Keeping The Educational Restoration On Course
“If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking 10 years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking 100 years ahead, educate the people.” – Chinese Proverb
The changing educational cartography of Bayelsa State speaks volume about the Dickson Administration’s commitment to educational advancement in the state. Just hitting the two and half years mark in office, the administration has continued to sustain the sweeping revolution in the critical education sector it engineered right from the outset. Being acutely conscious of, and uncomfortable with, the comparative educational backwardness of the state in quantitative and qualitative terms, the Dickson Administration on assumption of office thought it expedient to declare a state of emergency on the education sector. The declaration signaled the immediate commencement of the operable compulsory and free education at the primary and post-primary levels. This courageous policy has been complemented with massive construction of the critical educational infrastructure across the state.
It is pertinent to recall that before the birth of the present administration, the educational infrastructure across the state was in a sorry state. The teaching and learning environment was nothing to cheer about. Most of the public schools were dotted with dilapidated buildings with leaking roofs, broken ceilings, and in some cases, classrooms without doors and windows greet visitors! The inventory of the schools, prior to the Dickson Administration’s Restoration Agenda, showed that majority of them had no luxury of functional libraries, laboratories, etc. Speaking on the state of the public schools he met on the ground at inception, Governor Dickson noted that, “The situation kin our public schools in the state is clearly less to be desired.
The infrastructure was not just there. There has not been proper articulation of the issues over time to see education as a means to development and the need to properly invest in the very important sector.”
The situation justifiably fueled a righteous anger in Governor Seriake Dickson. It moved the Governor to move mountains in the education sector in the state. Arguably, the education revolution unfolding in the Glory of All Lands in the last 30 months is the outcome of the prioritization of education for development - something that had never been witnessed at any time in the history of the state. The Governor’s declaration of educational emergency in his very first public speech as chief executive meant that the free education policy shares the same birthday with the administration itself. This has since been backed up with appropriate policies and legislation. Under the policy, millions of free school textbooks, sandals, and uniforms have procured and distributed to schools across the State.
The building of the public school infrastructure which started more than two years ago is still in top gear. So much work has been done in this regard within the period under review. According to official statistics, no fewer than 400 school projects have been completed by the Dickson Administration. The projects include new schools, major renovations on existing structures; residential quarters for head teachers across all the Local Government Areas in the state. This is in addition to the new 40 model secondary schools with boarding facilities, refectories, dormitories, ICT workshops, laboratories, etc that have been built by the administration.
The educational restoration pioneered by the Dickson Administration has also brought back to life the hitherto scrapped Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science (BYCAS) into the educational dynamics of the state. The administration has also overhauled the state-owned College of Education (IJBCOE). Over the last two years, the middle-level manpower training institution has virtually been turned into a massive construction site, where hundreds of infrastructural projects such hostels, staff quarters, lecture halls, cafeterias, administrative blocks, library, ICT block, and other structures are either completed or on-going.
Government has also established the Teachers Training Institute (TTI) at Bolou-Orua, with a remit to train and re-train teachers in order to effectively meet the pedagogical requirements of the computer-age classroom. When completed and functional, the TTI will serve as veritable resource centre and knowledge foundry for intellectual rebranding and armament of teachers in the public schools – to guarantee quality education delivery in line with the first principles of the Restoration Agenda. Other education-related institutions established by the Dickson Administration include the Bayelsa State Sports Academy at Asoama; the Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, the Bayelsa State College of Agricultural Technology; the Bayelsa State Football Academy, as well as the Bayelsa State Maritime Academy.
Due to its strong belief in manpower development as touchstone for enduring progress, the Dickson Administration has invested heavily in the Restoration Scholarship scheme. Through the scheme, government has sent over 500 Bayelsans to choice universities around the globe to pursue PhD and Master’s Degree programmes in various fields of academic study. Scholarships have also been granted to 250 high-performing students at the post-primary level, who were selected through an open, competitive test among pupils in their final class at the public primary schools in the state.
They are studying in some of the nation’s top-of-the-range private secondary schools. Besides institutionalizing the regular supervision of public schools and recruiting hundreds of science and computer graduate teachers, the Dickson Administration has continued to overwrite public examination fees for students of the state. The idea behind this is to lessen the financial burden on parents and guardians whose children and wards didn’t have the opportunity to be part of the State Government Scholarship Programme.
The Niger Delta University (NDU) at the Wilberforce Island, Amassoma is receiving the attention it rightly deserves as premier university in Bayelsa State. For instance, construction has begun on some long abandoned educational projects, such as the multi-million naira library project at the university campus.
The huge investment in education is not a sheer happenstance. Education is high on the administration’s priority list. Moreover, government has put its money where its mouth is. There is no doubt that Governor Seriake Dickson is to Bayelsa State what Chief Obafemi Awolowo was to the defunct Western Region. This analogy springs from the patriotic zeal shown by Governor Dickson to leave indelible educational legacies after the order of Awolowo.
No doubt should be incubated in the mind that the Dickson Administration has laid a solid educational foundation for the state. The momentous investments seen under the Contriman Administration in Bayelsa can only end up yielding the kind of empires Sir Wilson Churchill foretold more than 70 years ago: The empires of the future will be empires of the mind.” Happily, this is the empire Governor Dickson is busy erecting in the Glory of All Lands in 30 months of Restoration.
Mr. Dennis is a member of the Bayelsa New Media Team