THE Oxford Advanced Dictionary of Current English by A.S. Homby, defined Education as “Systematic training and instruction (especially of the young in school, college etc). It also informs that education is knowledge and abilities development of character and mental powers, resulting from such training”, etc.
Abraham Lincoln, the late president of United States of America, in his wisdom spoke about education thus, “Nothing more to the future, not our military preparedness, for arm might, is worthless,
for if we lock the brain power to build a world of peace, not our productive economy, for we cannot sustain growth without trained manpower, not our domestic system of government for freedom is fragile if citizens are ignorant.
We must demand that our schools increase not only the quality of American education.” Later Smith posited that, “education not only changes with years, but that it is as sensitive to place as it is to time. It bears a different meaning in various countries and it is never quite the same thing in rural surroundings as it is in a crowded industrial area.”
The late Ghanian statesman and leader, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who had a large dream for his native Ghana said “Our aim is to make this country a worthy place for all its citizens, a country that will be a shining light throughout the whole continent of Africa, giving inspiration far beyond its frontiers by becoming the New Jerusalem, the golden city of our heart desire.”
And to achieve these lofty ideas and desire, Nkrumah embarked on the establishment of qualitative educational institutions that imparted knowledge to the citizens of Ghana for over a period of time.
This no doubt made Ghana to be where the country is today, a near perfect society, when considered or viewed from the perspective of the ratings of other African countries in terms of development that attained their self-rules at about the same time Ghana became an independent nation, in 1957.
There is no gain over-emphasising the obvious fact that education is the soul and heart of any nation that aims at permanent growth and development.
Education is a social process, which deals with the harmonious development of all the abilities and faculties of man – physically, mentally, morally, emotionally, spiritually and socially.
It imbibes him with welfare and that of the society in general. In its multiple dimensions, education is at once a process, a product and a discipline.
It will not be an over-statement if one says that the South East Geo-Political Zone is noted for her educational prowess in the olden days and times.
This culminated that the zone produced foremost educationists of the country: people like the late Engineer Rob Iweka, the first Nigerian trained engineer. He owned the defunct ‘Mirrow’ Newspapers, Onitsha.
He later became the traditional ruler of his home town, Obosi, in present day Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the late foremost nationalist and pioneer president of the country,
Dr Benjamine Adekundle Nnamdi Azikiwe, the world acclaimed ophthalmologist, the late Dr F. Okechukwu from Umunuko quarters, Ukpor, in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State; the literary giant, Professor Chinua Achebe, the author of the famous,
“Things Fall Apart” from Ogidi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the legendary mathematician, the late Professor Chike Obi and the computer wiz-kid, Emeagwari, both from Onitsha, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, the late Engineer Godian Ezekwe from Abagana in Njikoka Local Government Area,
Professor Dr Anthony B.C Nworah, from Amawbia in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State, who was the first Nigerian medical doctor to fashion a vagina in new born female child, Igwe Dr Ejike Ume (SAN) from Uhuolla autonomous community of Imo State, and others,
too numerous to mention, came from South-East Geo-Political Zone, because of the importance the zone attached to education as its primary industry.
No wonder in the good old days, schools like Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, Christ the King College, Onitsha, Federal Government College, Afikpo, College of Immaculate Conception (C.I.C) Enugu, Okija Grammar School, Zixton Grammar School, Ozubulu, etc,
were household names throughout the country, and parents struggled for their children to gain admission into anyone of these schools that existed and still exist in the zone, for the simple fact that the products of these schools are regarded as first-class brains and of course, they were certainly the best.
But alas, after the end of the inglorious and fatalistic Nigeria-Biafra war, the South-East, which hitherto was the hub and nucleus of academic activities that led to the establishment of the first indigenous university of the country in the zone, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State,
in 1961, by the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, started nose-diving in the pursuit of academics and its related components, and before long, the zone lost her grip and foremost position as the educational hub cum leader in the comity of the zones that make up the country.
The immediate past governor of Imo State, now a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, without doubt understood that the zone and Imo State in particular, have lost her vintage position in the scheme of things, educationally, and this he reasoned was the most important factor that has affected the rapid development and transformation of the states in the zone, Imo State, inclusive.
That was why as governor of Imo State then, he moved into action to revive the educational system and structure of the state, so that the state he visioned will regain her lost past glory in the production of people whose abilities and faculties would be physically, mentally, morally, emotionally, spiritually and socially developed, which in turn will not only enhance the welfare of the people, but, will also enhance that of the society – Imo State, the South-East Zone and the country in general.
The stand of Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha says it all – that the educational standard of Imo State, and to a large extent that of the sister-states, namely, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi is nothing to write home, and that something needs to be done, and urgently too.
With this, it becomes imperative and a matter of urgency and necessity for the governors of the five South-Eastern States to nurture and develop the educational systems of their various states in such a way that the systems so devised must develop the human resources that will in the very near future, satisfy the socio-economic and political needs of the South-East people in particular and the country as a whole.
For as the Chinese proverb says, “if you are planning for one year, grow rice, if you are planning for 20 years, grow trees. But if you are planning for centuries, grown men”.
Education therefore represents the most tangible expression of the dream of our foundation fathers, for a home-grown and home-balanced education and training programme that will produce the 21st century accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists, leaders, administrators, diplomats, etc.
Educational initiative and programme for advancement and development is a herculean and very challenging task for Nicclo Machiavelli, in his treatise did say, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success,
than take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has all these enemies – viz, All those who failed under the old condition, lukewarm defenders and those who may do well under the new condition and or order”.
Therefore, to lift the standard of education and also set standards for the new educational system and order in the south-east, the governors need to wake up and make sure that they provide the enabling environment coupled with putting in place all materials in terms of structures, facilities, logistics, etc, that will encourage the people especially the youths to go back to school.
It is a truism that the cause of a problem when discovered, the problem is half solved; hence, it becomes pertinent that the cause(s) of the decay and dearth in the educational structure and system of the South-East be pointed out, and of course, when this is genuinely done, then the solutions will not be far-fetched.
As noted earlier, the educational system, standard and future of the south-east nose-dived sharply when the 30 months war that saw Nigeria ran over the people of the South-East, then known as Republic of Biafra.
It is no more news that during the ill-fated war, the entity known today geo-politically as South-East Zone, suffered lots of degradation, penury, torture, to mention but a few and in the process lost self-esteem, while most, if not all their educational institutions were razed. At the end, those that were lucky to have survived, lost hope as they were impoverished.
Worst still, they were given paltry sums of 20 pounds in exchange for any amount they had in the banks. They now resorted to fight for survival, hence, to a very large exten,t abandoned education for commerce “buying and selling”.
As the people struggled to make ends meet, the regional government at the time was busy looking for ways to alleviate the sufferings of the people by providing the most important needs like, food, shelter and Medicare with the meager resources available to the then government of East Central State,
which today comprised the South-Eastern States of Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Imo and Ebonyi, and without fear of any contradiction, the then federal government, though postulated the maxim of “No Victor, No Vanquished”, did not help matters,
as the government did not do anything to rehabilitate the down-trodden people not to talk of revitalising the destroyed structures, including educational, government and private buildings razed during the war.
Nevertheless, ndi Igbo, in keeping with that spirit of never-say-die, after the war, started picking up and education was not left out. But, the morale of most people was downcast due to the devastative effects of the war.
People became more money conscious and went about it employing “missiles” within their reach and education suffered a great deal and with this, the future of the entity hitherto known as the pivot and cradle of education dwindled, thus affecting all the facets of the South-East, nay the country in general including poor leadership, lack of focus and dearth of infrastructural development.
But, should the South-East continue in this squalor? The answer definitely is “NO”. This is the time the south-east governors should re-address the academic problems of the zone, with a view to bringing the past glories of the region back, which without doubt, will be achieved through the provision of sound, efficient and qualitative education to the teaming youths of the zone.
This will not only help curb the increasing wave of truancy and recklessness prevalent among the youths today, but, will equally equip them, who are presumably the leaders of tomorrow, with the requisite frame work and road map for the total emancipation of the South-East in particular and the country in general.
Since the inception of the present democratic government in 1999, most of the governors of the South-East States have done one or two things to improve the education system in their various states, but, more needs to be done.
In the light of this, Chief Dr Willie Obiano, the executive governor of Anambra State should be commended for the bold steps his administration is taking towards restoring past glories of academics to the state which have started yielding positive milestone results, while other governors are candidly appealed to take more proactive measures toward raising the standard of education in their respective states.
It is also imperative that the South-East Governors should set up a modest plan and strategy that would make our youths go back to school once more, instead of the present craze for money. The governments should come out with stiff penalty for anybody who is within the age of attending school or should be in school, but is found hawking, learning trade without basic academic qualification of Senior Secondary School Certificate or loitering.
Equally, parents should be involved. They should not because they want their kids to go and “fetch” money discourage them from going to school as and at when due or for one selfish reason or the other, give out their daughters away in early marriages.
The South-east should wake up and go back to education, which actually produced people as earlier mentioned that made the zone first among equals. Today is still early!