The location was Igbanke in Orhionwon and the event was social but the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, just a few months into office, was present, officially. Reason was that such events was one avenue to be deployed in making a policy statement about the direction of his government, even if such policies were going to be denied, forgotten or buried in a matter of time.
True to expectations, Governor Obaseki did make a promise and said that his administration has set machinery in motion to address the problem of shortage of teachers in some schools in the state. He had acknowledged that the teachers in some if not most Edo schools were inadequate. He even said the shortage of school teachers was not peculiar to Igbanke and declared his commitment to revamp basic education in the state.
If nothing else, guests at the occasion felt fulfilled that they did not waste their time. They went home with this news. The three schools in Igbanke like in many communities across the 192 wards were however hard hit. The Igbanke Grammar School; Igbanke Mixed Secondary School and Omolua Mixed Secondary School had no Mathematics and Science teachers.
Some of the guests at this event, parents, teachers and guardians, were confident that the governor would deliver on his promise as they however recalled that Mr Adams Oshiomhole just few days to handing the baton of authority as Governor over to his successor,, Mr Obaseki, told Edo people that the state government needed to employ more teachers to ensure that quality education is given to students in public schools in the state. Oshiomhole left a legacy of state of the art classrooms in red roofs across the state.
He said, ready was the list of qualified Mathematics teachers, English Language, English Literature, Geography, Science teachers and Arts teachers, for which, “We have already done the interview; we will select a number and we will post them to your schools next week before the end of my tenure”. But since his government could not do that because of time constraints, the former governor was confident that his successor would follow through.
Oshiomhole’s words, ” the next governor will continue from where I am going to stop. You know that government, as they say, is a continuum. One governor and one government cannot finish everything. But if the next governor does as much as we have done, and I know that the next governor will do even more than what we have done.” But His successor had no such dreams. And it did not take long to show this to Edo people.
Interestingly, all over the world, education remains the key driver of development and societal growth. Education and work is believed to be capable of determining the livelihoods of nearly a billion people in the sub-saharan Africa and drive growth and development in generations to come. Little doubt that the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ or UNDESA, in one of its World Population Prospects 2 report, submitted that the solution to Africa’s education has to be scalable in order to address the problem awaiting the continent by 2050: that Africa will have the fastest growing workforce and numbers of school age children.
Its conclusion is that Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa, will contribute significantly to these numbers, hence the need to build a nation with an educated and skilled workforce that is stable, prosperous, and competitive. Obviously as education is the catalyst, teachers are the people who set the tone for society’s growth and development. It is the teachers who will impact on the quality of education in Africa; so the ability to have enough of them, train and support them with technology will determine the future of the children and continent.
There was no doubt that the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) smelt a rat with Governor Obaseki not following through with the many plans of his predecessor in office, close to two years in office, in 2018, and so they sought to remind him. They decried the lack of manpower personnel in the public schools, and urged the Government to commence the process of recruiting of about 9,000 and 3000 new staff to fill the vacant positions in both primary and secondary schools before the commencement of the next academic session. They gave a strike notice.
The other demand of the NUT was the immediate implementation of the new minimum wage approved by the Oshiomhole-led State Government of which Obaseki was a part in May, 2016. The new pay was for all its workers (including all primary school teachers), with all the arrears. The union had appealed to all well-meaning citizens to prevail on the State Government to urgently meet the demands of the Union to averting what it described as imminent darkness that was about to envelop the education sector in the State.
Although the NUT later put its strike on hold, with the Governor promising Basic Education reforms they were confident that his administration’s commitment to reforms would help to address what he called root causes of problems in the state’s educational system. Sooner than later, the Governor mooted EdoBest or the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation programme, as his flagship policy to solve all the problems.
The programme simply put involved getting classroom teachers in selected public schools to using digital lesson notes prepared and send to their tablets to teach classes. For Governor Obaseki, “Every teacher wants to teach and children desire to learn, which is why our ability to provide an enabling environment for learning is key, adding that 75 per cent of schools in Edo State now deployed the digital teaching tools under the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme”.
He added that the comprehensive Edo-BEST programme was a programme moving to the next phase of teaching, which will ensure education in Edo moves closer to what obtains in the western world. By this he meant that pupils in Edo state public schools will be grouped, based on level rather than grade-they will be graded into reading, writing, critical thinking and numeracy.
While the NUT in Edo was grappling with the reforms by the state government awaiting the employment of more teachers, the National Headquarters of the union was honouring Mr Obaseki as Nigeria’s Most Education Friendly Governor at the 2019 World Teachers Day. It however said that in giving the Governor a plaque to this effect it was due to his roles in improving basic education and teachers’ welfare in the state.
Notwithstanding, the governor like most Edo people knew however that even with EdoBest, the state’s 8, 700 teachers trained and equipped with ICT devices while less than 7,000 of them actually possess them is like a drop in the ocean and had no way of radically impacting the lives of millions of Edo children across the over 1,500 public schools, not to mention the over 1,000 private schools, with or without digital tools, especially in the face of lack of electricity, internet facilities, which the devices rely on, mostly in rural areas.