Oftentimes, many people uncharitably regard Anambra State as a state that scarcely places any premium on education. The state comes off as a place dominated by business interests alone. That is a burden the state has carried admirably for a long time. But, contrary to this unfortunate perception, she is not. Pitted against a few states that stake a claim to education credentials, she comes out tops. However, time and again, the burden of a business state status weighs more in the general perception, probably because, more than other states, she boasts of a community of business people.
However, a look through the records of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) would reveal differently. Aside from the statistics of intake in examinations moderated by both institutions, which favour her over and above many states, early progenitors of education in Nigeria, like Olaudah Equiano, came from the state. She also parades pioneers in all walks of life, from politics through academics, law, writing, medicine, religion, etc. This is in spite of more than a 66-year disadvantage in having her first secondary school.
Recall that Nigeria’s first secondary school, CMS Grammar School, was established in 1859. The first secondary school east of the Niger, Hope Waddel Training Institute, Calabar, was established in 1895, while Anambra State got the presence of secondary education in 1925 with the establishment of Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) by the missionaries. Despite this disadvantage, Anambra State produced many qualified graduates by the time Nigeria was ready for independence in 1960. Such people include Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first President; Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike, first African Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan; Professor Ben Nwabueze, the first professor and a SAN. Others were Professor Chinua Achebe, intrepid scholar and writer; Professor Chike Obi, mathematician of world renown; Professor Pius Okigbo, economist of no mean repute; Christopher Okigbo, an avant-garde poet; Cardinal Francis Arinze; Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; and the first Igbo lawyer, Sir Louis Mbanefo, among others. But for the war, which ravaged the people and sent many of them scampering for survival, the state shone like a million stars.
The seeming loss of interest in education in particular and paid employment in general started with the stifling control of the organs of government soon after the war. The victorious Federal Government did not let up. It was a moment of difficult presage for the future of education in Anambra State in particular and the entire Igboland in general. But this trend has been reversed and the state has since made quantum progress in education. For good measure, the educational policy was reordered, setting right priorities, particularly, in the last 11 years of the government of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Apart from sustaining previous effort in the return of mission schools to their owners, the Governor Willie Obiano administration has, through what the Commissioner for Education, Professor Kate Omenugha, calls “value-based and quality education policy,” given greater attention to public schools through increased funding, structured in a manner to encourage excellence. As one of the 14 enablers that drive Obiano’s blueprint (Four Pillars), education was made priority. The government has renovated over 1,000 units of 10 classroom blocks in both primary and junior secondary schools and completed phase 2 of the construction and equipment of 1,500 classroom blocks for primary schools. Adult literacy, for those who never had the good fortune to go to school in their teens, increased to over 80 per cent as government established schools in the markets in the state. In the same vein, there has been an increase in enrolment of girls by 30 per cent. Primary school enrolment and retention also increased from 64 per cent to 90 per cent. Accreditation has been secured in 13 trade subjects in four technical colleges. Beside regular payment of emoluments, a lot of incentives were given to teachers who take up assignment in hard-to-reach areas and those who teach core subjects like Mathematics, Science, English and Igbo language. Constant trainings were conducted for teachers.
No fewer than 210 primary school teachers from the 21 local government areas have been trained under the health service programme. Scholarship has also been awarded to indigent students, displaced persons and those with disabilities. Recently, a scholarship of over N30 million was awarded to over 200 students to encourage excellence. The state has, in addition to all these, disbursed the sum of N733 million to mission schools to enable them renovate, re-equip and retool their processes to ensure the production of quality students. Anambra State equally sponsored about 23 vocational education teachers to Singapore in 2015, and distributed 10,447 units of two-seater iron frame desks in primary and junior secondary schools in over 60 communities in the state.
Higher institutions in the state, like the Odumegwu Ojukwu University and Anambra State College of Education, Nsugbe, have received a lot of attention. The former had all its courses accredited through the efforts of the state, thus graduating its first set of medical students in 2015. Nsugbe, on its part, has improved power supply with the installation of two units of 500KVA, 33/0.415 KVA transformers.
The result of these efforts is a leap in the transformation of the education sector so much so that, between 2015 and 2017, two teachers, Rose Nkemdilim Obi and Clement Nwoye Okudo, beat other teachers in Nigeria to emerge the best teachers. These awards, no doubt, provide an interesting gloss on the efforts of the Obiano administration. Again, contrary to the lies peddled by detractors, the state under Obiano has progressively scored higher in WAEC results. WAEC rates performance of the states by the number of candidates who score credits in minimum of five subjects including English Language and Mathematics. WAEC records show that the state made giant strides in Obiano’s three and half years.
In 2010, the state recorded 47.01%; in 2011 (47..72%); 2012 (70.76%); 2013 (67.96%); 2014 (60.98%); 2015 (65.07%); 2016 (71.83%) and 2017 (75.31%). Note that Obiano was sworn in on March 17, 2014, meaning that the 2014 figure of 60.98% may not necessarily be attributed to his administration. But under his watch, the state, in 2017, recorded the highest percentage score of 75.31% in WAEC performance in the last nine years. It must be pointed out that there was a drop of 9,063 in the number of candidates who enrolled in WAEC between 2014 and 2017 because of government’s intensive fight against so-called miracle centres. Therefore, to claim that the state has taken a tumble in education since Obiano is to discount these achievements as exemplified by WAEC records. Apart from the recognitions for Rose Obi and Clement Okudo, education has made appreciable progress in the state under Obiano. If in doubt, listen to Senator Ben Murray-Bruce on the progress of education in Anambra.
• Onyima, former Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, writes from Umuoji.