Teachers Are The Most Important Workers In Public Workforce
Bayelsa State Government. Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson recently declared open a conference of the National Association of Private School Proprietors. South-South in Yenagoa. Here is an abridged version of his speech.
Unlike education practitioners that most of you are. I am not one but as a friend of education, I have come here on behalf of the government and the good people of Bayelsa State not only to welcome you, but also to remind you about the primary of place that education and all of you who are in that sector occupy as far as moving our state, our state our respective community and our country from where we are now, to where we want to be.
When I interact with our teachers in this state. I always remind them that for me and my government, they are the most important workers in our public workforce. And so, you are one of the most important people in this country seated here doing one of the great and wonderful jobs that you are all doing.
Why do I say so? I say so because in the end, whether you are a president, an Ambassador, a professor, a governor, a senator or whatever, we are all who our parents and teachers made us to be. So we ae projects of our teachers and that is why this state will continue to give primacy of place not only to education as we are doing, but more especially the practitioners, the teachers.
You have been told of how my government at my inaugural, declared an emergency in the education sector and when we say something in this government, we do it because we say what we mean and we mean what we say, what we mean and we mean what we say. We followed up by investing heavily in education. If you see my education budget and not just what is budgeted for because very often, in most systems, there is a difference between what is on paper as a budget and then the actual investment or expenditure that goes, but if you see the investment my government has made deliberately for the past two years and four months now, you will be shocked. But what we also know is that investing in education is a futuristic venture.
Unfortunately because for most politicians, you want to go for what they called ‘the low hanging foot’ because if you build a housing estate or if you put up a road, of course, everybody and even your opponent will see what you are doing. If the people don’t speak, the roads and others will speak but education is not like that and in this state we are combining all at once. Investing in grand and ambitious infrastructure renewal programmes, you have seen for the first time forests turned- up and roads constructed where there were no roads, you have seen major projects going on in all sectors, electricity and so on and so forth. But in all of these, the most important one is the very silent one; investing in education.
In this government within these two years period and within the life span of two budgets we have built over 600 primary schools and we have also built an equal number of teacher’s quarters; I know that may sound strange. We don’t want a situation where people posted to rural areas have problems of accommodation, and now we have started the construction and almost finished over 35 secondary schools, brand new and each of them, the 8 model ones in the headquarters of the L.G.As that have capacity of about a minimum of a thousand students with full boarding facilities and we know that just building is not enough.
There is a school here the oldest girl’s secondary school; we call it St. Jude’s in Amarata that produced a large number of most of our early women that are educated. If you enter there, the investment is massive; same for BDGS and most other schools but even after doing that, we knew that because of the seriousness of the challenge, we needed to take it close to the people and so our government, as we speak is almost putting to use the 25 new constituency boarding schools, meaning that every constituency in this state now has a boarding secondary school standing there in the constituency close enough to the people.
Why did we do that? We did that because going forward and by September, boarding education will be compulsory for all secondary school students in this state, and that is why we are laying emphasis on boarding facilities.
From what I have gone through this period, three things are critical. Very often, people don’t think through these problems. You have the challenge of physical infrastructure that with commitment and with valuable resources and with a team, you can achieve; meaning building the schools, the dormitory and so on. The second challenge is the challenge of capacity on the part of the teachers and that is one issue I recommend that should be exhaustively discussed because even when we are spending billions building and modernizing schools all over the state, we are conscious that unless the teachers who remain the most important component in educational investment because all others ae blocks and bricks; anybody ca build a school but if you the teachers do not have two things; one the right knowledge and secondly, the skill with which to impact that knowledge and that comes with motivation and everything; if you don’t have these in place, then we say in
vein you build all the classrooms.
If you do not build the capacity of the teacher, and because we want to address this issue in a sustainable manner, what we have done is to build a teacher’s training academy like most other investments in our educational system is completed and very soon admissions will start.
What is our vision for out training academy? Our plans, going forward in this state is this; no teacher will ever have the privilege to stand to teach in any of schools we are building in this state without passing through that academy. That academy is a facility for training and retraining for capacity building for the teachers. In this state, we did it and I want to commend the teachers in this state for the understanding they have shown; they know that when I talk of education, unlike some others who play polities with it, we don’t politicize education, we don’t politicize development. Most people do not know exactly the magnitude of investments that we are making in that sector and that is why very often, I tell people that we are making in that sector and that is why very often, I tell people that to the rest of our country teachers who are in the private sector because they too need to avail these selves of those facilities. There are a lot
of international organizations that are working with us and very soon I will invite the president of the Federal Republic to find time to join me to formally commission that school; one of its kind and when we do so, I will give instruction, infact I hereby given instructions to the Honorable Commissioner to liaise with the private sector in education the private schools proprietors, all of them should key into what we are doing so that their teachers will also have a way by which they also pass through that school.
Our policy by which only people who pass through that school would teach, applies to both the private as well as the public sector. And let me emphasize this, when we told our teachers that I needed to test their competencies, it was initially misunderstood but we engaged them and made it clear to them that unlike what happens there and perhaps Edo, we were not doing that to sack teachers; no, that is not the purpose, we did that with their co-operation and am happy to report that the result was better than we though. But going forward, we have identified the areas of need. We are training young people o participate in a highly competitive and globalized work environment and so it is important that teachers from now, from the primary school stage begin to acquaint themselves with all contemporary components of knowledge, particularly ICT- driven and our policy is also, no pupil in Bayelsa will ever leave primary school and get into a secondary school
without acquiring basic computer literacy.
Now these are very ambitious goals that we have set for ourselves and I like to appeal to you all for collaboration and partnership. Education is too important for us to leave in the hands of government alone.
Education may be a very good business, but it is the only business that deals with building for tomorrow, building the future. For those of us in governments and for those of you in the private sector, we are all workers the vineyard, building our tomorrow for all of us and I like to appreciate you all for the time you have all taken, the investments you have all made, I agree with you that there’s no doubt at all that those of you in the private sector in education have contributed so much in terms of building our national capacity where very vibrant people, very will-educated but as you all know there is room for improvement. My government will continue to collaborate with all of you who are involved in this very important business with all of you who are involve in this very important business, the business of building and developing our collective future.