Three years on the saddle, education sector in Akwa Ibom have suffered a great setback. The present free and compulsory education tends to be a mirage as infrastructure in schools and manpower has become another cog in the wheel of education advancement in the state.
Worst hit are primary and secondary schools, where in many cases, the children are made to either sit on the floor to study, or are left to study in ramshackle structures. And then there is the issue of dearth of teachers.
The state government just released names of 3,000 teachers recruited to teach in primary schools. But no fewer than 10,000 teachers retired from primary schools between 2013 and 2018. Therefore, the number recruited is not commensurate with the demand of teachers in the primary school system. TNN checks reveal that some schools have only three teachers while others have to merge primary one to primary six pupils in one hall for one teacher to manage.
The list of recruited teachers published at the weekend by the state Universal Basic Education showed that the governor's kinsmen were highly favoured by about 1,200 names out of 3,000 released. In a chat with TNN at Eket Local Government Secretariat where that list was published, a certain Okon Okwong from Oron Local Government who paid his way to check his name lamented that “the exercise lacked merit and credibility and prayed God to deliver Akwa Ibom School system from favouritism and ethnic considerations.
Six months after Udom was sworn in as governor of Akwa Ibom, he cancelled the appointment of secondary school teachers recruited by his predecessor, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, accusing him of fovouritism as indigenes of Essien Udim Local Government where his predecessor hail from, dominated the list. Some of the affected teachers sought redress in court while others were subjected to another recruitment test even when they had appointment letters in their hands.
In the last three years, Udom has not been here and there, except to look at the state of infrastructural decay in most schools in the state. However, in his broadcast to mark his third year in office, the governor downplayed the humongous eye-sore that has become the fate of public schools in virtually all parts of the state.
The governor had said that “in the area of education, we have invested huge resources conscious of the fact that we must prepare our children to compete with their counterparts in an increasingly shrinking globalized and highly competitive world. We have continued our: Free and compulsory basic education in public schools; recruitment of 4,761 quality teachers; and provision of safe, and conducive learning environment for our pupils and students.”
The governor exposed himself to public ridicule when he claimed in the address that “Akwa Ibom pupils and students study under the most welcoming of surroundings.” But he added that “plans are underway by the inter-ministerial and direct labour committee to refurbish and refit a few buildings, which are not in an acceptable state. We have taken-over seven community secondary schools and turned them into model and modern schools, equipped with modern amenities; constructed and renovated 400 school blocks and we have undertaken 700 intervention projects. In addition, we have undertaken strategic interventions in tertiary institutions – roads, equipment, academic blocks, etc. We have procured & distributed free text books and other educational materials; paid subventions to public primary & secondary schools; paid over N600 million WAEC fees for our children in public secondary schools annually; upgraded the Akwa Ibom State College of Arts & Science, Nung Ukim, Ikono to a College of Science and Technology, as well as provided significant support for the establishment of the Nigerian Navy School in Oruk Anam and Army School in Etinan.”
If the governor is not aware of the failing state of school buildings everywhere in the state, is he not aware of the decay in Government Technical School, Abak? Or, what is his definition of 'a few', when the same picture is replicated in virtually all parts of the state?
At the technical college, just as it is in those other schools, especially in the rural area, there are no seats in the classrooms, decaying equipment in workshops and dilapidated hostels. The school turns to breeding ground for cultism and other social miscreants in the area. At WASCO, in Ukanafun, many buildings are in a terrible shape. The laboratory has since turned to a home for reptiles.
In other local governments, pupils study under the tree while others roam around, playing as teachers are nowhere to teach them. Last year, the then commissioner of education, Paul Udofia was sacked on issues bothering on education in the state giving way for another commissioner to emerge. This time a seasoned academia and university lecturer, Prof. Victor Bassey Inoka is on the saddle. Many had thought that education would be given the priority it deserves, but nothing has changed except on the payment of WAEC fees for students in secondary schools. Too bad.