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The International Writers Magazine: Africa


Amaechi’s Everyday Project Of Training Rivers Teachers
Odimegwu Onwumere
Basic Education is very important in any child’s life. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), being in the forefront in seeing that the Universal Basic Education programme is enforced, is highly commendable.

teaching

Its expression and readiness to assist the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State, as contained in a recent report, with technical inputs to boost this kind of education, is an effort that the praise goes beyond the West end.  The signing of the 2011 Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA) between Rivers State and UNICEF at Government House, Port Harcourt, is excellent.

But just as the UNICEF Nigeria representative, Mr. Charles Nzuki, appealed to governor Amaechi-led government to be fast in eradicating HIV /AIDS pandemic in the state during the event, Amaechi should also expedite action in seeing that the fancy schools and the thousands of teachers trained and those undergoing training begin to use the utopian schools. Our children are still graduating from the ‘low schools’ that prompted Amaechi to embark on the journey of building schools in his first tenure as governor till date.

Rivers State implementation of the education strategic sector plan will take a decade to be accomplished. The effort by Amaechi to give our children qualitative education should be followed with successes of accomplishment, and should not be on publicities that have outraged the expectations of the unsuspecting public.

We have recently heard the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Dame Alice Lawrence Nemi, said that 5,000 teachers in the state are to be trained on the new 9-year Universal Basic Education (UBE) curriculum software. This could not have been made known to the public if not that we recently reviewed the education policies in the state with its attendant criticisms.

We think 5,000 is even a small number, but we are not to worry because we could hear that 10,000 teachers are to go for training by tommorrow. We have been hearing about Rivers State training and re-training teachers for a long time that would use the Kilimanjaro schools. If the state government likes, the education angle should hold a one year refresher workshop for the domestication of the new curriculum, all we want is evidence of where the acquired skill from the workshop is channeled to.

The state government procuring several copies of the new curriculum by the Nigerian Educational and Research council, is a good action, but the government's commitment to seeing that the schools are working would be the best action taken.

We could recall that in September 2009, the whole area was awash with the news that teachers in Rivers State were certified by the Cambridge University. This was contained  as the second batch of 1,256 beneficiaries participated in the six-month Capacity Development Training Package for teachers in the state's primary and secondary schools, and today the state government is sending 5,000 on course that would loaf around after, because contracts are still being awarded for the building of the fancy schools in Rivers State.

Maybe, UNICEF would take a contract to train the teachers as the British Council once did. The Council’s country Director, David Higgs, was so happy that our teachers were certified by the Cambridge University that he described the state government's teacher training package as “dynamic and very interesting in moving education forward.” Did we hear moving education forward or moving the teachers forward? However, there is no pain in training teachers for efficient and effective performance of their duties, but what of training of the pupils? Have they not overborne patiently to be imparted with the skills the teachers have acquired?

While Higgs in his appreciation “promised that the British Council would continue to partner with the state Government in promoting better education and development of skills amongst young people by helping them to succeed in life”, the state government is not done with that; here it is with the new package to partner with the UNICEF, maybe for more trainings.

No one should tell us this political statement that with the provision of infrastructures in the fancy schools, teachers would perform wonders. We think that before these trainings cropped-up, these same teachers were teaching and children were graduating in their different schools with better brains than the best results we see children in the recent time boast of without a better brain in many of them.

No one should tell us that it was not business as usual, because before the emergence of training of Rivers teachers by NGOs, pupils had teachers as their role model, and not because they are going to be taught by the “Cambridge trained teachers or UNICEF”. 

Imagine that what these teachers were sent to learn are: interactive approach, student centered application, self motivation for teachers and development of interesting lessons. Others are classroom management, learner analysis and preparing teachers for the three modules. Haba! The teachers that taught most of us in those days learned in the universities and teacher training institutes.  And they taught us.

It is very sad that many of us resent what we already had. We have River State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), a strategic intervention initiative of the Rivers State Government, set up by law, but we are afraid of how operational it has become today. What about the Workmanship Technical Training Center (WTTC) located at Bori? We knew that WTTC is/was a world-class technical and vocational training center pursuing accreditation from London City and Guilds and NABTEC, yet we also have teachers trained by foreign NGOs.

It is a known fact that the future of any nation lies on its youth, but this could be realizable only when the elders of today lay the foundation for the youths on truth.  Successive governments all over the world place much emphasis on the training and empowerment of its youth, as the principal means of securing the future. But how many of the youths can be really proud of the future? A case study is Rivers State, were the past and present governments have had one form of empowerment programme or the other without a much transformation. The state’s Ministry of Youth placed the various youth empowerment programmes (we have read on the newspapers) aimed at empowering the youth and reducing unemployment in the state, yet we still have abysmal number of uneducated and underpowered youths everywhere in Rivers State.

The state government should help us with programmes that at various points in distribution to people’s reach. We do not like and want this “long queue” of projects in the state that has made our people struggling with life to earn a living in Rivers State. Curbing of unemployment is ineffective when few selected group or individuals benefit from employment. While we blame some of the beneficiaries who have failed to utilize their opportunities to serve the people, we want the government not to see these trainings of teachers as a means to share money to the detriment of the poor masses of the state.

© Odimegwu Onwumere July 2011

O Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Email: nirivpol@gmail.com


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