Imo state commissioner for education, Prof JohnCliff Chike Nwadike says in an interview with CHIDI EBERE IWUOHA that since he came into office, the state of education in the state has greatly improved.
The mood at the time
Prof JohnCliff Nwadike said he had met a ministry that was struggling to survive and that what he did was to key into the challenges faced by the ministry, so as to find ways of improving on the system. He also said that the mood of teachers was very low because transfers, appointments and promotions were not based on merit but on personal relationships with the powers that-be as meritocracy was not duly followed and seniority was relegated to the background.
People on low grade levels were appointed to supercede their seniors and that negatively affected the performance of the teachers as some refused to come to schools. The school tone was very low as students were taught little or nothing. It was on the basis of these that I had series of meetings with teachers and promised them that the narrative must change.
Mass transfer of principals
We decided to tackle the above mentioned problems by first of all carrying out a massive transfer of principals so as to allow for equity and fair play. Some of the principals, I must confess, saw themselves as untouchables and were heading schools within Owerri City. We came out with a policy of transferring them out of the city and many of them were not happy. Very soon, we shall embark on transfers of teachers, especially some schools in urban centres where there is over concentration. The idea is to post some of them to rural communities where their services are needed. The ministry works in synergy with both principals and staff and gradually the schools are taking new shapes.
Revival of Inter-House Sports, clubs
Principals have been instructed to revive Inter-House Sports competitions as well as reviving and re-establishing clubs such as Young Farmers’ Club, Debating Societies, Dramatic Societies, Cultural Groups etc. The extra-curricula activities will engage students practically as an idle mind, they say, is a devil’s workshop. Besides, schools have been directed to establish health clubs and provide first aid materials for the healthy living of students.
Safe school initiative
There are also plans to extend the self school initiative in all secondary schools in the state with the aim of teaching the students some defensive skills in the face of attacks, rape and molestation by some mischievous groups with regard to effective teaching. Also, special groups have been created to monitor the effectiveness of teachers from time to time in order to ensure that they perform their duties.
Effective monitoring of examinations, payment of teachers
Examinations are to be monitored with the aim of ensuring that both internal and external examinations are taken under a conducive environment. It is of note that the last external examinations (NECO, WAEC) were effectively monitored and the results are serious improvements from the previous ones. In similar manner, the ministry conducted all statutory state examinations such as First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC), Common Entrance, Junior WAEC and placements into special schools. Serious efforts are being made to release the results of all previous examinations that have already been concluded. The ministry cannot rest until this is achieved. Besides, by the time I assumed office, many teachers were not paid their salaries with effect from 2020. By the special intervention of the ministry, the Executive Secretary for the Secondary Education Management Board(SEMB) was mandated to compile a list of all genuine teachers that were owed salaries since 2020. This was done and as we are talking, 98% of those individuals have been paid with effect from October this year. This definitely will motivate them to be more serious in their duty.
Appointment of SEMB executive secretary
I must mention at this juncture that one of the milestones of this ministry under my watch is the appointment of a new executive secretary for SEMB in the person of Augustina Azubuike who has come to change some of the irregularities that bedeviled SEMB for better.
On schools’ renovations
We have been able to take stock of buildings and classrooms in the state. Communities were asked to give update on the status of their school buildings and submit to the ministry and eventually channelled to the Ministry of Housing. I am glad to inform you that the housing ministry has completed the bills of quantity for these schools which have been forwarded to His Excellency. Any moment from now, work will commence in the renovation of those structures.
Governor’s assent to Teachers’ Service Extension Bill:
The governor, a few days ago, assented to the bill which sought to extend Imo teachers’ service year from 35 to 40 and from 60 to 65 years. This is a good development and it would enable students to further savour the wealth of experience of their teachers and enable teachers put in more effort in their chosen carrier.