Amaechi, Model Schools and Government Policies
by Odimegwu Onwumere
"We are tinkering with the idea of establishing a new teachers' training college for the sole purpose of training teachers. We don't have teachers and if we establish it, it becomes an easy avenue to feed the University. We want to also establish a Rivers State University of Education to train teachers because we completely lack teachers."
Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State was caught with this statement during his First Monthly Media Briefing, on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 10:06am. The issue of education was first on the index, as he addressed sundry issues he said that concerned Rivers State.
He said that by the end of his tenure the state government should have built 750 new model primary schools. This was after this administration took over primary schools from the Local Government councils.
The government said that it started building 250 new primary schools and later added another 100 to it and promised that by 2010 instead of building another 250 it will be 150, making it 500 new primary schools.
The committee that was set up to look into primary education in the State brought a blueprint of demolishing the 1300 primary schools that were. The committee said that the 1300 primary schools didn't fit into what primary schools should look like. The old 1300 schools, they were 6 classroom blocks, but what the government said it was building is 14 classroom blocks.
The government however swaggered that the difference is clear and that it has taken over the payment of teachers ointments both the payment of junior secondary school teachers' salaries, which the Local Government people were paying.
"At the end of the first month we paid between 1.1 to 1.2billion naira as teachers' salaries at the primary school level and at the junior secondary school level, which before now were the responsibility of the Local Government councils," Amaechi had said.
Within this period of briefing the newsmen, the governor said that his government has already completed 10 out of the 250 new primary schools and believed that 25 should be ready before the end of the month and about 150 new model Primary schools should be delivered at the end of December.
We have deemed it convenient to remind the state government to review from time to time some of its policies to see if they meet with the present realities. For example, within the period in question the governor had said that Secondary Schools, especially the one at Eleme was nearing completion, but he did not pride himself with that one because the former Commissioner for Education (within the period) located that school on only 8-9 hectares of land, having said that the secondary schools should be located on 25 hectares of land.
The question is why did the former education czar in the state have to go contrary to what the state government drew as its roadmap and was treated with mere public speaking? The governor had said that a model of the school at Tai was what all the schools should look like even though that it was at the foundation level at that time.
It is such behavior as the former education commissioner in the state that has kept the efforts of the governor as a shrub among the poplars no matter all his brainstorming with experts and professionals in making sure that the state work.
The former commissioner was only given a tap on the back with such discretion of the governor (and was asked to go) without probe to ascertain why the commissioner preferred 8-9- hectares as against the government's preferred 25 hectares of land.
The Rivers masses are not even sure if it was not on the same 8-9- hectares instead of the preferred 25 hectares that the erection of the new model schools in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state.
At Oyigbo and Omuma Local Government Areas, the governor had told the Rivers masses to go and see what was happening in those two areas. However, Amaechi we knew would not have suffered the commissioner gladly, because spending about N27 billion and nearly 90 billion for the Secondary Schools and building 23 new Secondary schools and the decision to build one at Ubima (the governor's home town) was no joke at the period in question, and somebody wanted to make a toy out of the project.
While the governor had once said that rain had stopped the government from continuing construction work at the new Rivers State University of Science and Technology in the new Greater Port Harcourt city, we hope that by now the work must have been completed. The governor should check, because he had told the Rivers masses that his plan was that by (September 2009) his government should have gone ahead with the foundation for the hostels.
Unlike the 8-9 hectares that was preferred by the former commissioner for education as against the government's 25 hectares for the construction of the schools, there is need to check whether the capacity for the new hostel for the Rivers State University of Science and Technology is 60,000 students as was said.
It is worthy of note from those working with the governor that he had no yellowing agenda for Rivers State. So, he should check spoilers of his government within. Imagine that his mindset for the new Rivers State University of Science and Technology was that in the next 10 to 15 years the students won't be looking for accommodation. This is good, but how well have the people assigned to make this a reality charged?
The state government should check whether the contract which it said was almost awarded to Prodeco to build the Hostels because it needed to deliver it before September 2010, is according to plan. Were the athletes for the 2010 National Sports Festival in Port Harcourt accommodated in the hostel?
Also, the government should check whether its promise to construct a Games Village near the University was met, because it had promised that by October or November 2010, it'll resume construction. The state government also had said that it had already awarded the contract for the infrastructures to Zerock. It promised to provide light, water roads-circular roads and internal roads, drainage and a sewage plant so that "we don't have what they call soak-away pit inside the school."
Without doubt, the state government had avowed to taking education in the state seriously. While it is doing that, we advise it begins to review all its policies in making sure that they meet with the realities of today and that those assigned to any works in the state do it without bias, because it will be injurious on the personality of Amaechi if his government at last failed. Tufiakwa! We do not pray for such.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV).