By Ubani Newman Ubani(UNU)
QUOTE: “Our people are still using hands to cut leather and mend shoes, and because we’re driving automation, Education became key. Then, we asked; how are we going to retune our Education system so that it can answer to two things – on one leg, to become an enabler to drive Agriculture, Small Scale Manufacturing, Trade & Commerce, and on the other leg; how do we recreate our curriculum so that our education will be targeted towards employment and technical education, who will, afterward, support the maintenance of the machines we have purchased for automated shoes manufacturing, garment making and all of that?
To answer this, technical education became the focus for Abia.
Again, we also asked: how do we leverage Education to drive socioeconomic rules by making sure we are within the World Bank bracket which says “don’t allow your citizens to spend more than 25% of their incomes on school fees”? This is why we keyed to restore and return confidence in public schools. In 2015, we had only 141,000 pupils in schools, but I will tell you that the thing that is ‘remarkable’ about what we have done in three years is that today the enrollment is 611,000 pupils.” – Governor Okezie Ikpeazu
Education has been said to be the bedrock of development in the society, on which a nation stands to build solid foundation.
Being a renowned educationist and academic of long standing and realising the importance of education, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu Ph.D, while encapsulating the pillars of development of his administration, made education both a pillar and an enabler. He sees education as a smooth way of driving the economy, no wonder he is described by his fellow academics as ‘a scholar in governance’.
The educational dream of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is to have public schools that would be the envy of all. Hence, his decision to build model public schools with full complements of teachers’ quarters, security, electricity, pipe borne water and other amenities that make school environment well equipped, serene and inviting. So far, 4 model schools and 300 schools have been built and refurbished across the 3 senatorial zones of Abia State.
The Governor also reduced students’ school fees at the tertiary institutions in the State; ABSU, ABIAPOLY and College of Education Technical, Arochukwu. He has also sustained the subventions of the schools.
On assumption of office he offset about N2 billion loans incurred by Abia Polytechnic (Abiapoly) which was reported to had been the reason the management was incapacitated in paying staff salaries.
Under his watch, Abia State University, UTURU(ABSU) does not owe her staff and has not had any internal strike, rather it has developed, with additional/new edifices erected and more educational breakthroughs. The academic activities has been running smoothly and the Governor has volunteered to lecture in the Biochemistry Department of ABSU.
This scholar in governance introduced the free school feeding programme in the primary school levels. Through the programme, over 5 thousand women has been engaged as food vendors. The food vendors have severally confessed that the programme has enhanced their economic levels
Following the Governor’s special interest and emphasis on technical education, he launched the Education for Employment (E4E) programme that is currently training Abia youths to make them employable and independent to start up their own businesses using the skills acquired in the programme. The Education for Employment(E4E) scheme which he launched in September, 2015 is a scheme that aims at training youths on several skill acquisitions. The programme has already graduated 460 youths who received certificates from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), a board that supervises, regulates and oversees educational programmes offered by technical institutions. As a result of the huge investments made by Governor Ikpeazu in the E4E programme, Abia State has been selected by the World Bank as one of the 6 States in Nigeria to receive a grant to develop Technical and Vocational Education Training. Also because of the E4E programme, the State has attracted funding for youth development through the World Bank assisted Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) project.
It is on record that under Ikpeazu’s watch, Abia State has remained in the lead in most national/international public examinations and has come and maintained 1st position in WAEC for three consecutive years. Abia State University, Uturu students have equally distinguished themselves and taken the lead in the Nigeria Law school.
To encourage excellence in education, the Governor has given scholarships in many intervals to students who performed excellently in national/international examinations.
He has collaborated with the Australian educators to train and retrain the primary school teachers making them capable of competing with their counterparts all over the world. He has encouraged the teachers in so many ways, including donation of cars and motorcycle to some hardworking teachers to enable them easy-up the stress attached to the teaching profession. The Governor has ensured the clearing of accumulated salary arrears of Primary School teachers in the State with the promise to clear that of the secondary education teachers on or before December.
A record breaking data has revealed that owing to Governor Ikpeazu’s highly structured strategic planning process and policies for states to address key challenges confronting the educational sector, school enrolment rate, which hitherto stood at 141,000, has skyrocketed to a whopping number of over 600,000 in just a little over three years he has been in power.
Certainly, Abia people and residents would want to retain a servant leader like Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who they know understands the problems of the common man. In order to continue with this noble project of the Governor, Abia people should close ranks and come together to speak with one voice and ensure the matchless educational policies and aspirations of the Governor is realised. To do achieve this, all is are advised to collect their PVCs and get them ready for the Governor in 2019.