The aforementioned statement was made by the former Minister of Education and presidential aspirant, Oby Ezekwesili, as guest speaker at the recent launching of the 350-page book, Onye-Nkuzi: Teacher, Statesman, Icon of Education, which took place at the International Conference Center (ICC), Abuja.
The book is a masterly written historical biography on the life and times of Reuben Ibekwe Uzoma (RI), OBE, OFR, LLD honoris causa, first minister of education of former Eastern Region.
In attendance were high-profile individuals who reminisced on RI’s immeasurable roles as a distinguished minister and passionate counsellor with penchant for the education of the girl-child throughout the region and beyond, at the time.
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Speaking effusively about RI’s indelible impact, guests repeatedly alluded to their encounter with the iconic counselor and how the unforgettable experience invariably affected their career choices, where they are still flourishing today.
The guest speaker was ably represented by co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group, Aisha Yesufu. Ezekwesili used the opportunity to address the several challenges bedeviling girl-child education in the country.
She also highlighted the need for a level playing field for children, irrespective of gender, and disclosed that, “every time a girl isn’t in school, we are killing a talent”.
If we must break the shackles of poverty, she said, it had to be through education.
She lamented how pained she was that children were being denied of education,
“Today, I am pained that the education that our forefathers gave to us, that they made sure was meant for all of us, we are not giving it to the next generation.
Education is the equalizer; the unifier; it’s the only reason why I am standing here before you and before this distinguished gathering.”
Ezekwesili reiterated, “Every time we see that girl that isn’t in school, we are killing a voice; we are killing a talent; and we are killing a medical doctor who would probably find the cure for AIDS. We are killing that one talent that is needed in this country to take us to where we have never even begun to imagine.
As I read this book, I saw the history that we have that has been denied us. As I stand before you, I feel so sad that I never knew Sir R.I. UZOMA until today –and that is one of the injustices that have been done to us.”
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The author of the book Dr. Adaoha Okwuosa, OON (Nee Uzoma), while fielding questions from journalists on the current state of education in Nigeria, revealed her dismay, urging the government to do more in helping to restore the past glory.
“I don’t know what has happened to education in the country. In my time, we had swell time as students. We were well fed and the library was well equipped. I don’t know who is to be blamed, but there is so much decay in educational infrastructure today,” she said.
The event was chaired by the Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony G. Anwukah.