By Iteveh Ekpokpobe
Since 1928, when the West African Student Union (WASU) was formed and led by Marcus Garvey, the clamor for development of Africa through education has not changed.
Unionism should be development driven. Twenty first century, nevertheless, comes with different shades to the struggle. Development communication has become, even more, handy. The essence? Human needs are insatiable. On that background, appreciation is only necessary where some of the needs are sated.
It is in view of this that the leadership and members of the National Association of Delta State Student (NADESSTU) are commending the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa.
The National President of NADESSTU, Comrade Godwin Saturday, says that the governor has not failed in his promise of looking into the interest of Delta State students. He said, so far, 17,169 students benefitted from the last students’ bursary even as a new tranche for payment has commenced.
Days after, Comrade Saturday, led the NADESSTU executive to the Delta State Bursary and Scholarship Board, he noted that the scholarship was a clear demonstration of the state Governor, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa’s commitment to youth development, noting that the scholarship was a key component of the state government’s youth empowerment programme.
It was this feat amongst many others, according to him that informs the readiness of the students to work with the Governor Okowa led-administration and pledged the cooperation of his new executive council.
You see, education is a human right. And, like other human rights, it cannot be taken for granted. Across the world, 59 million children and 65 million adolescents are out of school. More than 120 million children do not complete primary education.
Behind these figures there are children and youth being denied not only a right, but opportunities: a fair chance to get a decent job, to escape poverty, to support their families, and to develop their communities. Education is important for development as exemplified by the fact that the areas which are educationally backward have not shown eloquent and positive interest in genuine implementation of policies and programmes of development. Education makes people ready for implementation of the policies and programmes of the state.
It also creates demand for the necessary infrastructure for development in the minds of people and also the need to understand necessary changes in the culture. The nature of education is determined and reformulated according to the demands of the growing economy. The modern economy, which is more knowledge-based, and computer and information technology form the necessary infrastructure for the economic activities of today.
Comr. Hyascent Odogwu, National Senate President of the NADESSTU believes that it is only wise that the government, therefore, makes policies and programmes to promote education among people by providing assistance and opening new institutions for teaching the modern professional courses.
Mr Julius Oweh in his article ‘Educational Landmarks in Delta State’ wrote that in 2018, 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.
He said, 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 towards a 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.
The NADESSTU believes that the current government of Delta State has recorded more achievement in education development than any other sector. According to them, some of the key achievements of the Okowa led government 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 skill centres, establishment of 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.
The NADESSTU leadership believes that, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa places a great deal of emphasis on successful executions of projects approved for implementation in the state budgets. Some of the projects as enumerated include, 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 an interview some time ago, the immediate past 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 seven 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.
Barr. Chiedu Ebie, former Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education now Secretary to Delta State Government, also at some point 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‘.
The NADESSTU is ever poised to the support for the Governor Okowa, Comrade Godwin Saturday, has said. He believes the inclination of the government towards youth driven development is sterling. He said that, since governor Okowa 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), the development landscape of Delta State is fast changing.
In a nutshell, the NADESSTU believes that though the challenge is daunting. All pointers indicate the Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s government’s resolve to the development of education in Delta State. They believe Okowa is working and that is a vote of confidence.