By Ismaila Yahaya
This week, our focus on Jeff Uzor’s ideal Imo state will be on education. Without any doubt, education is the greatest tool for sustainable development. No wonder then that Nelson Mandela referred to it as “the greatest tool that we can use to change the world”. Am sure when Madiba made that statement, the kind of education he had in mind is the complete kind, the kind that prepares people to face the challenges of this life head on, the kind that hardens their resolve and make them resistant to mental slavery.
Unless we want to delude ourselves, the educational system in Imo currently is at complete disagreement with what ought to be called an educational system. From the elementary to the tertiary stage, there exist a kindof rot that will make Nelson Mandela cringe in his grave. The failure is across the board and unfortunately, only the children of the common man are affected by this malaise. The resultant effect of course is the kind of half-baked graduates that our so-called universitiesare churning out; individuals that have clearly not been prepared to compete with their counterparts from other climes, earning them the unenviable title of ‘unemployable’ graduates.
I contend that, if we are sincere about eradicating poverty in Imo state in particular and indeed Nigeria, then we must first see the need to give our children quality education at all levels before anything else. If not for anything, then for Chanakya’s belief that “education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth”. Nobody knows this better than Jeff Uzor haven gone through the Nigerian educational system and has since beenexposedto the superior education of serious foreign nations. And this is why, a government run by Jeff will not only equip all schools with modern learning materials,it will also adopt the best standards and international best practices. Come with me as I guide you into Jeff’s educational plan…
The first point of action will be to institute GENERAL Education or Education for All initiative (EFA). Under this system, it will be mandatory for any child 16 and under to attend school. A law will be passed with the help of the legislature that will make it a criminal offence punishable by law for any parent who refused to send their children or wards to school. This law also covers maids and other house helps living under their benefactors’ roofs. If children of school age are found that are not attending school and the reason is because they are maids or house helps, the state will take the initiative of reuniting such kids with their parents or available relatives and mandate them to enroll the children in school.
In this new system, teachers will always come first. They will no longer be unsung and constantly ignored heroes, their reward will not wait to be reaped in heaven, it will start from right here on earth. Their everyday sacrifices of moldinggreat minds and future leaders will be handsomely rewarded. Jeff will make sure to hire the best, the most passionate and the most deserving and I assure you, he will make them stay. Jeff will put in place a system that will encourage the teachers to seek self, on-the-job development in addition to the periodic trainingson modern teaching methods that they will be put through by the state while also offering them remuneration that will not compromise their integrity. Other incentives like reward for excellence and the creation of conducive teaching and learning environment will also be brought in by Jeff to help get the best out of both teachers and students. Also, Jeff will guarantee their benefits; give them a path to home ownership and health insurance as he believes this will help keep their focus on the daunting task of child development and school governanceclear.
Elementary School: This is perhaps the most critical stage in education. If the foundational education that children got at this basic level is flawed, chances are that they will be affected by it all through their educational pursuit. I suspect that, many of our half-baked graduates are victims of the failure at this level. Adrive around Imo state will reveal the level of rot that has gripped the education sector and only then, will you understand why Imois failing as a state;why Nigeria is failing as a nation, and the reason why Jeff should be given the chance to do things differently.
It will shock many, especially those not in Nigeria that this most important level in education is almost nonexistent. Jeff Uzor will change that if elected governor. All elementary schools in the state will be upgraded. They will be made to conform to international standards. Practices like writing with chalk on charcoal boards will be completely abolished. This is because, aside the fact that it is an obsolete practice, research has shown that it can be hazardous to health. It irks Jeff to even think that kids should skip school because the classroom block lacks chairs and has no roof. You will also find that Kids are not introduced to science education early enough and it won’t be surprising if an average elementary pupil in Imo state doesnot know how many planets occupy the galaxy as at today. Did I hear you say why? Well, pupils in Imo state like everywhere else in Nigeria are still being educated with models that became extinct years ago. That will change under Jeff.
The secondary school students are not faring any way better. An average Chinese student has an idea what an app is. Why? Because his country thought it necessary to emphasize hands-on education. Put that question through to a student in Imo state and it won’t be surprising if they have no idea what that meant. And this I suspect is the reason why although Nigerians speak better English than India and the Philippines, corporations outsource their answering service to them. Why, because we haven’t gotten our acts together and the moment we do, we will dislodge India and the Philippinesas the go to place. This is what Jeff’s administration will do, bring about a total overhaul that will make Imo kids compete favourably with their counterparts all over the world. Jeff will start by upgrading all secondary schools in the state; employ experts to design a curriculum that will conform to international standards. Jeff’s administration will create variety in education and learning so as to identify and focus on different aspects of talent and intelligence. This will ensure that all studentsare provided with opportunities to develop all aspects of their mind. Skill acquisition will be emphasized; science, technology, engineering and mathematics will be main stream. In Jeff’s ideal Imo, no talent will be left behind, not even the Deaf, Dumb and blind whose education has been neglected by successive governments of the state. Yes, Jeff will give ample attention to special education.
Like the elementary and secondary schools, Tertiary Education in Imo is as pathetic as pathetic can ever be. Higher institutions of learning in Imo state are decked with overcrowded classrooms, unavailability of voice enhancement systems and other instructional resources, laboratories for experiments etc. Jeff will fix all these and more using a combination of new initiatives like creating alternative times for every course and providing more material and human capital as he is poised to reposition tertiary institution in the state. Gone will be the days of students passing exams based on their ability to buy handouts from lecturers. Learning in Imo state owned tertiary institutions will be made to be fun and memorable.
Also, to carry everyone along and make sure they have access to quality education, Jeff will create an educational grant that students of the less privileged can apply for, to fund their education. Ndi Imo do not have to delve into a life of crime to finance their education, all they need do is apply and once verification is done, they can access funds. Let me reiterate that, Jeff believes that Quality education is Ndi Imo’s sure way of ending poverty and he will dedicate a huge part of the state budget and his energy to achieve this. A comprehensive education plan, detailing methods he will adopt, cost and how he intends to finance it will be due for release the moment he officially flags off his campaign.
Join me again next week for another peek into Jeff Uzor’s Ideal Imo state with the focus shifting to another critical aspect of the governance machinery in Imo.