Dr Ifeanyi Paul is the Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on Secondary Education. In this Interview with ONYEDIKACHI ANYAONYEABOR, he speaks on the scintillating performance of the Gov. Willie Obiano administration among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
WHAT are the highpoints of Gov. Obiano’s seven years in office?
In the last seven years, there have been a lot of tremendous achievements. First is security; this is paramount because if you don’t have security, other sectors will suffer. I think our state is one of the safest states in Nigeria now. There is also a lot of improvement especially in education which is my constituency. Our teachers now are trained. A lot of things are going on in education. There is innovation, perimeter fencing, etc. And these achievements could be noticed because studenst in Anambra State are already taking the lead in Nigeria.
In terms of agriculture, I am happy to know that for the first time, ndi Anambra, I inclusive, enjoy local rice. Before, it had been imported rice. But the most exciting aspect which I am so proud of that even the greatest critic of Obiano will give bravo to is the airport. I am so excited and I cannot wait to see the airport being commissioned. In the aspects of infrastructure, roads, the governor has done tremendously well. In the country now, we know that the price of oil has fallen beyond expectation. So, he has so much in his own level that even the greatest critic will give him the thumps up.
Health wise, we are enjoying health insurance for the first time. Just pay only 12,000 a year and you are covered. It is a very great achievement because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. You just name them. We can say that the sky is our limit. But I will like to look at the bottle, not how empty but how filled. He has done so much. Why did I say that? Some governors or some states will stay eight years and will be scratching the paper to record their achievements.
But here, even the blind mind can see what is going on. There is a lot of improvement in our beloved state. I cannot fail to say that one of the exciting achievements is the think home philosophy where important personalities are now encouraging people, myself inclusive, to come and invest in the state. I don’t know what is happening with the Igbos; we invest in other states neglecting our own state. So if you ask me, not because I’m his SSA on education already, but if am not in this government, I will give him bravo for the airport and think home philosophy; inviting our people to come here and above all, security.
What are your high points as the SSA on secondary education?
I have sent many proposals to His Excellency and some of them have seen the light of the day and others didn’t due to bureaucratic bottle necks. But above all, in Anambra State now, we have silent reading, the 15 minutes silent reading and it was also my initiative.
One of the things I recommend is what I call the continuity; where students after class are given the extra- moral class. I know I suggested all and it is happening now.
I also suggested to the governor that the state honours those who have contributed to education. In one of the schools, a family built library in honour of their father, who was a principal of the school. There is this guy, every year, he organises quiz competition and gives scholarship.
I sent a proposal that people like that should be honoured according to the data with His Excellency. The governor is looking into that for approval. We are still yet to implement that but after-class study is going on and it’s really satisfying students to excel. There were lots of teachers’ training which I was one of the facilitators.
Then, we looked at the old boys and old girls. I sent a proposal for that because government alone cannot fund education. Where we have the old boys, we encourage them to do one or two things in their Alma-mata because we discovered that some people after passing through the universities, forget their school afterwards. But it’s now that we have a very strong old boys and girls students association. We should tap into that resource.
Then in technical education, I was a member that visited the 11 technical schools in Anambra State. After that, they went to Singapore and won laurel and there are lots of improvement in the technical education. And I recall, I sent a proposal to His Excellency that we should have a board of technical vocational education to make it separate so that people will report directly because if we don’t pay attention to vocational education, we will still have problem of unemployment. So, there is so much and I am very grateful that I am part of this success story. First, the sky is the limit. It brings room for large improvement.
What other things do you expect Governor Obiano to do before thee end of this tenure?
Education! Why I said education is because it is an enabler and he sees education as an enabler. The wealth and health of any nation depends on the education sector. But unfortunately, due to limited funds competing for a lot of attention, I am not speaking because I am a teacher or because I am the SSA on secondary education, but I think if we pay more attention to education, other sectors will come in force. For instance, if we get our technical and regional skills right, unemployment will reduce. Not everybody will be professor.
But above all, because of the paucity of fund, I call on individuals, business men and women, and cooperatives to help. Education is the responsibility of everybody. There is no money, because we have agriculture, health sector and other sectors competing for attention. I know if am right, other sectors will get it right.
But above all, if government should spend more on education, building more schools, equipping laboratory infrastructure which he is doing anyway. We now have fundamentals fencing in the school. Our labs will be equipped and teachers trained. I am also happy that he is addressing the welfare of the teachers and this has encouraged the teachers to do more.