By Julius Oweh
Last year, during the commissioning of a multi-million, ultra-modern library complex built by the Okowa administration in the very heart of Asaba, the senate deputy president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu harped on the importance of education and the various educational strides of the Delta State government. An elated Ekweremadu argued that education was the solution to the various challenges plaguing the nation. The deputy senate president shared his sentiments on education : ‘The challenges we have today as a nation, such as armed robbery, kidnapping and other vices can be pushed away through education and I want to appeal to Nigerians to embrace education. You (Governor Okowa) have empowered your people today by completing this library complex, you are leading by example. Modern Nigeria where no one is oppressed. I want to thank you for making it possible for me to witness your accomplishments, we are happy to be associated with you, you have done so much for your people.‘
The governor at the occasion briefly mentioned the imperative of sound education and harped on the liberating factor of education. He said thus : ‘It is not enough to have an edifice, it is very important for our people to imbibe reading culture because, an educated people cannot be enslaved.‘ It would be recalled that on assumption of office, the government hosted an education summit as a way of charting progressive path in the educational forte. Other key achievements are promoting technical and vocational education as distinct from the regular education, revamped the six technical colleges in the state with accreditation for forty-five courses, upgrading of the eight existing vocational the skill centres, establishment teachers development Centre to promote technical and conventional skills for quality and effectiveness, rehabilitation of conventional schools including of 3,381 classrooms in three years and the establishment of more schools in the urban areas to decongest existing schools.
A document made available to this reporter by the Ministry of Higher Education revealed that there are many landmark achievements in that sector. A part of the document reads: ‘The Ministry places a great deal of emphasis on successful executions of projects approved for implementation in the budget. Completion of Faculty of Law – at DELSU, Oleh Campus which His Excellency has commissioned. Completion of the Health Clinic at DELSU, Anwai Campus. Construction of Lecture Theatre at the Faculty of Engineering, DELSU Oleh Campus; Construction of Senate/Administration Building, DELSU, Abraka; Construction of Health Clinic at DELSU, Oleh Campus; Construction of External works at the Faculty of Engineering, DELSU, Oleh Campus; Construction of Workshop/Laboratory (A) at the Faculty of Engineering, DELSU, Oleh Campus;
Construction of Workshop/Laboratory (B) at the Faculty of Engineering, DELSU, Oleh Campus; Construction of Workshop/Laboratory (C) at the Faculty of Engineering, DELSU, Oleh Campus; Construction of Faculty of Science Building, DELSU, Abraka; Construction of standard Library Complex at Asaba; Construction of standard Library Complex at Sapele.‘
In a recent interview, the Commissioner for Higher Education, Engineer Jude Sinebe maintained that apart from building structures in the state own tertiary institutions, there was deliberate effort on the part of the government to encourage Deltans to acquire higher education through the scholarship scheme. He explained the workings of the scholarship scheme: ‘ ‘The board currently offers over 7 windows of opportunities for students to access the state government financial support services. Some of the achievements of the board are : payment of 2013/2014 Student Special Assistance Scheme to regular students (12,447 students paid), payment of 2015/2016 Student Special Assistance Scheme to regular students (10,871 students paid), payment of 289 children of deceased civil servants of 107 families in 2017 under the Physically Challenged Students and Children of Deceased Civil Servants Scheme and payment of second trench of 2011 Ph.D. beneficiaries (50 persons) in 2015 Local Scholarship Scheme.‘
The commissioner also said that attention is paid to the private universities in the state and this informed the unique stance of the government to extend financial assistance to the universities. The beneficiaries are Novena University, Ogume, Western Delta University, Oghara, E. K Clark University and Michael and Cecelia Ibru University.
Honourable Chiedu Ebie, the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education said that the Okowa administration achievements are in the forte of repositioning of technical and vocational education, the universal basic education, the infrastructural upgrade in some secondary schools, the implementation of local language curriculum and historical studies, the teachers‘ professional development centre, the public private partnership and the development of sports and extracurricular activities among others.
Ebie explained the passion of the Okowa administration towards technical and vocational education against the backdrop the products of such schools that can fend for themselves without thinking of government employment. He listed some of the initiatives of the government in that area: ‘Upgrade of the facilities in the six technical colleges in the state with three of them completed and three ongoing. To date over N2.5 billion has been spent on infrastructural development, refurbishing and supply of equipment to the technical colleges. Recently obtained full accreditation of programmes in the six technical colleges by the national Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Teacher’s re-distribution to technical colleges to ensure the availability of subject specialists and review, harmonization and enrichment of the curriculum for the five trade subjects‘.
On the fortunes of the Universal Basic Education, Ebie said : ‘ In furtherance of the above and to ensure we continue to access the UBE funds, the state executive council recently approved the release of N1, 286,343,183.55 counterpart fund to enable us access the 2017 UBEC fund which places it as one of the few states in the country to do so. It further underscores the fact that this administration places education in the forefront of its development strides. It is therefore not surprising that so far, from UBEC grants and state counterpart funds SUBEB has received a total sum of N7,803,726,726.84 which funds have been judiciously utilized in the following areas across basic education institutions : construction and renovation of a total 1,779 classrooms, provision of 36,694 pupils‘ desks and 7,354 teachers‘ furniture, perimeter fencing and corresponding gatehouses of 81 schools, construction of 79 solar powered boreholes, construction of 243 modern toilets and several on-going projects to facilitate teaching and learning‘.
Dr Fred Oghenesivbe, the executive assistant on communications to the governor argued that considering the governor‘s monumental achievements in the last three years, he deserves a second term:. That after viewing the various achievements of his principal in education and other sectors, Oghenesivbe returned this verdict :‘Our governor and boss is a deep thinker, meticulous leader blessed with uncommon intelligent; a good mixer and strategic team player who would go extra miles any day to advance the course of the State affairs and well-being of Deltans. He cut down the cost of governance to the barest minimum and virtually ignored luxury and glamour associated with public office and enjoyed in time past by senior government officials and high breed political appointees, all in an effort to save funds in a recessed economy to pay state workers‘ salaries regularly. The governor embarked on roads and other infrastructure development, created job and wealth for thousands of Youth who today are raising entrepreneurs, employers of labour and breadwinners under the Youth Agriculture and Skills Training Entrepreneurship Programmes (YAGEP and STEP). I couldn’t have serve Delta State and the governor at a better time and it behooves on me to consistently thank God and Governor Okowa for this rare privilege to be part of good governance success story which Deltans are celebrating today; the 3rd anniversary of the Okowa administration smart agenda.‘