To realise its vision of every child must go to school, the Uduaghan administration adopts a multiple approach ranging from free education to scholarship scheme as well as massive turnaround of education infrastructure
An elderly man who often reminisced over the good old days of St. Patrick’s College, Asaba stopped over at the school along Nnebisi Road recently. After taking a good look at the new imposing structure in the premises of the college, a block of 24 classrooms, which now stands in place of the old and dilapidated ones, he began to lament aloud. His thinking, to the consternation of bystanders, was that the government of Delta State has converted what used to be the pride of Asaba to a hotel. Right away, he was called to order. He never knew it was one of the 14 model secondary schools across the state and part of the massive transformation that is going on in the education sector.
For the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, it was a transformation that became necessary when he took over in 2007 and saw the urgent need to turn the education sector around. In no distant time, he realised that education is the anchor of human capital development, one of the focal points of his three point agenda. Well ahead of time, the governor knew that realising this vision was going to require an enormous amount of work, human resources and capital. Two eminent professors of education were appointed to run the sector, which was split into two ministries; Patrick Muoboghare for basic and secondary education; and Hope Eghagha for higher education.
At the last count, the state had about 465 secondary schools and 1,206 primary schools. It also has about 16,000 teachers in the secondary schools and about 20,000 in the primary schools. It has a university with three campuses, Abraka, the main campus, Oleh and Anwai in Asaba. It has three colleges of education, one in Warri, another in Agbor and then the College of Physical Education, Mosogar. From the existing three Polytechnics, the Uduaghan administration has increased the number to seven. While the old ones are located in Ogwashi-Uku, Otefe and Ozoro, new ones are springing up in Abigborodo, Sapele, Bomadi and Abor. From six technical colleges the government of Delta State is also increasing the number to nine with effect from this year. All of these are aimed at creating access to education. “We also believe in the accreditation of our courses. It was under this administration that our medical school was granted full medical school status,” Eghagha says with a sense of fulfilment.
Uduaghan’s commitment to the transformation of the education sector is rooted in his resolve for total transformation of the state. “Without education,” he says, “there is no way you can have growth in the society. An educated society is easier to convince on a lot of issues.” Schools are being built in the remotest parts of the state. Existing school buildings that no longer meet the needs of modern teaching and learning are being pulled down and new ones are being erected. Conducive classrooms are replacing dehumanising environments under which some school children have been learning and modern equipment are being put in place to aid teaching and learning.
To ensure that every child of school age in Delta State is in school, the Uduaghan administration introduced the Education Marshal, Edu-Marshal, charged with the responsibility of taking children off the streets and putting them in schools. Stella Blaiz, Special Assistant to the Governor on Education and head of the agency says that so far, the programme has achieved about 85 per cent success rate even as the agency contends with what she describes as social background of some of the street children. Parents and guardians who go contrary to the law prohibiting children from being on the streets during school hours run the risk of being prosecuted by the state. The free education programme introduced by the Uduaghan administration is a major factor that has changed the face of education in the state. From primary to secondary level, no child pays school fees, and no child pays for WAEC and NECO.
Today, the governor can conveniently enumerate what his administration has so far achieved in the education sector. “The issue of infrastructure where we have intervened; the issue of teachers where we have done a lot of recruitment and we are still doing more; the issue of even retraining of teachers; the issue of making education accessible to children in terms of funds where we have also done a lot of interventions, ensuring that they do not pay school fees at the primary and secondary levels, and our scholarship scheme for first-class graduates,” he told the magazine. In the last couple of years, no fewer than 5, 000 teachers and 2, 000 non-teaching staff have been recruited to meet the manpower needs of the education sector.
Delta State University ranks among the best in the country in terms of infrastructure, facilities as well as teaching and learning. Its 1,000-seater lecture theatre, digital centre and well equipped laboratories as well as its accomplishments in educational standards among others are some of the things that give Professor Eric Arubayi, Vice Chancellor of the university the confidence to conclude that the institution has taken a very long leap for the better. Similarly, Edna Mogekwu, Rector, Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, says the efforts of the state government have placed the three existing polytechnics in vantage position where they can effectively compete with any other one.
The bursary and scholarship scheme in the state is one of the policies adopted by the Uduaghan administration to encourage more people to go to school, even with ease. Beneficiaries include Law School students, Aviation College students, first-class graduates from different universities, and children of deceased civil servants. This is not only transforming the education system in the state but is also producing graduates that would be used to meet the manpower needs of the state and the country.
Two years ago, the government increased grant to students in Law School from N50, 000 to N100, 000. For overseas scholarship, government gives N3 million to students going for Masters degree anywhere in the world. The same goes for Ph.D. students, for each year of their academic programme. But for the first-class scholarship programme, it is N5 million to start off a master’s programme, then N5 million for each year of a Ph.D. programme, which is N20 million for first-class scholarship. Theodora Ogharanduku, a first-class graduate and lecturer at Delta State University, Abraka, describes her experience of studying abroad on scholarship as a dream come true as many of the beneficiaries wouldn’t have had such an experience in their life time if not for the role of the state government.
All a first-class graduate of Delta State origin needs to do to benefit from this scheme is to apply and government gives the N5 million starter-pack. In 2009 16 students benefited from the scheme; in 2010 there were 36 beneficiaries; in 2011 the number increased to 52; and in 2012, 93 first class graduates benefited from the scheme. For the 2014 batch, the projection is that 184 beneficiaries are expected to emerge.
The bursary and scholarship scheme have been sustained at a huge cost to the state government. It spent N514 million in the 2009/2010 bursary scheme. In 2010/2011 it was N585 million. For 2011/2012, it was N610 million. For 2012/2013, it was about N650 million. For Law students, N52 million was expended in 2010/2011, N88 million in 2011/2012 and N41 million in 2012/2013. For children of deceased civil servants, N15 million was expended in the first year and N17 million in the following year. Then you have N29 million in 2011/2012 and another N29 million in 2012/2013. In Aviation the government spent N96 million in 2011/2012.
For these, Peter Arumanoh, Chairman, Delta State Bursary and Scholarship Board, declare that the Uduaghan administration is education friendly. Figures made available by the board also show that the government spent N54 million in the first year on overseas scholarship, N99 million in the second year and is spending about N147 million this year. For first class N193 million was spent at the initial stage, N269 million in the following year; N476 million in 2011/2012 and N1.05 billion is to be spent this year. It also spent N99 million on local scholarship at the initial stage; and N73 million in each of the succeeding academic years. In Delta State, education has never been so interesting. For the Uduaghan administration, no amount is too much to be expended on education.
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