By James Eze
In recent times, the bold efforts by the Anambra State Ministry of Education under Prof. Kate Omenugha to implement a visionary policy by the National Council on Education have attracted unnecessary criticisms from some segments of the media. These vicious attacks and campaigns of calumny against the person of Prof. Omenugha and the government of Anambra State are essentially from people who are perpetually suspicious of government and any policy that demands either the empathy of the citizens or their mere understanding. Yet, it has been proved, time and time again that any society that is reluctant to brace up for the challenges of the future is unwittingly laying the foundation for its own misery.
Interestingly, it has become clear that most people who oppose this revolutionary policy do not understand it. For this reason, some people have read all kinds of sinister motive to it. For the sake of clarity, it is important to note that this policy does not deserve the controversy that has trailed it. For one thing it is federal education policy which came from the resolutions of the 58th session of the National Council on Education in Abuja in 2012. Among many other resolutions at the conference, the Council recommended the “supply adequate number of computer laptops on soft loan basis to all teachers.” It also recommended that states should “continually organize training workshops and seminars for teachers on effective use of computer.
”It is instructive to note that this policy was hatched four years ago. In spite of the obvious importance of its recommendations, this policy had been allowed to gather dust for four years in Anambra State by people whose responsibility it was to drive it. Chances are that it would have continued to rot away if Prof. Omenugha were willing to trade her responsibility in exchange for cheap popularity; if she had lacked the boldness to drive it.
Instructively, in deciding to drive this policy which has since taken roots in some states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, the Anambra State Ministry of Education had approached it with a great sense of caution. First, the teachers were clearly made to understand that the Laptop Acquisition Scheme is not compulsory. In other words, they are at liberty to choose not to subscribe to it. To that extent, they were given a Consent Form to fill. The form provides them theoption to accept or reject the offer with no fear of intimidation or threat to their jobs. In addition, they were assured that the laptops come with a 9-month training packages that would guide them into acquiring the technical knowledge of using the laptop. To lighten the burden on the willing beneficiaries of the scheme, payment for the laptops was spread out across a period of 18 months. This is happening at a time when the naira is on a free fall to the dollar in
the exchange market. But perhaps more significant is even the fact that the Ministry also assured them that teachers who already owned laptops need not subscribe to the scheme. In all, there is nothing punitive or likely to impose avoidable hardships on the intended beneficiaries. On the contrary, the policy has actually come to give them a new kind of power.
Nevertheless, beyond the hue and cry of the few people who are kicking against this policy lies the weighty question… how are we preparing our children to face the challenges of a complex, technology-driven world, twenty years from now? Will the developed countries of the world whose children currently use i-Pads in nursery schools slow down their pace so that our children will catch up with them? The answers to these questions are obvious. If our children must compete in a vastly globalized world, then our teachers must be sufficiently equipped to prepare them for the envisaged challenges of their own time. The inconvenient truth however is that our children can only absorb what their teachers can teach them and our teachers can only impart the knowledge and skills they have.
At the moment, most of our teachers have no computer skills and therefore are not able to teach the children. Experience has shown that computer skills are more effectively acquired in and out of the classroom. This makes the ownership of a unit of computer a necessity to not only the teachers but the students.
It must be noted however, that it takes an iron will to drive a positive change. The easiest thing to do in life is to avoid the difficult path. But will a less thorny path lead to a brighter tomorrow? Experience has shown that some of the most memorable figures in history were individuals who took the stony path, the less trodden path, the path that appeared demanding in the beginning but in the end took their people to dream destination. In choosing to drive this policy, the state government has boldly sacrificed what it might gain in empty popularity for the higher and more glorious goal of arming umu-aka Anambra to compete with their contemporaries across the world. In the words of America’s iconic civil rights leader, Malcolm X, “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Indeed, no responsible government anywhere in the world would shy away from taking hard decisions that will prosper the society. The Laptop Acquisition Scheme falls in line with the long term vision of Governor Willie Obiano which lays emphasis on Teachers Welfare (and capacity), infrastructural development and students welfare. Fuelled by this vision, the state government had increased teachers’ salary by 15%, constructed over 1500 classroom blocks for primary schools, distributed 220 laptops to private schools and invested the sum of N733 million in the renovation of mission schools within the first year of the Obiano administration. It was also this vision that made the government sponsor 23 teachers to Singapore for a special training that sharpened their competence and overall ability to deliver on their jobs.
It is therefore inconceivable how a government that has shown such a tremendous sensitivity to the plight of teachers can be portrayed as going against them. The irony is that the people who are making frantic efforts to pitch Anambra teachers against their government often forget that Governor Willie Obiano is a proud son of a teacher who would do anything in gratitude to the profession that gave his father everything he needed to raise him and his siblings.
It is gratifying to note that these people are a tiny minority. Most people in Anambra State know that neither Governor Obiano nor his Commissioner for Education, Professor Omenugha who is herself a consummate teacher and passionate educationist would introduce any policy that would hurt teachers in Anambra State.