Akwa Ibom state like many other societies has continually been on a move to gain self-discovery, economic freedom and social liberty. Not liberty from the captivity of slavery, nor captivity as a conquered territory in a war-torn era; but the captivity of defeatist syndrome, inferiority complex and economic backwardness borne out of poor or lack of education.
Soon after he came on board as the governor of the state, Udom Emmanuel took a bold step at social and attitudinal re-orientation through the Dakkada initiative. The first impact seems to be on the education sector before even the economy.The sight ofchildren in Nursery and Primary education school level reciting the Dakkada creed only leaves one to wonder what would have been the level of mental capacity and economic attainment of our people if such inspirational verses were our watchword in time past.
Considering the economic downturnthat hit the country soon after he assumed governance, citizens of the state expected very little from the governor as far as development in education sector is concerned. Being a state with a very vibrant rumour industry, rumours even began to flow that the free education policy the governor inherited had been suspended.
But,as the focused leader that he is, the governor remained resolute in his mission not only to sustain the antecedents of his predecessor in the education sector, but to explore fresh frontiers that will take this vital sector to the next level.
Free and compulsory education has been sustained in the state while renewed impetus has been given to teachers and other stakeholders in that sector through timely payment of their salaries in addition to timely supply of teaching aides and furniture, even at a time when their counterparts in most of the states across the country are taking either half salary or are being paid once per quarter.
The governor further pays millions of naira as subvention to schools and the local education authorities every quarter of the year, in an attempt to offset charges accruing in the process of educating Akwa Ibom children. This is done in an attempt to eliminate extortion of the students the government seeks to educate totally free of all charges.Also, thousands of AkwaIbom children who hitherto would pass through primary and secondary education processes only to drop out of the Secondary School Certificate Examinations like WAEC have been saved from being uncertified school leavers as the present government has so far painstakingly coughed out 1.8billion naira for the settlement of examination fees for students.
The improvementof the learning and teachingcondition for pupils, students and their teachers has also received a boost via the building of uncountable school blocks, fences and staff quarters across secondary and primary schools in the state.
The governor has further ensuredthe supply of computers to both government and private secondary schools in the state; a deliberate effort to ensure that the average Secondary school leaver has moderate computer skills and can compete in today’s world.
Armed with the understanding that education is nothing without the maximization of talents, the governor has surprised his ardent of critics and delved into the least expected and hitherto nrglected aspect in the education sector, sports development.For the first time in very many decades, schools sportdevelopment has received government attention in terms of infrastructure; beyond the usual practice of government organizing inter school sports competitions on dilapidated facilities.Ultra modern Sports Development Centres of excellence are constructed in secondary schools across the ten Federal constituencies in the state, with a football academy to complement. Two of these centres of excellence have been completed in in less than 2 years out of the 10 planned and the balance 8 will be accelerated.
All these are donein an attempt to discover and breed hundreds of future stars who will make the state proud inthe sports arena and by extension become breadwinners to their families.When taken into cognizance the fact that such initiative have the possibility of giving a platform to sports-crazy teenagers who would have been tagged ‘recalcitrant’ children for practicing their passion on the streets, one could only conclude that the governor is indeed a leader that sees deep into the future of the state.
Needless to re-emphasis that the current state government’s multifaceted approach to educational development and mass literacy for Akwa Ibom children,at no cost to the citizens, is a rarity that is plausible, considering that all these are being done at a time when income flow is a great challenge to the conduct of regular government administrative affairs in the country. But looking at the mental liberation and mass capacity development such investments offers, the Governor indeed deserves commendation.