Covid-19: Qualitative Education Remains a priority in Akwa Ibom

Thursday, May 14th, 2020 | News

By Idris Mabadeje

The prevailing novel coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19 pandemic has foisted a new reality on the global community, such as was unimaginable just a few months back. Although, Covid-19 is first and foremost a health crisis, its impact has reverberated in different aspects of life, necessitating impromptu changes to modus operandi in governance, businesses, healthcare and educational services and deliveries.

Education is one of the most affected sectors. For fear of providing a congenial environment for community transmission of Covid-19, many countries, rightly, decided to close schools. Today, it is estimated that about 1.6 billion learners, representing over 90% of the world’s students, are confined to their homes because of the ravaging novel coronavirus.

The prevailing closure of schools around the world has added to the many other challenges confronting the education sector, especially in developing countries. For many, before now, school was consistent with the idea of teachers in front of the chalkboards or whiteboards and classrooms filled with students sitting at their desks. The closure of schools has interrupted the tradiy teaching of students in the classroom and also interfered with the progressive assessment of students as well as occasioned the postponement or outright cancellation of major internal and external tests and examinations.

The Covid-19 dilemma has therefore, challenged innovative policy makers and governments around the world to fashion out ways of ensuring that teaching and learning continue, even in the absence of traditional classroom settings. In Nigeria for example, many public and private schools were about rounding off academic activities for the second term when the initial cases of coronavirus were reported. Many schools closed without conducting the second term examinations for their students.

Fortunately, however, in Akwa Ibom, the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel in a state-wide broadcast, directed all public primary and secondary schools to conduct their second term examinations to effectively round off before proceeding on the coronavirus-induced closure. Although considered risky at the time, that directive by the governor has once again underscored his determination to ensure that the future of the younger generations of Akwa Ibom people is not jeopardized. For the governor, truncating the second term at its tail end, even when no case of coronavirus had been recorded in the state could not have passed for a good leadership decision.

As the world continues the search for a permanent solution to the coronavirus pandemic, and the closure of schools, indeterminate, educational stakeholders who have realized that learning does not have to take place within a brick-and-mortar building, have deployed new methodologies to academically engage their students.
Today, schools are embracing the internet as a veritable platform to engender teaching and learning. This scenario, as laudable as it seem, does not address the peculiar situation in Akwa Ibom state as it caters only to children of those in the top echelon of the society. Therefore, to bridge the teaching and learning gap without shutting out the children of those at the lower rung of the social ladder, the administration of Governor Emmanuel exhibited ingenuity by creating a School on Radio programme.

The School on Radio initiative, designed primarily for students preparing for the Junior and Senior Secondary School final examinations, has been commended by parents and students alike. Unlike the internet based programme, the School on Radio, because of its wide reach, allows students, even in the remotest parts of the state to benefit. With engagements and assignments in different subjects, Akwa Ibom students are not losing much to the coronavirus induced ‘holidays’.
The popularity of the initiative has emboldened parents to make a call for the expansion of the programme to accommodate children in the primary school category. As a listening administration, modalities are already being worked out to bring that category on board the School on Radio.
Since becoming Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2015, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has been consistent and unrelenting in his determination to engender an ideal educational environment. Doing this, he believes will help to raise and prepare a new generation of Akwa Ibom people who would be able to man the emerging knowledge economy his administration is creating.

Apart from retaining the free and compulsory education for all Akwa Ibom children in public schools from primary to senior secondary level, Governor Emmanuel has continued to make annual payment of over N600 million WAEC and NABTEB fees for indigenes in public secondary schools.
To accentuate his determination to find lasting solution to the problems confronting the education sector, the administration of Governor Emmanuel hosted the First Education and Exhibition Summit in the state; took over 17 community secondary schools; constructed 10 Computer Laboratories with internet facilities in 10 secondary schools across the state.

The administration has constructed and renovated over 500 school blocks as well as provided learning facilities through the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Committee. More than 600 projects have been executed by the State Universal Basic Education Board, through matching grant, comprising classroom blocks, boreholes and modern toilet facilities, in addition to providing educational materials like plastic chairs/tables , desks, teachers’ table/chairs, desktop and laptop computers, library resource materials, sport facilities, solar panels, generators for schools across the state.

The recruitment of over 5,000 teachers into the education sector; provision of facilities for smooth accreditation of 38 academic programmes of the Akwa Ibom State University by the National Universities Commission; and the facilitation of NUC resource visit to the Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha Nsit and the eventual approval for the commencement of degree programmes in 11 courses, are all pointers that circumstances notwithstanding, education remains a priority for the Udom Emmanuel administration in Akwa Ibom State.

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