Apparently in his desire to engage and bequeath sound education on the youths of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Godswill Akpabio on assumption of office in 2007 introduced a free and compulsory education policy. Today, the policy has been both unique and exemplary. Since the programme commenced, enrolment in all public schools across the state has been very impressive following influx of students from private to the public schools, although the policy brought with it challenges such as inadequate school infrastructure, finance, lack of qualified teachers, to cater for the number of students.
Similarly too, Prior to this time, there was a general state of apathy among the people but the government swung into action by embarking on massive rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools blocks, supply of reading desks to provide conducive learning environment and construction of befitting school buildings in every community. A subvention of N100 per pupil were paid to head teachers in primary schools and N300 per student to principals in secondary schools across to cater for logistics and sundry expenses for the care of each child such that no school heads or principal have excuses to impose any form of levies on school children. Last year alone, over 494 school building projects, re-constructed through the inter-ministerial direct labour initiative of the state government were commissioned, bringing the cumulative number of school building projects delivered to 843 since 2007.
As the governor said in one of his medial parley late last year in Uyo, the state capital, “We are doing that to ensure that education is totally free. Our development strides are based on vision. It is futuristic. We are planning for tomorrow.
“The free and compulsory education is to be able to enhance the status of the Akwa Ibom child tomorrow. In five years you will not see any Akwa Ibom child being labelled as a house help and many of them would be off the street’’.
The governor within few months changed the face of education in all public which had for several years have been in a very poor state of disrepair and dilapidation; the situation then was as shocking as it was revealing. But today, things appear to be better as all public schools in the state wear new looks like private schools. Apart from abolishing all kinds of fees and levies in all public primary and secondary schools, the government has provided over three million copies of textbooks in each subject such as Biology, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Integrated Science.
To assist poor parents, the state government has also took over the payment of examination fees for students who are taking the Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations in all public secondary schools as well as NABTEB fees for students in public technical colleges. With the free and compulsory education from primary to secondary school level, covering tuition fees, PTA charges, NECO. WAEC, NABTEB fees and lots more, a greater number of Akwa Ibom children could now afford the opportunity of being educated.
Governor Akpabio has charged the ministry of education and all other agencies involved in education management in the state to map out workable solutions in order to arrest the hitherto level of decay in the public education by directing the state ministry of education to sanitise the sector by curbing unwholesome in the school system.
With this, not many people doubt that discipline has returned as school children and teachers have been made to stay in class for effective teaching and learning. Akpabio also attached great importance to tertiary education in Akwa Ibom. He has intervened in the University of Uyo, a federal institution, by assisting it to regain accreditation of the Nigeria University Commission (NUC) in over 28 programmes, constructed over 10 buildings, upgraded infrastructures and tarred 3.5-kilometre of internal roads in the university. His doggedness and determination saw the former Akwa Ibom University of Science and Technology, AKUTECH, materialised into a conventional university, with a permanent site in Ikot Akpaden in Mkpat Enin and two other campuses at Obio Akpa in Oruk Anam and Ikot Osurua in Ikot Ekpene local government areas respectively. It is on record that the governor personally led a mission to collect license for the university to enable it operate as the 34th state university in Nigeria. The state university was recently ranked in the fourth International colleges and universities Web ranking in Nigeria and the 32nd out of 73 universities in Nigeria.
The fund was also to secure additional 60 hectares of land for the Maritime Academy of Nigeria to meet the conditions for its conversion into the first Maritime University in Nigeria. In addition, the Akpabio administration took a step further to construct a world class e-library in the state capital to serve as a reference centre for researchers both in the state and South South region, and remodelled existing divisional libraries across the state and restocked them with the latest books, journals and reference materials.
The state College of Education Afaha Nsit in Nsit Ibum local government area also benefited from the governor’s intervention. Government also assisted indigenes of the state studying Medicine and Surgery in various universities across the country by paying grant of N100,000 to pre-medical students and N200,000 to medical students, as well as paid N250,000 as grant to indigenes in the Nigerian Law Schools in addition to providing them laptop computers each, up to the 2009/2010 session.
Indeed Akwa Ibom students have never had it so good. Apart from intensifying efforts at revamping the educational sector the state government has also been alive to its responsibilities in the area of teacher motivation by paying them the 27.5 percent Teachers Salary Scale (TSS).
To demonstrate its seriousness on the free education policy, government took a step further by promulgating the Child Rights law which makes it criminal for any parent or guardian in the state to deny a child of school age access to education or to engage a child of school age in any kind of labour or hawking during school hours. To further ensure the success of the education policy, government set up an Exams Ethics and Monitoring Committee to check loitering and hawking during school hours as well as malpractice by students and teachers even as it insists on zero tolerance in examination malpractice at internal and external examinations.
Government also strengthened the inspectorate services directorate in the ministry of education through provision of additional vehicles to ease inspection of schools while teachers are trained and re-trained to build their capacity. Last year alone, over 3000 teachers benefited from ICT training programme organised by government for primary school teachers with a view to making them ICT compliant and to enable them teach the pupils effectively. The governor’s huge investment in the education sector has been quite remarkable and it has paid-off as seen in the improved performance of candidates of Akwa Ibom State in the 2011 SSCE, compared to other years.