“It is no good making education free if learning is going to take place under trees or where resource materials like books, ICT are difficult to come by.”The above statement is a line taken out of a previous article I wrote in response to Imo State Gov, Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s flagship policy on free education shortly after he was sworn in as Governor.
Less than two months after, news making the rounds reveal that the Governor has disbursed N2.7bn to kick start his free education policy; each local government receiving N100 million naira each. The money as reported in one National newspaper will be used for the renovation of primary and secondary schools. This move is indeed commendable which no doubt if carried out to the latter would improve the learning environment and infrastructure where our children will learn.
However, there are still enormous challenges ahead, one of which is to assess the quality of teaching and learning in Imo schools. This could be addressed in two folds; looking at the way current trainee teachers are trained and what sort of training of current teachers have and are currently receiving. How robust are the training received in line with what is obtained in the developed world?
What is the theory/practice ratio? What professional standards are teachers expected to meet to qualify as teachers? How adequate are these standards in developing the appropriate professional competence? What amount of funding is available to ensure training of the highest possible standards are provided?
Imo State no doubt has in Alvan Ikoku College of Education, one of the foremost colleges of Education in Nigeria. The question that needs to be asked is whether it is still living on its past glories or has it moved with the terms in terms of Educational research and the Structure of its Teacher Training Programme?
The Governor also needs to look at the remuneration of teachers which I believe don’t get paid a lot. To attract the best brains to the teaching profession, its profile needs boosting and one way to do that is by increasing teachers starting salary with yearly increments. By doing so you can raise the bar and expectations for those intending to join the profession and standards would improve.
Equally important for the Governor to consider is to look at what teaching resources are available in Imo schools which I guess would be in short supply. The reading culture needs to once again be rekindled with well equipped libraries with current books and literary materials in various subjects. The teaching of ICT as a discreet subject should be incorporated in the school curriculum if not already in place. It should also be used to support teaching across the curriculum and this could be achieved if this forms part of teacher training programmes in Imo state.
Above all, the education team in Imo State needs to look at the content of what our children are being taught to see that it’s not just only in line with the National curriculum expectations but how relevant is it to an ever changing world.
Whatever they do, it would be helpful to consult experts in the field of education and I’m sure there are Imo indigenes or even non-indigenes both home and in diaspora that have something to offer.
No doubt Gov Okorocha has started his passion for the education of Imo children on a good note but he will be judged by how far reaching this policy goes to affect those for which it was intended. The key is to ensure there is accountability at levels in the award of contracts, quality of work done in the renovation works and consultancy work that should be undertaken in policy formulation and review based on issues already highlighted about teacher remuneration and training.
If he does all this and even more then there’s no doubt the impact will be felt for years to come if not for generations and he would be right up there with the likes of Dee Sam Mbakwe etched firmly in the history of Imo State.
Article Written & Contributed to IMO STATE BLOG by Hilonah