Okonjo-Iweala, Adeboye, others chart path to educational, development, others

But in Lagos, The Redeemed Christian Church of God’s (RCCG’s) General Overseer, Pastor Emmanuel Adejare Adeboye, spoke on general socio-economic and political decay that engenders the rot in education and other societal woes, urging Nigerians, especially leaders to recognise the sovereignty of God.

Speaking at the RCCG’s “Holy Ghost Congress, 2009” with the theme, “Our God Reigns,” at its Redemption Camp, Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, which ended yesterday, the prominent cleric described God as the only One who reigns over the world and whose Word is final.

Contrary to the notion of political office holders who always feel that they have arrived and as soon as they get power, begin to use their positions to enrich themselves to the detriment of those that voted for them, the cleric said everyone should know that God is the Almighty and the Supreme Judge also.

Dignitaries at the Congress were the General Superintendent of Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor William Folorunsho Kumuyi, the Senior Pastor of Living Faith Church World Outreach (Winners’ Chapel), Bishop David Oyedepo, The Presiding Pastor of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Mike Okonkwo, President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and General Overseer of Word of Life Bible Church, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Rev. Mercy Ezekiel of Christian Pentecostal Mission.

Others were the wife of Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, the Deputy Governor, Lagos State, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, the Governor of Ondo State, Segun Mimiko and the wife, including foreign dignitaries.

The scholars spoke at the maiden graduation of the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), an offshoot of the Nelson Mandela Institution (NMI), a non-governmental organisation designed to support technological and scientific education in Africa. However, officials of the Federal Ministry of Education, including the Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, who was listed as one of the personalities to give a good will message, were conspicuously absent.

For Okonjo-Iweala, Africa with its vast human and intellectual resources could not afford to play the second fiddle in the field of science and technology. To rise to the challenge, she said, platforms and avenues must be created such as the establishment of the university in 2007.

About 100 students graduated with Postgraduate Diplomas (PGD) and Masters of Science (M.Sc.) degrees in Petroleum Engineering, Material Sciences, Pure and Applied Mathematics; Computer Science and Theoretical Physics.

These are subjects in which Africa needs expertise to develop and an analytical engine to support the continent’s sustainable development efforts, according to the President of the University, Prof. Hillary I. Inyang.

Okonjo-Iweala, who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the University, said: “The basic objective of the NMI is to educate the next generation of African scientists and technologists with the capacity to solve real African problems and provide leadership that can lead to the economic and social transformation in Africa.

“As such, the goal is to promote a strong foundation to the fundamentals, a deep understanding of the research frontiers within an inter-disciplinary framework and re-orientation towards entrepreneurship and /or service that can lead to continuous development of Africa.”

In consonance with its objectives, the pioneering students enjoyed tuition-free postgraduate programmes, with support from some government agencies and private companies in the countries. For instance, the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Guarantee Trust Bank, (GTBank), Zenith Bank, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC); Total Petroleum and Spring Bank among others.

But she hinted that in the nearest future, students may be made to pay some tuition, saying, “we are trying the best we can to raise the resources, but there is no doubt that we will have to start introducing some form of payment in the near future and we have to work it out how we can manage, but at that, we need sustainability of the institution. So I think in a year or two, from now, we have to work out how students can contribute.”

According to her, the NMI is working with the support of the African Development Bank (ADB), World Bank Group (WBG), the Indian Institute of Science (IIS), the African Scientific Committee (ASC), the Government of Nigeria, among other institutions and private sector organisations across the world.

The Rwandan Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Romain Murenzi, who was the Guest Speaker at the graduation said if Africa was to avoid being an accessory of history, the continent and all of its countries must adopt a clear long-term policy and strategy for science, technology and innovation with four objectives.

They include investment in knowledge acquisition and deepening. This starts at primary school level, continues to secondary school up to undergraduate. Secondly, investment must be made in creation of new knowledge. This encompasses basic and applied research in all areas of science and engineering, noting that Africa could not afford to rely on other people’s solutions.

“Our culture of innovation must be developed. Our young people should be encouraged to innovate. Freedom, free speech, free thinking, coupled with entrepreneurship and knowledge has brought life to most of the innovation that the world is enjoying today,” he said.

He believed that Africa had the required natural resources from minerals to biodiversity and the required raw human capital in its youth to be part of the global economy at the end of the next decade.

“But for this to happen, a massive investment must be made in the areas of education, science, technology and innovation,” he added.

The President of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Ayo Ibidapo-Obe, said with the successful take off of the AUST, science and technology as pioneering efforts in the area, all that was needed was a little push and “we can actually reach where we want to be in world affairs.”

Asked if such efforts could be replicated in some Nigerian universities, Ibidapo-Obe said what needed to be done was to read the context for the African setting to ensure that the brightest and the best come into the institution, not only from Nigeria, but from all parts of the continent.

“You can see the demography of the students that are graduating today, you will be happy that you get students from all the places that was competitively selected,” he remarked.

He believed that Nigerian universities were watching and they would try as much as possible to create some centres of excellence in their greatest strengths and collaborate with AUST in the future to pursue their dreams.

The governor made the assertion at the well-attended Exam Ethics Marshals Conference, which ended at the weekend in Accra, Ghana, where he was also given the 2009 Exam Ethics Award for Best Practices in Education.

But the spread of the examination malpractice cankerworm across the West African sub – region was also underscored by Ghana’s Education Minister, Mr. Aex Tettey – Enyo, who announced that Junior High School candidates in his country have been involved in examination fraud, prompting the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to cancel the papers of those found guilty.

“The situation has compelled the management of WAEC to publish names and photographs of candidates who cheated in the examination through various means,” he declared. “Suprisingly, some parents came out to condemn the publication, which I see as unfortunate, if we want our country to have a credible system of exams and certification.

But Akpabio, who was represented at the ceremony by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Nsabasi Akpan, averred that examination malpractice had persisted in Nigeria because of what he described as the peculiarities of the society. “We should not ignore the fact,” he noted, “that a student studying Architecture, and who bribes his way through and obtains his certificate, will one day cause the nation to pick up the bills of his evil ways, in collapsed infrastructure designed by him.”

He continued: “You cannot hide incompetence in the work environment. This situation breeds what has now come to be termed in Nigeria as ‘half – baked graduates:’ Graduates who went through school, but whom the school did not go through.”

The governor also observed that developing countries were at a crossroads today, because they are lagging behind, with the gap widening between them and the developed countries. He then queried: “Will we ever catch up?” He added: “The answer is that the education sector holds the key to bridging the technological gap and to sustainable democracy.”

He explained that the quest to liberate Akwa Ibom state’s people from poverty prompted his administration to introduce free and compulsory education in both primary and secondary schools, the first anniversary of which was celebrated recently. He revealed that the policy had led to school enrolment quadrupling, with many child hawkers returning to school.

His words: ‘To ensure that no fees of any kind are charged by headmasters and principals of primary and secondary schools respectively, we pay them N100 per head for each primary school, and N300 per head for each secondary school. Our investment in education also encompasses a massive rehabilitation of all primary and secondary schools in the state. We have so far spent over N30 billion on revamping the education sector.”

Ghana’s Education Minister admitted that efforts by his Ministry to nip the explosive nature of examination malpractice in the bud did not succeed. But he pledged support for Exam Ethics International’s activities towards promoting best practices in the education sector. His said, “I believe that a non – governmental organisation like this, which is non – profit and non – partisan with a social responsibility, should be encouraged to correct the wrongs in our schools, societies and organisations. Government (of Ghana) will give them the needed support in carrying out their operations.”

Impressed that the organisation did not make any financial demand on the Akwa Ibom State government for giving the award, Akpabio announced a donation of $50, 000 “to enhance Exam Ethics’ fight against examination malpractice.”

Pastor Adeboye who took time to pray for President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, said God was the Alpha and Omega who has the final answer and solution to every problem and with whom nothing was impossible.

“He has the greatest love, who offered His life for ransom. He is also the great Physician, who has the power to heal all sicknesses and diseases, the Ancient of Days and the Lamb of God,” he said.

The cleric, who assured that God would always want to commit great things unto man and make the latter act in His position by putting His word into his mouth, said He restricts this privilege to only those who totally surrender their lives to His Only begotten Son.



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