Thursday, 26 March 2015

Umana Okon Umana’s issue based campaign (3)


For the umpteenth time, focus of this  conversation is on the need to take  education of Akwa Ibom youths a notch higher reason being that one cannot exhaustively discuss huge potentials embedded in providing qualitative education to any society. According to United Nations Education Scientific & Cultural Organization, UNESCO, the development of coherent policies and plans to bring about REAL and SUSTAINABLE CHANGE in education systems is essential as it connects to other sectors such as employment, health, finance and family, among others.   

This perception explains why we must  critically consider Umana Okon Umana, the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, who consistently talks about education in his campaign. He spends more time harping on his plan to better finance education, which appears to be one of the flagship agenda of his empowerment programme for Akwa Ibom people.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) education blueprint shows that the party does not intend to play politics with this all important sector and Umana Okon Umana is one among all the governorship candidates that has a distinct projection on where we should be in eight years. He is neither a circumstantial governorship candidate nor was he discovered by anyone rather his conviction is borne out of careful study, having had ample time to ruminate on education and its vital role in the realization of real development in all other sectors.
An analysis of Umana Okon Umana’s vision for education as posted on one of his online campaign platforms,, shows that he takes note of and incorporates the new UNESCO education agenda for post-2015 education strategy, which in summary involves viewing education as a fundamental human right that is essential to personal and state development. 

The objective of his education policy is envisaged in a broad lifelong learning perspective that aims at empowering people to realize their right to education, fulfill their personal expectations for a decent, healthy life and work, and contribute to the achievement of their societies’ socio-economic development objectives. That is why Umana intends to build on what he will meet on ground and better still, he has promised to greatly subsidize education and create opportunity for all especially beneficiaries of the universal free and compulsory education. 

In practical terms Umana’s education plan will prepare youths to become responsible citizens whose mindset, in addition to the acquisition of basic knowledge, will adopt cognitive, social and emotional skills. He concedes that our content of learning must promote problem-solving, creative thinking and entrepreneurship to evolve local methods of achieving sustainable development. Like leaders of the Asian Tigers ( China, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore etcetera) Umana intends to train our students to develop and incorporate local technique towards meeting our technological needs thus remodelling our Technical and Science Schools to train students how to develop solution to problems by  themselves is paramount according to his plan.

His projections go beyond secondary education, making sure that school leavers have access to further broaden their knowledge.
It therefore makes great sense when Umana proposes to return the State University in Ikot Akpaden to its original vision of specialized Technology University with emphasis on research and training in Applied Sciences and Technology. He will turn the current Abio Akpa Campus into a conventional University specializing in Agriculture, Natural Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Arts, Social Sciences, Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Environmental Studies. 

He will establish minimum models for public schools (Primary and Secondary) and put in place the process of consistent rehabilitation/building for all public schools to conform to standards (structures, water supply, sanitation, pave access to school premises, ICT, Libraries, etc) within a specified time frame.
These lofty ideals have been shown to be possible by Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the APC governor of Rivers State. Only eight years ago, his administration decided to also invest in education at the same time Akwa Ibom state did. While our government was all over the globe, airwaves and internet, receiving all shapes and sizes of medals for initiating ‘free and compulsory’ education (which it never took time to plan for) Rivers state, after carefully studying the state demography, comparing past educational researches with contemporary models round the world, decided to focus on a policy called REACHING ALL STUDENTS ONE PER TIME. 

Today, the result is there for all to see. Our education system is currently plagued by overcrowded classrooms, inadequate infrastructure, lack of teachers, unpaid teachers’ salaries; poor  motivation and general lethargy resulting from overstretched facility. 

It is sad to note that despite touted advancement in the ‘free and compulsory education’ policy, our state has continued to record dismal performances at internal and external examinations since 2007 because government lost focus and began seeking accolades when the real job was yet undone. There was absolutely no need to  try beating Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s record by expanding the scope of the policy to include ‘all Nigerian children residing in Akwa Ibom state’. It should have first been tested on our young ones perhaps in model schools where all necessary facilities were provided and teachers equipped and motivated to impart knowledge since the policy intended to salvage Akwa Ibom people from the “house help syndrome”. However, this laudable policy suffered the same fate as many others because a certain individual became entangled in a delusion of becoming a national leader and squandered our common wealth on self aggrandizement. 

Consequently, influx of prospective students to the state has completely overwhelmed its public school system. It is so bad that at one point, a Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Eunice Thomas, was forced to shed tears openly when she discovered that a Senior Secondary Two (SS2) Student, who was preparing to take the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, SSCE, the following year, could not spell ‘mango’. The reverse is the case in neighbouring Rivers State, which is the best state in education development after eight years of taking well thought out steps one per time. 

Governor Amaechi, holds the Best Governor in Education Development Award. The award, presented to the him at the Businessday States Competitiveness and Good Governance Awards, was given to Amaechi for his passion, dedication and commitment in the development of the education sector in his State. 

Rivers state beat eight states nominated for the award including Akwa Ibom, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Kano, Ogun, Osun and Oyo States. 

Apart from being chosen for his huge educational projects in the area of the new model primary and secondary schools, other criteria that gave the state governor edge over others include consistent and noticeable increase in the pass rate of students from the State in WAEC and NECO exams. 

The organizers also considered performance trend in competition by public schools in the state, increased enrolment in WAEC and NECO exams, with additional marks given for the quality of pass marks. 

In the light of the above revelation, it is expedient to queue behind Umana Okon Umana’s insightful proposal of building the knowledge economy that has profound implications for the role of education as a determinant of economic growth. This is therefore a clarion call on parents, students, teachers (both in primary and secondary schools) and lecturers in tertiary institutions as well as proprietors of private schools, employers (end users of products of our school system) and indeed entire stakeholders in Akwa Ibom State, who are obviously unhappy with worsening standard of our education to act now. We should all be concerned about the apparent failure of present education policy and demand for CHANGE. 

This CHANGE is possible  with Umana Okon Umana in power because he has a conviction that the state’s ability to compete in the global economy and to respond to existing and emerging local challenges depends on our education systems’ ability to impart foundation skills, which enable further learning, and to impart transversal skills, which foster development.

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