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EDUCATION: “We already have facilities to cater for more than twice the number of students we have in school- Principal, ABEC

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ABEC School

Observing strict COVID-19 guidelines, FR reporters sat with Mr Olanegan S. Kolawole, the Principal of Secondary School located in the Woji axis of Port Harcourt to find out how this premium secondary has been coping with the impact of the pandemic since resumption. Here’s the excerpt.

FR News: How was the first day of resumption after the long COVID-19 lockdown?

Principal: Everything went well. More so that the children have been eager for resumption after staying at home for months. So, when it announced that we were resuming, everybody was happy. Though we were expecting them from 12.00 pm, as early as 10.00 am they had started trouping in joyfully.

FR News: Tell us how you’ve been able to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines in the school since the resumption.

Principal: Before the children came in, we had prepared the school – decontamination, fumigation- we have handwashing water planter on every corner of the school. We have sanitizers in large quantity. We have banners placed everywhere to remind the students. The students came in with their personal nose masks and they have been complying with guidelines we gave them. Nobody wants to die.

FR News: Was there any measures put in place to keep in touch with the students while the lockdown lasted? Has there been any observable impact of the lockdown on the learning capacities of your students?

Principal: In our own case, although the students were not physically together, we were interreacting online. We were teaching them. In fact, we were having morning assembly with some parents joining us to pray, sing, read the bible together, give exhortation and advise. The gap was breached. The only challenge was that it was difficult to do practicals. Everything about the third term has been taught with notes given. As they came back, there is no vacuum.

FR News:  After a very long time away from school, students are most likely to return with new sets of attitudes and behaviour. How have you been able to beat them into line with regards to disciple?

Principal:  Even while at home we kept instructing them on what to do, where to go, where not to go and all that. So, the separation was just physical, we were seeing ourselves, talking to ourselves. So, coming back it was as if nothing happened. I know that in some schools the students have been caught off from their teachers and management for months. Here it wasn’t like that, the students have just been flowing since they came back.

FR News:  Sir, how were your staff fairing during the lockdown? We’ve heard of several schools where their teachers were not paid throughout the lockdown.

Principal: ABEC is a different school. It’s a special school. During the lockdown, we were having meetings online and assigning responsibilities. There was no month that ABEC did not pay. We have not lost any teacher; no staff left the school.

FR News: Has the lockdown affected the uniform school calendar which the Rivers State Ministry of has been trying to achieve?

Principal: During the lockdown, we were having our third term, in fact, we had concluded the third term online. But by the time schools were asked to come back, the state ministry of education said we have to go back to the third term, although they gave us six weeks to do that. This has affected us somehow. Since it affects all the schools in Rivers state, we are going to start our first term next month. So, it has affected us a little but its not a big problem.

FR News:  Finally, tell us about ABEC in the post-COVID-19 era

Principal: In the post-COVID-19 era, we have added more classrooms for our students. We had about 28 students per class, now it’s a maximum of 15, though our classrooms are very large. In observing the protocols, we are using more classrooms to accommodate our students. For sports, we have stopped team sports. If you want to exercise yourself you come out alone, but team sports like football and basketball have been suspended at the moment. In the hostels, where we have double bunks, only one student occupies the entire bunk. We are able to cope because before now, we already have facilities to cater for more than twice the number of students we have in school

Education

Comedian Sikpa distributes 50 free JAMB forms to indigent students

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Worried about the geometric rise in the out of school children, Ace comedian David Atake Sikpa recently distributed over 50 free Jamb forms to indigent students of Idjerhe Grammar school ,Jesse, in Ethiope local government of Delta state.

Sikpa who was represented by the program facilitator Mr Lawrence sikpa also promised to enrol the students in the ongoing National Identification Number as part of fulfilment of the requirements for Joint Admission and Matri culation board.

Sikpa , an Engineer and Chief Executive Officer of Sedaco group stated that he was displeased with challenges prospective Jamb applicants and their parents face in his community to raise funds for JAMB examinations, according to him,”its so sad to imagine what parents and their wards face in the quest to register for terminal examinations even in the face of a recuperating economy and I’m indeed pained by the rising cases of out of school children as evidenced in the statistics obtained from UNICEF,it is quite alarming and worrisome if we don’t address challenges of at this level .

The comedian further stated that funding education in whatever form is not the exclusive reserve of the government alone,

” i think it is about time we deemphasize investment in education as the exclusive reserve of the Government alone ,it is time for well meaning individuals to partner government at all levels and support development of education especially in our various communities, that way ,we will be building a new generation and human capital for our people, our state and society at large”.

He added that investment in education is the surest panacea to insecurity in our nation, ”

The current wave of insecurity in our society could be addressed through education, orientation and enlightenment programmes and will help to tame all forms of criminality in our society, if we fall at this time to investment in education, we will have greater challenges and insecurity as younger generation will explore opportunities in technology to do negative things if not checked”

Sikpa who related the relationship between Comedy and education said schools should engage influencers and public opinion leaders to counsel students adding that the place of role models in education pursuit can not be over emphasied and called on the government to reintroduce Guidance and counseling to direct the energy of students in to positive venture.

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Weeks after ASUU suspended strike, another set of university workers threaten to down tools

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University workers under the aegis of National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have threatened to ground activities on campuses to protest alleged disparity in the allocation of the N40 billion Earned Academic Allowance to be released by the Federal Government.

The union on Sunday gave the government 14 day strike notice to address concerns raised in the sharing formula adopted for the earned allowances or risk another round of industrial action in public universities.

NAAT and two other university – based unions – the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) are protesting the alleged allocation of 75 percent to the Academic Staff Union of Universities and 25 per cent to them from the N40bn allowance.

But Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said he was yet to receive official communication from the union about the planned strike by NAAT members.

The minister, who spoke with The Nation on Sunday, directed the leaderships of NAAT; SSANU and NASU to the National Universities Commission and the Federal Ministry of on the allocation of the N40bn allowance.

He said: “I have not see their notice of strike. When we see it we will call the attention of their employers which is the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission.

“But before then they should go to the NUC and Federal Ministry of Education and find out the exact position of the N40bn they are talking about. It is the NUC and FMoE that will determine what each union will get on the N40bn because they also have the template as submitted by the various universities for those earned allowances.”

The university workers are protesting the disparity in sharing of the N40 billion earned allowance released to the four university based unions.

They are also demanding that the government release 50 per cent of the N71 billion accrued allowance being owed members of the union from the 2009 agreement reached between government and the union.

President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim expressed displeasure over government’s failure to honour agreements.

He said: “My members and by extension all other category of staff in Nigerian Tertiary institutions are disappointed and disenchanted by this singular act of government’s refusal to honor it’s promise to pay the arrears of the New National Minimum Wage that was approved by the government since April, 2020.”

NAAT president, comrade Ibeji Nwokoma told journalists in Abuja that the union has written to the minister of Labour and Employment informing him of their planned industrial action.

He said: “We have written to government that NAAT as a body ought to have been given a specified percentage of the N40bn. You must define it. You can’t just say ASUU 75 percent and others 25 per cent. Let us know the specific percentage you are giving to NAAT as a union.

“In the MoU we entered with government on November 18, in item number 2b, we demanded that in sharing of the N40bn released; that government should clearly define what is going to be allocated to each Union and government agreed to the genuineness of our demands and said NUC and Federal Ministry of Education will work it out in conjunction with the union. And what they have done negates completely the spirit of that MoU.

“We have given government ultimatum of 14 days. We wrote to government 30th December. And we have given government 14 working days and if at the end of the 14 working days our demands are not met, we resume our suspended strike. Definitely we will close down the schools, definitely there will be no opening of schools. If anybody thinks that ASUU has called of strike and that schools will reopen, then let the person dare us. Let us know how effective or how possible it is for schools to reopen when Technologists are on strike.

“If government in its own wisdom has said ASUU should take N30 billion from the N40 billionreleased, it is not the business of my union. But we have also told government that the arrears accruable to my union since 2009 to 2020, they have paid up to 2012, is N71bn and we have demanded for 50 percent of that amount and we have also given government ultimatum of 14 days if government fails to do that, we will call out our members on strike. Nobody has monopoly of closing or opening of Universities by strike. We have said that repeatedly.”

He explained that by now, the 2009 ought to have been renegotiated, but lamented that the agreement has not been fully implemented by the government.

According to Nwokoma, “It was supposed to have been renegotiated after 3 years. But since 2009 it has not been renegotiated.”

The NAAT president noted that the laboratories and studios in universities are in terrible condition as government had abandoned technology

He said: “We demanded that government should release N100 billion because if you go to all the universities, you will discover that the laboratories are dilapidated. We have asked government to release N100bn to bring the laboratories to international standard and then release another N20bn every year for the next 5 years to enable the Laboratories to be revamped.

“We have also asked that government should do an audit of the equipment that have been sent to Universities. Most are abandoned and are not in use.”

The Nation

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