Congratulations dear people. If you are reading this, then it means you safely made it across the threshold into the new year despite all the challenges and obstacles that 2018 brought along. I wonder how many of you have noticed how much the new year celebrations have evolved just like virtually every other facet of our social and communal lives.

You see the cross-over tradition from an old year into a new one used to be one of merriment and backslapping and best wishes for the in-coming year. I remember growing and looking forward to the last day of the year because that is when Mama Ogunleye (God bless her) will empty all her pots of soup and insists everything must be consumed (no old food gets into the new year). Then we all will stay awake till the midnight (a feat we could hardly accomplish in those days) and then wish everybody the best of the new year.

Most of these traditions have sadly eroded away. No more consumption of old year food for the mere sake of consumption (there is hardly enough in the first place) and now, cross-over events are characterised more by hard and serious prayer sessions thanking the Almighty for enabling them survive the out gone year and pleading that they survive through the next 12 months.

Over the last few years, on my way to early morning Mass on New Year’s Day, what I often see are not people nursing hangovers from the over-indulgence of the previous night but stone-cold sober families with their matrasses coming out of the various churches that abound everywhere from various night vigil and “cross-over” church services.

The fun and joy that characterises the new year it seems has been replaced with trepidation and fear of what the in-coming year might portend and thus, the need to call fervently to the Almighty for succour. Services and night vigils aside, 30-day prayer and fasting sessions now seem to be mandatory in many churches as part of the new year new traditions.

So how did we get here dear people? When did joy slip out of the celebrations and replaced with anxiety and fear? I don’t think anyone can accurately pin-point the exact moment. It just sort of crept up on us.  But dear people, that is the new reality. Welcome to 2019 and may it bring nothing but good cheer, good health, realisation of dreams and ambitions and above all else, peace and healing to our land. Amen.

Now as 2018 drew to a close, I could not meet up with my obligations to this page and I got an earful from a lot of quarters including the Director of our department, the ageless and amiable Mrs Stella Ojeme whom I have always said is the only grandmother I know who looks nothing like one (yep, a little flattery can get you places). She warned me to get my acts together or the page gets the axe (she’s tough like that).

Truth is I was swamped by so much to do. There was our annual end of year press luncheon to organise (along with a send-off (not send -forth) ceremony for four retiring directors) and a very important Education secretariat management retreat which dragged on literarily till Christmas eve. Add all this to all the school inspections and other activities we had to put together for the new but highly intelligent Secretary for Education.

 Good thing is that all went well and after some serious brain storming sessions we came up with a communique that is sure to re-position the Education Secretariat for the challenges of the new year. Below are the recommendations:

*  The Department of Policy, Planning Research and Statistics is to produce the cost of training of a child in the FCT;

*  Boards and Departments in the Education Secretariat should work harder at integrating and collaboration in the discharge of their mandates;

* The Secretariat is to conduct a condition survey of its facilities with a view to developing a Needs Assessment that will drive its budget projections;

* The Education Resource Centre should improve the services of FCTA public libraries, while Boards and Departments managing schools are required to encourage the reading culture in schools;

* The Department of Quality Assurance is directed to enforce the Guidelines on the Establishment and Operations of Educational Institutions In the FCT, in particular, no school should start operating before registration with the Department;

* FCT Universal Basic Education Board and FCT Secondary Education Board are to collaborate on measures to decongest schools in the FCT;

* The Education Secretariat should institute a bi-annual retreat in its calendar of activities;

* Orientation of newly employed teachers should be intensified;

*  The budgeting cycle should start early and the involvement of the Department of Policy Planning Research and Statistics, Planning Officers from Boards and Departments as well as school heads in the budgeting process should be intensified;

*  Boards and Departments are to use the Sector Plans as the base for their Action Plans and, are henceforth required to make a quarterly report of their progress and challenges to management;

*Boards and Departments in charge of students’ admission are advised to devise means of ensuring that only children within the approved age specifications are admitted in to FCT schools;

* Completion of all on-going projects at the permanent site of FCT College of Education Zuba to facilitate movement to the permanent site;

*  The Secretariat should deploy all necessary means to engage the political leadership, other Secretariats and Departments of the FCTA in achieving its budgetary requirements and discharge of its mandate in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

So there you have it people. Those are the recommendations and if implemented fully (with the support of all the stakeholders of course) then we are sure to meet our primary objectives for 2019.

Now, 2018 was not a very good year for a lot of people. Apart from the not very friendly economic environment, a lot of people who had no business passing on to the great beyond did just that. So dear folks, as part of your new year resolutions please include paying more attention to your health. This means eating healthy, exercising more and not shying away from visiting the doctor for medical check-ups. I don’t intend to pay post-humous tributes to anybody below the age of 90 this year.

And now for the big one. 2019 is an election year and the race is on. The intrigues, backbiting, backstabbing and skulduggery are reaching some frightening heights. Please, dear people, do the needful and play the rules by the game and if at all you see anything untoward, remember you have the responsibility to say something.

Nothing is worse than having a bad leadership hoisted on a nation.

Thank you.


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