By Inyali Peter
The relevance of quality education to any society cannot be overemphasized. The maxim that education is the bedrock of any society is a truism and should be taken more seriously by government at all levels. Any government or administration that undermines the importance of education may well be mortgaging the future of the unborn generation.
Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Britain when asked during his party conference to give his three main policies said that, “Ask me my three main priorities for government, and I tell you: education, education and education.” Britain wouldn’t have achieved the height of development she has today without quality education.
Canada, US, Russia, Japan among other developed nations set education as the top most priority of any democratic administration.
Although, it’s fair to say that the falling standard of education in Nigeria is a national problem, it is appalling that in Cross River, the only state in Nigeria led by two Professors has little or no clear cut policy for education. The standard of education in the state is falling freely and this should be a worrying situation to every Cross Riverian that believes in securing a greater future the next generation.
It is reported that the state today is struggling in about position 20 in the rating of States with viable educational policies in the country. Hence, the state is listed by Nigeria News Now as one of the most disadvantaged States educationally in Nigeria. Considering that the Governor, Professor Ben Ayade and His Deputy, Prof. Evara Isu spent their formative years in the academics, one would imagine why they have failed to make education one of their top priorities.
Although it’s very difficult to understand clearly the administrative policy of this government, it is widely insinuated that the government is anchored on industrialization and tourism. This is notable in the governor’s numerous investment MOUs and his decision to appoint himself as the Commissioner for Tourism.
While it is commendable that the administration has brought about innovations in the state tourism drive, for instance the Bikers Carnival which was introduced to add glamour to the popular and prestigious Calabar carnival, it is also disturbing that the governor has not seen reasons why education should be given such attention as tourism.
Under the current leadership, the state failed to conduct First School Leaving Certificate Examination for primary six pupils as at when due. This has caused the pupils to lost a full academic session.
Cross Riverians who sat for the 2016 June/July West African Examination Council (WAEC) could not asses their result early enough to process their administration into tertiary. This is after they have spent money, time and resources to write JAMB, participate fully in screening exercises conducted by tertiary institutions all to be disappointed by the news that WAEC with held their results due to the state inability to clear outstanding bills.
Almost all the state owned tertiary institutions are suffering neglect. For instance, the Institute of Management Technology, Ugep is near moribund. Staffers are owed ten months salaries without hope of any solution on sight.
The state schools of midwifery have lost accreditation. The only state owned university, Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH is grossly underfunded hence witnessing infrastructural decline cum inadequate man power.
It is surprising that the two former governors in the current democratic dispensation were able to manage fairly the challenge of the rising and falling standard of education in the state. Perhaps, this may be because they considered education as a key component of their administrative policies or maybe because they had a professional education administrator who headed the education ministry.
If tourism is so important to the governor that he decided to head the ministry, one would imagine why the governor deliberately refused to appoint his deputy who is a tested education administrator to head the education ministry. No doubt, the current education Commissioner is an intelligent administrator but when you consider that his expertise is in nursing and not education, you will conclude that the governor may have undermined the importance of education.
This may sound funny but it’s the reality of the government of two Professors. Any society where pageantry is given more attention than education is a society in paralysis and heading to nowhere.
To address this, the governor should as a matter of necessity review the policy trust of his administration. Education should be given more attention. The intelligent and hardworking education Commissioner should be redeployed to a ministry where his creativity and expertise will be needed most. The deputy governor, as a former Vice Chancellor should be empowered to have more control over the education ministry may be as Commissioner.
On the frustrating WAEC situation, the government should be sincere and bold to tell Cross Riverians if the state still have the resources to fund WAEC registration as the case may be. If the state can no longer play this role, parents and guardians should be allowed to take full responsibility of the registration bills. This will be a win-win situation for both the government and students as both sides will share the blame and gain of any possible outcome.
Without good and realistic plans for education, the drive to make Cross River a better state will amount to an effort in futility.