It is generally commendable the consistency of focus and genuine heartedness with which the present Management of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), under the captainship of the action-driven Rector, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua keeps fulfilling its promises across statutory and ancillary obligations of the Academy. Of course, this has attracted corresponding commentaries and wide appreciation from stakeholders and maritime observers, home and abroad.
Monday, July 22, 2019 witnessed yet another euphoric atmosphere of testimonies and gratitude from beneficiaries of such pragmatic strides when the premier maritime institution sponsored and organized a seminar for teenage girls in secondary schools within the host communities of the Academy and beyond, as part of its multifaceted commitments to Corporate Social Responsibility.
The one-day seminar which was largely interactive, with about 500 students and teachers from seven private and government Secondary Schools in Akwa Ibom State had a timely and exciting theme: “Empowering the Girl Child for the 21st Century Nigeria”. Expectedly, this leitmotif was expertly harnessed by renowned resource persons sourced from the women world who have eminently distinguished themselves in their respective fields of endeavour and are noticeably passionate about the lots of the girl child.
Commodore Duja Effedua, who was physically present throughout the duration of the seminar with all his Management Staff, had during his welcome address and preliminary insights into the purpose and necessity of the seminar hinted that the exercise became necessary in order to expose the girl child to certain contemporary and prevalent issues that have adversely affected the personality, dreams, growth and development of young women in our society.
The Rector vociferously condemned in totality the retrogressive traditions and tendencies amongst parents and those who were supposed to be role models who have advertently or ignorantly neglected, marginalized and segregated against the girl child in preference for male children, just to gratify some societal customs, one of which was the belief that the life of the girl child should end in the kitchen and other menial preoccupations.
Describing such attitude as illogical, unforgivable, chauvinistic and barbaric in a modern society, Commodore Effedua emphasized that the seminar was also aimed at protecting young girls from falling victims to the dangers associated with certain customs, bad decision-making, bad association and other untoward attitudes that can eclipse their dreams and future.
“That was why the Academy decided to engage experts to talk about the girl child today. In view of what has been observed to be the case previously even within the Academy communities, we do not want any irresponsible person to hijack or mortgage the future of these young minds. No, that cannot happen under my watch. They are our children and the future of this country and it behoves on us to create conducive environment and opportunities for them to realize their peculiar dreams without the slightest biases. The girl child must never be seen as inferior”. He therefore implored the students to pay keen attention to the lectures that were prepared to help them excel in life.
Indeed, there was no question that the scope and content of the seminar was discreetly designed to meet the grand purpose. Delivering a one-hour paper on the topic – “Taking Charge of Your Life: How to Make Decisions in Your Own Best Interest”, a highly respected journalist, maritime commentator and Editor of The Nigerian Maritime News, Mrs. Ezinne Chinwe Azunna, extensively commended the Academy for investing hugely on what she described as “girl child community service initiative’.
Her paper challenged the girls to know that irrespective of where they were born or the circumstances they presently may find themselves, they had no excuses not to become somebody in life. The paper stressed that excellence was no exclusive blessing for any gender, but a common gift imbued in everyone by Nature. Reference was made to Goal Number Five of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which, in part, is “to foster gender equality and women empowerment —to know their rights and have confidence to claim them”.
Mrs. Azunna stressed that the paper was specifically developed to help the girl child understand life as a progressive concept; determine their life goals; know how decisions and choices affect the future of the girl child; why the teen girl needs focus and concentration; examples of those who against all odds excelled in life; and to have the students have extra confidence to dare to dream above their limitations. The high point of her presentation perhaps was a short film on how Sharon of Makoko, a young Nigerian female teenage of seventeen years old, who was born into a poor home in a slum in Lagos State, became one of the 2018 CNN’s Heroes by her ability to develop software for selling of fishes.
The second and last paper of the day with the title: “Self Discovery for Increased Productivity” was presented by a two-time Commissioner for Education and Women Affairs in Akwa Ibom State, Mrs. Eunice Thomas. The paper focused mainly on what goals are and how to achieve them. It exposed members of the audience to reasons some people succeed and while others fail in life as well as offer tips on how the best results could be derived from vision, dreams and action.
The paper presenter, a prominent advocate of the rights and fair treatment of the girl child, defined a dream as a mere wish, whereas “a goal is a dream with a timeline”. She however argued that realizing one’s goals in life can never be automatic, but flexibility, persistency or not losing focus no matter the distractions along the way ultimately will bring desired results. Her paper introduced bacronyms such as S-T-AR (Skills-talents-Assets-Resources); SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats); S-M-A-R-T, which implies setting specific, measurable, achievable and realistic goals. There was the concept of MAGIC (Major, activities, gain, influence and connection). Using the examples of Orlando Serrell and Wright Brothers, the paper concluded that the girl child may never be able to realize her dreams if no effort was put in at achieving it.
At the end of the seminar, the visiting teachers were taken on a facility tour and they returned with praises for the breathtaking transformation that has taken place barely a year and some Months. The outpouring of gratitude by students and teachers of the benefiting schools on the Rector and Management was further testimonies to the beginning of a new dawn at the Academy. According to the Vice Principal of Royal Comprehensive College, Oron, “It was amazing to see that such a thing could happen in the Academy. The seminar was quite thoughtful. We feel quite important. We lack words to convey all our feelings”. Helen Bassey, also a teacher from Royal Comprehensive, said with exposure that came with the seminar, no girl child in the communities henceforth will have any excuse not to hit the sky. “This is the first time we have seen and experienced something like this”.
The primary beneficiaries of the seminar, the teenage students, also said that they lacked the exact words to describe their feelings for the novelty. Esther Williamson and Queeneth of Golden International Schools, Oron, observed that they have been exposed to many things which they never knew. To Esther Iyanam Bassey of Community Secondary School, Eyo-Abasi, Oron and Evelyn Effiong Mathew of Royal Comprehensive, their lives have been changed by the seminars and they will live to prove it. A student of Etiedu International Schools, Felicia Etim Adua and her friend, Joy Okon from National Community Secondary School said they now know what it means to have and set goals in life. The roll call of the seven schools that participated in the seminar had Royal Comprehensive College; Golden International Schools, National Community Secondary School and Etiedu International Schools. Others were Methodist Science College, Community Secondary Schools, Eyo-Abasi and Mary- Hanney Girls Schools.
Apart from the rapid infrastructural renaissance witnessed in the Academy in the last one and half years, the seminar was one of the self-evident proofs that the Commodore Duja Effedua-led administration has also enshrined and made practicable the culture of corporate citizenship for host communities. Earlier in March this year, the Academy donated Hundreds of seats and desks to the Methodist Boys High School, Oron and Mary Hanney Girls Secondary School in Oron respectively, two of the pioneer and oldest secondary schools in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State.
Not long thereafter, the Academy again donated set of modern computers to two schools to enhance computer knowledge among Students, built and furnished two ICT Blocks to house the State- of – the arts equipment ; besides having before undertaken grading of roads in the communities, provision of more than 600,000 litres of diesel to the General Hospital, Iquita Oron as well as sponsorship of sports and cultural events. This gesture has been identified as one of the reasons for the cordial relationship and relative peace the Academy now enjoys from host communities.
The Rector had said that the seminar was first in the series packaged to cover a period of time and all categories of persons, including the boy child will subsequently be accommodated. He again reiterated his determination to leave an Academy Nigerians will be proud of and therefore called on the insignificant faction of the bad eggs in the society to join hands than throw stones across the fence, to possibly give the typically peaceful majority of Oron people a bad name.
*Edet Okpo, a Journalist, Public Affairs Analyst and Maritime Commentator, writes from Uyo.