By Washington Osifo and Urowayino Jeremiah
The most important benefit of education is to produce people with skills and high level of logical thinking to proffer solutions to societal problems.
But in our society, education, particularly, higher education is an escape route from poverty. That again underscores the importance. It is the responsibility of government to open more opportunities to get education to the doorstep of all citizens.
As we critically take a survey of the state of tertiary institutions in Edo State, we admonish everyone to temporarily suspend judgement until evidence compel otherwise. We need to first, diligently engage the issues and the hard facts, free of any political hangover of sentiments. Under normal circumstances, the decision to support, reject or condemn a political leader by an informed citizen is usually based on the information made known to him.
No one should ever allow his mind to be shackled by mere sentiments. As a people, we are just now not entitled to the cushion of time and the luxury of standing akimbo in the forlorn hope that things will sort out itself.
Doing so will be tantamount to crude subversion of the people’s mandate. And that will not just be an unkind cut on an already severely lacerated citizenry but a thoughtless greasing of the weaponized elbows of the debauched and bullish adventurers in power!
Edo State elites should be deeply outraged by the unwarranted onslaught against the state-owned tertiary institutions. -the same ladder these elites rode to recognition and prominence. The opportunity for higher education was the single most important bridge that ferried many of them from the valley of life to become top flyers in various fields of endeavor.
History will be unkind to them if they standby to watch helplessly the unprovoked and unwarranted demolition of the structures of higher education in Edo State. They should be challenged by the endangered future of Edo youths to speak out in no unmistakable terms against the needless suffocation and asphyxiation of these institutions, which were established to expand opportunities for the development of our children.
The institutions in question include Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State University , Iyamo, Uzairue, University of Education, Ekiadolo , Usen Polytechnic, Usen
College of Agriculture, Iguorhiakhi, College of Education, Abudu, College of Education, Igueben, College of Physical Education, Afuze, Edo State School of Nursing, Benin City, Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) Benin City and Edo State College of Aqua Culture, Agenebode.
Today, the above-named institutions are struggling for survival on a slippery slope occasioned by a mixed grill of inadequacies. Specifically, the following institutions have been struggling and now groaning under suffocation and barely able to raise their heads above waters.
Edo State University, Iyamo, Uzairue;
This will shock many people as the institution has been exemplary in accomplishments in its short history. Only recently, the University came fourth among Universities in Nigeria rated by Times Higher Education T.H.E, a global rating agency.
In a move that publicly exposed those in power, the change in name of the University simply sought to obliterate Iyamo, in favour of Uzairue.
It turned out to be a comical exercise in futility as Iyamo is naturally part of Uzairue clan, meaning the address of the University will be incomplete without Uzairue.
Therefore, the egoistic trip of the vindictive men in power was completely defeated. Not done yet with the University, the monthly subvention from government was slashed, thereby putting the heavy burden of fending for herself substantially on the institution.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Ambrose Alli University (AAU), was comparatively flourishing with the monthly subvention of over N270, 000, 000.00 ( Two Hundred and Seventy Million Naira only) from government under his predecessor in office.
A combination of the school’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and government monthly subvention placed the University in a relatively robust position where she could effectively plan and budget for both recurrent and capital expenditures.
Consequently, the University could in the past proudly point to some physical infrastructural development carried out by management outside state budgetary allocation. Things have since completely taken a downward turn for the worse under the present government with the drastic slash of the monthly subvention.
Amidst the effort by the authorities of the AAU to manage the situation, centripetal forces were unleashed to cause division in the institution thereby creating a semblance of crisis within the system. That was the pretext needed for direct administrative intervention.
On Monday, May 10, 2021, Edo State House of Assembly passed a draconian bill, transferring the powers of the Vice chancellor, Governing Council and Senate of the University to the Sole Administrator.
It should be noted that there are a handful of new structures in the University built by Tetfund, an interventionist initiative of the Federal Government as well as the intervention of the last administration in the state.
The story of College of Education, Ekiadolo has become so familiar and need not detain us here. Although Federal Government has taken over the upgrade of the College, the fate of the staff and students are still largely uncertain. Other tertiary institutions such as College of Physical Education, Afuze, College of Education, Igueben, Edo State College of Aqua Culture, Agenebode are all groaning, stressed and decrepit.
They have continued to exist with minimal government contributions because Management and Staff are resolved to bear unspeakable sacrifices in their interest. The State School of Nursing has remained under seal. Also sealed by implication is the opportunity for our young boys and girls to receive quality training for local health facilities and export.
We all know that our nurses in foreign lands are highly remunerated and in great demand. Yet, the institution has remained closed in a state that has earned notoriety for trafficking in boys and girls. It is also of public knowledge that the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) which the Governor claimed to have attended was closed down. By implication, the fate of thousands of Edo Youths who would have taken advantage of the remedial facility like he did when he, Godwin Obaseki failed WASC in 1973, has also been sealed!
The case of College of Agriculture, Iguorhiakhi has been aptly described as man inhumanity to man. Ordinarily, the purpose of government is to support and promote tertiary institutions to produce quality manpower required by the industry.
*Osifo, is a former Commissioner for Higher, Technical and Tertiary Education, Edo State