By Agnes Igwe
Ebonyi State government has declared its readiness to establish vocational school at Margret Umahi International Market Abakaliki for children traders.
This is following UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), which states that while southeast recorded 11.3 percent out of school children in 2016/2017, Ebonyi State has recorded 21.4 per cent out of school children.
The survey, in other words, named Ebonyi as a state in the South East that has the highest school children dropout rate. This accounted for why a program tagged Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) has been launched by the state government which is expected to be assisted by World Bank to eradicate illiteracy in the state.
Governor Umahi disclosed that building a vocational center at the International Market as a palliative measure for some of the children that are trading because of circumstances in their families, will enable them to school and trade at the same time.
Speaking during the flag-off which took place at International Conference Centre (ICC), Abakaliki, with many stakeholders in the education sector from federal and state levels in attendance, Governor Dave Umahi identified illiteracy as one of the major causes of insecurity and violence in the country and advised all children to go to school because that is the only way to safeguard their future and to have a peaceful coexistence.
He said, “I was addressing the press on the unfortunate attack of our brother, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in Germany. Those that attacked him were not Medical Doctors or Engineers or Lawyers or Chief Executives of parastatals or industries.”
“Even if they were at least educated people of IPOB members, they wouldn’t do what they did. And so, it is lack of education. Lack of education brings frustrations and that is a clear case of what happened. And so as we make efforts today, to bring back these children who probably would be attacking us in England, or in America tomorrow, we should know that the slogan in our dear state that every child is your child whether biological or not. We should bear in mind that the only way to safeguard the future of your children and your own future and to have a very peaceful evening, is to preserve the future of the children,” he added
According to him, the state had maintained 10th position in both NECO and WAEC for the past five years but he is not satisfied because he is aiming for the first position.
He said the state government is working hard to rewrite the education of the state by creating 3 centres which will commence this year for intelligent primary school graduates.
He stated that the parents’ duty will be to drop them off at the school gate because their feeding, clothing, medical, etc will be taken care of by the government.
The aim, according to him, is to have students making a minimum of 9As in WAEC and NECO.
He also said the state government had also established the vocational training centre at the international market to help children who are the breadwinners of their families.
“We are creating 3 centers, we want to start with primary 1 and we want after the common entrance, all the people that pass the exam will re-sit a special exam and those who will make 95 per cent and above will be taken to those three centres and all the parents need to do is to drop them in front of the school.”
“Their feeding, school fees, medicals, and clothing are totally taken care of by the government. We are starting this year. Some of these children are out of school because they are the breadwinners of their families. So, we are building a vocational center at the International market for some of the children that are trading, to enable them to school and trade at the same time.”
He further promised that by 2022, when the program is to end, there will be no out of school children in Ebonyi State.
The National Coordinator of the program, BESDA, Professor Gidado Tahir commended Governor Umahi for his giant step to end Nigerian worst education nightmare and for embracing BESDA.
He urged the governor to ensure that a proper measure is put in place to bring the targeted number of children, ensuring that they remain in school and providing a conducive learning environment with effective teachers.
Recall, the Umahi administration is currently sponsoring Masters Degrees and P.hD of the first class graduates and is paying them stipends for their upkeep.
The government, which has renovated many schools across the state, has been carrying vigorous campaign against hawking and loitering of school children during teaching and learning hours to promote literacy in the state.
During its first term in office, the government set up a committee that arrested child-hawkers across the state and students that went to school late.
Despite these and many other efforts of our past governors regrettably, the state is still listed as the state with the highest illiteracy and school dropouts in the southeast geopolitical zone.