yet no single recruitment was done while billions of naira were and are wasted in irregularly and exorbitantly-awarded contracts to renovate schools, a euphemism of giving patronages to the boys.

Recently, the Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, announced that he has earmarked N3bn for the award of contracts to renovate and build classrooms in each of the 192 political wards in the state. What is more needful is not more classrooms but to address the gross shortage of teachers in the state. The governor’s political slogan of “one man one vote” appears to have affected schools in the rural areas, as it has become one school one teacher. Igbode Junior Secondary School, Erhurun in Akoko where has JSS1, 2, 3 has only one teacher. The secondary school has one principal and one teacher. Ikakumo Grammer School, Ikakumo, has one Principal and one teacher. Ikiran-Ile Secondary School, has one Principal and one teacher. Ugboshi Secondary School also in Akoko Edo has one Principal and one teacher. Urhonigbe Grammar School (JSS) in Orhionmwon, also has one Principal and one teacher. Ekpon Grammar School in Igueben, both Junior and Secondary has one principal and one teacher. The list is endless.

 

The Edo State Post Primary Education Board in 2011 attempted to recruit 500 teachers in all the disciplines to augment the shortfall in the service but the government truncated this exercise and till date nothing has been done. Even the more recent teachers’ recruitment exercise headed by Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor is yet to materialise. While urban local government council areas like Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba-Okha are complaining of excess teachers in their schools, the rural schools are abandoned and the children left to their fate. At a time when the state government should have been thinking of how to motivate teachers and organise training courses for them, they chose to humiliate them by insisting on competency test for all of them.

 

The motivation of teaching staff is zero. Besides, being owed salaries and allowances for months and denied promotions, the administration has an unusual penchant for ridiculing teachers. The examination planned to test teachers’ ability by extraneous sources, was shelved at the last minute when the Governor suddenly remembered the consequences of the political backlash of the plan. Teachers are sacked and demoted like casual workers without due regard to extant rule by the Governor. The case of Mrs. Lizzy Omogberale, the former Principal of Imaguero College, Benin City is a sad reminder of this persecution and humiliation of our teachers who are expected to teach our children under this condition. Are we not expecting too much if we think that the teachers can give their best in this state of humiliation?

The will and motivation of the student to learn will ebb under the aforementioned scenario coupled with the fact that the students themselves are not even encouraged by government to seek excellence: there are neither bursaries nor scholarships. Either or both can be used to encourage students to work hard and achieve academic excellence. Is it not paradoxical that the Benin Native Authority in the colonial era saw the need to give scholarships and she did, yet in modern time, 2008 – 2016, a government does not see the need to give bursary and scholarship and it gave none for 8 years of its administration? Is it not also an antithesis that a state government will deliberately kill state higher institutions to develop others because of personal ego and clannish interest? While AAU, Usen Polytechnic, and College of Education Ekiadolor now called Tayo Akpata University of Education are grossly underfunded and totally neglected, a new Edo University at Iyamo a chimera that is said to be neither fully-private nor fully-public, is gulping all the money allegedly in the realms of several tens of billions of naira? Is it not obvious that the Adams Oshiomhole regime is not interested in the educational development of Edo State but material acquisition? How can one explain the construction of 168-room male hostel accommodations with a whooping sum of N1, 880, 483, 836.66 billion? If you do a very thorough calculation, you will realise that the state government spent over N10miilion to build one hostel room. It is unthinkable that an administration will be in place for eight year, yet no single teacher is employed in the face of gross shortages, but tax payers money are been expended on unnecessary ventures. To worsen the situation, the few existing ones are being harassed, intimidated, and denied their promotions and incentives etc. You will recall vividly that an entire Civil Service Commission was sacrilegiously disbanded because the Chairman (Dr) (Mrs) J. Afe, maintained her stand that teachers should not be sacked without due process.

 

 

The Way Forward

Education is certainly the bedrock of any development and every society is as developed as its educational programme. The difference between the developed and undeveloped countries is no other than education.

Any reasonable and people-centered government should as matter of dire necessity, put educational development as priority number one.

The programme on education under our stewardship will ensure that no Edo child is left behind. Edo State Government under our leadership will provide free and compulsory education from primary school up to the end of junior secondary school. The Edo State education programme will be driven by a determination to train Edo people to be skilled and competitive both nationally and globally through the adoption of the use of modern pedagogical methods including ICT and multi-media platforms. To this end, we will be biased towards science and technology, with particular emphasis on those courses that enable our youth to obtain technological skills that will enhance the development of the state.

We will aim at partnering with major technology vendors to promote skills acquisition in core technology areas in all the institutions of higher learning in the state. By this, we hope to be able to append a sizeable number of our youths in the global job marketplace, whereby our people will be able to work even from their homes for major technology providers.

 

Our education policy will reflect the following objectives:

 

  • To train our youths in science, engineering, finance and commerce, entrepreneurship, management, information and communication technology that will lead the state’s drive for prosperity and economic development;
  • To make every citizen literate and able to communicate in our lingua franca as well as in their mother tongue.
  • To go beyond cosmetic painting of classroom blocks and ensure adequate provision of chairs and tables and relevant learning materials in both primary and secondary schools, as well as encouraging sports, library developments and modern toilet facilities.
  • To motivate teachers through proper remuneration, prompt payment of salaries and emoluments and continued training and re-training.
  • To vigorously pursue the re-introduction of boarding facilities in public secondary schools across the state, as this will inculcate leadership qualities in the youths.
  • To encourage the interest of students in science and technology education and reward outstanding students with full scholarship.
  • To ensure the availability of science laboratories in all Senior Secondary Schools and Art and Crafts workshops in Junior Secondary Schools.
  • To support teachers in their quest to up-grade themselves to ensure high standards in the education sector.
  • To emphasise Technical and Vocational Training so as to improve on the skills and entrepreneurial development of school leavers. Appropriate incentives will be offered to attract students to technical and vocational training to discourage over-dependence on tertiary education.
  • To re-activate and provide modern facilities, equipment and teaching aids to all existing Technical Schools in the state.
  • Improve on the Technical Training Centres; integrated with skill acquisition, cottage agro-processing and other related small-scale production outfits in each of the senatorial districts for the training of the relevant technical and skilled manpower, to drive all aspects of our economic policies.
  • To make ICT and entrepreneurship compulsory components of our policy at all levels of the educational system
  • To provide all government secondary schools with computer laboratories.
  • To make it mandatory for all MDAs to embrace e-governance as a way of managing government information.
  • We shall create an education and business partnership framework to give students opportunity to develop the skills and qualities needed for work, through compulsory four-week work experience placement in their last year of SS3.
  • From JSS 1, every child would be exposed to skills acquisition as part of the school system. They would pick four different skills from a wide range of skills ranging from carpentry to catering to Digital skills to Fashion Designing, Music, Healthcare, Tiling, Painting, etc. From SSI, they would then be required to pick only one and specialise. By the time the child is graduating from SS3 that child would have a DIPLOMA in one skill set and a WAEC certificate on the other hand and they would be ready for a future of productivity. The DIPLOMA would be the collateral to obtaining a small business loan to get started in life as a professional or to be a viable human being, able to fend for themselves even if they choose not to go on to a university
  • We are committed to raising education standards and achievements in schools through a rigorous quality inspection, monitoring and support regime.
  • We will also encourage the involvement of parents in the management of schools and their children’s development through upgrading of the Parents Teachers Associations across all schools in Edo State
  • These policies would enable the creation of 5000 sustainable new jobs in the economy

 

Higher and Professional Education

 

The basic objective of higher and professional education is to improve the capability of young people to identify, formulate and handle scientifically complex problems as well as to critically evaluate information and to formulate possible solutions. It also provides leadership and management manpower for the growth and development of the country. Therefore, we shall ensure total overhaul of the existing state tertiary institutions, increase their subvention, improve their personnel and upgrade their infrastructure and facilities.

 

Bursary

No Edo child shall be denied access to education either at secondary or tertiary level on the grounds of inability to pay tuition fees. Therefore, we shall embark on a comprehensive census of Edo undergraduates in all higher institutions across the country with a view to determining a reasonable, realistic and sustainable annual bursary award to them, to promote their educational attainment.

 

  • Our government will run an inclusive educational system and prioritise the provision of tailored education and learning to people with special needs, physical and mental challenges, in order to ensure equality of access and opportunities in life for all regardless of their circumstances.

 

In-Service Training                                          

  • We are committed to human capital development and making sure public and private sector workers are able to respond effectively to challenges of our digital age. Our government will invest in ICT skills training and capacity up-skilling of all government staff to the International Computer Driving License Standards (ICDLS). This would ensure all government workers are proficient in critical computer application software packages including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Publisher. Our government would actively encourage private sector businesses and educational institutions to likewise invest in up-skilling their staff ICT skills and capacity, which will enable them to maximise accrued advantages from the digital age.

 

  • Our government will encourage applied industrial development and cutting-edge technology research. We will encourage industries to take active interest in funding applied research aimed at improving the competitiveness and sustainability of Edo industries through building partnerships with our tertiary institutions

 

CONCLUSION

We have made an attempt to review the educational development of Edo State since the pre-independent era, from one administration to the other. Most of the administrations did their best and will be judged and remembered by history accordingly.

 

While the pre-colonial administration, including the Benin Native Authority, will be remembered for its focus on identifying and developing talents through the award of scholarships and bursaries, the Ogbemudia years were remarkable for the building of new institutions and training of teachers.

Professor Ambrose Alli era on the other hand, will not be forgotten in a hurry for his mass educational programmes that brought education to the door steps of all and sundry in the nook and cranny of Edo State while the Lucky Igbinedion years will certainly be remembered for the development of the resource capacity of teachers and motivating them by the provision of ambient environment to operate.

 

Of course, the “red roof revolution” of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole will be remembered, after all, the roofs are red and flashy but the impact of lack of teachers and their humiliation and intimidation will haunt the state for a long time to come.

 

Necessarily, any good government will take an eclectic position and consolidate the achievements of the past and make some correction, where necessary but must be innovative and make the teacher and student the centerpiece of his or her administration. We have a great opportunity to make our education work for the good of all and the time is now; #TheFutureIsNow, Take it.