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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR DR IFEANYI OKOWA, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, AT THE SCHOOL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION NATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD ON TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2017, AT THE FEDERAL COLLEGE OF EDUCATION (TECHNICAL) ASABA

 

 

I am pleased to welcome you all to Asaba for this edition of the School of Science Education National Conference.

 

  1. Those of you visiting Delta State for the first time will discover that it abounds with immense tourism potentials. Delta State boasts of several tourist attractions such as beaches, resorts, gardens, museums, traditional festivals, and historical monuments. Here in Asaba and environs, we have the Landers Brothers Anchorage, The Residency (first headquarters of the Royal Niger Company) craft centres, Ogbeke Square and Okpuzu Fall in Ibusa. I encourage you to get to know a little more of Nigeria’s tourist potential and rich cultural heritage by creating time to visit any of these tourist attractions before you return to your various destinations.

 

  1. I begin my short address today on “Science and Technical Education in the S.M.A.R.T Agenda” by stating categorically that in today’s tech-savvy world, science and technical education holds the key to Nigeria’s economic growth and industrialization. In recognition of this fact, a critical component of my administration’s S.M.A.R.T Agenda is the development of technical and vocational education as a panacea to the serious problem of youth unemployment. For those of you who may not be aware, S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for:
  • Strategic wealth creation projects;
  • Meaningful peace building platforms for political/social stability;
  • Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialisation
  • Relevant health and education policies; and
  • Transformed Environment through urban renewal

 

 

 

 

 

  1. In a nutshell, the S.M.A.R.T agenda is envisaged to diversify the economy through the development of non-oil sectors, nurture entrepreneurs and leaders, and ultimately bring financial prosperity to our people. It is our persuasion that the promotion of agricultural and agro-industrial development in a developing economy such as ours will bring about sustainable economic growth, job and wealth creation, entrepreneurial development and a host of socio-economic benefits.

 

  1. The biggest economic challenge in Nigeria today is youth unemployment. Unfortunately, our current educational system with its emphasis on certificate acquisition does not have the answer to this problem. The products of this system come out with the mentality of looking to the civil service or the few private enterprises for gainful employment. Even at that they hardly possess the requisite skills to function in the 21st century marketplace. What our education system requires now is innovation, critical thinking, and paradigm shift on the part of all.

 

  1. As an administration, we believe that technical and vocational education holds the key to creating wealth and building a prosperous economy. We are deeply convinced that the solution to the massive youth unemployment that we are facing in the country, and especially in our State, lies not with certificate acquisition, but with skills acquisition.
  2. Hence, the development of technical education is at the very core of our S.M.A.R.T agenda because until we get our youths to acquire the requisite technical and vocational skills, we are not building a future for them. Thus, we are refocusing our technical colleges and polytechnics to equip the students with entrepreneurial mind-set, problem-solving skills, principles of personal effectiveness, leadership development, business and crisis management, as well as current trends in business and ethics. These are complemented with regular skills building and training programmes to upgrade and update their knowledge base.

 

  1. Indeed, the two flagship programmes of our Job Creation Scheme are modelled along this line. Through our Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and the Skill Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), we have trained and established over 2,300 youths in their choice enterprises. In the course of my on-going town hall meetings in the 25 local government areas of the State, I have been encouraged by the testimonies of many of these youths who are not only succeeding in their businesses but have also become employers of labour. With careful planning and determination, I am confident that these two programmes will be the catalyst for the development of micro, small and medium scale enterprises, leading to a stronger and more diversified economy.
  2. We have already rehabilitated and resourced three technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele and Ofagbe with state-of-the-art equipment. The remaining three colleges in Issele-Uku, Ogor and Utagba-Ogbe are currently being rehabilitated. The curriculum of these technical colleges are also being enriched in such a manner that the products will easily fit into our polytechnics, which have been restructured and refocused to enable graduate youths function as wealth creators and job creators, in addition to giving them employability skills.
  3. At the national level, I believe we should strive to broaden and deepen tertiary education with emphasis on science, teaching excellence, multi-disciplinary research and practical life skills. There is a deep uneasiness I feel in my spirit when I look at the state of tertiary education in Nigeria today. It is very unfortunate that universities and polytechnics that should drive Nigeria’s technological advancement and national prosperity have been relegated to the background in our educational system. Most of these institutions are plagued with problems of funding gaps, infrastructure deficit, poor teaching staff and abysmal maintenance culture. We must reverse this trend as a matter of exigency if we are serious with catching up with the rest of the world.

 

 

 

  1. It is on this note, ladies and gentlemen, that I now declare this conference open.

 

  1. Thank you for your time and attention.

 

  1. God bless us all.

 

 

Office of the Governor

Government House

Asaba

 

June 2017