by Emmanuel Onwubiko
The Government of Rivers State has become popular under the current dispensation for achieving so much in the educational sector especially with the building of infrastructure like schools and well equipped libraries even as under the current state administration, the state capital
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State born lawyer is a high flyer, politically. He was said to have risen phenomenally from the lowest rank of politics as chairman of his home council to assume the key position of Chief of Staff to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in the first tenure of Governor Amaechi between 2007 and 2011.
The Government of Rivers State has become popular under the current dispensation for achieving so much in the educational sector especially with the building of infrastructure like schools and well equipped libraries even as under the current state administration, the state capital, Port Harcourt was named by the United Nations Scientific and Educational Organization (UNESCO) as the ‘Books Capital’ of the world.
Wike therefore was made a minister and posted to the strategic ministry of education as minister of state. The nation’s education sector is tottering under the heavy weight of operational challenges and the total dearth of infrastructure necessary for rapid human capital development of the youth to enable them compete favorably with their peers globally in the increasingly competitive global market whereby knowledge economy is the major determinant factor of success.
Last weekend, Wike was summoned by over 40 human rights/civil society groups to appear at a round table to defend the current administration’s educational empowerment agendum for the 10 million out-of- school Nigerian children.
August, Thursday 5, 2013 was the date set aside for him to appear before the ‘jury’ in Abuja and 10 am was the scheduled time.
Wike passed the first test of time set for him by appearing few minutes to 10am with a formidable team of high profile management staff of the federal ministry of education including the permanent secretary; and several directors including the Acting Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
Readers may be wondering why this gentleman minister had to appear before the jury which in legal parlance simply means “a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment”. This time however, the minister never showed up before any jury in the legal sense, but he appeared before that presided over by members and stakeholders in the organized civil/human rights community in Nigeria who sought to hear from him, first hand, what the current federal administration is doing to improve the educational right of the millions of Nigerians, especially under privileged children.
Asked to give a bird’s eye view of the educational empowerment programe for the over 10.5 million or so out-of-school children in Nigeria, the minister said the Almajiri education programme was federal government’s panacea to the menace. He nevertheless challenged the state governments whereby those schools are now being sited to take action to protect and maintain educational infrastructure for the benefit of their people.
He gave the following as underlying facts that necessitated the educational revolution for the street children thus; “There is high occurrence of out-of-school children in Nigeria estimated at 10.5 million; the Almajiri (itinerant Qur’anic school pupils) make up over 9 million of this number; these are concentrated mainly in the Northern part of Nigeria and a significant number in South-West Nigeria; they pose a challenge to Nigeria’s attainment of EFA and the MDGs and other international conventions and protocols”.
On how the educational programme promotes social cohesion, he listed the following factors: large number of out-of-school children is a threat to social cohesion and active citizenship; it breeds social exclusion and anti-social tendencies amongst youths and adults; it stunts Nigeria’s ability to grow socially, economically and politically and maintain global competitive advantage.
By all standards, the public forum was fulfilling and it afforded the audience the opportunity to find answers to lingering questions. Government of Nigeria must also find ways of introducing legal frameworks to make educational revolutions sustainable and obligatory for the successive administrations to continue the implementation of these programmes for the overall benefit of Nigerians.
Read this article in the Leadership Newspapers
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