The government of Delta State embarks on massive expansion of existing institutions of higher learning and the establishment of new ones to cater for the manpower needs of the state and the country
Isaac Onoruese, 25, is an HND 2 Mechanical Engineering student at the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku. His original interest was to study Petroleum Engineering in a university after leaving Eni Grammar School, Evwreni, near Ughelli, Delta State, in 2006. But that was not to be. “I tried several times, but it didn’t work. I wrote JAMB and post-UME twice but no luck. So, in 2009, I decided to pick the form for Ogwashi-Uku Poly just to keep the ball rolling instead of sitting at home doing nothing,” Onoruese told the magazine. When in 2002 the Delta State government, during the administration of former governor, James Onanefe Ibori, decided to establish three polytechnics in the state, it was to address the plight and frustrations of Deltans like Onoruese who could not be accommodated in existing universities in the country.
Today, on the last lap of his higher diploma, Onoruese and others like him have been saved from a bleak future courtesy of the opportunity of an alternative access to tertiary education thoughtfully provided by the state government. But while the existing state-owned tertiary institutions served their purpose to some extent, the problem was far from over in the face of increasing population of youths coming out of secondary schools. Besides, all the institutions are located in urban centres thus putting rural dwellers at a disadvantage.
The state governor, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, said “that is why we are establishing four more polytechnics such that a lot of our children in the rural areas now have places to go.” When the magazine visited the state, it was observed that the polytechnics at Abigborodo, Aboh, Burutu and Sapele were at different stages of completion. Facilities in existing institutions are also being expanded to accommodate potential students. Human capital development is one of the focal points of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration and this can only be achieved with a robust education sector. In 2009, the state organised a higher education summit where one of the issues that came to the front burner was the fact that about 25,000 young people apply for positions in the polytechnics each year. But the existing institution could only accommodate about 9,000. It also discovered that students of Delta State origin attend over 160 tertiary institutions across the world. Solving the problem of intake therefore became an issue for the state.
As part of the efforts to bring education closer to the people, Delta State University has since inception been operating three campuses located in Abraka, Asaba and Oleh. There are also three colleges of education located in Warri, Agbor and the College of Physical Education in Mosogar. In addition to that, the state is increasing the number of its technical colleges from six to nine with effect from this year. This number of institutions of higher learning gave rise to the existence of two ministries of education in the state – one for higher education and another for primary and secondary education.
Apart from creating the space, the government is also concerned about the problem of poverty which could also be a hindrance to accessing higher education. Hence, the Uduaghan administration also runs a robust bursary and scholarship scheme to assist its students. Other categories of students captured in the well thought-out scholarship programme of the state government are students in the Law School, Aviation students, four children of each deceased civil servant and the physically challenged. Peter Amromanoah, Executive Secretary of the state scholarship board, said these scholarship schemes have been put in place “because of the education-friendly government that we have.” (See interview)