At the end of the civil war in 1970, the Rivers State Government was faced with an acute shortage of trained teachers for its rapidly expanding programme of post-primary education. Given this, a committee was appointed by the Ministry of Education to examine the problem and to make necessary recommendations on the establishment of an Advanced Teacher Training College.
The report of the committee stressed the need to invest much energy in the right direction to ensure that the schools in Rivers State did not face the danger of either collapsing or producing students who would be worth nothing upon their graduation. After the required spade work by the Ministry of Education, Rivers State College of Education opened in temporary quarters at the Catholic Mission’s Stella Maris College, Port Harcourt on 14th June 1971 with an initial intake of 116 students, under the headship of Dr. William Maxwell Jnr., a USAID representative then serving in the State.
In January 1972, the college moved to another temporary site at Oromineke in D-Line, Diobu. A new Principal, the late Mr. J.E. Ohochukwu, was also appointed in October 1972. From its foundation, the college had an uphill task to contend with the dearth of academic staff. Lack of adequate library facilities and shortage of accommodation constituted serious problems. But happily many of the initial handicaps proved temporary and considerable progress began to be noticed in due course.
Until the promulgation of the Nursery and Miscellaneous Education Institution Edict No. 10 of 15th November 1974, Rivers State College of Education was under the direct control of the Ministry of Education. This Edict established the college as a corporate body under the management of a Governing Committee, headed by Mr.W.E. Alagoa, the then Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission. In terms of Administrative Management and Growth, Edict No. 10 of 1974 did not satisfy the needs of Rivers State College of Education, hence the promulgation of Edict No. 1 of 25th February 1975. The new Edict marked a veritable turning point in the history of the institution.
Rivers State College of Education was born as an autonomous body. With the attainment of full maturity, it became well placed to play a more dynamic role. There was established for the purposes of the college a Governing Council which is responsible for the recruitment of staff and the general and overall administrative and financial control of the institution. Following this transformation, Mr. E. Aguma, who was appointed Principal in January 1975, became the first Provost while Dr. E.T. Green succeeded Mr. Alagoa as the Chairman of Council in June 1975. After an interregnum created by the change of Government in the country in July 1975, a new Governing Council with Dr. F.A. Eke, as Chairman, and a new Provost, Mr. R.I.C. Koko, was appointed in November of the same year. Undeniably, the problem of accommodation greatly inhibited the progress of the college.
For almost six years of its existence, Rivers State College of Education occupied a compound with a very limited number of classrooms and all students lived off-campus. The college moved to its permanent site at Rumuolumeni in January 1977 although some essential facilities were still lacking on the campus. This bold step was a definite milestone in the life of the institution because physical presence on the spot has placed it in a better position to make further plans for its continued growth and improvement of existing facilities.
A unique event in the history of the College took place on 11th March 1978 on the occasion of its official opening and first graduation ceremony. Four sets of students totaling 462 in number received their diplomas on the successful completion of the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) programme. The graduands were made up of those who passed their examinations between 1974 and 1977. A great landmark in the history of the institution, this successful graduation ceremony was an eloquent testimony of the tireless labor of both the college community and the Rivers State Government in the bold bid to produce well-trained non-graduate teachers for post-primary institutions.
With effect from January 1977, the Ministry of Education made available two top Model Primary Schools in Port Harcourt – the Port Harcourt Primary School and the Sea Shell Model Primary School – which now form part of the College. These schools provide some scope for practice teaching and research in primary education. The two schools were put under the administration of Rivers State College of Education in 1977 by the Ministry of Education. Hitherto they were managed by the College of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt.
Another important development in the 1977/78 session was the establishment of a Primary Education Department which offered a three-year NCE course open only to serving Grade II practicing teachers. It was designed to enhance effective teaching in both primary schools and Grade II Teachers Colleges, and supervisory work in our primary schools. The formal launching ceremony of the programme was held on 9th June 1978 when 200 pioneer students matriculated. The department was run under the sponsorship of UNESCO. This programme is now open to all (that is, even those candidates who are not teachers as long as they have the entry requirements).
By 1980, following the Government’s proclamation of its intention to run degree programmes in educational fields through Colleges of Education, the Rivers State Government decided to sponsor the programme to increase the number of teachers in the State. Prof. G.O.M. Tasie was appointed Provost of the College and was expected to upgrade the college to a degree-awarding institution. He assumed duty on August 21st, 1980, being the date Mr. R.I.C. Koko, former Provost of the College, handed over to him. During this period, Chief A.B. Batubo was the Chairman of the Governing Council of the college. Following this appointment, the 1981/82 academic year witnessed the actual admission of candidates for degree programmes in Rivers State College of Education.
On May 28, 1982, the College happily matriculated the pioneer students of the degree programme. By the end of the 1983/84 academic session, a total of 3,169 students had successfully passed through the various programmes of the College. Out of this figure, 2,504 went through the NCE Programme, 531 passed through the ACE programme, and 134 in the B. Ed. programme. It is noteworthy that, of all the Colleges of Education affiliated with the University of Ibadan, Rivers State College of Education was the only one offering the Bachelor of Education degree programme. Were : Other achievements of the college between 1982 and 1984
- the creation of some new academic departments: Secretarial Studies, Integrated Science and Social Studies;
- the construction of three science laboratories for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in 1983; and
- the construction of staff office accommodation in December 1983.
On 1st September 1984, Professor G.O.M. Tasie was re-appointed Provost by the Rivers State Military Governor. During this period, Prof. D.M.J. Fubara was the Chairman of the Governing Council of the College. From 1984 to 1987, it was observed that Rivers State College of Education made giant strides in the improvement of its structures, facilities, funding, and conditions of service, particularly by providing the Visual Arts Laboratory building and by the construction of twin standard-size lawn tennis courts. Within the period 1984-88, the College Management dealt with a lot of problems, which included:
- the certificates of occupancy for two campuses, viz. Ndele and St. John’s Diobu campuses were collected;
- the fight for the adoption of the University Salary Structure (USS) in the College was started and fought a long way; and
- the enactment by the Council of an effective statute on financial regulations of the college.
In January 1988, the Military Governor of Rivers State approved the appointment of Professor S.F. Amakiri as Provost of the College. In May of the same year, Prof. Isaac Dema was appointed to head the Governing Council. From 1988 to 1991 Rivers State College of Education achieved much, and some of its dreams were realized. In terms of structural achievement, six additional classroom block extensions and a one-room Audiovisual Centre at the Education block were constructed. A staff office block project and a language laboratory were completed, and hostels, staff quarters, and some buildings of Port Harcourt Primary School and Sea Shell Model Primary School were renovated. St. John’s Diobu campus, which used to be so porous that it was the den of thieves was fenced and the hind edge of the Rumuolumeni campus which is near the swamps was also fenced.
In addition, the college has been enjoying the University Salary Structure (USS). Rivers State College of Education was the first College of Education that started the scheme. The decision to convert Rivers State College of Education into a university was taken in 2009 by the Rivers State Government in furtherance of its desire to provide opportunities for high-quality education for citizens of the State. Given that the college had for a long time been awarding degrees in affiliation with the University of Ibadan, the transition from a college of education to a university should be easy for the institution. Further to this notion is the fact that many graduates of the defunct Rivers State College of Education have been yearning to improve their academic qualifications through the acquisition of university degrees, preferably within an environment they are used to. Given the reasonably favorable financial situation of Rivers State, the Government considered it expedient to establish the second State Government-owned university.
Ignatius Ajuru University of Education was established by the University of Education Law No. 8 of 2009 of the Rivers State Government passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly on 15 October 2009 and assented to by His Excellency, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, the Executive Governor of Rivers State on 20 October 2009.