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ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE COMMISSIONER, MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, MAKURDI, BENUE STATE; PROFESSOR DENNIS ITYAVYER ON THE OCCASION OF THE MINISTERIAL PRESS BRIEFING ON ACHIEVEMENTS RECORDED FROM MAY, 2015 TO DECEMBER, 2016 BY THE ADMINISTRATION OF HIS EXCELLENCY SAMUEL ORTOM AS GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE Protocol Preamble It is my singular honour and pleasure to address you gentlemen of the Press, members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, today on the achievements of the Administration of His Excellency, Hon. Samuel Ortom in the Education Sector during the period of May, 2015 to 31st December, 2016. I want to appreciate the efforts of the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the Executive of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Benue State Chapter, for organizing this forum and dialogue. I am grateful to you, gentlemen of the press, for the publicity given to the activities, programmes and achievements of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, during the period under review and for your hard work and coverage of this briefing. Structure and mandate The Ministry of Education was created at the inception of Benue State in 1976, what is today known as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is a creation of the present Administration following the merger of the former Ministry of Science and Technology. The Ministry is charged with the ever increasing responsibility of implementing government policies in the Education Sector. These policies cover all the levels of education from the Primary to the Tertiary level. In order to effectively achieve this mandate which is one of the focal agenda of the current administration, the Ministry is structured into ten departments for smooth coordination of the day-to-day operations of personnel, institutions and establishments involved in the service delivery in education. The ten departments of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology are as follows; Department of Administration and Supply; Department of Finance and Accounts; Department of Planning, Research and Statistics; Department of Secondary Education; Department of Tertiary Education; Department of QualityAssurance; Department of Special Education Department of Education Support Services; Department of Science Technology Education; and Department of Information and Communication Technology. The Ministry also has cabinet responsibilities over five parastatals and five tertiary institutions as follows:
  1. Benue State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB)
  2. Benue Sate Teaching Service Board (TSB)
  3. Benue State Scholarship Board
  4. Benue State Examination Board
  5. Agency for Adult and Non-formal Education (ANFEA)
The five tertiary institutions are;
  1. Benue State University, Makurdi;
  2. College of Education, Katsina-Ala;
  3. College of Education, Oju;
  4. Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo; and
  5. Akawe Torkula College of Advance and Professional Studies, Makurdi.
In terms of staff strength of the Ministry, Parastatals and Institutions; the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is by far the largest employer of labour in the State, and as such, the impact of its achievements or failure is likely to be more widely felt. We operate in close partnership with voluntary agencies, missionaries, communities and private proprietors in the education sector at the state level, and with federal ministries, departments and agencies. Education undoubtedly is one of the fulcrums of the Governor Ortom policy agenda encapsulated as ‘Our Collective Vision.’ This administration has charged the Ministry with the responsibility of delivering to the good people of Benue State conducive and equal opportunities for the acquisition of knowledge, marketable skills, and positive attitudes, through functional and qualitative education at all levels. It is in pursuit of this mandate that we in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have in the period under review worked tirelessly to provide and improve necessary enabling infrastructure to enhance the access to education. We are fighting against the existence of illegal schools and examination malpractice. We have promoted the welfare of staff to sustain the growth and development of tertiary institutions. Achievements Gentlemen of the press, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in presenting the achievements of the Ministry, I have chosen to highlight the most prominent ones for want of time. These are as follows:
  1. 740 ongoing constructions, renovation and other projects in primary schools in the 23 local government areas of the state following the release of N7.6 billion.
  2. Renovation of some secondary schools and recruitment of Mathematics teachers to strengthen science education.
  3. Resolution of disputes with unions a few days after taking over and the resumption of Benue State University (BSU) from a prolonged strike.
  4. Constitution of visitation panels for state-owned tertiary institutions and commencement of implementation of the BSU panel’s report as well as reconstitution of the Benue State University Council.
  5. Increase of admission capacity of the University from 4,655 to 6,000.
  6. Obtained full accreditation for seven courses in BSU.
  7. Commencement of payment of salaries for BSU Technical Staff after five years of non-payment of salaries.
  8. Re-training of 10,000 primary and 6,000 secondary school teachers.
  9. Plans are underway to return mission and private schools to their proprietors.
  10. Establishment of Benue Peoples Education Project (BEPEB) to raise funds for development of education in the state.
  11. Renovation of two office blocks at TSB, Makurdi.
  12. Successful hosting of All Secondary Schools Sports Festival at Otukpa in 2016.
  13. Procured official and utility vehicles to relevant officers and offices to enhance efficient and effective running of Benue State University.
  14. Graduated four (4) sets of medical doctors from College of Medical Sciences.
  15. Designed an electronic module for computation of examination results at BSU.
  16. Carried out the following 47 projects through Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) at BSU:
1 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/Q/03
2 Construction of a car park at Faculty of Law
3 Renovation of burnt ‘ate’ at Senior Staff Club
4 Construction of a Driver Lodge
5 Renovation of a block of four classrooms at Technical College
6 Fencing, parking lot and landscaping at the eastern wing
7 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/TECH/QTR/03
8 Service of boreholes on campus
9 Installation of backup transmitter
10 Installation of CCTV on campus
11 Construction of collapsed fence at the Old VC’s Lodge
12 Construction of drainage gutter at the eastern wing of campus
13 Renovation of Block of Offices housing Physics, Biology and Social Science Library
14 Remodelling of No. 1 Junior Staff Housing Block
15 Construction of additional toilets to professors’ offices
16 Construction of Neon Light plastic signboard in front of the library building
17 Renovation of Senate Chambers
18 Renovation work at pre-French Secretariat
19 Renovation of BSU establishment offices
20 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/QRTS/NO.5
21 Construction of a handball court
22 Construction of office block for the task force on sanitation
23 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/TECH/03/BQ
24 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/QTRS/NO.17B, Main Campus
25 Renovation and creation of Table Tennis/Gymnasium at the Staff Club
26 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/QTRS/TEC/06
27 Installation of Digital Intercom System within the University Campus
28 Renovation of the Club House
29 Extension of the Vice Chancellor’s Office
30 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/QTRS/17A
31 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/TEC/04/BQ
32 Renovation of Quarters No. BSU/TEC/04
33 Construction of perimeter fence at Mrs. Tolufashe’s residence
34 Furnishing at the University Guest House
35 Treatment of all the septic tanks in the University
36 Construction and installation of four (4) students bulletin boards
37 Construction of a toilet facility in the Labour Market
38 Construction of 2 main entrance burglary protectors and seven doors
39 Renovation and upgrading of kitchen at the Senior Staff Club
40 Landscaing of the proposed Professor Office and classrooms
41 Renovation of 3-bedroom fat (Block No. 023) Staff Quarters
42 Renovation of BSU Technical School SS2 block
43 Additional work for the renovation of the pro-chancellor’s lodge, North Bank
44 Road markings (bumps and zebra crossings) at main campus
45 Re-washing, building and polishing of terrazzo floor at the main library
46 Construction of six (6 cubicles in the main library)
47 Renovation of the SIWES unit
    Challenges Distinguished invited guest, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen, the narration of achievements has been lengthy, much time has been taken but permit me to now focus briefly on the challenges that have been encountered in the provision of education services at all levels. The economic recession and funding crisis It is obvious to everybody that the Nigerian economy is in a state of recession; definitely the attendant effects of the recession have had its toll on the education sector. The biggest challenge of the sector is funding. The requirements of the sector are such that, if the entire state’s budget were to be devoted to education, more would still be needed. Given this scenario, though government continues to commit enormous resources to education development, the result are yet near expectation, as contained in the Benue State Strategic Education Sector Operation Plan (SESOP), 2017-2019. Benue State has a projected funding gap of One Trillion, One Hundred and Seventy-four Billion, One Hundred and Seventy-two Million, Two Hundred and Forty Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Ninety-four kobo (N1,174,172,240,566.94) within the next three years. this money in needed in addition to federal allocation to provide critical infrastructure, implement STEAM – based education, fund professional development for teachers and supply learning materials including books, ICT and Science equipment. Currently, there are only twenty-three thousand, four hundred and forty-five (23,445) classrooms available for the one million, seven hundred and eighty thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven (1,780,967) students enrolled in Early Childhood Development Centres (ECCD) through Senior Secondary Schools (SSS) in Benue State, thus leading to over-crowded classrooms. The situation therefore, calls for judicious and transparent management of the scarce resources by all concerned to achieve optimal results. Illegal schools The zeal of voluntary agencies, communities and individuals to establish schools as a social service has regrettably given way to the gust for the commercial gains. As a result of this, all manner of schools spring up on a daily basis, both in the rural and urban centres. Efforts to stem this negative trend are being thwarted by the greed of proprietors. The development is becoming more worrisome, as some individuals have moved into the establishment of illegal tertiary institutions such as polytechnics, colleges of education and universities. Examination Malpractice The menace of examination malpractice can never be overemphasized. Examinations are a yard-stick for measuring the standards of education everywhere in the world, and when you compromise the standards of examinations, you invariably compromise the standard of education. We in the Ministry have been working in collaboration with the Benue State House of Assembly Committee on Education to further strengthen the laws against examination malpractices. It is our hope and aspiration that when the process is completed, it will check the growing trend of examination malpractice and falling standard of education. The Ministry has already started sanctioning principals who aid and abet exam malpractices in their schools. Low Science Orientation Over the years, the development of education has been lopsided with a tilt towards the art, and social sciences and near neglect in the areas of applied science and technology. The trend as adversely affected the whole state in general. Individuals and the communities by implication are trained in fields that are not viable and developmental to the society. Technology has been neglected and needs a strong boost. The way forward Good people of Benue State, Education is one the cardinal points in the Governor Samuel Ortom’s policy, “Our Collective Vision.” Governor Samuel Ortom recognizes the fact that, education is the largest formal sector whose ramification cuts across virtually, all facets of the population of Benue State. The administration is conscious of the correlation and interdependency between development in the education sector and the overall quality of life of the people of Benue State. It follows naturally that, we will succeed if we provide knowledge and the enabling environment for people to acquire the relevant knowledge. If we create awareness on how to make the right choices, we would have created an enabling environment for Benue State to move forward significantly. Given the context, the responsibilities of the Ministry are so weighty and fundamental that failure is not an option. It means that issues of education cannot be left only with those employed in the sector nor with the State Government. It means that as students, parents, guardians, teachers, managers and responsible citizens, we all have a duty to contribute our quota in one way or the other towards the growth and development of the education sector in Benue State. In this spirit of collectivity, the administration of Samuel Ortom has created an avenue and machinery for everyone to participate in the funding and education of the Benue child. This machinery is called, the “Benue Peoples’ Education Project,” (BePEP). BePEP is a platform for crowd – funding with the mandate to garner resources form alternative sources to support public education in Benue State. The mission of BePEP is to serve and created a network of funding partners so that every public school in Benue State will have access to the resources needed to implement a world class learning environment. I hope therefore, that the good people of Benue State will in the next two years continue to support the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom to record more achievements in the provision of quality education to our children. Conclusion To conclude this briefing, let me use this opportunity to thank the staff of the Ministry, the heads of Parastatals and Tertiary Institutions for the cooperation. I once again thank the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the leadership of the NUJ for making it possible for me to meet the press today. I thank you gentlemen of the press. I thank you for your patience and kind attention. Thank you and God bless us all.