By Dominic Chinwuba
ONE of the many areas in which the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, has continued to prove himself a vi- sionary leader is the education sector. Truth be told, since Obiano assumed leadership of Anambra State, he has shown enough sense of history by realising that, as the governor of the state that gave the world the Great Zik of Africa, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Kenneth Dike, Chike Obi and so many other exceptional figures that distinguished themselves in the field of knowledge, he
has a huge responsibility to ensure that the production line does not suddenly run dry.
Obiano accepted this challenge and has consistently applied himself to meeting the expectations of Ndi Anambra in preserving the state’s hard-earned reputation in educa- tion. This informed his decision to appoint Prof. Kate Omenugha, a workaholic profes- sor of Mass Communication, as his commis- sioner for education. It also informed his decision to approach education in three broad areas: students’ welfare, teachers’ motivation and infrastructural advancement. These three areas form the strategic core of the Obiano approach to education, which Omenugha competently superintends. Essentially, Obiano’s approach to stu-
dents’ welfare is driven by the no-child-left- behind concept, which sees education as a fundamental right of the Anambra child. His direct interpretation of this concept has man- ifested in the institution of free education
for physically-challenged children in the state and the award of scholarships, valued at N30 million, to 200 students even in the middle of economic recession. Some of the beneficiaries of the scholarships are the chil- dren of the 12 Adazi Nnukwu men slain by Boko Haram terrorists in Mubi, Adamawa State, several years ago. It is to Obiano’s credit that he has enough presence of mind to remember these children whose dreams were nearly shattered by that daylight hor- ror, which has remained one of the enduring images of terror in our subconscious.
As part of the broad strategies of students’ welfare, Obiano has also worked tirelessly to ensure that 13 trade subjects were accred- ited in four technical colleges in the state. While this is a great achievement in the edu- cation sector, the governor has also ensured that 28 programmes offered by the Nwafor Orizu College of Education at Nsugbe were accredited. The accreditation of subjects by the relevant agencies and boards is impor- tant to a robust education sector as it gives validation to efforts invested by students and teachers in the learning process.
Governor Obiano is also fully aware that, without adequately motivated teaching staff, no educational policy, no matter how visionary, would produce any meaningful outcome. Consequently, he has continued
to seek creative ways to motivate Anambra teachers and draw the best from them. A major highlight of Obiano’s bold efforts to inspire Anambra teachers to higher perfor- mance is his decision to send 23 vocational education teachers on offshore training to Singapore in 2015. It was the first time in the history of the state that teachers were given the opportunity to learn some global best practices with their counterparts from other parts of the world. To most of the beneficiaries, the Singapore trip remains an unforgettable experience and one that would continue to motivate them to give their very best in the service of Anambra State.
No less remarkable is the governor’s decision to increase the salary of teachers when he increased the salary of other civil servants by 16% and to pay 20% of basic salary to teachers who accept to teach in areas that are very difficult to reach. This has offered more access for quality educa- tion to students and pupils in riverine areas and agrarian communities in the state. In addition, teachers in Anambra State are also
beneficiaries of the governor’s gestures to civil servants in the state whom he reaches out to in festive periods with bags of rice as a token of his gratitude to them for offering their best to the state.
In terms of infrastructural advancement, Obiano has also not lost sight of the fact that the best education is not usually the type received under the shade of a tree
and that the environment of learning plays an important role in the entire learning experience of a child. This is the reason why he takes the challenge of providing the essential infrastructure for learning rather seriously. As a result of this, Anambra has renovated over 1,400 classroom blocks and upgraded 60 state-of-the-art laboratories
to boost its overall facilities in education. Also, in view of the huge momentum that the handover of schools to missions by the last administration has given to Anambra schools, Obiano has been consistent in
his support to mission schools in the state. So far, the governor has disbursed N733 million to schools owned by the Catholic Church and N367 million to schools owned by the Anglican Church. These disburse- ments are to enable the missions renovate and re-equip their schools and retool their processes to ensure the production of qual- ity students.
Similarly, his effort to address the infra- structural needs of the education sector led to the purchase and immediate deployment of 18 speedboats in the riverine areas to im- prove access to quality schools and educa- tion for students and pupils living in those areas. This does not only fulfil the basic creed of the no-child-left-behind concept but also demonstrates Obiano’s resolve to make Anambra a model state in education.
As would be expected, the direct out- come of these efforts to give education a pride of place in Anambra State has been nothing short of excellence. Anambra has been a consistent high achiever in WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations in the
past five years. Perhaps more importantly, too, Anambra has recorded a significant improvement from 6.5% to 7.9% success rate by students who recorded five credits, including English and Maths, in WAEC and NECO exams, thereby nearly achieving the 8% target set by the Ministry of Education. The state has also done well in Pre-Basic School Debates, going on to represent Nigeria at the World Schools Debate Cham- pionship in Singapore. Anambra also swept the medals table at the 2015 Presidential Schools Awards in Abuja, winning in almost all the categories.
Perhaps what is most interesting to note about Anambra is that, given Governor Willie Obiano’s fascination with excellence, Anambra is highly unlikely to drop the ball in education, no matter how enviable its achievement in the sector presently looks.
• Chinwuba is a Public Affairs Commentator based in Nsugbe