Justice Mbaba Lauds Akpabio`s Free Education Policy
09 Aug 2010
The newly appointed Federal Court of Appeal Judge from Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ita Mbaba, has described free education as a wonderful product capable of defining a person’s community and nation. Justice Mbaba said he would never have been to school, let alone be a judge, but for the free education policy introduced by the Murtala/Obasanjo administration. Justice Mbaba who disclosed this at a special thanksgiving service to mark his elevation to the Court of Appeal used the occasion to call on the Akwa Ibom government to do everything possible to sustain the free and compulsory education introduced by the Gov. Godswill Akpabio administration.
Narrating how he struggled without parents to go to school, the jurist said but for the introduction of the free education at the Teachers Training Colleges (TTCs), he would probably never have had a post-primary education. Speaking at the service at Qua Iboe church, Uyo Township, which was attended by scores of legal luminaries both serving and retired, Justice Mbaba spoke of his childhood days and how he had to drop out of primary school for three years.
He quoted the biblical injunction that “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy” saying “I wept a lot when I was a young person and as I was growing up”. Flanked by his wife and children at the service, justice Mbaba said “Standing here before you is a man who dropped out of primary school.” He explained that without his parents he was left to fend all for himself. “I stayed out of school for three years as I could not pay fees. I served up to four different masters at different times to eke a living.” He talked about his trauma especially as he watched other children of his school age go to school in the community.
“I worked for a man who lived opposite the village primary school and you could imagine the trauma I passed through when I saw children of my age go to school”. The judge recalled. “Most often”, he said, “The school children did come around to buy confectioneries”, and he was the one to sell to them. Justice Mbaba said his joy was that when he eventually saved enough to return to complete his primary school, he passed in flying colours. “This is a boy, who had distinction in the first school leaving certificate,” he said of himself.
After completing the primary school there, he stated, there was no hope that he would ever have an opportunity for a post-primary education. As already said, he passed from one master to the other, the last being Mr. Effiong Archibong of Trufaith Gas, Uyo who organized the reception last Sunday for him to celebrate his elevation into the Court of Appeal. “I went to the Teachers Training College (TTC) without knowing how I will pay my school fees but as God may have it, the very week I started at the TTC, the Federal Government announced free education in all TTCs”. “As if the free education policy was done particularly for me, the very year I passed out in 1979 was when the programme was scrapped”, he said.
“Having benefited already from the free education policy armed with a certificate from the TTC, the coast was all clear from then onward for me to go higher in education. Thereafter, I gained admission to read law at the university of Calabar and today I have this success story to tell,” he maintained. He summed it all by describing himself as “The miracle of my generation. I am an exhibit of God’s mercy, favour and glory”. He kept climbing higher since graduating from the Law School having served as a Judge of the High Court for 10 years. Justice Mbaba was on July 13 appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal.
“Night of July 13 was traumatic for me in a positive sense. I did not listen to the news when the appointment was announced. But I started receiving calls about the good news”. He was sworn in on July 16 in Abuja. In spite of his meteoric rise in the legal profession, he cannot forget his humble beginning and how he benefited from the free education of the then government. He, therefore, used the thanksgiving to urge government to sustain the free education policy and to avoid people politicising the programme.
Gov. Godswill Akpabio introduced a free and compulsory education policy for the first nine years in all Akwa Ibom public schools in September 2008. To make the policy most effective the administration further introduced the Child Rights Act in December 2008, outlawing stigmatization of children and child labour and placing children below 16 years under a comprehensive protection of the state government. Education infrastructure and services has benefitted immensely under the present administration as the state government intensified efforts at revamping the educational sector by rehabilitating dilapidated schools and boosting the morale of teachers.
So far, about 700 school buildings have been erected or rehabilitated; making most Akwa Ibom schools, even in the rural areas, take on the appearance of model primary and secondary schools. This development is occasioned by the prevailing policy of the administration to bring education within the reach of all classes of children. All forms of fees have been abolished and education for the first nine years is totally free, with books, science labs, workshops, decent classrooms, and good budgetary provision for logistics. At the tertiary level, government has made the Akwa Ibom state University of Technology a priority educational institution.