Under Governor Obiano’s superintendence, the state has consistently maintained a leading position in examinations conducted by WAEC and NECO.
In the last week of August this year (2018), Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State presented N1 million cheque each to Adaeze Onuigbo, Vivian Okoye, Promise Nnalue, Nwabuaku Ossai, Jessica Osita and Miracle Igbokwe. He also announced scholarship awards for them up to their first degrees in the university.
These are the six students of a school run by the Catholic Church, Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) Secondary School, Onitsha (the commercial nerve centre of the state) who made Anambra State and the nation proud by winning a Gold Medal in the World Technovation competition held lately at the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, United States.
A gadget for the detection of fake drugs, ‘FD Detector’, was the technological innovation the Nigerian girls used to edge out their opponents in the contest. The governor, in addition, presented N2 million reward each to the principal of the school, Rev. Fr. Vincent Ezeaka; and Mrs. Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, the girls’ team leader, coach, mentor and founder of ‘edufuntechnik.com’.
The girls cruised to the finals of the competition after emerging tops in Africa. At the global level, they competed with their counterparts from Spain, USA, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and China, among others. More than 19,000 girls from 115 countries participated in the competition; while over 2000 apps were submitted. But the Anambra girls left them all in the dust. Indeed, the gold medal was keenly contested.
Nonetheless, the coveted gold trophy brought home by the girls is not the only award Anambra education sector attracted in recent times. Under Governor Obiano’s superintendence, the state has consistently maintained a leading position in examinations conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO).
In 2015, for example, Anambra students clinched the 3rd position at the World Schools Debate Championship held in Singapore. The debate team defeated its opponents drawn from the renowned, 80-year-old Katung Secondary School in Singapore.
As at 2017, they remained champions in the National Pre-basic Debate Competition. The same year (2015), a teacher from the state, Rose Nkemdilim Obi, won that year’s National Teacher of the Year Award, among others.
Many states in the country truly desirous of human capital development may envy Anambra or wish they are in the shoes of the state in these educational breakthroughs. It is, however, one thing to have a tall dream, and yet another to take requisite steps that can lead to its accomplishment. The gold medal the girls brought to Nigeria simply buttresses the fact that with good leadership and investment in the right direction, Nigeria would probably not have remained the laggard it has been in the world index of development, prosperity and the good life.
The awards and accolades are pointed evidence that education is receiving an impressive attention under Governor Obiano’s government. Prof. Kate Omenugha, the state Commissioner for Basic Education, said as much when she declared while Obiano was hosting the girls that the huge investments of the state government in human capital development in the education sector had made Anambra students become more emboldened and better poised to compete with their contemporaries globally.
For Anambra, it has, with all candour, been a silent revolution in the field of education anchored on improving education infrastructure, teachers’ welfare, as well as students’ well-being. In 2015 alone, for instance, barely one year plus into Obiano’s first term in office as governor, over 1000 classroom blocks were renovated in the state. This was aside other investments in the field of education, including the welfare of teachers and students.
The government did not loosen its grip on education in 2016, having embarked on massive renovation and rehabilitation programmes in 80 schools across the 21 Local Government Areas in the state. The state invested in 60 state-of-the-art science laboratories in secondary schools across Anambra to facilitate studies in the sciences and constructed over 720 classroom blocks in government-owned primary schools across all 21 LGs.
The government sustained the provision of incentives to teachers of the core subjects of Mathematics, Sciences and Igbo Language; and teachers that reside in hard-to-reach areas received 20% of their basic salaries as incentives. Similar incentives were also extended to teachers handling government-owned schools for the physically challenged in the state.
On assumption of office, none of the 11 technical colleges in the state had any sort of accreditation. But by 2016, the government pressed for and successfully secured National Board for Technical Education’s (NBTE’s) accreditation in nine key subjects in three of the state’s 11 Government Technical Colleges (GTCs) located at Umueri, Nkpor and Umuchu, respectively.
The government voted N3.48 billion for the education sector in 2017 to support the improvement of the welfare of teachers and students, as well as educational infrastructure. It continued to build on its record of the previous years to incentivise and deploy teachers to rural/hard-to-reach areas, finalised the retooling of Special Education Centres as well as provided grants and scholarships to exceptional students.
At the time Obiano hosted the Regina Pacis award-winning students late August, the governor disclosed that his administration had renovated and gotten accreditation for all the 11 technical schools in the state, and gave assurances that learning in the colleges would remain tuition-free to encourage youths enroll in skills’ acquisition.
Besides, the government had embarked on perimeter fencing of all public schools, beginning with girls’ schools to ensure adequate security. Speed boats and eight ambulances had been procured in river-line areas, with additional emoluments for teachers serving in those axis. Gov. Obiano said: “We must encourage those teachers in the hard-to-reach areas by providing them the necessary facilities they needed. We have built 80 room blocks in seven communities for those teachers; and the rent is free. We are working hard to encourage girl-child education in Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West and Ogbaru. To achieve this, we are building migrant schools in those areas, giving incentives to encourage their girls to go to school.”
The governor warned teachers against expelling students for non-purchase of textbooks, and announced his government’s ban on the collection of levies and other illegal extortions in schools. He also pledged that government would continue to record excellence in education. Even in the 2018 fiscal year, the Anambra government remained consistent in tackling challenges in the state’s education sector through its commitment to improving education infrastructure and the welfare of teachers and students alike.
In one of his public outings before Anambra indigenes in Abuja on July 22, 2016, Obiano said the mission of his government was to make his home state socially stable and create a business-friendly environment where both indigenes and foreigners can seek wealth-creating opportunities.
He said: “My administration truly wants to build a strong and prosperous state, not from the riches that lie underneath the soil, but essentially from the infinite possibilities that lie between our ears. It is clear that we want to challenge our people’s famous enterprising spirit by creating conducive environment that would enable their diverse talents find expression on home soil.”
Egbuna, a development analyst, writes from Nnewi, Anambra State