While gender equity remains a concern globally, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki is a trail blazer especially in the basic education sector, writes Teliat Sule.
Of the 37 State Universal Basic Education Board Chairmen in Nigeria, only two are women: those of Edo and Imo States.
In October 2021, Governor Godwin Obaseki once again demonstrated his inclination towards forging positive visibility for women when he appointed Mrs. Ozavize E. Salami as Executive Chairman, Edo SUBEB. But that was not out of place or novel for His Excellency. In 2018, he showed his tendency to breaking biases when he elevated Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe from Special Adviser on Basic Education to Executive Chairman, Edo SUBEB and the resulting outcome has been revolutionary. The governor has maintained a commitment to gender equality since the inception of his administration and has stepped it up a few notches in the selection of his current cabinet and permanent secretaries. “In Edo State, we have a healthy mix of women in our cabinet, as they occupy more than 30 per cent of positions of commissioners and special advisers in government,” he said last week.
“At the senior cadre of the civil and public service, women make up more than 50 per cent of the permanent secretaries, which provides them with ample opportunity to serve the people,” he added.
It is notable that the women appointed by Governor Obaseki have provided invaluable service and ensured proper functioning of the engine of government.
Women as achievers
With the full backing and political will of the Obaseki administration, Dr. Oviawe launched EdoBEST in 2018, the basic education sector transformation programme which leverages the use of technology and data to support the delivery and management of education has been described as a game changer in the public education space. It has been understudied and adopted by some other states in Nigeria, and countries in Africa. The programme has also received accolades from international development Institutions such as the World Bank and te
Under Mrs. Salami, the programme has been expanded to include more communities, providing coverage and access for and more pupils across Edo’s 18 local government areas.
In January 2022, over 600 teachers and principals from primary schools in rural, hard-to-reach and riverine areas were passed through the EdoBEST induction training resulting in an additional 148 primary schools having access to teachers equipped with tools and content and trained in a methodology that has been proven to deliver superior learning outcomes over the four years of the programme.
Similarly, under the new Chairman, the Edo state government has taken a bold step in the disarticulation of its Junior Secondary Schools from its Senor Secondary counterparts by extending the EdoBEST methodology of teaching to 231 of its 305 JS Schools. In February 2022, 1,859 teachers and principals from junior Secondary schools were also trained.
These two teacher professional development events have given thousands of pupils in hard-to-reach areas access to quality education at no cost. In addition, over 20,000 JSS pupils will immediately begin to benefit from a methodology and a pedagogy that leverages technology.
Teachers, new to the program attest to immediate benefit and impact of EdoBEST in their classrooms. On the afternoon of March 1st, 2022, Mrs Augustina Egha a teacher at Ukhuanlen Primary School in a remote village of Ubiaja in Esan South East noted that her classes have received a new zest of life as a result of the training she received in January. “My work is easier, and the children are happier and learning better,” she said before starting her scooter and heading home from school that afternoon. Communities, Education managers and parents have welcomed the new programme with gusto and anticipation of improved learning outcomes.
“Schools are where our results are!!” Mrs Salami is wont to say, alluding that the focus of basic education reform in Edo State must be measured by the impact that is being made in every child, in every school irrespective of where it is located.
“My vision is to have headteachers and principals that are as committed as the Chairman of SUBEB in every school,” she told an audience of journalists in February 2022. “We are taking school level management very seriously, holding headteachers and principals responsible and accountable for the quality of delivery of the teachers they oversee, the management of the school environment and the protection of the children within their custody”.
Mrs Salami continued, “We will be equipping them with training that transforms their orientation to be one of chief executives of the schools entrusted to their care”
In response to many enquiries and concerns from the public about the state of school infrastructure, Mrs. Salami reiterates that upgrading school facilities and enhancing the school environment is a priority for this administration and plans are underway to upgrade, renovate and construct school buildings and ensure secure learning environments for pupils and staff whilst in school.
Indeed, the progress recorded by the women appointed by Governor Obaseki is expected because he consistently emphasizes that merit, competence and a track record of delivery should be the deciding factor in the placement of individuals in positions within his cabinet.
Mrs. Salami is an educationist and a financial services professional with over 23 years post-graduate experience cutting across education, accounting, investment banking, sales and marketing, and customer service. She is a rounded professional who possesses invaluable business development experience of ensuring growth with a focus on embedding streamlined processes and structure to ensure sustainability.
She holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Accounting from the University of Benin and is a member of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, Nigeria.
Reflection on IWD
In a world where women remain excluded, underpaid, overlooked, and exploited, Governor Obaseki continues to lend his voice to causes that promote the rights and provides opportunities to women. In recent times, he has spoken out describing as regrettable and unsettling the non-passage of 5 bills seeking affirmative action and inclusion for women by the National Assembly.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 indicates that it will take 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics, 267.6 years to close the gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity.
The Forum noted that “to date, the income of an average Nigerian woman is 58.4% of a man’s income. Further, women are rare in senior positions: only 30% of managers and 13.9% of firms have female top managers. Edo has progressed beyond these national figures and continues to push for more inclusivity.
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) with the theme, “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow,” more states within and outside Nigeria should look to emulating the Edo example.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.
At Edo SUBEB, more than half of the directors are women. “Our experience has proven that women bring a rare knack of commitment and sense of service to drive change and engender progress like never before seen in the civil service,” Governor Obaseki continues to emphasize.