Last week, students of the foremost and pioneer University owned by the Bayelsa state government went on a peaceful protest over issues bothering on dress code and closure of fees portal by the orders of the school’s management.
They were aggrieved that they were asked to wear uniforms like students of the primary and post primary school levels. They said they were opposed to wearing “School Uniforms” like secondary and primary school children because hey are adults and should be treated as such.
Retrospectively, the Niger Delta University was established by the administration of Late Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha to fill the educational stop-gap of Bayelsa state.
Back then, the only Ijaw homogeneous state was among the states classified as educationally disadvantaged.
One can recall that students of Bayelsa state origin embarked on series of protests over issues of fees by the administration of Dr. Peter Odili. The Rivers state government defied the agreement on the asset sharing arrangement and decided to classify Bayelsa students as non-indigenes, which fuel the protests.
Angry by the action of Dr. Peter Odili’s administration, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha quickly set up a committee to advise the government on the way forward and the committee’s report gave birth to the Niger Delta University. Bayelsa students had insisted that classifying them as non-indigenous students was a deliberate policy by the Peter Odili’s administration to chase them out of school and deprive them from achieving their educational goals.
The Alamieyeseigha’s administration set the ball rolling for mass training of personnel of the state origin who were staff of the three tertiary institutions which are: Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Rivers state College of Education, Rivers State Polytechnic Bori and Monotechnic like the Rivers state college of Health Technology.
The administration also ensured that all faculties, departments and colleges are replicated in the state owned institutions, so that the state would not lack in all ramifications. The funding pattern is clearly enunciated in the institution’s handbook.
I believe that the reason for the administration of late Alamieyeseigha to take such bold step was based on the principle of “if you educate a child, you educate a nation”.
This is just as Bill Gates admonished the federal government recently to invest more on education of Nigerian citizens than investing on “frivolous” infrastructure that do not make meaning to people.
The government that took over from the late Alamieyeseigha’s administration, was the one headed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It is a Known fact that the Jonathan’s administration was an off-shoot of the late Alamieyeseigha’s government. So, the principle of continuity surfaces.The fees were affordable and the parents were comfortable with the fees and charges. Bursaries were also paid to students to cushion the efforts of the load bore by the parents. Some indigent students also benefitted from scholarships offered by the state government.
The administration of Chief Timipre Sylva continued in that light, until the administration of the country-man governor , Senator Seriake Dickson when the bubble burst. The infamous policy of subvention is the root cause(s) of all the problems bedeviling tertiary institutions owned by the state government.
The Dickson’s administration abolished bursary payment to students and carried out selective scholarship policy. It also introduced education levy and education tax, Students loan scheme and all manner of ungodly policies to frustrate the smooth growth of education in the state. Unfortunately, that administration declared emergency in the education sector, but ironically destroyed the sector before leaving office.
The primary education sector is worst hit by the emergency education policy of that administration. Today, some schools are only existing on mere paper and name. Pupils of such schools are helping their parents on the farms rather than going to school. Some schools have no Head Teachers and teachers.
The infamous subvention policy has driven the management of the state-owned schools, to embark on aggressive revenue drive to keep the institutions afloat. Little economics would tell us that such revenue drive translates to increase in fees and charges which is a burden to the parents and students.
Some students carry on without payment of fees because of the exorbitant fees and charges. Some fail to register their courses because of non-payment of fees and as a result they ‘non-students’ carrying on as if they are students.
The government has waded into the seeming imbroglio of the protests by the students but failed to address the tourney issue of subvention.If the Douye Diri led government is to succeed in its quest of prosperity for all, then the issue bedeviling the education sector must be urgently addressed.
Education is a social phenomenon which the government should not use as a money spinner but a weapon for the advancement of the state. The government as a matter of urgency must visit the draconian issue of subvention.
Douye Diri should act fast because the damage done to the education sector is enormous and it needs urgent surgical operation. He should muster the political will to do that now before it turns out to be a danger that will consume all because an uneducated mind is a danger to the society