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For Ihonvbere, Without Education, All is Lost By John Mayaki

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Not unlike the rest of the world, it’s not the best of times for education in Nigeria. The state of affairs at the primary level where the foundations of learning and aptitude are built is especially dire. The pandemic restrictions and consequent closure of schools nationwide disrupted learning in unprecedented ways. We are still counting the cost.

Our journey to recovery, following the loosening of restrictions, has been set back in certain parts of the country by lingering security challenges. Criminal elements waging a war against progress and modernization have targeted schools. In less than a year, hundreds of schoolchildren have been snatched from places of learning in what amounted to a kidnap-for-ransom situation. The response to that has been a return of closures in some states, with children in boarding schools ferried home to their parents without definite plans on return and resumption. It is a double whammy,

Julius Ihonvbere

Educationists across the country have sounded the alarm on the immediate and long-term impacts of the disruptions. The education – and peaceful integration – of a generation of children could be lost if drastic steps are not taken to protect schools from the incursion of criminals, seen and unseen. The alarms have been heard at all government levels but as other recent developments and tensions dominate headlines and policy focus, there is a need for a notable actor to reiterate it and demand action.

Prof. Julius Ihonvbere has thankfully taken the mantle. As the Chairman of House Committee on Basic Education in the House of Representatives, he has passionately and continuously drawn the attention of the Federal Government to happenings in the education sector, particularly at the primary level.

He has carried out inspections, facilitated and supervised researches to put forward local and easily adaptable solutions to some of the problems, and has rallied the House to work in tandem with state governments to achieve national education goals. Under his leadership, there is a serious and visible effort to ensure that federal funding is matched and channeled to the achievement of goals jointly agreed on by the central and sub-national governments.

On security and safety of schools, he has been at the forefront. Aware of the importance of education, being a product of academic brilliance himself, Prof. Ihonvbere has loudly tasked the government to intensify efforts to protect our children in schools.

With a recent motion read out on the floor of the House, he lamented “the weak or non-existent security infrastructure in most of the schools across the nation which do not have the barest form of resistance to serve as a first line of defense” and how that “leaves our children open to all forms of attacks from bandits.”

He also expressed worry that “many of our schools are easily accessed by hawkers, drug dealers, animals, miscreants and this exposes our children to bad influences.”

Urging the Federal Ministry of Education and its relevant agencies to work out appropriate modalities for the provision of basic security and safety measures in schools, Prof. Ihonvbere wants an immediate end to the intrusion of invaders; the establishment of frontiers of schools; the guarantee of resistance to intruders, and ultimately the creation and maintenance of conducive learning environments.

Notably too, he demands the creative deployment of budget-friendly new technology in the provision of basic protective and security measures beyond cement walls. Some other persons could extend that to the delivery of learning itself, considering the recent innovative remote learning technology operating on basic devices available to rural residents who rely on public education.

Prof. Ihonvbere’s motion must go beyond words and translate into action. The Federal Government must ensure that. He has pressed hard and will continue to do so. We must do our bit as citizens to amplify his voice and increase the pressure for action. Without education, all is lost.

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