Remodeled Obioma Central Primary School as New Year gift to Enugu State children

TODAY history would be made in Obioma, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. Wife of Edo State governor, Betsy Obaseki, will join the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Dame Cecilia Ezeilo, to commission the reconstructed Obioma Community Primary School powered by Prince Ike Chioke.

The event that brought together these wonderful amazons to the sleepy community of Obioma has a lot of implications for Enugu State, especially the pupils of Central Primary School in Obioma Kingdom. It is instructive to note that the primary school caters for the educational needs of not only children of Obioma community, but also those from neighbouring Abia, Nsude, Amokwe and Udi communities in Udi Local Government Area.

Being a central school, like other such strategic schools in Igbo land, which were usually strategically located to serve a multiplicity of towns, Obioma Central Primary School was the product of communal effort.

Established in 1941, the school stands out as part of the beautiful fruits of the age-grade system and communal self-help efforts of Igbo in Eastern Nigeria. It was one of the early educational institutions in the region, which helped to advance the course of numeracy, literacy and social development of many illustrious sons and daughters of the region.

Having served countless children in the past 84 years, it was not surprising that the school suffered dilapidation, particularly after surviving the three-year Nigeria versus Biafra hostilities. The rundown look about the school prompted one of the town’s illustrious sons and alumnus, Prince Ike Chioke, to mobilise the community towards its reconstruction.

Although the renovation preserved the original floor plan, Obioma Central Primary School in its new structure now boasts of modern facilities, including a nursery section, Information and Communication Technology laboratory that houses 24 desktop computers, school clinic, library and Solar Power System.

The school also holds a 300-student capacity comprising 84 nursery and 136 primary school pupils as well as nine teachers, including five degree-qualified and National Certificate of Education (NCE) holders.

It is not just the innovative inclusion of an ICT laboratory or the modernisation of Obioma Central Primary School that make the development stand out as huge New Year gift. The gesture captures the benefits from Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s inclusive leadership style as well as the think-home philosophy that spurred Prince Chioke into giving back to his community and alma mater.

Through quiet ecumenism, Governor Ugwuanyi has been able to encourage Enugu State citizens to contribute their quota in the socio-economic uplift of the state irrespective of political or religious affiliation.

It could also be this spirit of inclusion that informed the coming together of Edo State first lady and Enugu State deputy governor to commission the new school structure and facilities powered by Prince Chioke through the Obioma General Assembly.

Women and children are without doubt the greatest beneficiaries of educational empowerment. Experts have noted that education holds not just the key to social development, but also to the economic emancipation of the less privileged members of the society. If, therefore, education is the potent tool for poverty reduction, in the remodeling of Obioma Central Primary School, it serves as an effective meeting point for philanthropy, social responsibility and good governance.

The Enugu State government through the State Universal Basic Education Management Board did not waste time approving Obioma General Assembly’s request to reconstruct the 84-year-old dilapidated primary school. That responsive gesture from the state government made it possible that barely four months after the ground breaking, a brand new ultramodern Obioma Central Primary School stands on the old ground.

There could not have been a better choice of dignitaries to perform the commissioning exercise than the duo of Edo State first lady and Enugu State deputy governor. Both women fully understand the import of such an impactful project on the future of young boys and girls. The new school is a big boost for access education for the girl child, especially given the inclusion of toilet facilities and modern playground.

For the prime mover, Prince Chioke, renovating Obioma Central Primary School serves as big opportunity to relieve himself of the burden of giving back to his community. A survey by Plexus Media Interiinks showed that almost 78 per cent of primary schools in Enugu State are in need of structural improvement and modernisation.

That scary statistics must have propelled Governor Ugwuanyi’s expeditious intervention in social amenities in rural communities of the state, particularly in the areas of education, health and infrastructure.

Speaking on his motivation to intervene in the educational sector by remodelling his alma mater, Prince Chioke, who is an investment banker, stated, “At the entrance gate of a university in South Africa, the following message was posted for contemplation: Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles…

“It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students. Patients die at the hands of such doctors… Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers… Money is lost at the hands of such economists and accountants… Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars… Justice is lost at the hands of such judges… The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

Chioke agonised over the continuous decline in the quality of education in Nigeria, saying, “I decided to deliver learning materials to support students and sponsor skill acquisition programmes in my hometown of Obioma. These little steps led to a bigger vision of remodelling the Central Primary School in Obioma Kingdom.

“This project seeks to greatly improve the learning condition of pupils in the community and neighbouring towns. The new Central Primary School Obioma will have eight classroom blocks, a library with a capacity for 56 students, a clinic, an ICT room, a conference room and a staffroom for teachers.”

He stated that apart from the head teacher’s office, there are male and female rest rooms, noting that the gesture is intended to give children in Obioma Kingdom and neighbouring towns a chance at greatness.

Indeed, as one who has drawn from the nectar of education, Prince Chioke is a fitting role model from the young Obioma children. His brief background shows that despite their humble backgrounds, more children would be challenged to be outstanding in life.

For instance, record shows that Prince Chioke began his primary school education at Central Primary School, which was then called St. Theresa’s Primary School Obioma in 1970.

In 1976 Chioke gained admission to Federal Government College, Jos, where he graduated with distinction in 1982. Thereafter, he proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University(then University of Ife) in Ile-Ife, Osun State, where he earned B.Sc. in Civil Engineering with First Class Honours.

After the mandatory one year youth service in Ankpa(then in Benue State), Prince Chioke joined the illustrious accounting firm of Arthur Andersen, where he worked for one year before proceeding to University of Oxford in 1989 as a Rhodes Scholar to undertake the M.Phil in Management Studies.

Upon graduating in 1991, he left the United Kingdom for New York, where he joined the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs in their corporate finance department.

He joined Afrinvest UK in London in 2002 and in 2003 relocated to Nigeria. Subsequently, in 2006, Afrinvest Nigeria combined with SecTrust to become Afrinvest West Africa with Prince Chioke as the Deputy Managing Director from where he rose to become the current Group Managing Director, Afrinvest West Africa.

So, as Obioma Central Primary School takes off today, the pupils, when they resume, will constantly reflect on the live of Prince Ike Chioke, an old of the school, as they dream big, flying high on the opportunities education offers.

*Ubabukoh, Principal Consultant at Plexus Media Interlinks, writes from Lagos

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