Ijaw National Academy: Empowering Bayelsa youths for a new Niger Delta
When Governor Henry Seriake Dickson took over as the governor of Bayelsa State in 2012, a time when the state was the hotbed of militants, his first move was to declare a state of emergency on education as result of poor state of primary and secondary schools in the state.
Today, that decision has led to massive construction of schools equipped with what can rightly be tagged state of the art facilities that symbolises the Governor’ restoration agenda in the education sector. One of such projects is the Ijaw National Academy, a co-educational institution established two years ago to provide good quality education for children of Bayelsa State from all strata of life.
The vision and philosophy behind the initiative is to expose teenage Bayelsans to Western form of education early in life, so that when they grow into adulthood, they would be insulated from influences that can lead them into militancy and all other form of vices, which the state has erroneously been ascribed with.
Located in the historic town of Kaiama, the school occupies a vast expanse of virgin land. With a student population of 900, the school, which boasts of standard structures, has students in JSS1 to JSS3 selected from schools in and around the state. In the premises are six newly built three storey hostels – three each for male and female students; two one storey block of classrooms for JSS1&11 students and a yet to be completed storey building, whose ground floor serves as classrooms for JSS3 students, all equipped with learning facilities.
The school is also equipped with standard administrative block that houses both the teaching and non-teaching staff; security screening post; ICT suites; laboratories and library. Also behind the administrative block are over 10 bungalows of three bedroom flats that serve as staff quarters.
Though the principal currently operates from Yenogoa, artisans are putting finishing touches to a building that will serve as his quarter. In fact, Ijaw National Academy is an ambitious project that will transform the landscape of Bayelsa’s education sector.
The ambiance is truly serene and conducive for learning and in the words of its Principal, Mr. Charles Johnson, a British national, whose father spent a couple of years in Lagos as a British diplomat in the 1960s, “the vision of the government is to pick the students from the region and settle them in one boarding establishment – obliviously a co-educational school – provide them with good facilities and opportunity to learn.”
Johnson, who just took over as the principal of the school few months ago, said the school was modeled after what is obtainable in the United Kingdom, a co-educational institution that can take up to 1000 students, expose them to good facilities and opportunity to learn.
“In strict British term, this is what we call grammar school. In England, grammar schools have a long tradition of taking the brightest students and almost making sure, through competition, that you get the best out of them,” Johnson said.
The state Commissioner for Education, Mr. Markson Fefegha, said that the Ijaw National Academy type of model school would be replicated all over the state, though in existing schools.
“The unique thing about the schools is that they are fully funded by the government, including feeding; breakfast, lunch and dinner. The government spends an average of N 25 million on this every month as feeding and running cost for the school alone. The idea is also to admit Ijaws in the Diaspora – those in other neighbouring states like Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and Delta,” Fefegha said.
He continued: “Ijaw National Academy is like running a private school in a public system and the Governor’s ultimate vision by the end of his tenure is to place the state among the first three in terms of ranking at national public examinations like West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or National Examination Council (NECO) from our current seventh position,” he said.
On his part, the Secretary to the State Government, His Royal Highness, David Serena-Dokubo Spiff, traced the motive behind the establishment of the school by Governor Dickson back to 2012 when the level of militancy was so high. He noted that, while most Nigerians erroneously dressed almost every Ijaw man in the toga of a militant, Governor Dickson thought otherwise. Rather, he blamed the militant activities on lack of education and absence of job opportunities for those who managed to acquire one.
“The first thing he did to attack this was to embark on massive construction of schools and schools in virtually all communities in the state and the result is the 13 model boarding schools one of which is the Ijaw National Academy you just mentioned,” he said.