Rated 4.8/5 by parents & students

Edo State needs more than science teachers – Odemwingie

(By Tommy Odemwingie)

I have seen – and experienced – the worst and best of education in Nigeria. Being a beneficiary of the Awolowo-inspired free education programme in the defunct Western Region, I experienced learning under a mango tree, before graduating to learning in an uncompleted classroom. Part of my secondary education – at the old Iyekeorhionmwon (now Urhonigbe) Grammar School – was received in the old assembly and recreation halls of the defunct Iyekeorhionmwon District Council, which were converted into classrooms when the Ogbemudia development revolution unfolded in the old Midwestern region.

Later, I had the good fortune of receiving education in what I consider to be one of the most conducive learning environments when I had to complete my secondary education at the famous Ika Grammar School, Agbor. In the two years that I spent in the institution, I can’t remember ever feeling homesick – until a few days to vacation. And although only 30 minutes separated Agbor and Urhonigbe, there was no incentive to go home if it was not inevitable –  such as was occasioned by student unrest some time in 1971.

I missed the chance to reconnect with the institution a couple of years back when I couldn’t make it early enough to Agbor for an alumni reunion. So I don’t know what the school looks like these days, but will soon go and find out as part of my inspirational encounters for the next personal activist engagement with development process. Here was a school established by the Ika community but run by the Anglican Mission with grants-in-aid from the regional government. Ika Grammar School had everything – an expansive compound with a surfeit of classroom blocks, hostel accommodation, staff quarters, laboratories, a well-stocked library, an endless array of playgrounds for different sports – including even cricket!

But its greatest asset was a staff strength that included fathers and friends of the students under their watch – inside and outside the classroom. It was where I was taught English Literature by Emeka Okeke-Ezigbo, one of the literary prodigies unleashed on the Nigerian public by the civil war, who was involved in Okike journal. He would go on to teach at the University of Benin. But the most compelling of my teachers was Obi Anene from Ubuluku, the author of Thunder, a 35-page poetry collection published in 1977. With a B. Sc in political science from the University of Lagos, Anene made his apartment available to students, who used his typewriter to produce a magazine named Mermaid.

Mr. Anene, who would go on to join the Benin City-based Nigerian Observer as features writer, used less than one year to prepare a set of students to earn distinctions in Government at the 1972 WASCE! The science-inclined among the students have similarly sweet memories of their teachers, notably Mr. Ikeji the maths master, who was also the games master. He was the one who recruited a couple of hardened footballers from Zikson College, Ozubulu (now in Anambra State) from the Eastern Region to take Ika Grammar school to the verge of emerging as the schoolboy champions in Midwest.

Indeed, only a handful of the more than a hundred candidates that Ika Grammar Scholl enrolled for the 1972 WASCE failed to make the mark.

Going by the recent results of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), Edo, which emerged as the third best performing state – with 57.82% – would appear not to be doing too badly in the delivery of secondary education. But what it means is that 42.18% of the candidates from Edo State who sat the examinations were unsuccessful.

I have just read a vacancy advertisement in the Vanguard newspaper of  September 4, 2014, wherein the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and the Post Primary Education Board (PPEB) are seeking to recruit teachers in the following subjects: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, inter-Science (Integrated Science?) and Agricultural Science.

Notice that teachers in the humanities (arts and social sciences) are not being recruited, although English language is the major hurdle of most Nigerian pupils. Neither is there any mention of physical education. You can say it underlines the state’s commitment to improving the state’s position on the WASSCE performance league, looking at a scientific/technological/industrial revolution on the horizon. Those are very desirable goals, no doubt.

However, the state government must be encouraged to recruit teachers across the broad spectrum of high school subjects. The arts humanities have as much potential to take the development of the state to its development destination as the science subjects. Sports have provided more alternatives to the teaming youth of the state than government-created employment opportunities.

At the height of its greatness, America led the world as much in non-scientific exploits – entertainment, music, drama, etc – as in the technological field.

The Chinese resurgence that is challenging the combined strength of the Western world is both about technology and arts and entertainment, not to mention the food business.

So, beyond the imperative of improved WASSCE performance, Edo SUBEB and PPEB should also recruit teachers in catering, carpentry; cabinet making (or woodwork, if you like); bricklaying (or masonry, if you like); fashion designing; plumbing; automobiles; handicraft; fine art; barbing and hairdressing; etc.

But perhaps, as the example of the Ika Grammar School of old would show, the most critical area is the development of new leaders and the provision of the enabling environment for the education sector to thrive.

This article first appeared on

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top