Bayelsa: Investing in the Future Through Education
By Daniel Iworiso-Markson
In just two and half years, the Governor Dickson-led administration has delivered on the core of the Restoration Agenda. He has delivered on the promise of changing the culture of governance to emphasize service, shifted the government's orientation from being a government of the few to that of the majority. He has also by example guided the institutions of state to make government accountable and effective as expected in a democracy through the enactment of relevant laws to guide good conduct, fiscal discipline, probity and transparency in government. The countriman governor has instituted innovative policies and programmes to usher in development, created opportunities for our people and largely inspired them to believe that as a people, we can build a New Bayelsa State where everyone can live life more abundantly. Indeed, the Restoration Government has stabilized the polity, restored order and created an enabling environment for prosperity. Hope is rising far and wide that the future is really bright for all of us if we continue to thread this path of renaissance.
Central to all of these is the government's investment in education. Education to the Dickson-led administration is a priority. The declaration of state of emergency in this very important sector was not a slogan but a realistic means to address the huge rot in the system and to chart a roadmap for the future. Today, the Restoration Government has achieved so much in executing major educational programmes, spread across the state, raising real hope of a bright future for our children to have good education and create a better society.
Today in Bayelsa State, education is free from primary to the secondary level. Education is free for the children of Bayelsa in every sense as essentials such as school uniforms and text books are given to students without a single kobo being paid. Now, children ride in school buses to and from school. With the payment of WAEC, GCE, NECO and JAMB fees by government since the inception of this administration, Bayelsa is targeting an improved showing than its 6th position in the 2013 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE).
We are doing this and much more because as a government, we believe, education is key and central to our development and we will continue to invest heavily as we have done in last two years to drive the sector to greater heights. By September, this administration will begin the enrollment of students into the 40 modern secondary schools with boarding facilities across the state, built from scratch by the Restoration Government and fully equipped with science laboratories and modern facilities required for 21st century learning. The Dickson-led government is also improving the quality of public schools across the state in terms of infrastructure, teachers and their training and general welfare.
With over N6 billion expended in the state scholarship programme, today, 140 Bayelsans are on fully paid scholarships to study for PhDs in highly rated universities in Europe and America. The same thing for 400 Masters degree students sponsored overseas by the state. Bayelsa's partnership with the prestigious Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, which aside from our students learning on its campus, also has to do with technical assistance to the Niger-Delta University.
These far-reaching interventions which represent fulfillment of his electoral promises didn't come as a surprise to Bayelsans because just like him, majority of the people had first-hand experience of the decay that had set in in the state's educational sector just before he was elected into office.
Pupils and students were taught in dilapidated classrooms by teachers, some of whom lacked the right training and the instruments for teaching, just as they struggled to stay motivated. The situation Governor Dickson met was indeed gloomy which necessitated a pro-active and painstaking renewal.
The good news now is that within two years, the Dickson administration has overhauled primary and secondary schools in the state. The construction of the state's teacher's training institute has reached advanced stages. The goal of the governor is to move the state from one that is lacking in skilled instructors to a producer of qualified teachers. The rehabilitation of old schools is going on, as work is speedily being carried out on the model boarding secondary schools in the eight local government areas in the state. The model schools which are state -of- the art, are the brain child of the Dickson administration.
For the state owned Niger_Delta University, the governor handed its management a financial life line of N6 billion. The funding given the university is unprecedented. It is expected that with improved funding, the Niger-Delta University will regain it lost glory. With judicious use of its funds for structural and infrastructural restructuring, the university will again be on course to be a producer of fully backed graduates.
It hasn't all been rosy as there have been challenges along the way of repositioning Bayelsa's educational sector. One of such is the reduction of the state's allocation which coincided with the state government overshooting its initial one billion naira budget for international scholarships by over six billion. This led to delayed payments to some scholars which the governor has since released funds to ensure that their complaints are taken care of. Also students within Nigeria had to wait a little longer for their bursaries to be paid.
However, funds have since been approved for the payment of bursaries. Some have said that with the construction of a Teachers Training Institute, Maritime Academy, School of Agriculture, Tourism Institute, Driving Institute and a music school, Governor Dickson wants to make Bayelsa an education hub. It is indeed a tall dream which no politician in Nigeria in search of quick wins and cheap popularity wants to embark on. But it is one dream that all Bayelsans should support Governor Dickson in bringing to reality, thereby ensuring that Bayelsans irrespective of background can effectively be active players in the evolving knowledge economy by virtue of their quality education.
Daniel Iworiso-Markson, is the Chief Press Secretary to Bayelsa State Governor.