By HILARY OGILI
When I wrote about the sterling performance of Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB), the huge success it recorded in its projects execution barely one year after it assumed office, it was to serve notice that something new, big and good had come to Enugu State. My position was based on some deductive reasoning: if the Board could do so much at the assumption of office, how much more after it has spent some time in office!
Time and actions have proved one right: I dare say that the zeal, commitment and determination of the State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and the entire ENSUBEB team led by the energetic, hands-on, projects-savvy, indeed projects-crazy, Executive Chairman, Chief Ikeje Asogwa, to improve both the curricular and physical infrastructural base of primary and post primary education in Enugu State, can be found nowhere else in the effort to transform basic public education in Nigeria.
And not even the setbacks imposed on the march of our civilization by the virulent enemy called Covid-19 could stop ENSUBEB. Indeed, of recent, the people of Enugu State have simply been overwhelmed by the breath-taking performance of the board in the first phase of this year’s projects, in spite of the debilitating impact of the globally-ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, a scourge that has continued to disrupt and distort world economy, government business and, needless to say, practically every aspect of human activity. But, it is instructive that ENSUBEB had delivered excellently on the UBEC projects for the 4th quarter in May 2020—at the height of the pandemic!
Multilateral institutions have over the years set templates for global development in the areas of health, education and infrastructural growth, among others, with particular focus on developing socio-political economies like Africa, Middle East and Asia. This they have done in partnership with national governments, which have signed-in to these agreements and are desirous of human capital and structural development of their environments.
To that extent, counterparts are negotiated and agreed upon between these institutions and governments, which in turn set templates for State governments to tap into the opportunities provided by these agreements to pursue their respective policy goals and mandates.
The policy thrust of the State government in question in terms of prioritization of needs and the importance attached to both the tangible and intangible developmental deliverables would then come to play.
Since inception, the current administration in Enugu State has unarguably put educational development as one of its major, if not the most important, goals in its development agenda in relation to other equally critical areas of need.
Having, therefore, considered the growth of education as the bedrock of its development agenda, the leadership of the State has continued to provide the impetus needed to achieve this noble objective, which subsists principally in regular, not to say unencumbered, payment of counterpart funds due to the State. Thereafter, the government expects relevant agencies such as ENSUBEB on whose competence and efficiency it relies on to deliver on this core objective of the administration—the solidification of Enugu State’s basic education base.
At the last count, ENSUBEB has, within the last three years, recruited 3,530 primary school teachers; constructed, reconstructed and renovated 857 classroom blocks, 161 toilet facilities and conveniences; distributed 51,985 sets of teachers’ and pupils’ classroom tables, desks, chairs, books and instructional materials and sporting equipment, among others, to 1,226 primary schools and 296 secondary and 38 technical, science and vocational schools in the 17 Local Government Areas of Enugu State.
The commendation for the State government and the Education Board as it relates to the improvement and development of the education sector in Enugu within the period under review, does not only lie in their obvious commitment and determination, but also in the fairness, spread and equity usually employed in the distribution of educational infrastructure in the State.
In Enugu State, it has come to be seen as given that government institutions, in this case ENSUBEB, would carry out both vertical and horizontal scoping in determining and shortlisting communities and areas where there are critical needs for renovation, construction and provision of other educational enhancement materials, completely devoid of the usual primordial political sentiments, cronyism and other unfair methods that often influence the citing of these projects.
In fact, community-based organizations and individuals are encouraged to monitor their environments and bring to the board, information about the condition of schools and facilities for immediate intervention.
In furtherance of the Board’s determination to improve the quality of service delivery and the education authorities’ understanding of modern world’s knowledge-based, technology-driven education management systems, resources are deployed to elevate the exposure and capacity of teachers and other ancillary staff to be able to conform with the trend.
As state governments critically weigh options, strategize and monitor developments with regard to the Coronavirus pandemic and its implication for the resumption of schools, the State Education Board has proactively embarked on continuous sensitization, workshops, training and capacity-building of teachers to get them ready and prepared to handle the new reality.
As we celebrate the milestones achieved in the fourth quarter of the projects for the preceding year 2016/2019, it is apposite to note that the administration has again taken the bull by the horn by fully paying counterparts for another phase of projects due to commence this October, after the last phase activated in May had been fully completed and delivered to the people, thereby making it twice in 2020 fiscal year alone. That is unprecedented!
In this way, the Millennium Development Goals projection in the area of education, based on States’ performance index, would have been surpassed by Enugu State.
Kudos to the State Governor for creative leadership and ENSUBEB management for the poise.
OGILI, former Secretary to the Local Government, Igbo-Eze North LGA, Enugu State, writes from Enugu and can be reached via 08033281914 (SMS only)