Archbishop Val Okeke who is also the Metropolitan See of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, in an exclusive interview, said that standard set by churches managing mission schools in Anambra was the reason behind the state’s academic excellence over the years.Recall that Anambra State has, in the last 12 years, ranked tops in external examinations, including the West Africa Examinations Council’s (WAEC) Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s UTME.The Archbishop noted that the church sees intervention in education as an extension of her evangelization mission and that return of mission schools to churches has made them bounce back to their quest for holistic formation of youngsters by providing quality education, sound morals, discipline, hard work and other virtues, as contribution to national development.Recall that the Onitsha-based Regina Pacis, one of the Secondary schools under the superintendence of Archbishop Val Okeke’s Mission, had five of its students win top position in the Junior Division Finalists category at the 2018 Technovation World Pitch Summit in San Francisco, USA.The students, who were celebrated globally, was given a presidential reception back in Abuja- Nigeria. As finalists, they had competed with students from the United States of America, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Spain and China, with over 2000 apps submitted for the competition.

At Regina Pacis, the principal and manager, Rev. Fr. Jerome Obiekezie told Prime Business Africa that, aside from the basic education curriculum, the school also offers ICT skills like robotics, computer coding and programming, Artificial Intelligence, and App management to the students who start learning them from their second year in the school.The young team code-named ‘Save A Soul’, had developed a mobile application called ‘FD-Detector’ to tackle the problem of fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria by leveraging a drug’s barcode to verify its authenticity and expiry date.The state government, under the administration of Mr. Peter Obi, had signed an executive order in 2010 to return to churches, primary and secondary schools that were established by Christian missionaries which the government had taken over under the post civil war government of Ukpabi Asika.“Return of mission schools back to their owners since 12 years ago has been an interesting story; a win-win story; joyful story; a blessing to the people of Anambra State, and a source of hope for a better future,” Archbishop Val Okeke Prime Business Africa team at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Onitsha.“It has provided a very healthy situation, meaningful and healthy competition, not do or die, but you have role models, reference points, joyful competition, like what you have in the field of play in a soccer competition.“Since the schools were returned to us, Anambra State has, once again, bounced back in the area of human formation, holistic formation and performance in education. For example, you could notice improved performance in the area of discipline. By 7:30 am, students are already in their school premises. The teachers are in their schools. Even the dressing code changed. You would see students dressed up very neatly. Those who use belts, belt their uniform, put on neat sandals, dress up very neatly and gracefully,” Archbishop Val Okeke explained.

In terms of academics, he highlighted the academic achievements of the students, especially in external examinations and competitions both within the country and abroad.“Some are now in Europe enjoying European scholarships because of their performance, and all these are from mission schools. The mission schools now provide a healthy challenge for the non-mission schools, helping them to sit up and do better.”The Archbishop, who remarked that the outcome had been a win-win situation for both government and the churches, thanked the Anambra State government for returning the mission schools to their original owners to manage and for support in providing facilities that help in teaching and learning.

Qualified Teachers and Better Pay, Gives Good Result’ To have a sustainable educational system in Nigeria, Archbishop Val Okeke said critical factors such as engaging qualified teachers, better pay, and a good environment for learning need to be addressed.He stressed the importance of proper training and retraining of teachers and better pay for an effective education system in Nigeria, especially in the current digital era.“Nigerian schools would be better managed if the teachers were trained, and periodically retrained to catch up with the digital world culture, the new developments, and innovations in the educational world.“I also believe that teachers can be paid better. If you pay teachers next to nothing, you will not get the best output. From primary school level, through secondary to universities, if you don’t pay teachers well you will not get the best from them. Good teachers matter a lot. If you want good schools, fill them with good teachers.“Then, you also talk of a good environment which is necessary because environment impacts a lot on human development and human psychological, mental, and emotional stability. So, the environment of studies must be necessarily good,”Archbishop Val Okeke concluded.

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