The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, has explained why his administration introduced the boarding school system, which was non-existent in the state before the inception of his administration in 2012.
Mr. Dickson spoke on Thursday at the Civic Centre in Lagos during a colloquium entitled: “Raising A Wise Generation: Revamping Nigeria’s Secondary Education” organised by Government College, Ughelli Old Boys Association, September ‘73 Class.
Speaking on the topic: “Grassroots Education,” the Bayelsa Governor, who was one of the guest speakers at the event, said he decided to invest heavily in secondary education to empower the youth with requisite knowledge capable of discouraging them from taking to militancy, stressing that there is a correlation between illiteracy and militancy in the region.
He said the establishment of boarding schools across the state and the free and compulsory education at primary and secondary levels have democratised education in the state and the grassroots in particular.
The governor in a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Francis Agbo, said under his watch, education was no longer the exclusive preserve of the bourgeoisie and the privileged ones in the urban centres, adding that the huge investment in education is paying off as militancy has drastically reduced in the state.
“When I took over, there was no single boarding school in Bayelsa State. If you are wondering why some places have issues of militancy, insurgency, instability, criminality, unemployability and other similar crises, you just need to look at the state of investment in education.
“When I became governor in 2012, standing on the podium at my inauguration, I declared a state of emergency in education…At the dinner, some of my friends said free education would destroy my government and they asked where I would have the money to fund free education.
I said I would plug the leakages, get the priority right and fund free education.
“Now, in Bayelsa, we have built almost 15 model boarding schools, feeding the students free of charge and they are on scholarship. One of them is the flagship boarding secondary school, the Ijaw National Academy, with over 1,000 students.
“The establishment of these boarding schools are so democratised to the extent that every state constituency has a boarding school and this has helped to deepen education at the grassroots.
We currently have about five thousand students across the state on the programme. All the students are on the state government scholarship.
“We selected the best boys and girls from all the primary schools irrespective of their background from all the Ijaw-speaking areas along the coastline of Nigeria – Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo and Ondo,’’ he said.
The governor expressed concern that colleges that have produced great minds in Nigeria have become shadows of themselves and hailed the Ughelli old boys for coming together to return the lost glory of secondary education to their alma mater.
He said secondary schools like Government College, Umuahia, Queens College, Kings College both in Lagos, Barewa College in Zaria and others are national institutions that have produced great leaders and literary icons must be preserved.
Mr. Dickson said his government has so far spent about N55 billion on the educational sector to build and secure the future of Bayelsans, stressing that a country that fails to invest in education mortgages the destiny of the people.
He said the investments in education have started yielding dividends as Bayelsa is currently ranked third in NECO and fifth in WAEC examinations, while Bayelsa students on government scholarship have graduated from top universities like the Lincoln University in USA where one of them, Pere Pereware, emerged as the overall best student and valedictorian in the 2016/ 2017 session.
The governor said education was too critical to be treated with kid gloves.
He, therefore, called for regular peer review mechanism among governors to build national consensus on education for the overall good of the country.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who was also a guest speaker at the event, spoke on Girl-Child Education and commended Governor Dickson for revolutionising education in his state.
The colloquium was attended by the first Nigerian female Vice Chancellor, Grace Alele-Williams, who was also chairperson of the event; a senator, Oluremi Tinubu was the special guest of honour; while Governor Akinwumi Ambode, the chief host, was represented and other dignitaries.
Notable old boys at the event were the literary icon, John Clark; Chairman of the Ughelli Old Boys, Omatsola Vincent; renowned columnist and Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Nation newspaper, Sam Omatseye; and others.