Thursday, 28 May 2015

Education: The ‘Akwa’ Akpabio story

Education: The ‘Akwa’ Akpabio story

As President Goodluck Jonathan would often say, “You measure a  government’s achievement by comparing what was on ground when it came in, with what is on ground as it leaves,” it is but fair enough to make an attempt on this premise to examine Governor Godswill Akpabio’s scorecard in the sphere of education in Akwa Ibom State since 2007, as it may be viewed in many perspectives. 

The story of education in Akwa Ibom is one that beats the imagination of even optimists, who wouldn’t envisage a sharp turn and historic watershed as soon as one year into the administration of the third civilian governor of the state. In one word, the story of the miraculous leap in the education sector of Akwa Ibom in eight years from 2007, can best be described in the Ibibio word as “Akwa” which would signify mighty or great.

Going by President Jonathan’s theory of leadership assessment, one may deem it fit to consider the nature of education in Akwa Ibom State before the era of ‘uncommon transformation’ which has come to be trend of witting the history of the state. Since the creation of the state in 1987, there were a lot of negative and degrading attributes ascribed to the people of this part. For instance, it became almost a birth right of slavery as one out of every four gatemen or domestic servants in Lagos would definitely be an Akwa Ibom indigene. It was as bad as the Nigerian movie industry always producing movies with that would make the gate men, domestic servants and street hawkers to answer ‘Ekatte’ or ‘Okon,’ a glaring re-enactment of the position of the Akwa Ibom person in the Nigerian society. 

Again, before the era of ‘uncommon transformation,’ an average of about three out of every five families in Akwa Ibom were unable to afford secondary school education for their wards, a challenge that contributed to a huge collapse of the human development in the state. Similarly, the state of infrastructure in schools across the state was everything short of pride and academic excellence. It could be remembered that many primary and secondary schools in the state that were established by missionaries suffered an extreme state of abandonment following the inability of the owners (churches) to fend for the needs of these schools. Leaking roofs, unavailability of classroom seats, lack of teaching aids among others thwarted every effort to teach and learn in a conducive environment. Consequently, some school administrators took advantage of that to charge students exorbitantly even the ones who could barely afford exercise books. Simply put, there was a serious crisis in the education sector in Akwa Ibom State.

However, in the midst of these, a light illuminated at the end of the tunnel. Where one would expect that the Godswill Akpabio led administration would barely make a difference in education, he shocked many with a very drastic policy that changed the story of not just Akwa Ibom children, but every Nigerian child residing in Akwa Ibom. In 2008, the free and compulsory education policy that was introduced marked the most significant move against mass illiteracy rate in Akwa Ibom State. Not only as a matter of policy, but one the most properly followed up state government plan. From where the state was in years past, it was not of fashion to see primary and secondary schools including those in the rural areas with nice edifices, beautiful landscaping, long span roofing and generally very comfortable environment for learning. It was not of fashion that going school to would be totally free from primary to secondary, including the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. One good thing about this policy is the payment of one hundred naira per child in primary school every term to the respective headmasters and three hundred naira per student in secondary school to the respective principals in place of tuition and other charges.  Seven years down the line, the illiteracy rate in Akwa Ibom State has significantly dropped with a multiple increase in the admission rate in government owned primary and secondary schools.

Furthermore, education under Governor Akpabio has brought out the best in Akwa Ibom children; it has made them aspire higher than being domestic servants; it has made the state to become an envy in the committee of sates of the federation. Miraculously, what education has done in Akwa Ibom State for the past seven years, has more positive effects than the many years of decadence in the sector. By free and compulsory qualitative education, the state has to a very large extent contributed to the basic education target of the Millennium Development Goals which expires this year,a feat that many states combined, cannot achieve. As the Akpabio administration ends, it will be on record that in the era of uncommon transformation, the hopes of Akwa Ibom children and Nigerians residing in the state came alive; it will be on record that the story education in Akwa Ibom between 2008 and 2015 was an Akpabio story; such of greatness, redemption and massive uplifting of pride of an Akwa Ibom child.

In the end, despite the political missiles shut toward Governor Akpabio, despite some views that he hasn’t done enough and despite the stones hurled at him, no one can deny posterity the place it has kept for him for doing what has never been done. Consequently, it is incumbent upon on the incoming government to keep the dream alive and perform even better than Akpabio. For real, Akwa Ibom State have reached a point of no return. A point where anything less cannot be taken, where lower literacy rate is unacceptable and poor quality of education is a taboo.

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