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X-raying Edo Education Week: Governor Obaseki's Nuanced Strides in Education on Display

By Ik Osamede

During the just concluded Edo education week, the happiness of parents, pupils and teachers was very palpable. It was obvious that the star of the occasion, His Excellency Governor Godwin Obaseki who was welcomed with a thunderous applause at every outing, was responsible for the rather infectious smiles that the education stakeholders wore. The achievements of the Governor in education are enormous and I thought to go back in time to unravel the reason for the gleeful atmosphere at the weeklong celebration of education and why the World Bank, foreign dignitaries and the Federal Government have been full of praise of Governor Obaseki's education reforms.

Why were the children smiling?

As part of the education week, the kids were thankful to learn that Governor Obaseki has already disbursed 1.8 million books free of charge across 848 primary schools in the State. A further 1.5 million books, we learnt will be distributed free of charge to all schools in the 18 local government councils of the State, benefiting 381,398 pupils and spanning 1,330 state-owned primary and junior secondary schools. With this, Governor Obaseki has taken concrete measures to enhance the pedagogical resources and opportunities available to students. These efforts by the Governor will have a far-reaching impact on the students, educators, and the education sector at large. With the provision of these volumes, students will have access to a plethora of knowledge that will enable them to broaden their horizons and achieve academic eminence. 

The state governor also introduced the Edo State Learning Agenda which is a plan to assess and enhance the learning results in schools throughout the State. Additionally, it is meant to ensure the longevity of current reforms in the educational industry. The agenda will aid in sustaining the progress that has already been made and provide a route towards a lasting impact. Governor Obaseki explained that the focus is on designing a plan and a pathway that the education system can follow over the next few decades.

Also, during the state's education week, Governor Obaseki commissioned the Imose Digital Tablet and Phone Production Center at Benin Technical College. With Nigeria's youth unemployment rate standing at 42.5%, the establishment of the phone production and repairs center will help in closing this gap by creating employment opportunities for the youths and also help to build technical expertise in the state. Also, with the increasing demand for digital devices such as smartphones and tablets, the establishment of this center will enable Edo to become a hub for technology innovation in Nigeria while also bridging the gap in the supply and demand of mobile devices in the country.

Over the past year, Edo State has made tremendous efforts to restart sporting activities within schools. With a marching order in place from Governor Obaseki, every Wednesday sees students participating in sporting activities, while Fridays are reserved for extracurricular activities. During the education week, over nine players from the secondary school teams were fingered for drafting into the state-owned professional football clubs, Bendel Insurance and Edo Queens. This initiative has been a great success, not just in promoting physical activity among the youth, but also in identifying and nurturing talented individuals who could potentially become professionals in the world of sports. It also provides a stage for young athletes to shine, boosting their confidence and self-esteem. 

The benefits of such programs extend beyond the realm of sports. They also contribute to the overall development of the students by providing opportunities for them to learn important life skills like teamwork, communication, and leadership. Additionally, extracurricular activities like these give students a break from the academic rigors of school and help them to unwind, reducing stress levels.

Why were the parents smiling and full of praise of Governor Godwin Obaseki?

The education week also had the first of its kind maiden Edo Parents’ Summit. Governor Obaseki recognizes the importance of having the input of all education stakeholders including parents, hence, the introduction of the summit. The parents themselves were grateful to have an opportunity to sit and discuss at close quarters with the number one citizen of the State to both appreciate his reforms and cross-fertilize ideas. According to the Governor, parents play critical roles in sustaining achievements recorded by his administration in the education sector. Parents lauded Governor Obaseki's deployment of computer tablets to teachers that records teachers attendance at schools thereby eradicating the era of nonchalance of some educators to school work. They also appreciated the uniformity of the school's robust curricular that the tablet has afforded the pupils.

In addition, they reeled how game-changing and efficient the school management systems have been that were introduced a while ago. Even more remarkable were testimonies of how communities and parent-teacher relationship has been fostered that have all contributed to make the reforms successful.

More so, Governor Obaseki's proactive approach towards the betterment of education in Edo state has yielded remarkable results, as evidenced by the improvement in learning outcomes of their wards and the outstanding performance of Edo children in WAEC and national examinations.

Why were the teachers smiling and full of praise for Governor Godwin Obaseki?

Apart from being among the highest minimum wage earners in the country and receiving their salaries regularly without fail, teachers had every reason to smile as they have been recipients of the Governor's thoughtfulness and generosity which is a reflection of his commitment towards the state's education sector and his desire to provide an enabling environment for teachers to thrive. 

In 2018, Governor Obaseki restored the Teacher Special Allowance that had been discontinued in 2012. This decision was a testament to the Governor's high regard for the state's teachers, recognizing their indispensable role in shaping the next generation of leaders. Furthermore, Governor Obaseki implemented the 30% additional allowance for Special Education Teachers, ensuring that these teachers received the necessary support to provide quality education to children with special needs. Additionally, the Governor approved tax-breaks for disabled teachers, a decision that has been lauded by many as a demonstration of his commitment to inclusivity and diversity. The restoration of the Teacher Special Allowance has resulted in a significant increase in teachers' salaries, with primary school level 8/9 teachers earning over N80,000 per month. Levels 14 and above have also experienced a substantial increase.

In 2019, Governor Obaseki restored the Leave Transport Grant (LTG), a lump sum allowance paid annually to teachers on the anniversary of their employment. This decision was a remarkable step towards enhancing the welfare of the state's teachers, reflecting an empathetic and visionary leadership style. In addition to this, the Governor also restored monthly subventions to schools, ensuring that these schools have access to the necessary resources to provide quality education to students.  

In 2018, the Governor cleared all backlog of promotions owed to teachers from 2013 to 2016, ensuring that teachers' hard work and dedication are rewarded accordingly.  Also in 2019, he approved the removal of grade level barriers which has opened up new opportunities for teachers to advance their careers. This groundbreaking action has made it possible for teachers to become Permanent Secretaries. In 2018, the Governor gifted an outstanding Headmistress a brand new house, a remarkable act of kindness that recognizes the hard work and dedication of teachers in the state. Additionally, the Governor nominated her for National Honors. She received an OON award later on. Also, in 2022, the Governor gifted a dedicated Secondary School teacher with a brand new house.

Just recently, Governor Obaseki displayed astute leadership by extending teachers' retirement age thereby retaining experience in education. He announced the extension of the retirement age for teachers in Edo State to 65 years or 40 years of service. This decision is a remarkable step towards retaining teachers with decades of experience, recognizing their indispensable role in providing quality education to Edo pupils. More so, Edo's educators are 100% confident of being paid their gratuities and pensions when the time comes given the sustainable economic path, Governor Obaseki has charted for the state.

This year's Edo education week which closed with a thanksgiving service today may have come to an end but it shall be remembered as a momentous milestone in the State's education reform program, and will further strengthen Governor Godwin Obaseki's vision of a well-educated and prosperous State.

I'll conclude by quoting the World Bank, "The reforms in the education sector in Edo under Governor Godwin Obaseki have been critical for our children. They are now learning how to read much faster. Stopping these reforms would mean killing education."


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