The government of Enugu state finally returned with full ownership, management and control of all the 638 primary and 17 secondary schools, which the former East Central State government forcefully took over from the Roman Catholic Church 39 years ago.
The final handover of all the schools by the present administration of Governor Sullivan Chime, at a brief ceremony on Tuesday, September 01, 2009, at the Enugu Catholic Bishop's court, Igboeze Street, Independence Layout, Enugu, completed the process of returning all the schools to the church, which started 13 years ago with the partial handover of 5 secondary schools and 149 primary schools in the first phase.
The formal return of all the schools to the Catholic Church was done by Governor Chime who was represented by his Commissioner for Education, Rt. Hon. Dr. Festus Uzor, while the Bishops of the three Catholic Dioceses of the state: Rt. Rev. Dr. Francis Okobo (Nsukka), and Rt. Rev. Dr. John Okoye, represented the Church at the ceremony.
As all the schools have now been fully and finally returned to their original owners, the three Dioceses have established a joint Education body to co-ordinate and supervise the general affairs of the schools. The body is known as the Catholic Education Secretariat of Enugu State (CESES).
In the new dispensation, while the total ownership, management and administration of the schools are that of the church, the posting and payment of the salaries and emoluments of the teachers and their non-tutorial colleagues in the schools, as well as having the oversight function of ensuring the maintenance of education curriculum, will be that of the government, as its statutory social obligation to its citizenry, which the staff and students of the schools are also beneficiaries.
In his speech on the occasion, which was also witnessed by Msgr. Obiora Ike, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Nduka Ikeyi; Chairman of the State's Post-Primary School Management Commission (PPSMC), Princess Mrs. Stella Ngwu; Secretary of the Universal Primary Education Board, Barrister Chike Eneh (MNI); and other members of the Joint Catholic Secretariat, Governor Sullivan Chime said: "We're delighted to be here today and doing this final and full handover of the schools to you".
Governor Chime, who spoke through Commissioner Uzor, expressed his administration's profound gratitude and appreciation of the depth of knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Church in school management which he described as very vital for the development of the state.
The governor saw the full return of the mission schools to their original proprietors as an opportunity and stimulant for government to emulate the church's education administration system and also have an ethical rebranding and re-engineering of the primary and secondary education obtainable in the state's public schools to desired higher standard and quality.
"We expect these schools handed over to transform and be model schools for our own to emulate. The event today is symbolic and a sign of blessing to come to our education in the state", he stated, making it clear that in terms of management and proprietorship of the schools it was a complete return and no longer a joint management affair or partnership venture.
Responding on behalf of his Brother Bishops, Rt. Rev. Dr. Callitus Onaga of Enugu Diocese thanked the government in a very special way for returning the schools, which he said were erroneously taken away forcefully from the church 39 years ago.
"We're so much happy government has realized the error and corrected itself. We requested for first September and we are happy government kept to it. It is a very great day for us and a celebration of success of what so worthily begun long ago", Bishop Onaga said. He explained that what the church was doing was for the future of the children and could not watch things go wrong.
According to the sate Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Nduka Ikeyi, the legal instrument (Gazette) backing the return of the schools to the Catholic Church would be produced within a week from Tuesday, September 1, 2009.
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