Maria Ikrok Missed It

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By UbongAbasi Ise          |     Published in The Sensor Newspaper on Monday 22 May 2017

“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost it status” – Lawrence Peter

There is one woman of impeccable virtue history would never forget: She is Maria Montesorri, an Italian educator, a gifted physician, and a trendsetter, acclaimed internationally for transforming educational system, and setting the natural course of learning for children. She worked assiduously in bringing education to the children experiencing mental retardation and disability, and advocated for societal responsibility for juvenile delinquency.

Maria had opened the first Montesorri school called Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House in Rome on 6th January 1907 enrolling about 60 children. Today, her educational model is adopted in some public and private schools. According to report, there are well over 22,000 Montesorri Schools at least in 110 countries all over the world.

In Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, we can also boast of another Maria who has profoundly involved in the control our educational system. She is Prof. Maria Ikrok, a seasoned university lecturer and a government official who has a privileged opportunity to serve at various decision-making positions in the state’s educationally-oriented parastatals. Maria Ikrok, during Godswill Akpabio’s administration, was chairing the State Secondary Education Board (SSEB). And today in Udom Emmanuel-led state government, Maria is comfortably serving as the chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB.

Unlike Italian Maria who had shaped the world’s basic education in a glorious way, our own Maria is embroiled in a saga that has fundamentally threatened the very existence and survival of our own educational system. Our Maria’s name is well animated in controversies surrounding the stalemated recruitment of SSEB’s 5000 teachers, and recently, she is at the centre of the controversial recruitment process of SUBEB’s 3000 teachers holding qualification in National Certificate in Education, NCE.

It should be recalled that Prof. Maria Ikrok was that very woman in SSEB that superintended over the recruitment of some 5000 teachers that was cancelled by Udom Emmanuel’s government in October 2016 on ostensible grounds of corruption, blatant nepotism, bribery, forgery of documents, and gross irregularities – a situation that brings our Maria into pale comparison with Italian Maria who, in her days, was highly instrumental in massive teachers’ employment and training.

On Friday 19th May, 2017, the premises of SUBEB at Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat was reduced to beehive of struggling activities: several thousands of NCE applicants drawn from all parts of the state were seen turning up in droves at SUBEB office in a frantic bid to submit their forms and other application documents. They had some hectoring SUBEB’s staff to contend with. A week before then, precisely on Monday 8th May, media report has it that no fewer than six people had collapsed as a result of intense struggle, and then rushed to hospital. Majority had waited from dawn to dusk with forlorn hope to obtain their forms, but at the end, they got badly frustrated by ravenous politicians that were bent on hijacking the entire process. Indeed, the forms distribution exercise was deemed largely fraudulent. Was this scenario not a deliberate design to wreck the merit process in order to benefit the power interests?

On May Day, Governor Udom Emmanuel had promised Akwa Ibom a credible and merit recruitment process of NCE 3000 teachers. But this has become death on arrival.

It is regrettable to have a seasoned technocrat of Zenith Bank hype as the State Governor and an education professor as Chairman of SUBEB, yet a simple process of circulating forms to NCE applicants desirous of teaching jobs could not be done with ease; yet there is no introduction of information and communication technology into recruitment process in Akwa Ibom State.

It is also ridiculous that, Governor Udom Emmanuel with the State Ministry of Science and Technology at his beck and call, could not order the creation of website for the purpose of sending forms online across to NCE holders willing to take up teaching profession. It could have been cheaper, safer for each applicant to visit a cybercafé, or open his or her laptop, maybe phone, to fill the form, then work to designated centres, and drop the filled forms for SUBEB. This could have eliminated both corporeal suffering and psychological trauma experienced by Akwa Ibom applicants in recent times.

Not quite long ago, the Nigerian Police Force, recruited 10,000 policemen. All that the Police Service Commission under Mr. Mike Ikiro did, was to create a website, publicized it and direct all applicants to access it. Ten thousand is a large number, to deal with.

Putting down good logistics and appropriate technology, the police service commission recorded no stampede, nobody was injured, no dead, throughout the recruitment exercise. In fact the process appeared more transparent compared to the immigration recruitment exercise which recorded more dead, injuries and landed the managers of the exercise in court, just because they gathered a large number of unemployed Nigerians at one or two locations, for whatever benefit.

More recently, the federal government created N-Power Portal and directed unemployed Nigerians in millions to undergo registration at the site. Today, some Nigerians are beneficiaries of N-Power site. No dead was recorded; thousands of Nigerians have been recruited and deployed to different place of assignment.

It is necessary to say this much, to convince Prof. Maria Ikrok that, she had no reason to pull Akwa Ibom youths into few locations, exposed them to vagaries of the inclement weather, road accident and other hazards just because she wanted to offer them hope for employment. Prof. Maria Ikrok should not scandalize Governor Udom Emmanuel a second time.

She did that, the first time in the matter of 5,000 teachers for the secondary schools.

However, it appears that Prof. Ikrok is a conservative bureaucrat that obdurate prevailing technological innovation in modern information system. How can Professor Maria Ikorok superintend over a scheme that physically drafts tens of thousands of Akwa Ibom job seekers to few locations? Let her tell Akwa Ibom people, how much money the state had government voted in for logistics including printing of forms and moving the forms with personnel to the assigned locations.

This is a timely warning. Governor Udom Emmanuel should go for the best of hands, if he wants to succeed. It is not clear if Udom could have worked with Prof. Maria Ikrok if not for his predecessor’s influence. We await Governor Udom Emmanuel to come out clean on the recruitment of 3,000 teachers in the days ahead.

Before I forget, let us be reminded that Italy’s Maria Montesorri represented a change and innovation in the system of education, therefore our own Maria Ikrok should move away from representing decadence and corrupt old order.

 

Yes I am UbongAbasi Ise. For comment send SMS to 08189914609

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