By Stephen Adeleye
Kogi governor Yahaya Bello has recorded giant strides across all sectors since he took charge on 27 Jan. 2016, but many analysts believe that his accomplishments in the educational sector remain outstanding.
The analysts, however, say that the feat is not surprising as he had declared, from the onset, that he would pay special attention to that sector ostensibly because the success of other sectors would depend on quality personnel that are products of a sound education.
It is a testimony to such commitment to the sector that Kogi has three state universities – the only state with that feat in the country.
The institutions include Prince Abubakar Audu University (PAAU), Ayingba, Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara and the newly established Kogi State University (KSU), Kabba.
The institutions, one in each senatorial district, are expected to provide opportunities for every Kogi child seeking university education.
Aside the universities, there is the Kogi State Polytechnic and Kogi College of Education both of which are equipped with human and material resources to produce quality graduates.
The state has also established three Model Science Secondary Schools to enhance the teaching of science and technology subjects at an early age.
Of great importance to observers is the quality of structures in the schools with modern teaching and learning aids to ensure that quality is not compromised.
Mr Wemi Jones, education commissioner, recently spoke on government’s special attention to the sector.
“We are working to make Kogi a model in educational growth.
“The governor has made education his number one focus. To demonstrate this, he has increased its annual budgetary allocation from 26 percent to 30 percent which is even beyond UNESCO’s 26 per cent mark.”
He said that a national rating carried out two years ago showed that the commitment of the Bello-led administration in Kogi had shored up the state’s educational rating from an abysmal 33.5 per cent that placed it on the 23rd position in 2012.
“Currently, Kogi is rated as the most educationally advanced state in the North-Central and one of the topmost in the North,” he said.
Indeed, it is to Bello’s credit that all tertiary institutions in Kogi have all their programmes accredited by the various regulatory bodies.
But, perhaps, nothing demonstrates Bello’s commitment to educational growth than the speed with which the third state university came on board.
Many people in Kogi have described it as the Bello magic!
The process began on June 20, when the Kogi State Executive Council approved a memo containing the Bill for the establishment of the institution.
The governor signed the Bill into law on June 23, barely 24 hours after it was passed by the House of Assembly.
Bello had earlier inaugurated the Implementation Committee for the university with Olu Obafemi, a Professor of English Language, as its chairman.
At the inauguration, Bello urged the committee to speed up action toward the immediate commencement of academic activities
The governor said that for fairness, Okun land deserved a university like other senatorial districts who already had one each.
“You are all aware that since the inception of Kabba Province, this has been the dream of our founding fathers,” he said.
To the surprise of everyone, the Kabba varsity got the nod of the National University Commission (NUC) on June 26 as the 62nd state university and the 265th in the country.
NUC boss Abubakar Rasheed, while endorsing the school, pledged full support to its growth
while urging the youths to take full advantage of the institution.
Expectedly, the support for the new university is already coming in torrents with former acting Kogi governor Clarance Olafemi, and Sen Smart Adeyemi commending the governor for the feat they felt was a demonstration of his respect for equity and fairness.
Olafemi described Bello “as a God-sent governor and a fair-minded person”.
Adeyemi stressed that education remained a catalyst for economic development.
“As at the last count, we recorded about 286 professors and about 25 associate professors in Okun, some of whom will be glad to contribute their quota towards the growth of the university.
“It is, therefore, heartwarming that the university is sited in Kabba, the headquarters of Kogi West senatorial district,” Adeyemi said.
Already, the process of recruiting both academic and non-academic staff of the school is ongoing with academic activities scheduled to commence this session, according to Jones.
Gov. Bello has also declared free education in public schools from Primary to the Secondary level beginning from the 2023/2024 academic session. Also free is the registration for all external examinations from primary to secondary schools.
The wonderful offer was announced by the education commissioner on behalf of the governor during the official handing over of computers donated by NNPC and Chevron to some selected schools.
According to Jones, the free education policy of the Kogi government also includes payment of examination fees for students writing Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
An excited Jones commended the governor for positioning public schools to compete favourably with their private counterparts.
Another enviable feat is the enactment of Kogi State Education Law 2020 to ease access to education and upscale quality service delivery in both public and private schools.
But, particularly exciting to Kogi residents is the Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara that targets massive growth in the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates to meet the technological needs of Kogi that has huge deposits of minerals.
Government has also approved the recruitment of 3,979 secondary school teachers with 1,100 already engaged.
According to Bello, the move will solve the problem of manpower gaps in secondary schools.
With these efforts, it is little wonder that Kogi has been rated one of the best in terms of SUBEB projects and programme execution, by various visiting agencies.
It is also to Bello’s credit that State-owned tertiary educational institutions now operate like private institutions as students graduate as and when due without any obstruction by ASUU strikes.
This has been the case since 2016!
To further smoothen academic sessions, Bello took steps to curb cultism in all schools. Drug abuse, hooliganism and other vices that usual slow down academic activities have also been tackled. In many schools now, the vices have either been exterminated or reduced to the barest minimum.
A recent visit to most schools also showed a massive improvement in the quality of hostels with students commending government’s efforts.
The government has also introduced School Adoption and Mentorship Programme (SAMP), an initiative of the education ministry, to encourage mentorship for learners and the restoration of the lost glory of education via the support and contributions of stakeholders.
To support SAMP, the governor, on Nov. 12, 2022, inaugurated the distribution of 11,000 free textbooks to all second year Senior Secondary School students in public schools across the three senatorial districts.
The Chemistry and Physics textbooks were purchased by Alhaji Ahmed Ododo, the former Auditor General of the Local Government Service Commission, who is the flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the November 11, Kogi governorship election.
But, as the Bello administration gradually winds up, analysts have continued to wonder if the giant strides in the educational sector shall be sustained.
They equally wonder if successive administrations will build upon the achievements.
Many have said that the only way to sustain the achievements is to vote in Ododo, the APC governorship candidate, who undoubtedly shares Bello’s dream for the state.
Many others also believe that Bello’s wonders in Kogi represent a huge advantage for Ododo as he has been in the thick of all the efforts.
With Bello’s performance attracting many defectors into the APC, it is expected that the new wave will push up Ododo to replace his boss.
Many believe that such is the only way to sustain Bello’s achievements for the ultimate benefit of Kogi State. (NANFeatures)