By Henry Umahi
After stabilizing the system, which was in tatters on assumption of office, Wike did the following:
Inaugurated the Rev. Ukah-led State Universal Education Board and charged the board to mobilize resources to revamp the basic education sector; Released the arrears of the state’s counterpart funds for basic education for the board to access the Federal Government’s grants for the un-accessed years – 2014, 2015 and 2016; Directed a ministerial assessment of all private schools in the state for standards and quality control; and kick-started the comprehensive renovation and restoration of basic education schools across the state.
After the Federal Government’s basic education grant for 2014, 2015 and 2016, the state government reconstructed 76 primary schools, including the classroom blocks, the provision of landscaping, water, toilet facilities and power generators; supplied furniture and equipment to 96 primary and junior secondary schools; supplied sports, and information and communication technology equipment to some primary and junior secondary schools; ensured the regular payment of salaries to primary school teachers, pensioners and other employees of the basic education system; provided training to basic education teachers across the state; and completed the construction of the headquarters of the State Universal Basic Education Board.
Before the coming of Wike’s government, secondary education suffered from neglect and lack of funding. Schools were dilapidated, broken roofs, shattered floors and windows, even as water and toilet facilities were non-existent.
So, the Wike government embarked on phased rehabilitation of the secondary schools across the state. The first phase started with the comprehensive rehabilitation and reconstruction of three fundamental secondary schools, one from each of the three senatorial zones, namely, Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta; Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori; and Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema.
From three schools, the number of schools reconstructed and rehabilitated rose, until virtually every school in the state was spruced up. The scope of reconstruction in all the schools was extensive. It included classrooms and teachers’ quarters, science and arts laboratories, sports and recreational facilities, dedicated water sources and power generators for regular electricity, perimeter fence and gates for improved security, new hostel blocks, assembly halls, furnishing and equipment as well as construction of the schools’ internal roads and landscaping.
Apart from upgrading schools, Wike’s other interventions in secondary schools include subsidized registration fees for Rivers State students sitting for the West African School Certificate Examination (WAEC) and the National Examination Council Examination (NECO); he stopped the collection of illegal fees by heads of schools; provided computers for all the 23 zonal offices of the Secondary Schools Management Board; and ensured regular visitation and monitoring of schools by the Schools Management Board, among several others.
All these measures have impacted and improved the standard of secondary education in the state.
The development of the tertiary education system is also a major thrust of the Wike administration. The administration has channelled substantial funds to reposition and enable state-owned tertiary institutions to effectively deliver on their mandate, which is to provide quality education and produce top-quality graduates with the appropriate skills to drive the development of the state and the nation.
Before the advent of Governor Wike, the Rivers State University faced several challenges, including issues of accreditation, academic instability and poor infrastructure. The dismissal of over 100 academic staff by the management and the resultant crises almost crippled the operations of the university. In some cases, academic programmes were denied accreditation. The National Universities Commission (NUC) also threatened to sanction the university for running programmes out its core mandate.
Wike, in fulfillment of his promise, took care of the challenges and the institution is now running smoothly.
After restoring normalcy and stability, Wike provided needed academic infrastructure in the institution in an unprecedented manner.
The governor completed the abandoned new Faculty of Law complex and the Faculty of Management Sciences buildings. He initiated and completed the Faculty of Medical Sciences complex and Faculty of Environmental Services.
Wike also upgraded the Rivers State College of Arts and Science to a full-fledged polytechnic and, subsequently, named it after the great novelist, Elechi Amadi. He also reconstructed buildings in the School of Nursing and Midwifery.