By Simeon Nwakaudu
It is privilege to talk with Public Relations Officers of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBS) from all over the country. This National Training session is very important because it has the capacity to enhance the quality of basic education in the country.
It is instructive that the 2019 Public Relations Training is holding in Rivers State . This is because Rivers State is the centre of rapid development in the country. Therefore, the gathering of basic education public relations officers means that they will directly interact with the development process of Rivers State.
I take this opportunity to welcome you to Rivers State, the home of Mr Projects, Nigeria’s Best Performing Governor. You must have noticed that Rivers is a huge construction site.
UBEC AND SUBEBS PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICERS ARE IMPORTANT
Public Relations Officers of UBEC and SUBEB are key players in the quest to resolving the out of school Children challenge facing the country. Fundamentally, proactive information dissemination to convince parents to allow their children access basic education is important. This is in view of the fact that basic education is free.
•this entails entails effective use of traditional and new media. However, each public relations officer must use the right Media that will be most effective for his state. But in view of the strata of society being targeted, I suggest local broadcast media and the new media. For the broadcast media, messages should be sent across to parents through indigenous languages.
In cases where finance is available, the Public Relations Officers should work with the Local Government Education Authorities to engage in direct outreach programmes, which will involve meeting religious leaders, community-based groups , women groups and comparative groups in the drive to attract children to school.
•RETENTION OF KIDS IN SCHOOL
Even when the out of school children are attracted to school, the next challenge is to retain them in their classes. Here again, public Relations Officers of UBEC and SUBEB remain critical partners with other stakeholders.
I believe that the PR Departments of UBEC and SUBEB should be strengthened to provide positive information on the beautiful things that happen in schools. The improving quality of learning, the free feeding programme where it exists and the advantages of good education.
PR Personnel must not allow purveyors of negative information discourage children from going to school and giving parents reasons why children should not go to school. Such negative Information comes from sensationalism. If there is a challenge at a public school, these negative Information traders blow it out of proportion.
While we seek better educational facilities, we must always seek intelligent and honest ways of promoting the public basic education system. You can achieve this by promoting outstanding teachers and very brilliant pupils in different schools across different states.
•ADVOCACY TO ATTRACT STAKEHOLDER PARTICIPATION IN BASIC EDUCATION ACROSS COMMUNITIES
We have all agreed that government alone cannot drive basic education. There are limited resources with competing needs. We are also aware that several schools across the country that require attention cannot be reached by the Federal and State Governments.
This is where the participation of community stakeholders is vital. Public Relations Officers in different states working with other SUBEB and LGEA Officials should identify privileged Nigerians in different communities and prevail on them to invest in basic education schools.
There are privileged Nigerians who can build classroom blocks, boreholes, writing materials, classroom furniture and feeding for children. These investments ought to be done in line with the capacity of the investing stakeholders.
For the investing stakeholders, they would have their names crested on the areas of their investments. In addition, UBEC and SUBEBs should also initiate awards and halls of fame to recognize these stakeholders and encourage others to key in.
•EDUCATION REMAINS THE KEY TO NATIONAL REVIVAL
As public relations practitioners, always bear in mind that you are at the most important rung of the developmental ladder of the country. This means that you must remain dedicated.
As it stands today, education is the only way for the country to commence its journey to greatness. In this march to greatness, education plays a key and the basic education sector is even more important. That is why public relations officers of UBEC and SUBEBS must engage the process and all stakeholders to ensure that our people appreciate the importance of basic education.
•EDUCATION BEYOND POLITICS
As we work to develop the basic education sector, we must bear in mind that education is beyond politics. Every Nigerian child irrespective of the political leaning of his/her parents, should be able to access education
Therefore, public relations officers working for UBEC and SUBEBs must place the society above political considerations. If they do this, they will earn the confidence of parents and improve the enrolment figures in our public basic schools.
*BUILDING NETWORKS TO ACHIEVE COLLECTIVE GOALS
This is why this meeting should be applauded. Beyond the training that PR personnel will get is the opportunity to interact and build networks for the development of the basic education sector.
Though the challenges faced may differ from state to state, public relations officials have the platform to peer review and compare notes. This way, they can tap into diverse experiences and better their operational capacity. In the long run, the country stands to benefit. The basic education sector would be enriched and our country would naturally be on the path to growth.