With the creation of Delta from defunct Bendel State on August 27, 1991, successive administrations have improved on the educational sector, especially because of the high demand and expectation from the citizenry.
This is more so because Delta is not regarded as one of the educationally disadvantaged States.
The first civilian Governor of the State, Olorogun Felix Ibru, had the arduous task of laying an enduring legacy, as soon as it took over in 1992 not only in the educational sector but also in other sectors of the state. This posed a major challenge as there was a near-total absence of basic infrastructure at the time. Sadly, the effort by that administration to consolidate some of the projects started was truncated by the military which took over. Nonetheless, it is significant that the Ibru administration established the Delta State University, Abraka.
However, Delta began experiencing an elixir with the return to civilian rule on May 29, 1999. Chief James Ibori, a politician from Oghara in the Ethiope West Local Government, took over the office and immediately unleashed multi sectoral projects with a huge impact on the citizenry.
Among the projects credited to the Ibori government was the creation of three polytechnics, namely Delta Polytechnic, Ozoro; Delta Polytechnic, Ogwashi Ukwu, and Delta Polytechnic, Ogharaefe. That administration also established the foremost Oghara Teaching Hospital for the training of medical doctors as well as other health personnel apart from dispensing healthcare to Delta and neighbouring states using advanced medical facilities. Not forgetting of course the College of Physical Education, Mosogar.
Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who took over from Ibori as governor in 2007, placed a premium on human capital development. He upgraded and established model primary and secondary schools compared to what is obtainable in any part of the world. He improved bursary allowance to students in higher institutions and paid N5m scholarship to each First Class graduate to further their studies in any university of their choice, irrespective of location. Also worthy of note in this respect was the declaration of free and compulsory education from primary to secondary level, complementing it with the setting up of Edu Marshall to enforce the policy. Uduaghan further paid WAEC and NEC fees for JSS3 and SSS3 respectively.
Incumbent Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has not departed from the bid to up the ante in the education sector. In fact, he has scored several milestones since the assumption of office on May 29, 2015.
On assumption of office, Okowa hit the ground running by focussing on all aspects of the education sector. An unprecedented and bold decision was also taken to appoint four commissioners to superintend over this important sector, namely; Ministry of Basic Education, Ministry of Secondary Education, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Technical/Vocational Education. It is a reflection of the premium the governor places on getting the children off the streets into the classrooms.
In line with his SMART Agenda which has now crystalised into a Stronger Delta initiative, the Okowa administration has reportedly established more than 18 public primary and 40 secondary schools across the state, to boost foundation years of children; most of whom had no access to formal education.
Consequently, access to education in rural and difficult terrains has greatly improved. Primary and secondary schools in urban centres have similarly been decongested to have a spike in enrolment as stipulated in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
In all, Delta now boasts of 1,130 public nursery /primary schools, out of the 2,962 in the state and 462 public secondary schools of the total number of 1,406. Enrolment in the public primary and secondary schools, as at the end of the 2017 /18 academic session, shows that there are 166,081 males and 156,790 females, totalling 322, 871 pupils in public primary schools, while there are 140,461 males and 140, 823 females, totalling 281,424 students in public secondary schools.
Relatively, the Delta State Government paid the counterpart fund of the Universal Basic Education programme, from 2015-2017, to the tune of N5,188,221,561.85 which enabled it to receive over N10bn as a matching grant for the three-year period.
To restore the quality of teaching, the Okowa administration established the Teachers Professional Development Centre for the upgrade, retooling, and training of teachers at all levels. Over 6,500 personnel in the education sector, including Federal Government N-Power and volunteer teachers at the community level under the auspices of the TPDC have been trained in the last five years. Another 100 French teachers were similarly trained in the period under review.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education struck a synergy with the State Universal Education Board and the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission to provide and upgrade infrastructure in this subsector. At the last count, 3,366 classrooms have been renovated as a result of this partnership. Of the 140,478 students’ furniture provided, 95,496 and 44,982 were by the ministry and SUBEB, while DESOPADEC accounts for the rest. Of the 22,440 teachers’ furniture provided, 15,086 were by the ministry, while 7,354 was by SUBEB.
Additionally, 73 block fences were constructed by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in collaboration with SUBEB. Eight science laboratory blocks were newly constructed and 14 block fences renovated, by the ministry, with SUBEB providing 30 solar powered boreholes in an unprecedented investment at the level of Basic and Secondary Education.
Realising that not all students from secondary school end up in the university and to tackle the perennial drop out syndrome, Governor Okowa frontally unveiled a technical and vocational policy that has revolutionised the subsector. The promulgation of a law to establish a Technical and Vocational Education Board in June 2015 and the inception of a Ministry of Technical/Vocational Education signposted the bullish resolve to change the narrative.
First was the massive renovation of six existing technical colleges, which were largely dilapidated until then. Then followed the revamping of eight vocational skill centres, ensuring that they were upgraded and fitted with modern workshops to suit the newly designed curriculum of the ministry.
Today, the technical colleges in Aboh with specialisation in Masonry and Machine Works; the one in Sapele, with specialisation in Woodwork and Automobiles; Ofagbe, with specialisation in Welding, Fabrication and Electrical; Ogor, with specialisation in Welding and Fabrication; Utagbe Ogbe, with specialisation in Building and Concrete Works; and Issele Uku, with a focus on Building Services have witnessed a turnaround that makes these schools attractive to students.
The Ministry of Technical/Vocational Education also launched a digital platform to promote interest in Information and Communication Technology thereby underscoring the benefits of computer education in a global village, while 45 courses had been accredited in all the six technical colleges by the National Board for Technical Education including 100 per cent improvement in enrolment in the vocational and technical colleges.
More significantly was the establishment of three new universities by the Okowa administration namely, Dennis Osadebay University, Asaba; Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro and the University of Delta, Agbor. Massive infrastructure development is taking place to ensure their take-off by September.
Nineteen technical colleges have been established by Okowa in addition to the nine existing ones. The 19 new ones are resuming in September 2021. Six new centres with two in each senatorial zone have similarly come on stream. Delta is spearheading the inclusion of skills acquisition in the curriculum of schools at all levels
As the architect of a new education sector in Delta State, these landmark achievements by Governor Okowa, which were made possible by his focused energy in rebuilding the education sector aggressively, has further opened a frontier of prosperity for all Deltans.
But, the greatest beneficiaries of the enumerated milestones are the indigent children, who on account of the circumstance of their birth, location, or economic status of their parents might not have had access to education.
- Ofou is Chairman, Board of Directors, Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba.
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