Political Economy of Aro Society

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Political Economy of Aro Society

By Mazi Ben Ezumah

Prices of goods and services are high in Aro. Surprisingly, Aro is very close to Aba – the commercial nerve centre of the entire South East, a mere two and half hours drive away. Reason is, very few people are willing to engage in trading and other commercial activities’Ask any permanent resident and he is bound to tell you that life in Aro is, to say the least very difficult. Even at the best of times and seasons things remain hard, prices of goods and services very high. Need add that most people are desperately poor; a sizeable portion of the population are retirees, widows, orphans and old people merely eking out a living in over-cropped acres. Among the categories of people mentioned who are lucky, rely on their family members outside the town for sustenance. The crux of the matter is that there is high incidence of poverty, hunger and disease in Aro. This manifests in high mortality rate; hence, no weekend goes by without a funeral or activities related to it. The main thrust of this article is to critically evaluate the root causes of poverty, and hunger in Aro and proffer possible solutions to the twin plagues. Our people cannot be said to be lazy; yet for years farming activities have remained at subsistence level. Those who farm are few and remain largely ignorant of improved varieties and farm imputes such as fertilizers. Big time farming or mechanized methods are simply undiscovered and non-existent. The effects of these anomalies stares every one in the face each morning at impoverished breakfast tables.
Aro is surrounded by rivers including the Itu river or Enyong River which empties into the Cross River and subsequently the Atlantic yet there are no fishermen. And so is it a surprise there is no fresh fish to be bought or to be eaten in the whole of Aro? The last time some men were sighted doing some sort of fishing at Iyi-Ocha-nta, their method was simply laughable – spear fishing! An old method which involves killing fish with long spears. It is agonizingly slow and tiresome; because you have to first sight the fish, aim and spear. The issue is how many fish could one sight, successfully spear and carry home? Conclusion: a bad method in a dire situation where many mouths are hungry waiting to be fed. Spear fishing is more of a hobby than occupation. Aro has many rivers, streams and ponds, yet very few people take to fishing or see fishing as a source of livelihood. Another complaint is that prices of goods and services are high in Aro. Surprisingly, Aro is very close to Aba – the commercial nerve centre of the entire South East, a mere two and half hours drive away. Reason is, very few people are willing to engage in trading and other commercial activities. Why has Ohafia fully assumed an urban status, always, a beehive of activities? It’s simply because many people engage themselves in all sorts of money yielding activities including pottery, blacksmitting, basket-weaving, barbing, auto-mechanic repairs and so on. All markets are always open; most people work really hard. Aro remains generally sleepy and stunted. In most villages with an average of twenty thousand inhabitants one can hardly count up to two well-stocked retail shops. If you have a vehicle breakdown in any part of the town you would have to go to Asaga – even there, it’s only one or two people involved in auto repairs. No mechanics village; very few are willing to engage in such a trade yet several youth roam the town. More so, very few people are engaged in transport business. That is why you stand the risk of being stranded if you arrive at Ohafia park soon after dusk. The chances are high that there won’t be any vehicle heading to Aro. Who is to blame when the business is in the hands of people from outside the town. There are virgin rain forests yet hunting is almost an unknown occupation. One is yet to come across a hunter in Aro. Is it then a surprise that food on many a table goes without sufficient protein. Also in the whole of Aro there is hardly any existing poultry farm. In effect very few people exclude eggs or chicken as part of their regular diets. The question is where is the much talked about enterprising spirit of the average Aro man. Where is that zeal that dominates, explores, pushes, conquers and thrives even in hostile, sterile environments? Is it a myth or reality? A mere figment of imagination or substance? With fertile soil, rivers, and good seasons isn’t a tragic irony that majority of our people are hungry and in crushing poverty? High percentage of staple food is carbohydrate based with very little meat, fish and vegetables. The long term effect of this condition is simply gruesome. Public health is jeopardized and over-burdened by high rate of diseases which have their root causes in the poor dietary patterns of many people. Aro depends on surrounding communities for so many things to a point of distracting and diversionary complacency. Even the popular palm wine consumed by so many. One is yet to come across any Aro man who taps palm wine. Tut-tut-tut; it has to come from Ikot-Ekpene, Oron, Oboteme and other places. Yet we share the same palms, same soil, same seasons. Methinks, the time has come for the average Aroman to be re-orientated, and galvanized into the enormous opportunities that exist in cottage industry and such other productive ventures. Financial empowerment and high standard of living can only come through hard work; commitment and interest in commercial activities, which would naturally attract investments via micro-credit schemes, loans, and so on. Isusu schemes, cooperative societies should be re-activated and made to address the issues of youth unemployment, hunger, poverty and people in desperate conditions. Finally, the inherent contradictions in our socio-economic activities must be urgently redressed if we are to jump-start the prostrate kingdom and set it on the path of sustainable socio-economic development.


The Growth And Role of Education

By Mazi Emma K.O. Ivi

Education is a life long learning that begins long before one starts attending school. So, it is not limited to just going to school. Everyone receives some kind of education just by learning from life. Even in this modern age as it was in the ancient days, education, like charity begins at home. At homes, children learn to do, and behave the way their parents and people around them do. They learn from the nature around them and from the culture and societal values in which they found themselves. In the ancient times, education was mainly centered around the home. Children were educated to master only the skills needed for provision of food, clothing and shelter. For such were the needs and aspirations of the society and individuals then. Later when wars began to erupt amongst various groups of people, skills in military were added as part of training. Methods of writing were first developed somewhere in summer, Babylon and Egypt. The first schools (formal education) were founded to teach the boys how to become scribes (writers). Later, professions such as medicine, Architecture, priesthood, etc were added to meet the needs of the people and the society. All education was purely practical. Practical education was controlled by the “Guilds” in the cities. A guild was an organization of specialized workers in a particular craft, such as weaving, woodcraft, painting or shoemaking. At that time girls were not allowed to go to school. Education may be regarded as the “transmission of the values and accumulated knowledge of a society” to the people in order to equip them with knowledge and skills that will help them meet their individual needs in the future and to prepare them for their eventual good roles and contributions to the growth of their society. Therefore, education must be designed to guide students in learning the culture of their environment, molding their behaviors, and guiding them towards their eventual roles and contributions towards the progress and development of the society. A good educational system should be able to empower the people economically, socially and morally. So as the needs, goals, and aspirations of the society keep evolving, so also, should development of education keep improving in order for the products of education to be able to meet the demand of the changes in the needs, goals, and aspirations of the people and the society. For us to look at development of education in Abia State, we must learn few things from the development of western education itself which started from Greece. Greek civilization was the main source of development in the cultural life of many peoples of the world today. “The Greeks have never been superseded in art, architecture, literature and philosophy”. Greeks were great thinkers that produced the likes of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The education of the Greeks was a very important part of their civilization. The Greeks during the Spartan age were the first to recognize that there shouldn’t be any difference between education of man and woman. Spartans of the Greece recognized religion as the opium of the people and so religion was given a special place in development of their education in order to keep the people in obedience to the rulers whose interest were purely in protecting their political power. But the Athenians of Greece centered their education on production of citizens who must be well rounded and cultured. They were interested in people who were physically and mentally fit and who possessed healthy souls in healthy bodies. Hence, their curriculum consisted of reading, writing, music, poetry, mathematics and gymnastics. For the Athenians, an educated man must be able to contribute successfully to the development of his community and must develop himself socially, morally, culturally and physically. Education must be tailored towards making the citizens successful in life and contribute to the growth of the society. Although Socrates was regarded as the father of education, it was Plato who said that Knowledge is virtue and lack of it (ignorance) is the source of vice. Even the Bible taught us that “people perish because of lack of knowledge”. Plato believed that education was a cultural thing and that children’s minds should be loaded early in life with only what is right. Knowledge and education turn the proper light of the soul. Aristotle added that man is always in search of happiness. He believed that man is by nature a political animal and as such must participate in the life and development of his community and state. Therefore, man should be knowledgeable enough to know his right and contribute to the happiness of fellow citizens. Pestalozzi a great educational reformer from Switzerland (1746-1827) was particularly interested in the education of the children of the poor. To him, the basis of any education is love. He argued that love involves trust and that lack of love and affection at home is the basic cause of delinquency and other forms of vice. To him, education should involve both cognitive and emotional aspects of man. Education should be concerned with the development of man’s creative power, his feelings, mental ability, intellect and morality. In Abia State as in most parts of Nigeria, western education was brought by the missionaries who came to preach and teach us their faith in Christianity. But their main aim was to protect their economic interest in trade and cheap labor. They found in our people a source of cheap labor and the type of education they introduced to us then was such that could enable very few of our people to communicate with them easily so as to facilitate the growth of their economic interests, cum their political power dominion. According to available statistics in the recent past, Abia State has about 800 primary schools, 170 secondary schools, a teacher training college, about five technical colleges. We have about 140 commercial schools and 25 secondary schools operated by private agencies and individuals. There is also a Federal University of agriculture at Umudike, Abia State Polytechnic at Aba, College of Education Technical at Arochukwu and Abia State University at Uturu. There is also a staff training school at Umunnato in Bende LGA. A nomadic school was opened in Umuahia during the past military regime. Also women education centers were opened in few local government areas such as Ukwa East and Arochukwu LGAs to encourage massive education of women and adults in the state so as to empower them socially, intellectually, and economically. Abia State is inhabited by very enterprising people of Igbo race. It was carved out from the old Imo State on August 27, 1991, about 11 years ago. The first Abia State Development Conference was held on April 21, 1992 and the state was dedicated to God as Gods own state on April 26, 1992. On September 1, 1992, Abia State Technology village endowment fund was launched by the first civilian governor of the state – Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. The aim was to encourage technological development of the state. Science and technology were to be the center pin of education in Abia. It was a good dream. But the dream has gone to sleep. Agriculture is the major occupation of the people of Abia State. The State produces cash crops such as palm produce, cocoa, and rubber. Its food crops include yam, cassava, plantain, rice, etc. Riverine communities of Abia people engage in fishing and fish farming. No wonder the Federal Government decided to site Federal University of Agriculture in Abia. The people of Abia State are also very rich in culture. The rich culture of Arochukwu people influenced greatly the present day culture of Igbo people in general and Abia people in particular. Abia citizens are also actively involved in commerce and cottage industries development. In every part of Nigeria you see many of the Aba made shoes and other goods. Our people in Aba are also involved in fabrication of various types of equipment and machineries. Many craftsmen of various fields are found amongst the people of Abia State. Abia State remains the Taiwan of Nigeria and West Africa. Our education must be tailored to meet the needs of our people and improve their livelihood by improving their creative, manual and intellectual abilities.

In Abia of today government is still in control of education and its development to a large extent. Schools taken over by the government from churches are yet to be returned to the missions. As a result, moral education has taken the back seat in the state education curriculum. Even cultural values are not being effectively imparted to the students as both teachers and parents are being badly influenced by the high level of corruption in the society and in government at various levels. The society has almost lost its values and directions. Cultism, violence, destruction and various other vice and immoral behaviors are found in almost all the schools in our state and in the nation at large. Students are now graduating as professional cheats, armed robbers, prostitutes, etc instead of graduating as disciplined lawyers, medical doctors, accountants, engineers, scholars, etc. After graduation, the products of our education system roam the streets in frustration in search of white-collar employment that is not really available. The current education system does not equip the students to contribute their quote effectively towards the growth of their society. What shall we do? We shall go back to the drawing board. Martin Luther, about 480 years ago, recommended that there should be free public school for all. Governor Oji Kalu has recently introduced free tuition fees for students in Abia State secondary schools. In Ebonyi State, there is free education at all levels. Abia can do same if we can get our priorities right. Good and right type of education has become a real instrument for empowerment of the people all over the world. We should emphasis on education that can build our children into useful adults of tomorrow. As such, our educational system in the state should emphasize on the need for our children to be developed physically, socially, morally, intellectually and culturally. The system should ensure that the products of our education will be able to contribute their quota to the development of our various communities in the state and should not produce the destroyers of communities and societal values. Our education should aim at producing good citizens with great sense of social concern, love and affection for all. Our education should be constantly reviewed and continuously developed in line with changes in the societal needs, goals and aspirations. The parents must be involved in developing right education from the home in order to ensure that our children have good moral upbringing. The church and the society must be involved too. Because the Abia people are very enterprising people, education in the state should be developed to ensure that the products of our state education are empowered intellectually, economically and politically.

In the world of today, education is no longer for knowledge sake. It has become an instrument for social and economic growth of both the society and individual. Developed and developing countries alike, everywhere in the world, now invest heavily on good quality education of its citizens. Abia State government should pay more attention to the development of education in the states. More funds should be invested in education, as this is a real investment in human resources development for the future. Equality of access to good education should be guaranteed by the government. The right type of education should be made to reach every one that can benefit from it. In these days of information technology (IT) an electronic world, every course in our schools must incorporate IT and computer skills acquisition. Emphasis should be based on courses that will encourage the products of our education to be more self reliant (self employed) rather than their depending on government for civil service employments that is not even there. Christianity has continued to play very important roles in developing education in the state. Churches are building schools everywhere in the state. The schools include primary, secondary and vocational institution The evils of bribery and corruption should form part of a subject in our education curriculum.

The state having been dedicated to God as God’s own state must incorporate in its education development program the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom. Solomon in his request to God did not ask Him of Gold and Silver, nor Power and Authority; but he asked for wisdom and knowledge. And God answered him and gave him the wisdom and knowledge, which he asked for but added gold and silver, power and authority more than he ever expected. May this be our portion in Abia State.


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