Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Hon Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja, in this interview with select journalists, speaks on the educational development in the state under the Nyesom Wike-led administration. The former two-term member of the Rivers State House of Assembly states that Wike met a dead educational sector in Rivers state. CHIBUZO UKAIBE, was there for LEADERSHIP
What stage did this administration meet the educational sector in Rivers State?
Before Governor Nyesom Wike took over the government of Rivers State, the sector was already destroyed. Nothing was happening. We met a sector that was comatose, that was bedevilled with political influence in terms of posting and appointments. Principals and zonal directors were appointed without regards to seniority in the service. We met a backlog of unpaid salaries of teachers, a sector where school buildings were demolished without rebuilding them like the GSS Ogu, in Ogu-Bolo Local Government. The past administration destroyed the school with the promise that they were going to build a new one and relocate the children. They didn’t build that. Community Secondary School Nkpogu, in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area was also destroyed and the children relocated to Elekahia Community, which is a nearby community. Up till the time they left, they didn’t build. Model Primary School, Abara, in Etche Local Government Area was also destroyed, they didn’t build; Community Primary School, Odi-Ereke, in Ahoada. In fact, Odi-Ereke is the hometown of Eze Ekpeyelogbo, a first class traditional ruler in Rivers state. They didn’t also build that. Community Secondary School, Olanada, was also destroyed without rebuilding and these children were taken to a neighbouring school. That is the situation we met and a lot of uncompleted and abandoned school projects.
We met an education sector that lacked instructional and learning materials. We met a sector where children were learning under trees and dilapidated and abandoned structures. In fact, it was as bad as children sitting on the floor and using stones as seats to learn in some of the schools. Our tertiary institutions were also abandoned and facilities were left to decay. Some of our courses were under threats of withdrawal of accreditation because of lack of facilities. It will shock the public to note that the Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic had only one accredited course before the intervention of Governor Nyesom Ezenwom Wike.
But we read that former Governor Amaechi built and equipped numerous schools in Rivers state. How do we reconcile this?
It will be a straight answer. It is not true. What members of the public read was mere propaganda. What Governor Amaechi did was to either renovate or rebuild a school that is in a major street in Port Harcourt and furnish and equip them for the purpose of propaganda. Before the expiration of the tenure of that government, they constituted an advisory committee headed by the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Professor Nimi Briggs, whose committee report faulted the claims of Governor Amaechi. Governor Amaechi had earlier told Rivers people and Nigerians that he built over 400 schools in Rivers state. But his advisory committee, after inspection tour and site visits, submitted that they built and completed less than 177 schools without furnishing. It was that government that destroyed the boarding system in our public schools in Rivers state and that administration claimed to have built mega schools with the sum of N4 billion. Considering the exchange rate then, N4 billion would have renovated all our schools in Port Harcourt, therefore, all you read about the building and equipment of all the schools in Rivers state were mere propaganda targeted at misleading and misinforming the members of the public, especially those who do not reside and do business in Rivers state.
Most indigenes of the South-south region have a thirst for education. So, what has the government done since the assumption of office to satisfy the educational thirst of the people?
Don’t forget that Governor Wike was a minister of state and coordinating minister of education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, when he took over the government of Rivers state, first is that he was prepared to face the challenges even though Amaechi had said to Nigerians that he will see where Governor Wike would get money to carry out projects. Since he stepped in, a lot of innovations, developments and progress in the sector have taken place. Governor Wike has remodelled, upgraded and reconstructed Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta, with the introduction of boarding system. GGSS Rumuokwuta is fully equipped with modern learning and sports facilities and fully equipped sciences, music, language art, information and communications technology and home economics laboratories. We also have teachers’quarters within the premises. Note that one of the causes of deprivation is when you see deprivation around you. That school was built 40 years ago and since then, no renovation has been done there.
What we have in GGSS Rumuokwuta is replicated in Government Secondary School, Ogu, in Ogu-Bolo Local Government Area which was destroyed by the Amaechi administraton; Government Secondary School, Abua; Western Ahoada County High School, Ahoada, a school that was built by the Eastern Nigerian Government in 1957. And before the intervention of Governor Wike, that school was completely dead. We have also reconstructed, remodelled and upgraded Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori, which is the traditional headquarter of Ogoni land, with the reintroduction of the boarding system in the school and all the laboratories fully equipped. Government Secondary School, Onne, has been remodelled and reconstructed with state-of-the-art laboratories and ICT equipments. We are also upgrading, remodelling and reconstructing Bonny National Grammar School with the reintroduction of boarding facilities and Government Secondary School, Okarki. For want of space, I want to say that within three years, Governor Wike has remodelled and renovated over 200 schools cutting across the 23 local government areas of Rivers state.
The former governor said he revolutionalised education in Rivers state. But your administration is also said he is building schools in the state. Who do we believe?
Let me give you an instance. Recently, Governor Wike went to Ubima. Ubima is the community of Rotimi Amaechi. That is his village. I am not talking about local government. I mean his village. His village is called Ubima. And for eight years, there was no school in Ubima community. The children of Ubima go to Igwuruta or Elele, the neighbouring communities to go to school. In the course of doing so, some of these children face some hazards on the road. But when Governor Wike came, the only community school they had in Ubima was overtaken by weeds. No roof, nothing! It was Governor Wike who went to Ubima to reconstruct and remodel the school they have in Ubima. As I speak with you, life has returned to that school. But this is a man who said he revolutionalised schools or education in Rivers state. You see, you don’t carry propaganda; you don’t play politics with the future of our children. Governor Wike has said to Rivers children that their future is his priority and he is doing everything humanly possible to ensure that he keeps to his word. I would urge you and members of the public to believe Governor Nyesom Wike rather than the propaganda by the last administration.
There was the Book Fair which was instituted by former Governor Amaechi, which he said, would be an annual event. Since government is a continuum, why was it stopped?
How many times did Amaechi carry on that project? There are certain things you don’t talk about. How many times did he carry out that book fair?
There is the notion that Governor Wike is paying more attention to infrastructural development, particularly road construction than education. What is your take on this?
That notion is not correct.
What is the thrust of Wike’s educational policy?
First is to eradicate illiteracy in Rivers state and use education to address the agitation in the Niger Delta region by taking schools to the creeks.
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