The Executive Secretary Benue State Teaching Service Board Dr. Wilfred Terlumun Uji in this interview with Titus Atondu in Makurdi speaks exhaustively on prospects and challenges faced by the Board since he assumed office in 2016. Excerpts :
Can you share the prospects and challenges of the Board under your watch?
I sincerely want to express my gratitude and appreciation to Governor Samuel Ortom for finding me worthy of the appointment as the Executive Secretary Benue State Teaching Service Board. I was appointed on the 6th of December, 2016 and before then I was at the Federal University Lafia in the department of history and international studies where I have served as the pioneering Head of department for the department from 2012 — 2015 and also rose up to the rank of an Associate professor at the University and will like to begin on that note.
I will still recall the wordings of that letter appointing me as the E.S. Teaching Service Board, basically the phrase that it was a call to national service, I view that with a lot of honor and respect for the government of Benue State to have thought of me in a very kind and polite terms to have found me worthy of that appointment and I sincerely want to thank Governor Samuel Ortom and the good people of Benue State who have accepted me and have also given me the desired support to succeed in this office. In my life time very few people have the benefit of this kind of privilege to be called upon out of many for an exalted public office of this kind to serve your community.
Having said that, I will now go straight to the issues you raised prospects and challenges of the Board under my watch.
When I assumed office as the Executive Secretary of the Board in 2016, I observed the following challenges faced by the Board, firstly; broken sets of physical infrastructure, bad and poorly dilapidated in such a manner that the main administrative block that is Housing the office of the Executive Secretary and other principal Officers of the Board were at the state of disrepair with all the roof broken and when ever it is raining all the offices would be exposed to direct rain fall and I immediately drew the attention of the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology Prof. Dennis Ityavyar on the poor State of infrastructure at the Board as well as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the Honourable Commissioner came around and assessed the situation on ground at the Board and immediately gave approval for the renovation of the dilapidated structures and by the end of 2017, we commenced work on the main administrative block using direct labour which was completely renovated from the roof to the finishing where electrical fittings(fans and ACs), and basic furniture’s were put in place giving the Board a befitting outlook.
On the 11th of October, 2018, the Honourable Commissioner Prof. Dennis Ityavyar accompanied by Permanent Secretary and Directors in the Ministry, came and commissioned the project executed under my watch which was quite remarkable, I think by the time you will go out and look at the buildings that are yet to be renovated at the back, you will see that the Board was at bad and poor State of disrepair.
After the commissioning of the project, the Commissioner made a point which is something we are working on An Environmental Impact Assessment of the entire headquarters with the aim of giving approval for the renovation of all the existing structures at the Board with a view to give the headquarters a new first lift. We are optimistic that by the time the approval is given with the funds the entire Teaching Service Board headquarters will be given a new first lift.
I sincerely want to appreciate the Governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom for his kind disposition and the Commissioner of Education,Science and Technology Prof. Dennis Ityavyar for their unflinching support they gave me to succeed in my new place of assignment.
The other challenge I observed at the Board was the mere absence of ICT facilities most especially absence of desktops, laptops, website, board portal among other ICT related facilities as well as schools. We had a survey report that was carried out in 2017 that showed clearly that 100 best schools in Nigeria were projected and no single school in Benue State were among these schools, we took that as a major challenge at the Board and we try to find out the reason behind this setback and we discovered one critical area which was ICT driven education that gave those schools an edge over Benue Schools and we have decided as a matter of policy to bring back ICT driven educational facilities at the Board headquarters and in all the schools in the state under the watch of Teaching Service Board (TSB), and I am proud that the Honourable Commissioner is proactive in that direction and with the support of Governor Samuel Ortom, the Board have been able to have ICT facilities like desktops, laptops, board portal, website and other related ICT facilities and database for the Board that could be accessed from any part of the world
With the installation of ICT at the Board headquarters, all operations in the board are done online without delay. Issues like staff promotion, retirement, entitlement and other transactions are handled online and we are gradually eliminating the era of manual operation to digital operation.
In our secondary schools, nearly all have viable ICT facilities as well as website and portal with a view to see that our secondary school students are ICT professionals set to face the challenges of the 21th century like any other student in the world. As a result our students’ performances in WAEC and JAMB which are online except NECO are excellently well and this has gone a long way in minimizing examination malpractices and checkmating all miracle centers in the state which is yielding tremendous results.
The Honourable Commissioner has announced that the four best JAMB students in Nigeria are from Secondary schools in Benue State and the achievement is coming just within one and half year of my assumption in office.
We also have a project which is ongoing in the board ” The one Teacher one laptop project”, it is our earnest expectation that every Teacher in the secondary school must have a laptop that will be customized with basic Teaching facilities for enhance teaching and learning process in our schools.Just yesterday I was with the Managing Director Benue Investment and Property Company(BIPC), Mr. Alfred Adem to share the idea with him as we intend to partner with BIPC through the Thrift of the Teaching Service Board so we could see how to raise funds to purchase laptops for the teachers.
Before I forget,I want to clearly state here that when I assumed office as the ES of the Board there was no single ICT facility at the Board, what I met on ground was the manual typewriter machines that were outdated and now as you can see with my coming on board as the Executive Secretary all the clerical staff at the Board now have desktop, laptops where administrative transactions are accessed and treated.
I can beat my chest that the Board under my watch has brrn able to transit the board from analog to digitalized world which is the best global practice obtainable any where in the world, which is a no small measure achievement within one and half years of my reign in the Teaching Service Board.
The third challenge I met on ground was inadequate teachers, the last time teachers were recruited in Benue State was in 2012 and with the margin of six years you can see that many have voluntarily retired, others retired as a result of age while others as a result of natural death creating a big vacuum in the secondary school teaching work force and we have decided to compile the data of teachers who retired voluntarily, those that retired as a result of age and those that died naturally looking at their grade level, spread, subjects areas among other things and come out with a holistic data analysis and forwarded it to the Ministry of Education and as I speak to you plans are on the way to recruit teachers in the State Teaching Service board as pronounced by the Commissioner at the commissioning ceremony recently at the board headquarters. By this tremendous effort by the board we are optimistic that before the year runs out the issue of inadequate teachers will be addressed.
Another challenge was the unusual setback that came as a result of sudden recall of the Paris club refund by the Federal government it has virtually affected every sector in the state including the teachers not just the Governor but we are believing that everything must come to pass in a short possible time. We have been able to adopt an interim measure to address the shortage of teachers in our schools as the Federal government through the social Investment program N – Power have been able to recruit over 500 volunteer teachers and posted them to Benue State Secretary schools.
We are appealing with the Federal government to allow the Teaching Service Board to manage the N – Power volunteer teachers scheme at the level of recruitment as well as posting which is the constitutional mandate of the Board, the board know the assessment impact needs of the schools as well as the kind of teachers to recruit and where to post them.Also in the area of discipline and control the board ensure strict adherence to the teaching rules and regulations through monitoring and supervision for maximum productivity and result oriented on both the teachers and students.
The Parents Teachers’ Association too have contributed in fighting the shortage of teachers in the secondary schools by recruiting PTA teachers to assist in various secondary schools which is commendable.
Again, the other challenge I met on ground is that of operational vehicles.Teaching as you can see is all about supervision which is a critical factor in actualizing effective teaching in our schools and without operational vehicles the supervision aim can not be achieved, the board under my watch is partnering with donor agencies to achieve the feet. The board is appealing to well to do Individual or organization to come to their rescue by assisting them with operational vehicles that would assist them in monitoring the performances of the secondary school teachers for maximum productivity.