Bishop Ezeokafor Lauds Soludo over 1.5bn Naira Grant to Mission Schools

…Says Inclusion of Pentecostal Churches, Boost to Ecumenism

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, has expressed gratitude to Governor Chukwuma Soludo for coming up with the grants to mission schools in a very difficult time, pointing out that the grant would help the churches to put their schools in order. This is just as he believes that the inclusion of some churches not part of it before now, will boost efforts towards achieving ecumenism. Story by Constantine Okoli, Jude Atupulazi, and Michael Nnebife.

It will be recalled that the Governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, had, October 5, presented a total sum of N1, 524, 000, 000, to churches in the state to help them manage government-returned mission schools.

The Catholic Church, with 459 schools, got N918m; the Anglican Church, with 275 schools, received N550m, and the Salvation Army Mission, with 8 schools, got N16m.

But Governor Soludo, in a spirit of brotherhood and ecumenism, included 20 other schools solely owned by Pentecostal churches in the grant, with N40m. These mission schools, totaling 762 primary and secondary schools, have N2m each.

Bishop Ezeokafor said, ‘We used to be having this type of a thing in the time of Obi on a more regular basis. But l’m happy that the governor said this is a beginning.

‘In fact, we’re looking forward beyond this; what we’re waiting for is that someday we’ll start getting the normal subvention we used to get before the war.

‘This is because the students in the mission schools are the children of Anambra State; and the Government of Anambra State has a direct responsibility to take care of all of them.

‘The fact that they’re in our schools is just a question of helping the state. The state knows that it can’t do it alone.

‘So, it’s a question of collaboration, whereby the Church contributes and the state also contributes. That’s what we did today,’ he said, and prayed God to bless and sustain Governor Soludo.

The chief shepherd of Awka Catholic Diocese also eulogized the governor for magnanimously including the schools of Pentecostal Churches in the grant, saying, ‘This ecumenical spirit exhibited by Soludo will help the churches in the state to live better.’

A symbolic presentation of cheques for the grants to the representatives of the various churches climaxed the ceremony.

Speaking earlier during the mini-ceremony held at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia, the governor urged the missions to use the grant to augment whatever resources in their disposal to run their schools.

Soludo, who lamented the high level of decay in public education in the state over the years, appreciated the missions for providing what he called a substitute to the government and assured them of his administration’s intention to increase the grant in the coming years if resources improved.

He said, ‘What we came here to do is to say ”Thank you immensely, for your support and partnership over these years, in area of education, particularly”.

‘You provided almost a substitute to government when the education system collapsed.

‘Now, we’re intentionally trying to bring back the dry bone of public schools in the state, we still continue to appreciate you because you are still providing a very huge service. We’ll continue to appreciate you for what you have done and for what we hope you will continue to do.’

Soludo expressed the hope that next year, the state would have the resources to do it better, stressing the determination of his administration to revamp public schools in the state.

‘I’m going to intentionally focus on bringing back public education to have its pride of place.

‘In the UK, the first port of call is public schools because it’s there you get the highest quality. Here, it does seem that public-public schools are where the children of the poorest of the poor are.

‘We’re very deliberate to make education to become an opportunity equalizer for the children of the poor and those of the rich.

‘It’s our duty to provide opportunities for the citizens with qualitative education that’s accessible by both the poor and the rich.

‘Our vision is to have an educational system that produces human capital that’s productive at home and exportable abroad.

‘We want to have our schools refurbished, rebuilt, and to be smart schools in terms of deployment of technology and basic infrastructure, levelling up opportunities and increasing choices that will be available for the citizens, especially the poor,’ Soludo said, while disclosing that programmes were underway in the education sector in the state.

‘We’re even designing to build what we call, Leadership Science and Tech Special Schools.

‘We’re going to invest in our teachers. By March, we’ll announce a special package for them,’ he added.

Continuing, Governor Soludo stated that the government would form a club of patrons for each public school in the state, and called on Anambra communities and affluent individuals to partner with the government to revive the public schools in the state.

The governor, who noted that education and health were one of the five components of his administration’s Solution Agenda, also decried the poor conditions of the Public Health system in the state, but expressed his resolve to transform the system so as to give people, especially the poor, access to qualitative healthcare services.

He stated that his administration had given approvals for the construction of general hospitals in some local government areas of the state where there was none, and would refurbish the existing ones.

Also, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Afam Obidike, took time to explain the achievement of Soludo’s Administration in the health sector so far.

The commissioner said, among others, ‘currently, we’re constructing a modern warehouse in our central medical store which will be completed in December in line with the World Health Organization standard’.

This, the commissioner added, will help people, private, mission and public hospitals to procure drugs with cheaper price.

In a vote of thanks, the Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Anambra State Chapter, Bishop  Moses Ezedebego, on behalf of the church representatives, thanked Governor Soludo, describing him as a blessing to the state, and prayed for more resource that will help him to realize his vision towards making the state prosperous, liveable homeland.