Sunday, 23 March 2014

Delta Schools Renovations: The Good, The Better...The Undone

Mr. Robinson Ariyo, a legal practitioner and coordinator of the Volunteers for the Protection of Itsekiri Rights, said solving structural problems of schools in the state alone without pragmatically and sincerely addressing the massive personnel crisis in the sector amounts to putting the cart before the horse.


A QUIET educational revolution may be taking place in Delta State. The current scenario in the sector becomes pronounced, when one considers the statistics of students in private schools that have returned to public schools across the state between 2013 and 2014.
  These days, the slogan on the lips of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is, “I want to finish strong.” Sounds like a revitalised athlete determined to cover the remaining distance to finishing line in good time, perhaps? 
  When entering Effurun, the gateway to Warri, the number of construction works going on there
is intimidating, especially if one has not visited the oil city for sometime now. The shopping complex, bridge, amusement park and road dualisation projects being undertaken there cannot but be commended by people of good will. 

  Few weeks ago, Uduaghan commissioned six recently upgraded schools in Warri and environ. Among the lot is Alders Special School for the physically challenged, which previously had been neglected despite the peculiar nature of its pupils. Others touched by the on-going wave of rehabilitation are Ikengbuwa Primary School, Nana Primary and Secondary School, Olodi Primary School, Cavegina Primary School and Ekegba Primary School.
  As the Governor inspected the schools to ascertain that work was going on as scheduled and that they are up to standard, his body language was that of relief and accomplishment.
  Accompanied by several government functionaries including commissioners, protocol officers, as well as community leaders and security operatives, the governor couldn’t have been happier to see that this ‘burden’ was being heaved off his shoulders. The Olu of Warri, HRM, Atuwase II and the monarch of Agabrah Kingdom expressed their satisfaction at the exercise and gave their blessings at the inauguration.
  But while the stride in education in the state is being praised, there are others who believe the renovation or upgrading of primary and secondary school buildings across the state is mere cosmetic treatment, which does not surgically remove the real, human capital related problem in the education sector. 
   Mr. Robinson Ariyo, a legal practitioner and coordinator of the Volunteers for the Protection of Itsekiri Rights, said solving structural problems of schools in the state alone without pragmatically and sincerely addressing the massive personnel crisis in the sector amounts to putting the cart before the horse.
  He explained that the education sector is like a computer unit, which needs hardware and software to operate normally. He said what the government is doing is like fixing the hardware problems and ignoring the software issues, that is, the teaching and administrative staff. He opined that what the government would have done was spend modest funds on infrastructure and to use the remainder to improve human capacity.
  There are also complaints by some Delta residents that the upgrade was taking place mainly in schools located in strategic locations in major towns, and that primary schools located deep in several communities were yet to be affected.
  Positive consequences are already being recorded on account of the rehabilitation exercise embarked upon by the state government, as many hitherto neglected primary and secondary schools have metamorphosed into more beautiful and befitting centres of learning. 
  The development has obviously triggered the attention and interest of many parents and the general public. Investigation revealed that between January 2013 and January 2014, about 10,000 pupils, formerly attending private schools, have gone back to state-owned public schools. In Ughelli, for instance, it was gathered that not less than 1, 200 pupils from various private primary and secondary schools have been returned to government schools by appreciative parents captivated by the magnificent look and academic activities in the schools. 
   And over 600 pupils from private schools also recently migrated to Oharisi Primary School, which is state-owned.
  The survey becomes even more interesting, when considering the calibre of parents returning their wards to government school. And there is no limit to the class of parents joining the bandwagon to government schools, as this cuts across board with not only peasant parents with little or no income that are interested, but also individuals of high standing in the society. 
  It is, therefore, not surprising that currently, there is a fierce competition between private and public schools in the state. Indeed, the notion in some quarters is that private schools can no longer match the impressive facilities in government schools. 
  Florence Orerhi, a senior nurse, who recently took her two children from a private school to government-owned Ekigbo Primary School in Ughelli said: “I’m impressed with what the Uduaghan Administration is doing with the schools. If this type of attention had been given government schools in the past, I don’t think there would be any student attending private schools, which are now apprehensive of the on-going development in government schools. Many of them are going out of their way to impress parents with new incentives because they are now losing students.”
 The renovation of Alders Special School, Warri, has particularly elicited excitement from Deltans. And judging by the way Governor Uduaghan interacted with the challenged students on Tuesday February 25, 2014 when the school was commissioned, it was easy to see the school meant a lot to him. Said he: “This school is very dear to me because of the nature of the students schooling here.” 
  The works carried out in the school include the demolition and construction of six classrooms and offices; construction of another block of six classrooms, staff quarters, hostels and kitchen; renovation of six different blocks providing a total of 18 classrooms, as well as two blocks of toilets; flood control/landscaping and provision of walkways, sporting facilities, fence, gatehouse, a borehole and generator.
 There was no missing the Governor’s delight and enthusiasm at the occasion. And he didn’t mince words when explaining why. The good Lord, he said, has used him to bring joy to many children and families by constructing a befitting edifice for the development of the blind, deaf and dumb children, as well as other children with other forms of mental and physical problems.
  “I am happy about this commissioning, as the reconstruction project will help remove many future beggars from the streets. I know many of you here will be heads of both government and private organisations. There is ability in every disability and my administration cannot abandon you as citizens of the state. Many of you were not born in this form. But sometimes, due to accident or bad medication or infection during pregnancy, you end up this way. I am speaking as a medical practitioner. I am very sad that many of you could not hear or see the colour of my suit and my height,” he said.
  Uduaghan did not stop there, he also promised to procure a brand new coaster bus for the school to aid their transportation. He disclosed that his administration has made an employment policy signed into law that five per cent slot of the state employment be reserved for the physically challenged.  
  The renovation of Nana Model College, according to observers, has put the school in a class of its own. With a state of the art two-storey imposing edifice, a new and well-manicured football field, a high-capacity spectators’ stand, the school has become attractive to students and teachers alike.
  Elated teachers and management of the commissioned schools couldn’t hide their joy. Mrs. Iyonsi Ada, head mistress of Alders Special School Centre described the transformation taking place at the school as astounding and commended the governor.
  However, beyond the euphoria that greeted the inauguration, the Governor was concerned about the maintenance of the schools. His fears stem from the fact that many schools renovated eight years ago are now decrepit and badly in need of renovation again. He expressed worries over the future maintenance of the standards with which the schools were built.
 To drive this point home, while interacting with the students, he urged them to always keep the toilets and premises of the schools clean.
  Uduaghan also charged the communities leaders, youths, teachers and pupils to put to good use the school buildings and the facilities provided for the interest of all. He warned that any public school head teacher that lets his/her school premises out for ceremonies, outside of school activities, would be sanctioned appropriately. He directed the State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education to outlaw the use of public schools for social engagements during weekends.
   Mrs. Orezi Esievo, Commissioner for Special Infrastructure, in buttressing the governor’s stance, explained that schools in deplorable conditions were renovated and rehabilitated as part of the governor’s human capital development agenda to provide conducive learning environment.     
  Uduaghan used the event to perfect his plan to turn all single gender schools in the state to mixed ones by September 2014.
  Towards this end, he detailed the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Professor Patrick Muoboghare, to work out the modalities such that from September 2014, new entrants should comprise males and females to entrench balanced behavioural knowledge of both genders.
Culled from The Guardian

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