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CRITTICAL EXAMINATION OF FREE EDUCATION IN IMO STATE SYSTEM
This article analyzed the or critically and empirically the impact of frees education on development of infrastructure in Imo state secondary schools. The study employed the use of vector error correction estimate (VECM). The variables were found to be stationary at order 1, and there exists a long-run equilibrium relationship between the dependent and the explanatory variables. However, the two variables for infrastructure show a steadily declining rate on the long run as shown by the result of the variance decomposition and impulse response functions. It is suggested that the government should intensify their efforts in mobilising more resources towards the provision and improvement of basic infrastructure.
This paper presents a macroeconomic outlook on the benefits of a strong infrastructure base to the Nigerian economy. It provides an informed perspective on the economic impact infrastructure development has on nation building. Though infrastructure linkage to an economy may come in a multiple of ways, it is often known to be complex and sometimes convoluted, creating both positive
and negative add-on effects, due to the large flow of expenditure. Attention is given to the impact infrastructure has on economic growth. Special focus is given to the strategic position of the Construction industry takes in bridging the gap between – a state of underdevelopment (economic-anorexia) and economic prosperity.
A look at strategic procurement options through the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) as a viable alternative to Traditional procurement is also discsussed.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The story of education sector in Imo State in the past six years has been that of continuous struggle to give it a pride of place. This focus could be directly hinged on the fact that the sector is the state’s biggest industry. To start with the state has for decades held the record of presenting the largest population of candidates for both secondary school certificate examinations like WAEC and NECO examinations.
Again, with about 273 secondary schools and over 300 secondary schools spread across the 27 council areas of the state, its status as an educationally advantaged state becomes even more pronounced.
The two administrations that have straddled governance of the state in the past six years never left anyone in doubt about the prioritization of the sector. However, it has to be noted that the present administration has considerably upped the ante by making it the cardinal policy of its tenure.
Between 2007 and 2011 the administration of Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s education policy yielded some positive dividends. Top on the agenda is the leveraging on the UBE/state partnership to construct six classrooms blocks in each of the 305 wards of the state. The administration also rehabilitated secondary schools across the state.
The administration, based on findings of various committees, has examined the worrisome fallen standard of education in the state and initiated the radical policy of handing over of missionary schools back to their original owners. In the first exercise about 44 schools were handed over. The state government also approved 450 million grants to facilitate smooth transition with 50% of that sum paid before its tenure ended in 2011.
Another milestone etched in the annals of the sector was the massive recruitment of teachers under 10,000 job schemes. Over 3000 of the beneficiaries of that initiative were deployed to secondary and secondary schools in the rural areas of the state. His successor Owelle Rochas Okorocha however suspended that scheme when he assumed office through a state wide broadcast on June 6, 2011.
That Owelle Rochas Okorocha emerged victorious in the 2011 guber poll in Imo State owed largely to his electoral promise of free education. The governor and his handlers apparently realized that education held the key to unlocking the electoral vaults of the state and promptly latched on to it and made it his major campaign promise.
His argument was heavily bolstered by his track record at his Rochas Foundation Colleges in Owerri, Ogboko, Jos and Kano State, where an estimated 5000 students were enjoying free education. So , Imolites argued that if he could do it at Rochas Foundation he could as well do it for the state. The argument quickly caught on like harmattan wild fire and spread across the nooks and crannies of the state effectively cementing the electoral victory of Gov. Okorocha.
On 29 May, 2011, at the Dan Anyiam Stadium and before a mammoth crowd of the jubilant and estatic electorate, Gov. Okorocha publicly declared free education in the state school system. He instructed parents who have paid school fees for their wards for the third term of the academic session to collect back the fees. Principals and head teachers were instructed to refund fees already collected with threats of punishment against those that failed to adhere to the instruction.
Within a few months of being on the saddle and apparently realizing that free education backed by necessary infrastructure for conducive and qualitative learning was a sine qua non the administration took further bold steps to consolidate and deepen the envisaged gains of the policy. Prominent on the list was the building of 305 classroom blocks across the 305 electoral wards of the state, the provision of free sandals, uniform, books and desks for students and students.
More than one year after this policy pronouncements what has the government put on ground to actually show that the policy has taken off in his budget speech at the State House of Assembly on Monday November 3, 2012 the governor catalogued the numerous steps so far taken by his regime to strengthen the free education policy.
According to him “we have expanded the scope of the free education programme of this administration by including students of Imo State origin in tertiary institutions owned by the state government in the programme. In this regard we paid N100,000 each to Imo indigenes who are students of Imo State University and N80,000 to those at the Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo.”
Others include the sustenance of the allowance of N500 to secondary schools students and N300 to secondary school students. Additionally, the administration he said had continued to pay bursary allowance to handicapped scholars and other indigent students.
Also, the government embarked on the construction of 305 units of modern school blocks of 12 classrooms each in all the 305 wards of the state which translate to 3600 modern classrooms which would be fully equipped for conducive and qualitative learning.
Other achievements of the government included the completion of three new secondary schools namely the City College, Owerri, Young Scientists College, Owerri and Umunwama Girls Secondary School, Izombe, to decongest schools following rising enrolment being recorded as a result of the policy.
Gov. Okorocha added that his administration empowered school authorities with a running cost of N200,000 to procure basic teaching items and to undertake minor repairs within the schools.
Gov. Okorocha’s education commissioner Prof. Adaobi Obasi recently told newsmen that as part of efforts to make the education policy second to none that 2000 new teachers have been recruited for the state school system. This new recruits were engaged in her words “to reduce the ratio of about one teacher to sixty students.’’
Moving up to the tertiary level, the administration said it has rescued Imo State University from imminent collapse by increasing its subvention by over 200% as the institution now receives 250 million as against 57million it received from the past administration.
Furthermore, the State University Teaching Hospital (IMSUTH) also received improved subvention from N57 million to N95 million representing 100% increase. Additionally, all abandoned projects have been completed while the MRI machines bought by the administration of Chief Achike Udenwa but left to rot for years have been installed making the Teaching Hospital a beehive of activities.
Recently, these government claims have come under heavy scrutiny following the public protest staged by IMSUTH student’s a fortnight ago. The students who spilled into the major streets of Owerri and paralyzed vehicular and human traffic claimed that IMSUTH was on the verge of losing accreditation. Their fear, findings revealed, were heightened by the loss of accreditation by the institution’s law faculty late last year. Nigerian OrientNews findings also revealed that staffs of the institution have been on strike since December 10th 2012, due to what the striking staff described as “myriad of ills plaguing the institution”.
Spokesman of the striking workers Comrade B.O.V. Okere told this magazine in an interview that they were owed October, November and December salaries even as the institution is understaffed and faced with exodus of health professionals. Prof. Ukachuwku Awuzie Acting Vice-Chancellor of IMSU who spoke to this magazine in his office recently admitted both problems but heaped the blame on the administration of Ex Gov. Ohakim. Hear him: “For four years Ohakim abandoned IMSUTH, he never built or completed any structure that is why these problems have accumulated now but Gov. Okorocha, because of his commitment to education, is doing something about them”. In recent times, there has been persistent public outcry against either frequent strike actions embarked upon by teachers or the fall in standard of education particularly in that part of Nigeria occupied by Ndigbo. The purpose of this paper is to make a brief review of the education sector in Imo State, assess its present condition and suggest future direction with particular reference to free education. Advertisement . From very ancient time, education of young people has been at the heart of the bargain Ndigbo have made with the child – to nurture, protect and bring him up as a functioning adult. In the past, fathers were entrusted with the responsibility of assisting the male child to acquire all the necessary skills that would enable him to survive as an adult male. Mothers, on the other hand, performed similar functions with respect to female child. When formal education was introduced during the colonial period, communities throughout Igbo land came out strongly in support of education. Under the direction of missionaries and early Christian fathers, people donated land, built and equipped schools and supported teachers’ salaries, but left their management to the missionaries.
It should be noted that throughout the over hundred years of British administration in Nigeria, not a single government secondary school was established in the whole of the then Eastern Region, a territory of which Imo State was a part. There seemed to be a deliberate effort, on the part of the British, to slow down people’s zeal for education. The British set up the Ministry of education purported to regulate the process and uphold standards. But in practice, the Ministry constituted a road- block instead of facilitating progress. This was because the Ministry inspected and approved schools that presented students for standard six examination and as a consequence, only a handful of schools were approved and this had the effect of shutting off a large number of prospective students. The situation was worse in respect of secondary education. When the British handed over the reigns of government to Nigerians in 1960, there were only two government secondary schools in the whole region, namely, Government College, Umuahia and Government College Owerri. Similarly, there were only very few missionary secondary schools in the region before the British left.
Following Nigerian independence, the British withdrew all their personnel that manned the Nigerian civil service and thereby left a gaping hole in that service. This was compounded by the fact that there were no trained Nigerians available to fill the vacancies thus created. As problem solvers, the Nigerian government of the time took immediate action- granted scholarships to deserving students, dismantled the obstructive Students Advisory Committee and allowed private students to study abroad and tackled secondary and secondary education with vigour. The Eastern Region Government established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the first indigenous university in Nigeria which helped in the production of high – level manpower.
The Nigerian civil war which lasted from 1967-1970 came, and not only stopped all educational activities, but totally destroyed all educational infrastructure including buildings and school equipment. Mr. Asika’s administration was saddled with the task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools, a task which it accomplished with dispatch. Realizing that schools were almost completely supported by the communities in which they were located, and that the same communities had been totally impoverished by the war, the Asika administration decided to take over all schools. It is to the credit of that administration that one year after the war, students from the then East Central State compared favourably with their counterparts from non- war-affected areas.
Sometime after the war, a professor from the North published a paper in which he recommended that further progress in education in the South should be stopped until the North caught up with the South. A military President came on board and systematically implemented the recommendation by neglecting education in the country to the point that schools at all levels remained closed for up to six months in a year. As a consequence of the neglect, the standard of education fell, school buildings and equipment became dilapidated, and school enrolment dropped drastically. The scar left by the neglect is still evident in many schools in Imo State and the State is fast reverting to the part of the country with high level of illiterates and semi-literates.
To help an understanding of what is currently going on in education sector in Imo State, it will be useful to look closely at the State to see what is happening. In June 2008, I was invited to a meeting at Awo-Omamma Technical Secondary School in Imo State at the instance of Imo State Education Commission, Also invited to the meeting were the parents of the students and other stakeholders. The Commission said that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the alarming rate at which students were dropping out of the school. Enrolment in the school had gone down from over 1000 in earlier years to less than 200. For purposes of emphasis, the free education pronouncement for secondary and junior secondary school children in Imo State is laudable but this must be executed in a manner that ensures that the quality of education does not suffer. The current focus on education by one of the state governments in this country provides advocate of education an opportunity to make the case for enharising the quality of education for our children and wards. This can be accomplished through better motivation of our teachers by paying them better and regularly; reducing the ratio of students to teachers and refurbishing existing infrastructural facilities. All of these activities require significant funding which Imo State government will not be able to afford without increased internally generated funding, plus significant help from parents, the federal government and international organizations.
1.2 PROBLEM OF THE STUDY
Many authors and education researchers have argued that the causes of the decline in the quality of education in Nigeria include (a) poor funding (b) poor teacher quality and motivation (c) poor instructional facilities and (c) inappropriate curriculum. Central to the poor funding concern is the misappropriation of funding allocated to education at various levels of government and the consequent non-payment of teachers’ salaries. With time the quality of teachers has deteriorated, since only people who have no other options will now enter this noble profession today. To improve the quality of education, Imo State must improve the conditions for the two key people in the classroom— the teacher and the student!! Leakages in the system that consume education resources, such as corruption must be addressed to ensure that appropriated funding actually gets to the target audience— the student and teacher . School teachers must receive better and regular pay and should be provided periodic professional training to upgrade and enhance their skills. People must be made proud to call themselves teachers and thus to be motivated to bring the best out of the students under their care. This can only happen if resources intended for teachers pay/training actually get to them— and in full. The trends above show that the quality of education in Imo State is declining and so also is the number of people going to school. The net effect is that in the future, we are likely to have a larger number of uneducated and unskilled Imo indigenes in the labour force. The intentions and aspirations of the current administration to address this problem are admirable, but care must be taken to ensure that access to education results in large number of well educated children, who at the end of their secondary school will be prepared to go into secondary schools, trade schools and tertiary institutions depending on their innate attributes. Without careful attention to quality, we will end up with a large number of “educated students” who can neither read nor write. For purposes of emphasis, some of the stakeholders that the State should consider approaching for supplementary funding and technical assistance are listed below:
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION
1.5 RESEACH HYPOTHESIS
H0: Free education cannot provide qualitative and functional education to all children of school age irrespective of religion, sex, culture and disability in Imo state.
H1: Free education can provide qualitative and functional education to all children of school age irrespective of religion, sex, culture and disability in Imo state.
H0: Free education cannot re-introduce and launching of the 3Rs (reading, writing and mental Arithmetic) in secondary schools which aimed at improving students’ communication and numeracy skills.
H1: Free education re-introduce and launching of the 3Rs (reading, writing and mental Arithmetic) in secondary schools which aimed at improving students’ communication and numeracy skills.
H0: It is impossible to evolute policy of “operation all students/students must have comfortable writing desks and war against poor and dilapidated schools structures in the Imo state”.
H1: It is possible to evalute policy of “operation all students/students must have comfortable writing desks and war against poor and dilapidated schools structures in the Imo state”.
H0: Free education do not equipped school in Imo state with infrastructural facilities such as building of structures, science equipment, desk, equipped libraries books to enhance quality, qualitative and functional learning in schools.
H1: Free education equipped school in Imo state with infrastructural facilities such as building of structures, science equipment, desk, equipped libraries books to enhance quality, qualitative and functional learning in schools.
This study comes at a key juncture for the world’s school area. Schoolization is proceeding rapidly, and it is projected that by the year 2020 more than half the population of the developing world will live in cities and towns (the world bank, 1996). Yet even as cities increasingly become the nexus of economic and population growth, they do not deliver on the promise of a better quality of life to the extent they could. Millions of school residents in Imo state do not have access to potable water near their homes, basic sanitation is often lacking, electricity and power supply is epileptic, roads had deteriorated with pot-holes, and access to health services and education pose serious problems in many cities.
This study is centered on the impact of free education on infrastructural development of Imo state secondary school system.
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Despite the limited scope of this study certain constraints were encountered during the research of this project. Some of the constraints experienced by the researcher were given below:
iii. INFORMATION CONSTRAINTS: Nigerian researchers have never had it easy when it comes to obtaining necessary information relevant to their area of study from private business organization and even government agencies. Secondary schools in Imo state finds it difficult to reveal their internal operations. The primary information was collected through face-to-face interview getting the published materials on this topic meant going from one library to other which was not easy. Although these problems placed limitations on the study, but it did not prevent the researcher from carrying out a detailed and comprehensive research work on the subject matter.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Infrastructure: social goods such as road, electricity, water supply, sewage, drainage, solid waste collection, telecommunications, public housing, transportation, educations, and health facilities.
Developing countries:- sometimes known as LDCs (Less Developed countries), they comprise those countries which for some reasons have been backward in developing their economic resources with the result that their peoples have a much lower standard of living.
IDF – Infrastructure Development fund
SPO- Standing payment other
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