By Mfon Okon
As the academic term begins in all public schools in the State, there is need to address some of the challenges which have befallen the system in both first and second terms.
This is because the development of the society is absolutely dependent on the development of intellectual property, which can be translated into fulltime development of human resources within the society.
There is no way Akwa Ibom State will claim to be developed; both economically and politically without a commensurate development on intellectual endowments.
It is quiet unfortunate as observed that the trends and perception of education mostly obtained in public schools system is really beaconed on quantitative approach rather than qualitative measure which every developed society are all aiming to arrive at.
The present free and compulsory education policy of the State Government, still measures that will sustain the policy in the platform of goal accomplishment and quality justification.
It could be recalled that when the policy was introduced by the immediate past administration of chief Godswill Akpabio, the major challenges that needed at the inception of the pogramme were the issues of provision of more classrooms blocks, desk, motivation and recruitment of more teachers to cope with the expected influx of pupils and students.
It therefore implies that number of students admitted into various primary and secondary schools in the State, were more than facilities and machineries been put in place.
These have warranted students and pupils to sleep on floor to receive their studies while some even stay under trees to study.
Reports on both local and national media have shown that in many cases, the pupils and students are still receiving lessons under the trees, especially in interior public owned schools that are domiciled at the rural areas of the State.
In many cases, these pupils and students only manage to study in some classrooms during dry seasons as we are still witnessing now, because of the fact that roof of the building have become completely dilapidated, as classrooms usually flood whenever it rained.
It is a revealing fact that since the pronouncement of free and compulsory education in the State, virtually almost all the classrooms are becoming overcrowded with more than fifty (50) pupils and students in a particular class, which is against a normal setting in the school system.
Due to this incessant situation in the classrooms, the pupils and students are subjected to unfavourable learning environment, and as a result of this, optimum output expected from the system is totally undermined.
In a learning environment where pupils are struggling for space and the number of teachers bein grossly inadequate to meet the United Nation’s (UN) ratio of one teacher to 30-35 pupils in a class, it therefore means that qualitative learning in such scenario is absolutely a mirage.
The same scenario could be seen in public secondary schools across the State, where there are dilapidated classroom blocks and over population of students. It is a simple ideology that this development cannot promote effective teaching by teachers and effective learning by pupils and student.
For teachers to be able impact knowledge and students to receive the teaching effectively, they need a conducive environment. A situation where there are more than fifty pupils and students in a class room, definitely, effective learning and good performance by streets in class will certainly be dismay.
That is why to meet up with the demand of getting more teachers to man the teaching requirement of public schools in the state, the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, decided to employ 1,500 science teachers recently. The action of the State Governor according to some education pundits was not sufficient enough, looking at the number of students and schools available in the State.
The recurring complaint by teachers in public schools in the State, especially on the conducive working environment is seriously threatening the foundation of education and future of the Akwa Ibom child.
The State Government and other security apparatus in the State need to work earnestly to justify the recent enforcement of force into law by the State Government, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, to combat cultism in schools.
There is a recent report that cultism has taken a lead into schools, even as some students were arrested by security personnel last academic term in the name of been members of secret societies.
They were said to have forced a fellow student to drink urine as one of them tried initiating him into cultism.
It could be recalled that recently, during last year West African Examination Council, examination, some students invaded a secondary school in the State, beat up teachers for refusing to allow their colleagues cheat in one of the examinations.
Some of the teachers reportedly to have sustained various degree of injuries as their young tormentors brandished various dangerous weapons.
Apart from these, there are cases abound where students attack teachers who dare discipline them in the school. Also, report had it that there is a case where gang of students in a senior secondary class in one of the public schools in the State, beat up a female teacher to coma, and it was the special grace of God for the said teacher who survived the incident.
As if that was not enough, the students who alleged to be members of a cult group gang raped a female student of the same school just recently in the just concluded second term.
In the same vein, just last term, students of Government Technical College, Abak and that of community comprehensive school, Ediene in the same Abak Local Government area, had open confrontation which caused many students and the Principal General of Government Technical College, to sustain serious injuries.
The ugly scenario took the timely intervention of men of the Nigerian Navy and Police from Abak Division to arrest the situation and prevented it from degenerating to a full scale crisis.
There is also a case of arrest of the four students who engaged in activities of men of underworld who got involved in the cult menace that has invade secondary schools in the State.
In facts, there is no gain saying that cultism in secondary schools in the State, has taken a frightening and dangerous dimension which the situation calls for address as the next academic term begins.
Concerning the issue of indiscipline among students in the State, there have been some report cases where students are normally seen loitering the streets during hours.
There are also cases where children of school age are seen hawking in the street, as some even serve as bread winners to their families.
Again, there is a need for the State Government to tackle cases of out-of-school situation commonly seen in the State.
According to interaction with some parents, on their preparations for their children as new term begins, some said that they are still finding it difficult to send their wards to school even when there is free and compulsory education in the State.
Mr. Samuel Etim, a father of five children who are all in secondary school, said that the moment is hard for him as a father, as he had not purchased any of required academic materials for any of his wards.
Another, Mrs. Cecilia Akpan, urged the federal government to continue immensely on its feeding programme in the public primary schools, as it will help pupils to be fed during school hours, as some may not eat while leaving to school.
Mr. Moses Daniel, parent of three wards at secondary school, emphasized that the idea of free and compulsory education in Akwa Ibom State was not just to enable Akwa Ibom child to acquire basic education of knowing how to read and write, but to give them qualitative education that will make them to compete favourably with their contemporaries anywhere in the world, and that there is a need for State Government to hold the policy in high esteem.
On the part of Mr. Nsemeke Etim, he urged that the State government to urgently put measures in place to arrest cultism menace in school, as third term begins. He explained that failure to do so will pose more challenges in the near future.
Mrs. Philomena Ekpo urged that Nigeria Police should put men of the force in and around all secondary schools in the State, so as to arrest and prosecute any student or group of students who are in any secret society who may pose any security threat to their schools.
Furthermore, it is also pertinent for the government to take drastic measures that could continuously and consistently spell doom to our education sector.
There is need to take proactive steps to combat all forms of abnormally in terms of teachers’ entitlements and incentive, dilapidated structures in schools, indiscipline and loitering by students during school hours, cultism in secondary schools, overcrowded population in public classrooms and the over all forms of impediments that could hinder effective learning in public schools.
This is the time to rid our schools of cultism and gangsterism even as the State Governor Mr. Udom Emmanuel has signed the force into law to prohibit all form of cultism in the State.
The essence of these drastic measures is to provide a better future to our youths and students who will one day move to higher institutions.
Moreover, the reason why our tertiary schools are facing diverse forms of criminality, cultism, gangesterism and self indiscipline among it students, is the fact that some of them who were admitted into school were members of secret societies while at primary and post primary levels.
Finally, there is a need for thorough watch over the rising issues so as to provide Akwa Ibom State society that will be devoid of all forms of social menace.