• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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BusinessDay

Benue state educational sector has since been in a state of animated suspension

education

There is no doubt that corruption exists in all sectors in Nigeria. The corruption in the educational sector is a frequent occurrence although it varies in sizes and shades from one state to another.

As a result of poor leadership and woeful planning, the public schools system has become dysfunctional across Benue state and the sector has become an arena of inefficiency and a cesspool of corruption. For instance, the conditions of public schools in Okpokwu Local Government Area, one of the first local authorities in Benue State and my immediate constituency is quiet disheartening and pitiable.

From Edumoga through Okpoga to Ichama, the condition of these public schools is the same. The schools surroundings have become havens for several species of grasses and wild animals. The buildings have become dilapidated and academic activities are literarily crippled. The less privileged ones, who have no other alternative, usually receive lessons under the trees as there are no chairs or roofs to give them shelter.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, Okpokwu has been on the good page of political relevance and Benue State having produced a Minister, State Party Chairman of the PDP, Commissioners, Special Advisers and most recently, the position of the Deputy Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly. Aside these political gladiators, we are richly blessed with several illustrious sons and daughters who are heads of parastatals and agencies, and others who have done well for themselves in their chosen carriers.

Children attending public primary schools in Benue State were stuck at home for over eight months following a prolonged strike by their teachers for non-payment of their salaries.
While we celebrate those who have taken bold steps to establish private schools, our leaders need to be reminded that the public schools in Okpokwu and other parts of the state need some enhancements since most of these private schools are out of the reach of the masses. This is just one of the ways our politicians can give back to the grassroots who elected them and not by the continuous sharing of offering monies, salt, meat and wrapper as is customary.

The public schools system is looking for the era of change to spill some benefits on them through the wind of change that is now blowing. If the public school system can be given its deserved attention, by improving their infrastructure, improving the quality of teaching and learning, and improving the lots of teachers, the state of education would improve and the effect of ‘change’ would reach the grassroots level.

Teachers occupy a pride of place in the scheme of things and should be given their due respect and entitlements instead of debasing and ridiculing them with insults and subjecting them to unnecessary hardship. Governments should be made to honour their salary obligations to teachers by making their monthly salaries a priority among competing items on the budget. Our public schools and teachers deserve more from the Benue State government under the present political dispensation.

What should the government do?
Primary school teachers in Benue state are being owed 11 months’ salary arrears while their counterparts in secondary school teachers are owed five months arrears.
Furthermore, the state owned university is presently on strike due to the laxity of the government towards the education sector in the state.
Education is an essential necessity in every society because it engenders development.

Therefore, any government that cannot take education sector seriously is of no value to the society and should be sent packing.

It is shameful that the current administration in the state is still blaming the previous government for her inability to move the state forward instead of concentrating and making good use of the available resources of the state in the way that can bring positive change.
Under the present administration, public institutions in the state especially schools have witnessed a downward slide.

It should be noted that the federal government released bailout funds to the state to pay all the outstanding salaries and allowances of the workers in the state but the funds were diverted.
The state has continued to receive its statutory allocations from the Federation Account, including the latest release of Paris Club refunds, but the salary arrears owed by the government are still not being paid off. Instead the current government is still blaming the previous administration as if the previous administration is responsible for the diversion of the bailout funds and other funds released to her by the federal government, to pay the outstanding salaries and allowances of the workers in the state.

But even as education in the state continues to suffer, the government in the state is still talking and planning on holding onto power in 2019 even in the face of its display of incompetence.
It is pertinent to remind the present government that the former administration was voted out of power owing only four months salaries and allowances of the workers in the state.
We the people of Benue state therefore hold the view that if the current administration cannot improve our educational system to develop our youths for a better Nigerian, then it has no business seeking office again in 2019.

 

Michael Nicholas-Mandla

Writes from Lagos