Primary school enrolment rises to 303,000 in Abia

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The Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, said primary school enrolment in the state had risen to 303,000 from 11,500 in 2015 when he assumed office.

Mr Ikpeazu said this when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN Forum in Abuja on Sunday.

He attributed the development to the premium he placed on education as the most imperative tool for promoting and engineering other sectors in the state.

According to him, since assuming office in 2015, we have constructed 303 primary schools and four model secondary schools as part of efforts at addressing access to and improving quality education in the state.

The governor explained that investing in education was a major pillar and one of the main mechanisms of his administration toward increasing productivity, employment and competitiveness in the economy of the state.

“Education is so important because if you want to create a farmer, the place to start is not in the farm; you must start with the psyche and training of the mind, so that the person will begin to think like a farmer.

“So, if you want to promote trade and commerce, you must also think about the imperatives of trade and commerce in the 21st century.

“Training the mind is also key, and if you want to emphasis manufacturing, you must also be able to have small or low and middle cadre manpower capable of creating the things you want to see and market.

“And, in case you go into automation, you also have to have skilled people to manage and maintain the pieces of equipment that will support automation.

“So, education for us, is key; in fact, education is not only a pillar, it’s also an enabler because beneath the five pillars, we have our enablers which of course are education, road infrastructure, security and health. These are the enablers,’’ he said.

On backlog of salary, Mr Ikpeazu said that his administration had cleared all salary owed workers in the state.

He said that every worker in the Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs, was being paid regularly, and that what his administration owed was subvention to the state’s university and the polytechnic.

He, however, called on the management of the institutions to think outside the box and find ways of generating money that would help to improve their activities and education sector.

According to the governor, an institution with a population of about 30,000 students should be able to have a “pure water’’ factory or a consultancy service which will help to increase the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of such institution.

He warned that his administration would continue to have problems with revenue-yielding agencies that failed to imbibe fiscal prudence and show ingenuity in terms of resource management.

“Seventy-five per cent of our workforce belongs to the ministries and departments, and whether it is ministry of agriculture, health, education or  whether it is finance, all the ministries, we are not owing.

“But, there are agencies of government that are revenue-yielding. “For instance, what I owe my university, the Abia State University, is subvention not salary. What I owe Abia State Polytechnic is subvention, not salary.

“I speak on these two examples because my primary constituency is academics.

“Why should a school, for instance, you have a student population of 30,000, what stops you from running the school canteen and feeding them and making money.

“What stops a school from doing consultancy services and help us to retrain staff for a fee; they do it in UNILAG and it works.

“So, what we are saying is that any revenue-generating agencies that fails to imbibe fiscal prudence, show ingenuity in terms of resource management, we will continue to have problems with them,’’ he said.

The governor stated that the state government had put strategies in place to ensure that “those who work get their pay while we are eliminating the scourge of ghost workers in the system”.

He said that his administration had made a steady progress in the educational sector as the state university had moved from 90th position in ranking to top 40 in the country.

He also said the state had also maintained its first position in the country in the West African School Certificate Examination, WASCE, in the past three years.

NAN