Growing up back in the days in my rural community have always hold sweet memories to cherish and appreciate. Of course everyone must have many of such treasured memories during their respective eras. I am however constrained to talk about the general state of education in the 70s since I am trying to relive an experience. Education for every child then was both a right and a privilege for different reasons than what it appears to be presently.
For one, the realization that education remains the bedrock of a every society with the potential to stimulate socio-economic growth made the government of the day to declare free and compulsory education for every child at primary and post primary school levels. Every necessary incentives were provided to entice the children to enroll for schooling. But there was an underlying curious, yet funny caveat. Many parents who desired to take advantage of the free education were stunned to see that their wards and children were denied enrollment at first attempt for the simple reason that they were not “ripe” to acquire Western education. Those considered ripe were largely children between the ages of 7 and above. Children whose ages were in doubt either due to the absence of their birth certificates but appear smarter than their age were made to touch the hem of their neck with their index finger from behind. It was both a simple and interesting physical test to determine the age of each child versus his or her preparedness to enroll for schooling. Those who could pass this interesting physical test are automatically enrolled, while those who fail to convince the screen team of their “ripened age” were asked to come back the next academic season.
I have attempted to highlight the above scenario to underscore the trajectories of educational advances over the years especially in my own time. It could be a lot more interesting prior to the period I highlighted above. But suffice to mention that then could be regarded as one the finest moments when education was taken very seriously by the government and the led. What readily comes to mind was the determination of the government at all levels to encourage parents to register their wards in a school facility for the ultimate gain of a better and beautiful tomorrow for themselves and the society.
In a curious twist of fate, education advances in the 21century began to witness a policy summersault largely occasioned by the ineptitude of the later day political gladiators in the corridors of power. Misapplication and misappropriation of vital funds needed to improve the educational sector became the order of the day so much so that education rights and privileges have been assigned to the wealthy parents in the society and taken away from the reach of the common folks. Today, education is no longer seen as free and compulsory but a measure of one’s determination and sheer efforts to acquire such. Poor parents are made to undergo excruciating pains to rake funds to sponsor their wards in various school facilities. In a bid to revolutionize the education sector, permits were given to private individuals to float educational facilities in order to cater for the teeming population who desire to be educated.
Ironically, this move further helped to highlight government ineptitude in the management of the educational system. Rather than improve the competitive approach which the licensing of the privately owned schools potentially offered the government owned ones, government allowed the private school proprietors to take the shine off it. The result today is that while the private proprietors are better at managing their facilities, government at all levels have failed in this regard. While parents faced with the deplorable conditions of public schools and the dwindled qualities therein, they took quick decisions to withdraw their wards from the public schools to a better managed private schools without minding the cost. But that is as far as their pockets could carry most of them. The less financial endowed parents faced with no option, have continued to make do with whatever the government owned institutions could offer to their wards.
Ironically today, that narrative is also changing for the best especially in Enugu State where the Odoziobodo, Gburu-Gburu is holding forth as the Chief Executive Officer. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has not back pedaled on his campaign promises to reinvent Enugu State in it’s entirety. Education being among the fundamentals has received massive boost under his watch. Governor Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi might not want to beat his massive chest in fulfillment today about the state of education in Enugu State, but suffice it to say that the citizens are enamored by the steady and visible improvement recorded by his administration in the education sector.
I have already commented on Governor Ugwuanyi’s strategy and tactics of engaging skilled technocrats who have equally lived up to their billing in the realization of his noble government agenda for the state in my previous post. Perhaps, what informed this recent analysis has to do with his determination to ensure that all the highlighted efforts of his administration in virtually every sectors of the economy are not just on paper, but ones made real and made to endure. As a capacity leader, he ensures that all his appointees do not just do the work they are appointed to do but would always undertake to carry out oversight functions on the relevant MDAs so as to leave nothing to chance. Whenever he is not up running to supervise, he ensures that the appropriate head of such MDA does.
This was the case when Hon. Ikeje Asogwa, the inimitable Executive Chairman of Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) conscripted a fact finding team to tour randomly about 85 of the 1,034 renovated schools by Ugwuanyi administration in the last 5 years recently. The mission was simple. According to Hon. Asogwa, it was to underscore Gov. Ugwuanyi’s undying passion to restore the glory of Education to Enugu citizens especially in the government owned schools. Hon. Asogwa’s team used the opportunity of the random and unscheduled visits to access the level of usage of the modern teaching facilities and technology provided by the government to aid learning to the pupils and students. Where it was discovered to be grossly under utilized, the authorities of the affected school were queried. Again, it was an opportunity to ascertain the standard of work done by the contractors which handled various segments of the school renovation from the construction of the structures to the supply of various equipments. Where again it was detected that a shoddy job of the construction or supply of materials has been compromised, the Contractors were given matching orders to comply with extant standards. I could recall with nostalgia what obtains in the 70s highlighted above. Government Inspectors of education were made to make unscheduled visits to schools to ascertain the general conditions around government owned schools. The outcomes of such visitations have always been as rewarding as it could be Stimulating. The fear of unscheduled visits by education Inspectors ensured that teachers and their pupils or students sit up regularly both in academics and other extra curricula activities.
We should therefore commend Gov. Ugwuanyi for reinventing this time honored tenets of keeping government owned schools on their toes to stimulate their expected deliverables. May God continue to bless him for Ndi Enugu. For sure, Enugu State is in good hands, because God is involved.
Bibian Anekwe News..added.. The best way to fight poverty is to empower people through access to quality education
© Austin Okechukwu Chijioke.
Public Affairs Commentator.
Member, Media Team Enugu Di n’aka Chukwu movement.