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THE SINS OF AMAECHI (3)

THE SINS OF AMAECHI (3)

BY SOLOMON NNAM OKOCHA



"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet." - Aristotle

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Center reports that as of 2005, 40% of school-age children in Africa did not attend primary school and there are still 46 million school-age African children who have never stepped into a classroom.
A regional report produced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Bureau for Education in Africa (UNESCO-BREDA) education sector analyst team in 2005 indicates that less than 10% of African children are now allowed in the system. Four out of 10 children did not complete primary school in 2002/2003.

The above reports have one thing in common: primary education is on the decline in Africa. In order to curb the rising menace of poor primary education in Africa, certain recommendations for reform were laid on the table by UNESCO namely: more comprehensive training of head teachers and administrators in economical administration, regular government inspection of schools, encourage parents to complain or fight against schools fees and proactively help parents to know their rights, empower and mobilize local watchdog organizations such as parent-teacher organizations and school-management committees.

I am very sure that Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, had spent quality time studying the United Nations' policy on education. This is because in 2007, few days after he was sworn in as the 5th Governor of Rivers State, he embarked on what many have described as an unbeatable educational landmark in Rivers State, and Nigeria at large. The impact of the Amechi-led educational revolution reverberated throughout the globe, and international accolades poured in endlessly.

The former Governor of Rivers State, who is now the present Minister of Transportation, spent half of his first term in office constructing model primary schools across the length and breadth of the state. It is on record that there is no single local government area in the state that did not benefit from Amaechi's robust infrastructural development in the educational sector. Not only did Amaechi erect international standard primary schools 'everywhere you go' in Rivers State, he also embarked on the training and recruitment of over 13,000 teachers. This record is yet to be beaten in Nigeria. No Governor past or present, has employed that gigantic number of manpower for education in a single day.

For the first time in the history of Rivers State, primary schools were fully equipped with modern science and arts learning tools. Amaechi's primary schools were designed with laboratories, halls, libraries, ICT centers, gardens, sports facilities. Many of the schools had solar power on standby to compliment with normal power supply. Adequate measures were also taken to ensure security. Unlike before when primary schools in Rivers State was a no man's land, were primary school pupils daily clashed with child molesters and thieves, Amaechi ensured that security was stable in the new schools. With well fenced compounds and well paid private security staff, the issue of insecurity became a thing of the past in our Primary schools.

This Writer believes that many people don't know or perhaps have forgotten that primary education was completely free during Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi's tenure in office. In line with the Universal Basic Education (UBE) - free and compulsory education scheme, no primary school pupil was charged any form of levy in Rivers State during this period. It is also on record that school uniforms, sandals/sneakers, bags, and books were all freely distributed to the school children at the beginning of every term. What manner of Nigerian politician is this? I ask.

Judging by Amaechi's educational drive, It was no surprise when the World Book Capital was moved to Port Harcourt in 2015. The World Book Capital is a title bestowed by UNESCO to a city in recognition of the quality of its programs to promote books and reading and the dedication of all players in the book industry. Wow! Everyone, save greedy politicians were happy with Amaechi for this feat.

Felicitating with the River State Government, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate for Literature and Goodwill Ambassador/Member of the High Panel for Peace, UNESCO, said: “For us in the Book World, still basking in the glow of a Nigerian city bestowed with the honour of the World Book Capital for 2014, this is a much-deserved recognition. We look forward to next year in Port Harcourt, a historic capital city festooned with the written word with all its spiritually liberating manifestations. We congratulate and felicitate with Governor Amaechi on this happy occasion. He is a role model who has risen above every distraction imaginable orchestrated by the Federal Government to continue to provide purposeful government for the good people of Rivers State."

Till date, encomiums towards Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi's educational crusade in Rivers State have continued to flow freely like a spring that never runs dry. The intellectuals were happy, but the political hawks were angry; Amaechi was wasting Rivers money on the construction of too many schools. In the end, may all those who seek the sweet fruit of education pray thus: O God of creation, may earth never be in want of leaders like Amaechi, who would continue to sin against sons of men, for the good of humanity.

~ Solomon Okocha