On that day, the Academy donated One Hundred and Five seats and desks to two secondary schools in Oron Local Government Area, the Methodist Boys High School, Oron and Mary Hanney Girls Secondary School respectively, considered two of the pioneer and oldest secondary schools in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State. Methodist Boys High School was established more than a century ago in 1905, while Mary Haney Secondary School was founded in 1947.

First and foremost, the donation of the items to the schools was not only commendable and historic but highly significant for the fact that they came at the most critical moment of need. As comments made by Principals of both schools indicated, that was the first time in the history of the schools that the Academy in its more than 40-year existence has demonstrated such worthwhile gesture for the facilitation and advancement of learning. The large-hearted initiative was also said to be very timely because the seats and desks were one of the most pressing needs of the schools at the moment.

Presenting the items to the benefiting schools on behalf of the Academy, the Rector, Commodore Duja Effedua (Rtd.), represented by the Acting Registrar and Head of Public Affairs, Mr. Peter Netson remarked that it was part of his Management’s practical approach and altruistic philosophy of integrating the host communities into the Academy’s mainstream transformation and all-embracing developmental programme in areas of paramount needs that affect the greater number than single individuals in the society, within available resources and capacity.

“As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, we felt we should reach out to you by our contribution to the development of this school. It is very important we support this citadel of learning and the Oron community, and by extension, the government of Akwa Ibom State in the provision of quality education. It is our desire that these young ones who are the primary beneficiaries will improve in their studies and stand qualified to join us at the Academy in the nearest future for higher opportunities.

Continuing, he said, "We hope these desks shall help become more dedicated to studies with little or inconveniences in that connection. The Academy runs an open door policy and because we are supposed to be partners in progress, you are always free to approach us matters of interest”.

The Principal of Methodist Boys High School,Oron, Mrs. Nene Esin, together with some staff and students, in her remarks expressed deep appreciation for the rare show of concern by the Academy. She said that the seats and desks could have come at no better time. “This school has been in existence since 1905 but was handed over to Methodist Church Nigeria, Oron Diocese, in 2007 that now funds it. We have produced students who today are leading stars in different fields of human endeavour across the world and the present set of students will not be an excretion.”

Mrs. Esin who disclosed that it was the first time this kind of benevolence has come their way from the Academy further hinted, “When I took over four months ago, I noticed that one of the greatest challenges in the school has to do with seats and desks. I was even thinking on how to go about it, but now see what you have done. I am particularly thankful that this is happening in my time as Principal. I now know that I have a concerned neighbour in the Academy. So on behalf of the Methodist Church, the Bishop of Oron Diocese, Rt. Rev. Effiong Esedeke, staff and students of the school, I say thank you very much. We all appreciate these gifts.”

At Mary Hanney Girls Secondary School, Eyo Abasi, Oron, the Rector reiterated his position that, to the extent that resources were available, Host Communities will continue to feel the impact of the Academy through the social contracts expressed in the Corporate Social Responsibility. According to Rector who maintained that the current transformation in the Academy must be felt across all sectors of the society, added in his speech: “We are doing this because we have seen the need. We want to assure you that this is just the beginning, many more things shall be coming because it is our wish that these young ones be properly trained with basic facilities so that one day,they can be part of the new culture of the Maritime Academy that is training world class professionals. Indeed, it is our delight to join you in training our young ones now by this means to be part of our greater tomorrow. Please feel free to interact with us any time”.

The visit to Mary Hanney eventually coincided with the occasion of her annual inter-house sports where the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Education,Prof Victor Inoka, National President of Mary Hanney Old Girls Association worldwide and a university don, Prof. (Mrs.) A. E.O. Esu and Principal of the School, Mrs. Excel Favour were all present.

Mrs. Excel Iniunam who expressed deep gratitude for the gesture said it was great and encouraging for Mary Hanney to be so recognised and made to be part of the exercise. “This is a great relief to this school especially in times like this. I am short of words, but I can only say thank you to the Maritime Academy because with this the story of the school will change academically”, the over excited principal said.

In her own words, the Commissioner of Education, Akwa Ibom State, who was represented at the occasion said: “On behalf of the Ministry and the entire Management of Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education, I want to say that we are very grateful for this show of love. This provision will go a long way in augmenting government efforts at providing facilities to this school because education is capital-intensive and needs collaborative efforts like what you Maritime Academy of Nigeria has done. Let this be the beginning as you have said.”

Speaking also was the National President of the Mary Hanney Secondary School Old Girls Association, Prof. A.E. O. Esu, who poured blessings on the Rector and Management of the Academy for their discretion. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time MAN is showing real interest in the growth and development of the school. This has never happened. That clearly shows that you hold education in high esteem and from your speech it is clear that you will do more in days to come. We cannot thank you enough.”

Giving a brief history, Professor Esu hinted that the school didn’t have up to 1000 students before, but at the moment the Old Students steeped in, there was progressive overflow that today stands at over 3000 students, making acts such as what the Academy has done a commendable one. She therefore pleaded with the Academy Management to also intervene in other areas of need like offering scholarship and carrier talks for the students, building structures like hostel and classroom blocks, seminar and other training programmes for teachers. These were necessary because, in her exact words, “I want to see greater signature of MAN in this school, even as construction of an Assembly Hall for the school is undergoing, which also demands support”. The group photograph and generous handshake a couple of students and staff of the school had with the Rector's representative as climax of the occasion was memorable and symbolic expression of their gratitude for the donation.

This was not the first time current Management of the Academy has embarked on Corporate Social Responsibility ventures. In fact, to Commodore Duja Effedua, CSR is an imperative. Just few months into his tenure, Academy undertook grading of roads across the communities, donated more than 60000 liters of diesel to the only General Hospital in Oron Local Government Area, as well as sponsored sports and cultural programmes of the host communities. Record also showed that the Academy has deliberately involved and empowerment of youths from the host communities and indigenous contractors in employment and contracts awards that they have requisite capacity and evidence to handle.

All this revolve around or are made much easier by the robust open door and super-cordial public relations policy that creates room for regular interface between the Academy and stakeholders in the community, including youths, students, women and relevant organizations. Nor can we agree less with the Rector who emphasized that, “Because of the high premium the Academy places on principle of Corporate Citizenship, the exercise of reaching out to sections of the communities with life-enhancing packages shall be regular but periodic and systematically designed and extended to touch diverse needs of the communities”.

It summarily could be concluded that what is happening in the Academy today is a direct reflection of the vision and purpose-driven leadership template of the Rector, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua, to make the Academy a world class standard institution that captures everybody’s interest for national growth. We cannot agree any less.

*Edet Okpo, an Uyo- based Journalist is a Public Affairs Analyst and Maritime Commentator.

By Edet Okpo