Posted by James Eze | 20 October 2015 | 4,435 times
In his back-page column for Thisday on Thursday last week, which he devoted to the Multina Teacher of the Year Awards, ace columnist, Segun Adeniyi made a striking observation. Surprised by the outstanding performance of teachers who represented Anambra State in the contest, Adeniyi observed – “There is something that the Anambra State Education authorities must be doing right not only because it is the state where many of the teachers scored above average. Perhaps that accounts for why candidates from the state continue to come tops in WAEC examinations every year.”
Adeniyi is not alone in his bewilderment. Many Nigerians are curious about Anambra’srecent string of sparkling performances in education. Mrs. Rose Nkemdilim Obi who teaches Mathematics in an all-girls college in Onitsha defeated her fellow teachers from nineteen other states of the federation to win this year’s edition of MultinaTeacher of the Year Awards. Giving a rare insight into the brightness of her mind, Mrs Obi, a passionate teacher told the panel of five prominent academics and a columnist that decided the contest that “Teaching is a noble profession. It is a calling. It is a commitment to building the nation.” Nothing could have captured the weight of the true importance of teachers to society better than that. The six judges, made up of Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Mopelola Omeogun of University of Lagos, Prof. Thomas Ofuya, Vice Chancellor of Wellspring University, Benin, Prof. Tijani Abubakar of ABU, Zaria, Dr Mrs Fatima Binta Abdulrahman and Segun Adeniyi of Thisday, were thoroughly impressed by Mrs Obi’s overall brilliance in the contest and were unanimous in the decision to give her the award.
Interestingly, two days after Nkemdilim Obi’s emergence as the Best Teacher in Nigeria, Team Anambra also emerged winners of the national Pre-basic Debate Competition held in Abeokuta, Ogun State to mark Nigeria’s 55th Independence Anniversary. Interestingly too, Anambra had won the same contest last year and subsequently flew the Nigerian flag in Singapore in June this year at the World Schools Debate Championship. The team was made up of Adachukwu Onyekwena from Girls Secondary School, Amaenyi, Awka, NnamdiUdoji from Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, Chinemerem Oguaba from Awada Secondary School, Obosi, Chukwuebuka Obichi from Army Day Secondary School, Onitsha and Nneka Chigozie from Mater Ammabillis Secondary School, Umoji; all public schools located in different parts of the state. The consistency that Anambra State has achieved in this credible contest of intellectual promise is re-assuring.
Anambra has also shown same striking promise in external examinations, coming first in WAEC and NECO examinations for three consecutive years. The fascinating thing about the rise of Anambra is that the young students who have brought repeated honours to the state in national and international debate championships were all drawn from public schools.
Well, for Adeniyi and other interested Nigerians who are wondering where Anambra’s performance is coming from, wonder no more. The answer is simple. Anambra State prides itself as the Light of the Nation. In figurative and literal sense, Anambra cannot be said to be anything less. Not after giving the world the great Zik of Africa, EmekaOjukwu, Chinua Achebe, Chike Obi, Chimamanda Adichie, Emeka Anyaoku, Christopher and his brother Pius Okigbo, Prof. Samuel Okoye, Dora Akunyili, Chukwuma Soludo, Chuka Umunna, James Adichie, Ben Enweonwu and a whole universe of amazing scholars, pioneers and achievers. So, there seems to be a genetic pool where the young saplings that are astonishing the world actually came from. But even so, the recent renaissance has more to do with administrative foresight than any inherent ability.
The fact is, since he took the oath of office in March last year, Governor Willie Obiano has shown that under him, Anambra would not play second fiddle to anyone in education. He has made tough decisions, pushed hard-hitting reforms and demonstrated a thirst for excellence never seen before and today, the results are trickling in. It must be noted however, that he inherited good fundamentals in education. His predecessor, governor Peter Obi had returned mission schools to churches and made bold efforts to refocus the attention of the people on education. But Obiano has shown a more organised and structured approach that guarantees sustainability and instant results in the sector.
Obiano’s strategic approach to education is anchored on the crucial vision of becoming one of the Top-3 States with the highest literacy rates in Nigeria. Essentially, Obiano approaches education in three broad areas – infrastructural development, pupils/students development, and teachers’ welfare. In Infrastructure, his administration has renovated 862 units of 10-classroom blocks across the 21 Local Government Areas in the state and disbursed the sum of N733 million to the missions for the renovation of the schools the churches took over from the state. In Pupils/Students Welfare, his administration has kept faith with its “No-Child-Left-Behind” policy in education; awarding free education to all physically challenged children in the state. The governor took it a bit further when he awarded scholarships to the children of Boko Haram victims and other children who lost their parents while on active duty for the state. In all, the state has awarded scholarships of over N30 million in eighteen months.
Under Teachers’ Welfare, governor Obiano set precedence in Anambra State when he sent 23 teachers to Singapore to undergo training in technical and vocational education in April this year. The governor also increased the salary of teachers by 15 percent and offered incentives of 20 percent of their basic salaries to teachers deployed to hard-to-reach areas. This has greatly reduced the attrition of teachers in the areas. Similarly, teachers who teach core subjects like English, Mathematics and Sciences have been placed on a monthly incentive to encourage them. The administration has continued to invest heavily in education. It demonstrated a measure of vision in implementing a revolutionary policy that would leapfrog Anambra State into the new and dynamic digital age with the launch of One-Teacher-One-Laptop Scheme. This scheme will wipe out the absurdity of teaching computer on a chalkboard that formed Segun Adeniyi’s column which inspired this article. And just the other day, the governor sought to open more access to education for children in the riverine parts of the state when he launched 25 speedboats to mark the commencement of modern marine transportation in the state. With this scheme, pupils in riverine areas can attend classes in great schools that dot the mainland.
In conclusion, Adeniyi’s perplexity as to what Anambra is doing to get impressive results in education has an easy answer…Obiano is getting it right with his policies. The strategic three-pronged approach to education, the incentives to teachers, the heavy investments, the overseas training and the revolutionary policies nailed it fast. Thankfully, the attentive world is beginning to show appreciation. Two weeks ago, the Association of Primary School Head-teachers of Nigeria (APSHON) named Governor Obiano the Most Primary School-friendly Governor of 2015. And we hardly need a crystal ball to see that this is just the beginning.
•James Eze (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Senior Special Assistant o Media and Publicity to Governor Obiano. Photo shows the governor bonding with Anambra school children.
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