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Enthused by the commitment of the Ibaji Education Revival Committee in observing their terms of reference, the Deputy Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly and Member representing Ibaji Constitiency, Rt Hon Comfort Ojoma Nwuchiola Egwaba, has commended the Committee and charged them to keep up the good work until set goals are realised.

Rt Hon Comfort made the remark at a meeting of the committee at Onyedega, Ibaji Local Government Headquartres.

The committee had involved all critical stakeholders in the education sector in Ibaji in seeking lasting solution to the many headed challenges facing schooling in the area. Head Teachers, Principals of schools, the Area Enumerator of Education, traditional rulers, seasoned educationists, teachers in both primary and secondary schools, parents, youths and Ibaji Development Association were in attendance to profer possible solutions.

The Deputy Speaker said she would give all necessary assistance to make the committee succeed within record time. “Now that every important person concerned is here, we should be able to detect the reason for the fall of education in Ibaji”, she said.

The Deputy Speaker who was represented by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Jerry Marcel Enema, said every factor responsible must be looked into. On her part, she outlined some packages for the teachers and pupils to boost their morale. An award session had been planned for deserving teachers; and another category for pupils at a later date.

Rt Hon Nwuchiola urged the committee to consider short and long term preferences and forward same for consideration and implementation.

Speaking, the Area Enumerator of Education in Ibaji, Elder Jerry Akwute, said many schools in Ibaji had closed down due mainly to the absence of pupils or students. There had been a massive drift of pupils from Ibaji to Idah and other places for schooling.

Many others who were at home chose farming over going to school and were supported by their parents who saw no gain in education. Mr Akwute also blamed the teachers, some of who, on the pretext of absence of students, completely evaded office, making the school premises deserts. He said while efforts should be put in place to return children to school, teachers who evaded work should be brought to book.

Primary school Heads and teachers, Reuben Akor, Emmanuel Onuh and Samson Ineke, in their remarks, blamed the problem on non payment or percentage payment of salaries; the yearly flooding of the area and lack of basic infrastructure. They also mentioned some inappropriate appointments of supervisors.

PTA teachers who used to boost the growth of education in Ibaji had dropped the chalk. Their reason, according to one of the school heads, is low payment. But an individual, Chief Jacob Ugoya, was commended for engaging PTA teachers in Elele, his home town, and reviving the school there. Other well to do people in Ibaji were urged to toe the steps of Ugoya by giving back to their immediate communities.

A resource person at the meeting, Dr Gabriel Ottah, urged the committee to treat every option with serious attention as it concerned teachers, pupils parents and government. He stressed the need for teachers to live above board in discharging their duties. While admitting that salary was a challenge in the area, he observed that schools did not shut down in other local government areas where the same problem persisted. Dr Ottah said the committee should beam searchlight on other causes too.

He said part of the recommendations should be on how to apply the Kogi State Education Law which prohibited children of school age from going about during school hours. This could be enforced at Ibaji through the traditional institution like the village kings, age groups, gagos and youths. An erring child could be fined or given other acceptable punishments within the community in order to compel them to return to school. Where these local measures failed, the state should be involved to invoke relevant sections of the law on offenders.

On the issue of salaries, Dr Ottah said the last payment in the state had shown that percentage salaries had begun to phase out and hoped it would be sustained by the present administration under Alhaji Usman Ododo.

The resource person urged the committee to spell out its recommendations clearly to enable the Deputy Speaker work on it.

The Ibaji Development Association President who was the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Godwin Onuh, assured Ibaji people that the committee would review all issues raised and put forward its recommendations.

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