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A YEAR IN REVIEW: Dr. Stella Ekwueme’s Leadership at ESCET

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When, on February 2023, Dr. Stella Chinweudo Ekwueme stepped into the prestigious Enugu State College of Education Technical (ESCET), average onlookers saw no more than a mere female academic trying her luck at tertiary education facility administration. Little did anyone knew that before our very eyes was a quintessential Administrator of high repute, with uncompromising determination to revolutionize the institution. Twelve months down the line, she is already attracting the envy of her contemporaries.

Of all her reported indifference for potentials of women in public administration, Nigeria has at every moment in history witnessed laudable imparts of virtuous women who add colour to her global image. The examples of Margret Ekpo, Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala etc, readily comes to mind each time we beat a retreat on how our nation had faired in different sectors under the superintendence of women. Not even the alleged scandal of the likes of Rt. Hon. Mrs. Olubumi Etteh could drown the shinning stars of these women of substance.

Without fear of exaggeration, one can boldly pencil Dr. Stella C. Ekwueme in the ranks of these big names in administrative management, one year after her assumption of office. She took over the school at a time it needed a disciplined manager to rewrite its history.
That has been the way of the world anyway. Great men or women of resource often step up to save situation(s) when it looked like the dead end has arrived. Even in the bible days, Prophet Isaiah said that “a saviour came to answer the to the question of “whom shall we send, who will go for us…?” (Is. 6:8—13).

For quite a time, Enugu State Government has been posing similar question for ESCET. But last year, (without in the least comparing her to our Saviour Jesus Christ) Dr. Ekwueme answered: “Here am I; send me!”

She was sent, and today the rest is becoming an awesome piece of history that every one is proud to identify with.

Her tenure as the Provost of ESCET has been marked by significant achievements and improvements in various areas of the institution. She has implemented numerous interventions that have greatly improved the status and functioning of the College.

One of the first steps she took was the establishment of regular management team meetings. In the absence of a constituted Governing Council (which she is advocating for), these meetings served as a platform for decision-making, policy formulation, and collaboration among the college’s management staff. This proactive approach ensured that the College’s policies and decisions were integrated and executed effectively.

Recognizing the importance of transparent and accountable management, Dr. Ekwueme implemented a policy where most decisions of the College would require approval from the Hon. Commissioner for Education, who served as a supervisor in the absence of a Governing Council. This measure aimed to ensure transparency and accountability through third-party management.

Under her leadership, a letter was written to His Excellency, Dr. Peter Mbah, the Governor of Enugu State, through the Hon. Commissioner for Education, highlighting the challenges faced by the College. These challenges included unpaid salaries, insufficient subvention, poor student enrollment, and funds and property of the college being held illegally. This letter led to the constitution of an Investigative Committee on ESCET by the government, demonstrating her commitment to addressing these issues and seeking government intervention. The resultnof the Committee’s independent investigations has revealed a lot of loopholes in the way the institution was managed prior to her arrival.

An important achievement during this first one year is the re-accreditation of various programs offered by the College. Efforts were made to re-accredit the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PDE) program, which had been due for accreditation since 2022. Additionally, plans were made for the re-accreditation of the NCE and Degree Programs, which were abandoned in previous years. These achievements ensure that the College’s programs meet the necessary standards, enhancing the quality of education provided.

Dr. Ekwueme’s efforts also secured support from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) for various projects in the College. The physical infrastructure project, which had been abandoned, were revived and are currently under construction. TETFUND also approved the construction of an Entrepreneurship Centre that will provide training in carpentry, mechanical and electrical skills, and solar panel installation. Furthermore, the embargo on ESCET staff members attending conferences, which had been in place for five years due to unpaid funds, was lifted within this one year of her leadership in the College, allowing staff to participate in professional development opportunities.

Improvements were made in the College’s infrastructure and facilities. The malfunctioning water tanker supplying water to staff and students was repaired, ensuring a steady water supply. Dr. Ekwueme also prioritized the marketing of the college to attract more students. Radio and social media platforms were utilized to showcase the institution’s programs and achievements, and efforts were made to design a website and other social media handles for improved advertising.

Dr. Ekwueme’s administration also focused on staff welfare and development. Backlog salary arrears and deductions from cooperative funds were gradually paid, addressing the financial concerns of the staff. Additionally, programs for staff training and human capital development were attracted, contributing to the professional growth of the School’s employees.

In terms of infrastructure development, Dr. Ekwueme had within one year, succeeded in attracting the construction of an 800-bed hostel with modern facilities. Plans were also initiated to install solar power in the College through a negotiation with Zenith Bank. Furthermore, consultancy services were engaged to explore additional sources of grant and improve the college’s IGR and ICT capabilities.

Another noteworthy achievement under her leadership is the establishment of the Creche, Nursery, and Primary Schools at the college. These schools, which were nonexistent before, contribute to the cyollege’s improved IGR and enhance its reputation as a comprehensive educational institution.

Her interventions as ESCET Provost have brought about significant improvements and accomplishments. Through proactive management and effective decision-making, the College’s programs have been reaccredited, infrastructure projects revived, staff welfare addressed, and new avenues for revenue generation explored. If she can have an enriched scorecard of this magnitude in just twelve months, one can only imagine what ESCET will look like by the time Dr. Ekwueme’s tenure as Provost is up. Enugu eagerly awaits her continued transformation of the College into a more vibrant and successful educational institution.

May daylight spare us!

✍️ Jude Eze.

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