By Otobong Sampson
There are two educations in the assertion of John Adams; one should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live. Many are conscious of education as an instrument for self dependency, social reconstruction as well as economic development. The rising demand for education and the resultant expansion in enrolments have quite serious impact on the future development of education in indigent countries. It has been observed or postulated that poor countries would become rich only if they invested heavily in education.
In a wide sense, education is seen as a process by which an individual acquires both the physical and social capabilities demanded by the society in which he/she is born to function. In an idealistic sense, education is an ultimate value and therefore, through the provision of social service, it becomes a stimulant of change. It is to a society exactly what mind is to the body, just as a virus infested mind is manacled in the coordination and direction of the bodily activities. It is true that the single most important complex of social-control tools for national development is found in the educational system whether formal or informal. For example, in ancient Greece, the cradle of western scholarship, education was a highly functional searchlight beamed on society. It went beyond reading and writing. From the Renaissance Age in Medieval Europe to the Industrial Revolution which kicked off at about 1760, it is education in all its forms that triggered the magnificent changes and breath-taking developments.
In a recent conversation with Elder Aniekan Akpan, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Education, the former lawmaker stated that education within the last ten months has witnessed great improvement under the leadership of Governor Emmanuel. “His Excellency has ensured that there is an enabling environment in the state to motivate teachers and spur students for optimal performance and to also attract investors”. As a former Head-Teacher in a rural school who has seen it all, perhaps nobody else could view the conditions better. However, this shared optimism should be expressed cautiously so that recorded gains are not buried beneath the sepulcher of over excitement.
Explaining the course of the free education policy in the face of dwindling federal allocations, Akpan said the governor remains committed to sustaining the policy and that subvention remains at one hundred naira per pupil and three hundred naira per student. This according to him, has been paid for the 1st term 2015/2016 year to all school heads in public schools at a total sum of N235 million. Prompt payment of salaries of teachers and promotion, donation of laptops and funds for internet connection for pupils/students/schools, sponsorship of indigenes for specialized courses overseas, payment of WAEC and NABTEB fees for students in all public schools in the state, training of principals and teachers by Ministry of Education and NERDC on the use of new curriculum are a few of the strides recorded in the sector in the last ten months.
The commissioner made spirited efforts to explain the situation in Akwa Ibom State University as regards the red-hot issue of accumulated staff salaries. “For stability in AKSU, Government approved an upward review of the monthly subvention and also approved payment of salary for the 279 staff recruited in 2013”. The government, he further stated, “through various arms such as SUBEB Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour, have constructed and renovated our schools and have also enjoyed tremendous support in this direction from agencies like NDDC, MPP6, and ETF…We have also provided computers and other instructional materials to selected Adult Education Centres in the state through the support of UNICEF. Government welcomes all forms of partnership in the education sector.”
As an initiative, there have been strategic and rewarding collaborations between the ministry and several brands such as Samsung, DSTV, as well as Leap Africa. FEYREP, Rotary International, Lions Club and other such organizations have contributed hugely to the needs of special education centres. For those who know a fraction of Commissioner Akpan, the visible gains made so far under his stewardship is not surprising. “There are weeks Mr. Commissioner creeps into the office on Saturdays and Sundays to work. He is all work and can never be caught idle for a minute,” squealed a staff of the ministry.
With an ever dynamic world that turns its wheel at the speed of seconds, there is no reason to doubt that projected jobs even before 2020 will require educated heads and hands. Hence, there should be more conscious effort in raising more learned citizenry and building an educated workforce with the necessary training to meet the demand. The state should not only encourage education, it should expand it. Everyone should be faced with the opportunity to individually nurture their own exceptional innate abilities and unlock their creativity. Whichever way we look at it, education is critical to our future societal development.
Sampson is Head, Media Department of Success Squad.