As a background to this piece, it is important to underline that this author would be the very last person to insinuate that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta state, has not done good things as Governor of the state-that would be a lie from the pit of hell, itself. Aside from demonstrating this fact in my previous opinion articles, commentaries and interventions which favoured or supported policies, actions, inactions and decisions of the Delta State government, I have recently argued that he(the Governor) is not only eminently qualified to be the nation’s Vice President and would stupendously perform if such feat is achieved.
However, like every media professional, while this piece will continue to support the fundamental needs of the state and, the positive purpose of the elected government if such policies by the state actors will not in any way dent or obstruct the people from becoming keen to acquire skills and disciplines of developed nations, it will however, not support a policy/action based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine its judgments.
A typical example of such an exception is the pictures of the sorry state of Oyoko Primary School, Abavo, Ika South Local Government Area of the state currently in circulation.
The disturbing pictures showed visibly distressed structures, dilapidated classrooms laced with fallen ceilings, windows and doors. Going by the pictures and accompanying commentaries, it cannot be characterized as an overstatement to describe such a ‘scene’ as deplorable, dehumanizing, troubling, in bad light bracingly in contravention international best standard and most importantly, a reality that all well meaning deltans including our dear Governor should worry about.
Paradoxically also, within this period, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to read many commentaries underlining that this is not the time to hold our state government accountable for such an ugly scenario as the responsibility of the primary schools and primary education in the state falls within the preview of the local government authority. To others, the only remedy for this problem is simply to encourage parents to accept fate as across the world, education is neither easy nor cheap to fund.
Without doubt Okowa has done appreciably well for the sector. Take as an illustration, Delta state under Governor Okowa’s first term in office, witnessed the renovation/reconstruction/construction of over 5,000 classrooms. He also incubated, nurtured and brought into existence three healthy universities to cater for the academic yearnings of the people of the state. Evidence also abounds that as a result of the work of the Technical and Vocational Education Board in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in the state, six technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku have been fully rehabilitated, well equipped and fully functional. Consequently, Delta is the first State in the country to have all of the courses offered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
These efforts notwithstanding, the truth is that the state leadership is bound to face confusion in their minds and may not be able to finish strong as presently envisaged if they allow this present reality at Oyoko and other schools to flourish unaddressed.
For me, I think the Oyoko primary school saga was avoidable if only government’s attention was drawn to it by those who should know.
Another urgent reason why the state government needs to intervene, reassess this process and address the present injustice is the hidden awareness that the Oyoko experience may be one out of many other numerous sad commentaries in the state. While the Oyoko case exists in the open, many others may in a covert/subtle manner be in that condition. If the Oyoko experience is a challenge, others may be a challenge.
More touchingly, that such a ‘learning environment’ still exists in the state could be considered a sure sign that the state did not learn any lesson from the ghastly experience recorded a few years ago at Okotie Eboh Primary school, Sapele area of the state or may have allowed such experience go with political winds.
Surely, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our schools work and our children are properly educated at the right time. But in this particular case, if the state fails to do the needful, it will again dispatch another sign of a people unmindful of the fact that our children enjoys the right to education as recognized by a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which recognizes a compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, as well as progressive introduction of free higher education/obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.
Most importantly, not taking action to address the situation will simply mean our youths/nation by extension is faced with a bleak future.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO).And could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com /08032725374.