FEATURE ARTICLE


Monday, September 9, 2002

Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji
odoziobodo@winning.com
Publisher, Sungai Books
Princeton, NJ, USA


Facing the education challenge in Ala Igbo: A report
Report of WIC's Education Committee
Presented by Ugorji O. Ugorji, Ed.D.


PREFACE

he Education enterprise in Ala Igbo is reportedly the most dominant governmental responsibility because of the shear number of brilliant students that abound, from pre-school to the university level. This very fact, which is a blessing for Ala Igbo, is also a daunting challenge for governments, parents, non-governmental agencies, and educational entrepreneurs engaged in the education of one of the most gifted nationalities in the Nigerian Federation. These various agencies must work harder than virtually any other region in Nigeria to provide state-of-the art, affordable, and Igbo-centered educational experiences for all of God's children in Ala Igbo.

When the Honorable Dr. Kalu Kalu Diogu, Chairman of WIC's Board of Directors, constituted the WIC's Education Committee, his charge to the committee was simple, yet serious: "Work to revitalize the educational system in Igbo Land. This committee will work in concert with the various ministries/commissioners of education in all the five states in Igboland (including Delta and Rivers) and the State governments. They will also serve as liaisons with the major universities, polytechnics and other organizations in the various states. Projects will be implemented in direct working partnership with the various Ministries of Education and universities in IgboLand."

We salute Dr. Diogu's leadership and emphasis in this very significant theater of our people's life. The following is a report stemming from the first meeting of the Education Committee, scheduled for Trenton, New Jersey, on Saturday, August 24, 2002. It is our hope that the challenges identified and the solutions proffered would facilitate the discussions and resolutions that would emerge from the convention.

TOWARD A DEFINITION OF EDUCATION, AND THE EDUCATED IGBO

Education for education sake is alright, but ultimately a people invest in the education of succession of generations with group perpetuation and group advancement in mind, if not group preeminence and dominance altogether. As such, a people must identify for themselves what they need in knowledge, expertise, and values to not only remain relevant in contemporary terms, but also to be masters of their own fate in all endeavors of their lives. For the purposes of the committee's work, education is conceived as the designed, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitudes, values, or skills, as well as any outcome of that effort. We see education as life long and beyond just schooling, taking into account all the institutions and interactions that shape the individuals' social, economic, political, and cultural development, across the life span. While we shall add to the list below, we arrived at the notion that the educated Igbo must, at the very least:

  1. Be able to write, read, and speak Igbo fluently.

  2. Be able to write, read, and speak at least one other international language fluently.

  3. Be able to use basic modern technology in communication.

  4. Be knowledgeable about his/her rights and duties as a citizen.

  5. Have a grounded understanding of basic democratic and parliamentary procedures.

  6. Be knowledgeable about and comfortable with participating in common Igbo rituals and celebrations, including but not limited to the Igbo holly communion known as Oji.

  7. Be competent in managing his/her finances.

  8. Have absolute respect for the family as the unbreakable foundation of Ala Igbo.9. Be skilled in something that is marketable, and committed to life long learning.10. Be meaningfully and transparently employed or self-employed.

  9. Be knowledgeable about the place and contributions of the Igbo in world history.

THE CHALLENGES

In identifying the challenges we face in education in Ala Igbo, committee members were cognizant of the fact that folks at home may have a different view of what the challenges are, and what the priorities ought to be in meeting the challenges. The following are the challenges the committee identified:

  1. Failure on the part of the respective governments to pay teachers, lecturers, and professors their salaries as at when due.

  2. Use by various governments of funds earmarked for education in other projects, at the expense of teachers and students.

  3. Debilitating strikes by teachers, lecturers, and professors in protest over the unconscionable failures in payment of salaries.

  4. Poor morale among teachers, who must look for other means of income as they wait for salaries to be paid.

  5. Poor salaries and working conditions that are keeping some of the most talented practitioners from seeking to go into teaching.

  6. Lack of modern technological tools in the various levels ofschools.

  7. Lack of basic educational materials and resources.

  8. Lack of respectable laboratories and libraries in the various levels of schools.

  9. Dilapidated buildings and huts that pass for schools.

  10. Lack of recreational facilities in the various levels of schools.

  11. Students going to school hungry from many families due tocrippling poverty.

  12. Lack of respect for authorities in schools, which is often a result of the fact that many of the teachers, lecturers, and professors have not carried themselves in respectable and honorablemanners.

  13. Cult activities in schools, which often stems from a yearning by a generation to find camaraderie and a warped sense of family.

  14. Laxity in security for students, especially for female students, at institutions of higher education.

  15. Lack of full governmental subsidy for education in Ala Igbo, making formal education out of reach for many families in Ala Igbo.

  16. Paucity of scholarship programs.

  17. Poor parental involvement in the education of their sires.

  18. Dropout rates in schools, particularly among young Igbo males in search of money to support their families, have reached unacceptableheights.

  19. Apparent absence of link between education and the needed skills in the local, national, and global economy.

  20. Absence of Igbo-centered instruction in the curriculum at the various levels of education.

  21. There is also the peculiar challenge, among the Igbo in the Diaspora, of providing a semblance of Igbo-centered upbringing and education in our various foreign abodes.

  22. Inflation in the cost of educational materials.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS

By and large, the committee believes that many of the challenges are the by-products of the poor state of the economy in Ala Igbo and in the Nigerian Federation. Therefore, to the extent that the World Igbo Congress and its affiliates and Ndi Igbo in the Diaspora are able to help revitalize the economy in Ala Igbo, WIC would be indirectly helping to meet the educational challenges. The committee recommends the following:

  1. Assuming that education is funded in Nigeria by block grants from the Federal Government, all State Houses of Assembly in Ala Igbo should introduce and pass a law making it an indictable offense for any Governor or LGA Chairperson or their functionaries to use funds earmarked for education in any other project. The law should make such a Governor or LGA Chairperson indictable even after he/she leaves office, with a penalty that should include a jail term if convicted. If necessary, the legal eagles in WIC should draw a generic bill for this purpose and find sponsors in each State Houseof Assembly.

  2. Toward a WIC Education Trust Fund. Separate and apart from the Igbo Benevolent Fund (Dr. Diogu's brainchild), the Education Committee recommends the establishment of a WIC Education Trust Fund. The ETF would have a Board of Trustees comprising of men and women of Professor Chinua Achebe's caliber, who would help in attracting and awarding the funds, while reporting to the WIC. Consistent with the committee's recommendation in item #1 above, all funds raised for the ETF would be used only to support the educational needs in Ala Igbo.

  3. The WIC should take the stand that public education, from elementary to secondary schools in Ala Igbo, is a right, and must be provided free of tuition to all eligible students. To that effect, WIC should commit to helping subsidize tuition for elementary and secondary education in all of Ala Igbo, from Anioma to Igweocha, from Udi Hills to Ahiara.

  4. The committee agrees with Dr. Diogu that a WIC Computer Learning Center and Internet Café ought to be established in at least the State capitals in Ala Igbo (Asaba, Awka, Enugu, Abakiliki, Umuahia, Owerri, and Port Harcourt). These centers maybe linked to existing institutions of higher education in these capitals.

  5. The WIC should plan to enable universities in Ala Igbo establish distance learning centers and technology so that lectures and educational activities taking place in one university can be shared at the same time via distance learning technology at severaluniversities.

  6. The WIC should plan to build and/or refurbish one public library in each senatorial zone in Ala Igbo.

  7. The Education Committee recommends the establishment and funding of education SWAT teams in every community. The SWAT teams would patrol the community during times that students are supposed to be in school and get them back in school.

  8. The state of education in each Igbo State should be a necessary and important aspect of evaluating the performance of state Governors and LGA Chairpersons each year.

  9. The WIC should use its contacts all over the world to assist in building and refurbishing schools and classrooms in Ala Igbo.

  10. The committee recommends that the WIC endorse the establishment of Igbo-centered secondary schools in the US (Igbo Academies) and other foreign lands, where our sires can get a world class education, with an Igbo-centric orientation. The committee will work to develop a business module for such schools in the areas where our folks are located, and present the module for Ndi Igbo in the Diaspora to invest in, and patronize when established. We believe this idea can only work as private enterprises owned and administered by Ndi Igbo.

A public administrator with the State of New Jersey, Ugorji O. Ugorji is the founder and CEO of the Princeton, New Jersey based Sungai Corp., publishers and consultants. A member of the World Igbo Congress Board of Directors, and chairman of its Education Committee, he heads WIC's Southern New Jersey affiliate, Igbo Bu Igbo, Inc.