By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
As a background to this piece, it is important to underline that this author would be the very last person to insinuate that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, has not done good things as that would be a lie from the pit of hell.
Aside from demonstrating this fact in my previous opinion articles, commentaries and interventions which favoured or supported policies, actions, inactions and decisions of the Delta State government, I have recently argued that he (the Governor) is eminently qualified to be the nation’s Vice President and would stupendously perform if a such feat is achieved.
However, like every media professional, this piece will continue to support the fundamental needs of the state and the positive purpose of the elected government if such policies by the state actors will not in any way dent or obstruct the people from becoming keen to acquire skills and disciplines of developed nations, it will not support a policy/action based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine its judgments.
A typical example of such an exception is the pictures of the sorry state of Oyoko Primary School, Abavo, Ika South Local Government Area of the state currently in circulation.
The disturbing pictures showed visibly distressed structures, and dilapidated classrooms laced with fallen ceilings, windows and doors. Going by the pictures and accompanying commentaries, it cannot be characterized as an overstatement to describe such a ‘scene’ as deplorable, dehumanizing, troubling, in bad light bracingly in contravention of international best standards and most importantly, a reality that all well-meaning Deltans including our dear Governor should worry about.
Paradoxically, within this period, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to read many commentaries underlining that this is not the time to hold our state government accountable for such an ugly scenario as the responsibility of the primary schools and primary education in the state falls within the preview of the local government authority. To others, the only remedy for this problem is simply to encourage parents to accept fate as across the world, education is neither easy nor cheap to fund.
Without a doubt, Okowa has done appreciably well for the sector. Take, as an illustration, Delta State under Governor Okowa’s first term in office witnessed the renovation/reconstruction/construction of over 5,000 classrooms. He also incubated, nurtured and brought into existence three healthy universities to cater for the academic yearnings of the people of the state.
Evidence also abounds that as a result of the work of the Technical and Vocational Education Board in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in the state, six technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku have been fully rehabilitated, well equipped and fully functional.
Consequently, Delta is the first state in the country to have all of the courses offered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
These efforts notwithstanding, the truth is that the state leadership is bound to face confusion in their minds and may not be able to finish strong as presently envisaged if they allow this present reality at Oyoko and other schools to flourish unaddressed.
For me, I think the Oyoko primary school saga was avoidable if only the government’s attention was drawn to it by those who should know.
Another urgent reason why the state government needs to intervene, reassess this process and address the present injustice is the hidden awareness that the Oyoko experience may be one out of many other numerous sad commentaries in the state. While the Oyoko case exists in the open, many others may in a covert/subtle manner be in that condition. If the Oyoko experience is a challenge, others may be a challenge.
More touchingly, that such a ‘learning environment’ still exists in the state could be considered a sure sign that the state did not learn any lesson from the ghastly experience recorded a few years ago at Okotie Eboh Primary school, Sapele area of the state or may have allowed such experience go with political winds.
Surely, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our schools work and our children are properly educated at the right time. But in this particular case, if the state fails to do the needful, it will again dispatch another sign of a people unmindful of the fact that our children enjoy the right to education as recognized by a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which recognizes a compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, as well as the progressive introduction of free higher education/obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.
Most importantly, not taking action to address the situation will simply mean our youths/nation by extension is faced with a bleak future.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374
Telco Wants Robust Technology-Based Education System in Oyo
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A Nigerian multinational telecommunications company, Globacom, has expressed its readiness to collaborate with the Oyo State government to create robust technology-based education system in the state.
The Regional Head of Public Sector Enterprise for Glo in Southwest, Mr Adewale Adiatu, said the company could provide its e-learning packages and school data packs to the state government for the use of pupils in the state.
“At Globacom, we believe education is key, and we have come to seek collaboration with your board on e-learning and other school starter packs for pupils,” he said when he visited the chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, in Ibadan, the state capital.
“Globacom hopes the Board will utilize the science of learning we offer. We have E-learning packages and School data packs, where every pupil could attend classes remotely,” he added.
In his remarks, Mr Adeniran hinted that the Oyo State government places premium importance on expanding its education sector and increasing pupils’ access to quality education.
“In Oyo State, we recognise the need to expand our education sector through the contribution of the private sector. We are ready to work with you on encouraging learning in Oyo State, bearing in mind that our government is known for providing quality basic education. The Board will gladly partner with you or any other private organizations to increase our children’s access to education,” he said.
Mr Adeniran said the board was open to limitless opportunities driven by technology for the benefit of pupils and students in Oyo State, adding that the Board has ensured the provision of quality education at no cost to pupils in the State.
“However, we are still exploring more means to reach out to our children.
“We know the importance of expanding education and increasing access to basic education for our pupils. Therefore, we are open to innovative and creative ideas that will expand our Basic Education sector,” he concluded.
Court Orders ASUU to Call Off Seven-Month Strike
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Industrial Court (NIC) has ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its ongoing strike.
Delivering a ruling on the interlocutory injunction filed by the federal government on Wednesday, Justice Polycarp Hamman restrained ASUU from continuing with the industrial action pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Hamman, who is a vacation judge, ordered that the case filed should be returned to the president of the industrial court for reassignment to another judge.
The judge further held that the industrial action was detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.
He said the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.
Justice Hamman also upheld the application of the federal government, saying it was meritorious and granted.
The court, therefore, restrained “ASUU, whether by themselves, members, agents, privies or howsoever called, from taking further steps and doing any act in continuance of the strike action pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed.”
The judge also refused to sanction the federal government as demanded by ASUU.
This order comes a few hours after the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened not to allow any political campaign hold across the country till students of public universities return to classrooms.
ASUU has been on strike for the last seven months, precisely since February 14, to protest poor funding of education by the federal government, as well as demand for improved welfare conditions among others.
After several failed attempts to get the striking lecturers back to work while negotiations continue, the government opted for the current court action and prayed the court to compel ASUU to end the near seven-month-old strike in the interest of the nation and the Nigerian students who are suffering the most from the strike.
ASUU Strike: Reps Invite Finance Minister, Others for Clarification on UTAS/IPPIS Controversy
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has been invited by the House of Representatives along with other agencies of the federal government to clarify the disagreement over the use of a payment platform for university lecturers in the country.
The government had said it would pay the salaries of the teachers via the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) but members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) want the Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), arguing that the platform captures the peculiarity of the university system.
The lecturers have been on strike over this issue and others since February 14, 2022. On Tuesday, the leadership of the House of Representatives, led by its Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, had a meeting with the leaders of ASUU led by Professor Emmanuel Osodeke to iron out some issues to resolve the matter.
Mr Gbajabiamila, while addressing journalists after a 4-hour meeting with the leadership of ASUU and the officials of the Ministry of Education led by the Minister of State for Education, Mr Goodluck Opiah, at the National Assembly in Abuja, noted that the Finance Minister is expected to brief the legislature on the issue of the deployment of the payment platform.
He said Mrs Ahmed would be required to appear on Thursday alongside the Accountant General of the Federation, the Auditor General of the Federation, the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Chairman of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission.
The Speaker said after the meeting on Thursday, the House would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on his return from the 77th session of the United National General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to present the agreement reached with the striking workers.
Mr Gbajabiamila described the meeting on Tuesday as encouraging because some resolutions were reached.
The Speaker said as an independent arm of government, the meeting with the leadership of ASUU was meant to find a solution to the lingering labour dispute and the seven areas of their demands with the hope of resolving them, so the striking lecturers to go back to school.
According to him, the meeting enabled the House leadership to present the agreed demands to the President with the hope that the matter would be speedily brought to an end.
While thanking the labour leaders, Mr Gbajabiamila also expressed his conviction that the labour leaders would go back to their members and convince them of the need to buy into the solution with the House leadership to avoid undue delay in the resolution of the issue.
On his part, Prof. Osodeke thanked the Speaker and the leadership of the House for calling the meeting, which he said he hoped an amicable resolution would be reached after the lawmakers meet Mr Buhari later.
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