INDEPENDENT OPINION: Aregbesola’s Educational Reform – Recipe For Growth And Development

Any Government policy should expectedly garner shared opinions, criticism, and corrections, which are all aimed at providing the optimal benefit for the greater majority of the masses. What is shocking however is when a highly regarded stakeholder clearly lends itself to political manipulations by reactionary elements, muddling up facts with hearsays and comes to unfortunate conclusions. Then, the alarm bells should ring with recurring regularity.

The state of Education in Osun when Aregbesola assumed office was befuddling. The infrastructure was in total neglect; all classrooms were crowded; funding was poor; instructional materials were lacking; extremely poor performances in internal and external examinations; the tertiary institutions were paying high tuition fees with discrimination towards  non-indigenes and indigent students were getting low bursary rate amongst others. A shocked Aregbe initially proposed a total shut-down of the educational sector for a year, to reform it,but was dissuaded by the pleadings of parents, community  and religious leaders, who proposed gradual reforms as opposed to the Governor’s radical proposition.

The government in implementing the Prof. Wole Soyinka led blueprint for Educational Reform in February 2011 embarked on a school reclassification system. There emerged, Elementary, Middle and High Schools, of ages (6-9;Grades 1-4,ages10-14;Grades5-9,and ages15-17Grades10-12 respectively. It’s also building 176 of these schools in addition to the upgrade of existing ones with furniture and modern facilities. The O-meals provides lunch meals to over 254 000 school kids in years 1-4,it is virtually the only public school feeding project in the country with a backward integration with the state’s commerce and Agric Programmes. It provided standardized and indigenous uniforms to over 750 000 public school students initially for free and engaged in a PPP with Omoluabi Garments factory. This programme has gotten commendations from UNESCO.

TESCOM has been decentralized with a tutor-general for each education district who are on the same level as a permanent secretary, Teacher’s Establishment and Pension Office under a Permanent Secretary was created, Strengthening of SUBEB, new teachers were recruited, training and retraining of  teachers ,incentives, and promotion and prompt payment of salaries and allowances.The Widely hailed Opon Imo is being distributed across the state.

Surprisingly, Aregbesola has come in for criticism by a section of CAN, for merging of some schools and brazenly accused of destroying the ‘Christian Heritage’. For starters, not a few are the schools in Osun with a low population scattered around the same vicinity, with teachers underutilized when bigger schools with urgent needs abound, which constitutes an obvious drain on resources of the state. The state is left with no choice than to integrate them with bigger schools or merge others together. Since government is also deploying ICT,its better to have students in a central location to ensure quality control.

The Federal Military government took over missionary schools(CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM) in the 70’s for various reasons as adduced by the Asabia commission.  The schools received grants from Government and still made sure huge fees were paid by parents. They failed to pay teachers on time, teachers were constantly tyrannized, and refused to promote teachers except if they joined their denomination. For 40 years running, Government has taken care of the expenses of these schools, and all public schools belong to the it and open to all irrespective of religious belief. The only heritage which these schools have is their name which Aregbesola hasn’t tampered with. This was further demonstrated at the commissioning of Salvation Army Middle School.

It is ironic, that this same section of CAN were present at the Educational Reform Summit in February 2011 and  made submissions. They didn’t raise eyebrows when new structures were being erected, and didn’t raise an alarm at the state of the neglect of these schools in years gone by. The alumni of most of this school raising emotive arguments might well stop this hypocrisy. Many have failed to contribute towards the upliftment of their alma-mata and have the chutzpah to question the Government  for merging them, or absorbing them into bigger schools. The Catholic Media Practitioners who criticized the Government for turning single-sex schools to mixed schools should ask which religious organization established the following MIXED schools:Sacred Heart Catholic College,Catholic Comprehensive High School and St Peter’s College all in Abeokuta.

There is this sustained tradition of painting AREGBE as a bigot. He is accused of Islamising Osun yet has a Christian Deputy,10 Christian Commissioners out of 14, 9 Special Advisers out of 10,16 Christian lawmakers out of 26, and 16 Christian Caretaker chairmen out of 30. The Sultan’s visit to the state is also given spice as being a pointer to the Islamisation agenda. Well, he has received Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, pastor Gabriel Fakeye, and Pastor Samuel Kayode Abiara. Not to forget the huge contribution made to the burial Late Prophet T.O  Obadare. They accuse the Governor of declaring Hijrah Day, yet he has declared Isese Day Celebrations for Traditional Religion Worshippers.  He is then accused of introducing IFA into the corpus and embossing a so-called ‘ELLA’ in the school uniform and one then doesn’t  know the religion he’s now imposing on the state.

Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi and Chief Adekunle Ajasin in the 50’s wrote position papers on the modalities of the free education programme. Awo of the Spartan discipline and an iron-will implemented the programme to fiery opposition of the NCNC, who cunningly instigated parents that the Action Group was separating children from their minders and preventing them from helping with farmwork,at a time, agriculture was the live-wire of the economy. In 1980, a triumphant AWO, paraded all the states of the Western region to celebrate 25 years of the launch of free education programme. It was the year Oluwasanmi,and  Ajasin posited that, all WESTERNERS would be literate in 25 years of unbroken free primary education and adult literacy programme. Awo’s crowning glory wasn’t WNTV,or COCOA HOUSE,LIBERTY STADIUM,AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION, e.t.c. It was undoubtedly his Free education policy which he steadfastly implemented.

Indeed, it can be said, that it’s a morbid fear of the leveling up of the social strata which is the terra-firma of the strident opposition to Aregbesola. It was Awo’s free education policy which threw up children of nobodies,like Aregbesola, Amosun , Babangida-Aliyu to public life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Which of Aregbesola’s policies does CAN want reversed? Radical increase in grants and subventions for local administration of public primary and secondary schools,? improved supply of instructional materials,resuscitation of co-curricular activities,?downward review of fees in all state tertiary institutions?upward review of bursary and scholarships? Payment of external examination fees of final year students in high schools.? Its 8th position in WAEC performance from 34th  3 years ago?

Osun has one of the lowest income from the Federal allocation, yet through brilliant financial engineering has the  lowest unemployment ratio, visible structural development across the state, and still manages to attract manufacturing companies to set up and employ its people. Yet,the Governor who is the architect of this ingenuity still has to take blatant cynicism.

Aregbe should take solace in the fact that falsehood may have speed but truth surely has endurance and a Paki adage says, if one is having it rough and tough,then surely he’s on the right path. This  tendency of shooting down at all cost any well-meaning politician because of sheer jealousy is cutting the nose to spite the face. History reminds us of the  conjurer of the 12 2/3rd of a state who states decades after AWO’s death that his abiding Regret  was not getting the opportunity to work with him.

In concluding this piece, I’ll cast my mind back to my UI days, and remember Frantz Fanon’s(Author of WRETCHED OF THE EARTH) quote’ ‘my time shall pass,your time shall pass,but the history and records of our times shall never pass’

Ibrahim Lawal  -SSA(Legal and Judicial Sector Reform) to the Governor, State of Osun.