It was Gaun Zhong (720-645BCE) a great visionary politician in the Spring Autunm era of China, who once said that the best investment for one year is to grow grains; the best investment for ten years is to grow trees; the best investment for a lifetime is to educate people. “What you gain from one year’s growth will be grains; what you gain from ten years’ growth will be trees, what you gain from a hundred years’ growth will be people.”
The above dictum is an axiomatic fact. It is the way forward for any nation or society that aspires for greatness in any sector. China of today is a typical example of what age-long investments in education and technology could achieve. While it takes time and huge resources to educate people and turn them into productive members of the society, such is not an easy task like growing crops or trees, whose benefits could be seen or enjoyed in one or ten years interval. Education is indeed a worthwhile venture that the society and government must invest in adequately for posterity and rapid development.
Not unmindful of these above assertions and its importance in building a better and modern society of note is the Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who is incidentally a product of public school. This, his administration has sincerely and committedly demonstrated by investing hugely in education sector since coming into office in 2015 and saw the worrisome rot in human and material resources in the education sector, especially in the rural areas, where majority of the people resides and attends schools.
Just few years on, the positive gains and effects of the administration’s efforts in the education sector has started to manifest gradually. One of the most recent of it is the Federal Government’s award of Excellence to the Model Secondary School, Nsukka, Enugu State as the winner of the 2019 President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award.
The prestigious award, which was conferred on the school on October 5, 2019 at well-attended ceremony at Eagle Square, Abuja, was sequel to the general assessment of infrastructure, E-library, quality teaching and learning in public secondary schools in Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Education. This award was indeed a fallout of the various education interventions by Ugwuanyi administration that ensured the total overhaul of all classroom blocks, construction of dormitories and dinning hall with the state of art facilities at Model Secondary School, Nsukka.
In appreciation, reward and recognition of this outstanding feat by the management and students of the Model Secondary School, Nsukka, the Enugu State Executive Council at its recent exco meeting assessed the performance of the school, which is a thing of pride, honour and joy to the state, and approved the institution of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s Award Of Excellence to the best primary and secondary school in the state.
According to the Enugu State Commissioner for Information, Nnanyelugo Chidi Aroh, the award will be held annually and winners of the secondary school category, across the three senatorial districts in the state, for every year will each receive a brand new bus from the state government.
The Commissioner further disclosed that the Council approved the immediate purchase of a brand new bus for the Model Secondary School, Nsukka, in recognition of their sterling performance and immediate promotion of the principal of the school, Mr. Obi Ezeugwuorie to Principal Special Grade Leve 17 for providing the required leadership and making the state proud.
Also of note is that in the last five years of Ugwuanyi administration, Enugu State has been consistent on top 10 position in the national examinations conducted by WAEC and NECO. A National Bureau of Statistics survey revealed that Enugu students have for five consecutive years been among the top 10 in JAMB admission leading to the award of Engineering Degrees.
In the same vein, the 22 Enugu State post secondary students who were offered scholarship to study different courses at Mewar University, India by the Enugu State government have since commenced their progammes in the university, after paying a Thank-You visit to Governor Ugwuanyi in Government House Enugu, alongside the officials of State Ministry of Education and others ahead of their departure to India.
It would be also recalled that in continuation of his administration’s undying quest for basic foundation and quality education in the state, which remains a catalyst for rapid development, especially in a civil servant-dominated state like Enugu, Ugwuanyi had upon his reelection for second term in office continued to invest massively in the sector.
So interesting, encouraging and cheering about this timely interventions in the sector is the fact that the challenges in the state-owned primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are being gradually, adequately and fundamentally addressed.
Not too long ago, Ugwuanyi administration approved and commenced the recruitment of 1500 primary school teachers in the state, with the proviso that applicants must be holders of National Certificate of Education (NCE) or Degree in Education and must be ready to teach anywhere in the state. The recruitment is in additional to more than 400 teachers the administration had employed since coming into office. With conclusion of the recruitment of the primary school teachers, they will soon be posted to their areas of primary assignment to resume duty.
For the fact that the recruitment exercise happened at a time latest data released by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) showed that 22 states, excluding Enugu have not employed new teachers in primary and secondary schools in the last five to ten years. Who knows if Enugu would have been inclusive if not for Ugwuanyi administration’s massive recruitment of teachers since coming into office.
Also surprising about the recruitment was that it came at a time President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the 30,000 minimum wage bill and the quest for its implementation by the labour unions is at the frontburner.
Ordinarily, this calls for concern and worry on how and where will Ugwuanyi’s administration raise more funds to pay the workers, it has been paying promptly every month and 13th month every December, alongside the 1500 newly recruited primary school teachers. This is considering the fact that Enugu is not an oil producing state and is almost last in the states’ cadre in the monthly federation allocation sharing. But it seems obvious that the governor in his usual sacrificial, altruistic and humane disposition, maybe ready to bend backward in this regard, provided the state gets the needed basic foundation for future educational excellence and breakthroughs.
Also approved and released by Ugwuanyi’s administration alongside the teacher’s recruitment was the sum of N252,456,917.67 for the Institute of Management and Technology ( IMT) Enugu to pursue the reaccreditation of its courses, whose prior accreditation had expired.
IMT is one of the state’s owned tertiary institutions that had benefitted immensely from Ugwuanyi administration’s interventions in education sector in the state. With the support of Ugwuanyi’s government, IMT Enugu had since commenced degree awarding programmes in Banking and Finance, Business Administration, Accountancy, Statistics, Public Administration and Marketing in affiliation with the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). It would also be recalled that in April 2018, the administration of Ugwuanyi approved the release of N810m to the management of IMT for the construction of ultramodern classroom complex, a purpose built and fully furnished office complex, a complex for Exams and Records Division, two buildings that will house modern public toilets for staff and students; and a fully furnished medical centre.
The state government has reconstructed the dilapidated internal roads and drainage channels in the institution, starting from the school gate down to the Rector’s village. It is of note that after IMT’s last convocation ceremony in 2007, the institution was unable to organize another one due to poor funding, human and material challenges bedeviling it.
On assumption of office, Ugwuanyi’s administration took the bull by the horn by addressing the challenges frontally, thereby making it possible for the management of the institution to organize a convocation in December 2018. Also in 2017, Ugwuanyi offered 340 indigent students of IMT and that of Enugu State Polytechnic Iwollo scholarship. The scholarship covered their tuition fees for four years of academic sessions in all engineering programmes of the institutions.
The beneficiaries of the scholarship spread across the 17 council areas in the state, resulting in 20 students per council. The administration has also donated ICT equipment in many secondary schools across the state and had revived the moribund State Scholarship Board, thereby giving students of the state origin studying in different schools across the country to enjoy the scheme. Ugwuanyi also offered scholarship to Miss Chinecherem Cynthia Ali of Shalom Academy, Nsukka to any university of her choice for scoring A1 in all the nine subjects in the 2017 West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) examinations.
Not looking back in this direction, it is of note that immediately after Ugwuanyi was reelected for second term in office, the state executive council in a meeting presided over by the governor gave approval for the award of multiple developmental projects in the state with the education sector taking the lion share. Approved and awarded was the construction and reconstruction of 260 classroom blocks in schools across the three senatorial zones of the state. This was apart from the 589 classroom blocks that have since been constructed and renovated by the administration and are in use across the state now. Others approved by the exco and being executed include the purchase of 22, 150 set of lockers and chairs for students; 1,228 set of tables and chairs for teachers; 1,130 marker boards for teaching and 1,960 ceiling fans for conducive teaching and learning environment and the construction of the administrative blocks for the take-off of the newly established Enugu State University of Education Ihe, Agwu, which is the first university of education in Southeast region at the cost of N162,913,167.90. Ugwuanyi had since performed the foundation laying ceremony of the university and construction works are ongoing rapidly at the site.
No doubt and expectedly, all the gains, impacts and effects of Ugwuanyi administration’s massive interventions and investments in the education sector in the state may not be fully and totally felt immediately. This is because of the backlog of human and infrastructural deficits, his administration inherited in the sector and the fact that investments in education take time to materialize.
That does not mean that there is no visible or tangible effects of the government’s efforts so far, especially in the area of human and material resources as teachers, pupils and students now teach and learn in a better and more conducive environment. Public schools in Enugu have started attracting international attention, winning national awards and recognitions as demonstrated by Modern Secondary School, Nsukka. Teachers in the state are being paid salary regularly and have their promotions and other entitlements at when due. Parents and guardians now see reasons their wards and children should enroll in public schools and institutions in the state, instead of the highly exorbitant private schools that not many people, especially the downtrodden in the rural areas can afford.
*Ezea writes from Independence Layout, Enugu State.
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