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Dickson’s educational giant strides in Bayelsa state



With the University of Africa, Toru-Orua, Bayelsa State set to celebrate its second Matriculation Ceremony on the 27th of April, 2019, one cannot but observe the steady and speedy growth of the university. It is a testimony to the tenacity and doggedness of the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson.

The Governor and visitor of the university has shown so much interest in the growth of education not just to the university but the entire educational apparatus in the state. It is unprecedented in the history of the nation to have a governor that has shown so much interest and enthusiasm in the development of the educational sector with awesome results in such a short period.

Before Governor Seriake Dickson came on board as the Governor of Bayelsa State, the State was languishing in the bottom half of states chart in the performance of students in the West African Examination Council’s examination.

Today, after investing heavily in the education sector both in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, the state is occupying an enviable 5th position in the latest chart released.

Governor Dickson’s huge investment in the education sector is worth acknowledging. He has changed the narrative by establishing the Ijaw National Academy in Kaiama and establishing model secondary schools in all the Local Government Areas in the state.

Also, he brilliantly engineered the establishment of the University of Africa, Toru-Orua to increase the accessibility of Bayelsans to quality and affordable education.

One can only look back to how barely three years ago many persons shouted and screamed to the high heavens questioning why the Bayelsa State House of Assembly would pass a bill establishing a new state owned university when the existing Niger Delta University and other state owned tertiary institutions could be further developed for optimal performance. Many naysayers also read ethnic and other irrelevant connotations to such a move at that point in time.

However, Governor Dickson in his usual unruffled and focused nature, calmed the storm and the fraying nerves by reassuring the citizens of the state that the University of Africa was being established to change the narrative of university education in the state and Nigeria through a paradigm shift from a publicly funded university education to a Public-Private partnership, where the state contributes part of the funds and the private sector helps out with the other part.

Also, there was a great need to attract foreign interest both in the teaching and student cadre of university education in the state and stop the education tourism of most Bayelsans going abroad for quality university education. There was a great need to establish a university of global standard different from the existing ones. There was a need to change the narrative through the University of Africa.

Today, after three years, we can look back and say thanks to the Governor for remaining resolute and not backing out when the pressure was much in the establishment of the university as we can gradually see reasons of its establishment coming forth.

Today, the university has been able to attract foreign scholars from different parts of the world in combination with some of the best brains the nation can offer.

The university has also been able to enter into various partnership with highly rated universities in different parts of the world to provide students and staff exchange. How many universities can boast of that in the nation today? Today, hundreds of students both from Bayelsa and other states have access to quality university education, one that is comparable to global best practices in the sector thanks to the Governor for not backing out.

As you read this, many newly admitted students are getting ready to take the matriculation oath and join the train for an awesome intellectual ride. Do you know that before now, many of these students could not gain admission into universities in Nigeria? It was not because they were academically poor. Universities are not enough in the country; the existing ones are already over stretched beyond their carrying capacities.

Today, Bayelsans are happy for the progress the university is making. Due to the structure and efficiency in the university, it has been able to get itself enlisted amongst the universities in the nation anchoring the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the area of University Education and capacity training.

The university has a handful of ex-agitators and they are savoring the opportunity of having such a high standard of education in their locality in the Niger Delta Area.

The initial complaints that the university was established for the elitist group has been demystified by the Governor through the provision of different funding programmes available to students of Bayelsa State origin.

The university through the magnanimity of the Governor offers different regimes of tuition waivers for students of the university and the newly introduced Bayelsa State Loan Scheme is meant to make the students of the university access funds that only guarantee top rate education.

The state has been able to garner enough funds through deliberately budgeting highly for educational purposes and the ingenuity the Governor and his team have shown in establishing the Bayelsa State Education Trust Fund. Funds are made available to the Education Trust Fund through the paltry monthly deductions from public workers in the state.

The era of quality university education being the exclusive rights of the rich by sending their children abroad is over in Bayelsa.

Both the poor and the rich can aspire for high standard university education and have their aspirations fulfilled. We owe this to the great restorer of our time, the Governor Seriake Dickson.

The present and the future generations would one day in no distant time look back and nod proudly to the fact that we once had a visionary leader in the ‘Aforomapepe’ of Nigeria.

Idegbekwe, Department of English, University of Africa, Toru-Orua.

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