By NBF News

I am in politics to improve lives - Mrs.Chukwu, Imo commissioner

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Mrs. Comfort Chinwe Chukwu, is the first female Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transport since the creation of Imo State in 1976, by the regime of the late Gen. Murtala Muhammed. Prior to her redeployment to her present ministry, Chukwu supervised the Education Ministry in 2007 where she fought the cause of teachers and restored sanity into the academic system. She came with her strategy and proved her mettle.

Today, her name is written in gold when it comes to educational system in the state. Her activities in the ministry then also proved that she was prepared to face the challenges.

She was redeployed to the Ministry of Works, Housing and Transport on February 12, 2009.

She exudes confidence as she spoke to Daily Sun recently, Excerpts:

Well, I prepared myself because I attended primary, secondary and tertiary schools and obtained professional qualifications. I became one of the pioneer students of Imo State University, then IMSU, Ihitte Uboma, now in Etiti, before it moved to Abia State University.

Before I attended the university, I worked as a Clerical Officer in Alvan Ikoku College of Education. I also attended the University of Benin, where I did a postgraduate course in Public Administration. I did my Masters in CETEP, an affiliate of Ogun State University, where I studied Technology Policy and Poverty Alleviation. Then, I moved on to England and attended Herefordshire University, where I studied Social work. I also added another post-graduate course in social work that makes you a higher being in that zeal. I worked with Herefordshire Social Council for a good number of years.

I came back to the country in 2007 and was appointed Commissioner for Education.

I had contested for the Senatorial ticket of Imo-North Constituency (Okigwe zone) on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), and came second. I accepted the result in good faith. I accepted it in good faith because I think if anything happens, God is aware and if at any point in time you did not get what you aspire for, you simply put it in the hands of God.

Change in Ministry of Works
Yes, the government has embarked on road rehabilitation through this ministry. Everywhere is clean and green. It has become better than what it used to be in the past. Though there is room for improvement, but I can tell you that between November 2009 and last month, 19 roads have been rehabilitated to give the state capital a new look. The rural roads in 27 LGAs are not left out. The Ohakim administration is planning to launch operation NO-POT-HOLE, meaning that the massive rehabilitation of roads will continue until the end of the dry season.

The Imo Rural Maintenance Agency (IRROMA) will be responsible for road maintenance after construction. They will work together with the ministry to maintain the roads.

Ministry of Education
At the Ministry of Education, some of my major landmarks was first of all, discipline in the system. I brought discipline back into the system. When I got there, I discovered there was lackadastical attitude of teachers and students. They seem to have lost their self -esteem, therefore their confidence waned. It called for concern because teachers found it difficult to address students for fear of being abused and insulted. On some occasions, I was invited into schools to meet with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) because discipline was almost gone in schools. It was restored by organizing seminars, meetings and workshops. Then, I was addressing teachers from time to time and continued to visit schools unannounced.

Out of the 27 Local Government Areas , I visited almost all the schools in each LGA. At the beginning of every term, I address teachers to make sure discipline found its root in the school system. When teachers' salary arrears were up to five months, I felt uncomfortable because if you expect quality teaching from teachers, then you need to motivate them. I fought their cause with the government and believed they are at par with their counterparts in other states.

On teachers' poor salaries
There are rules guiding teachers. There are issues of forgeries. Also attitude to work pose a challenge on salaries. There is a system in place and there are salary grade levels. There are salaries in public schools, which are made known to them upon their entering the ministry. Everything is made open enough for the teachers to access whether they would cope with the pay involved or not. Getting a better salary is what is done for teachers in the state. Their salaries are negotiated from time to time and not something that is magical.

So, teachers should not use that as an excuse not to impart quality knowledge to their pupils. Another point is living within your limits and being contented with what you have. If a teacher earns more and does not know how to live within the limits of his salary, he would still have something doing by the side and still complain about his salary. When one does not have job satisfaction, it becomes a routine. Some teachers join the profession for the wrong reasons. Teachers should learn how to draw budget for the month, which entails every need, expenditure and contingencies. If anybody is unable to have a budget on how to spend his or her income, the person will always run into trouble regarding finances.

Again, the issue of better salary does not apply to teachers alone; civil servants in general also clamour for an increase. Teachers must enjoy their holidays. These periods are all paid for. Teachers benefit more during long holidays. Somehow, what they lose in terms of salary, they gain somewhere else. But that does not rule out the fact that things have changed in terms of cost of living.

Why in politics
I want to bring about social change. I am there because politics is an avenue to bring about development to the people you lead. As a politician, you strive to bring about social change, that is what politics is all about.

Challenges in the two ministries
The challenges so far were not more than I can handle because management is dynamic. I have the competence acquired over the years to face them.

I am married to Chief Ozichukwu S.Chukwu, who was the National Vice-chairman of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP),we are blessed with children. I try my best as a wife, mother, and a politician to give each aspect of these responsibilities the best I can. It has worked for me, and my children are grown up.