The Osun State deputy governor who also doubles as the Commissioner for Education in ‘The State of Osun’ spoke to some journalists on the rationale behind the reforms in the state.
What is it about the reforms in the education sector in Osun State?
WE have through the O’meal programme addressed absenteeism and stunted growth noticed in the children of Osun State.
Daily, it costs about N14.9 million to feed the children . We however do not mind as we are sowing into the future of these children. The O’meal programme has also impacted positively on our economy as all we use are purchased within the state . We empowered people to go into farming to produce most of these things. We spent N3.6 million naira last session . We trained women as food vendors to ensure they ensure the height of cleanliness to avoid food poisoning. They are also allowed to feed their own families from the prepared food so as to ensure quality . We also give them transport allowance. They serve as local caterers during weekends to those with socials events. We gave them interest free loans to purchase cooking utensils and rent shops where the O’meal vendors banner are displayed. They are quite happy with it. This food is of the quality that a rich man will give his children, so they are doing well.
We have also provided free school uniforms. Most of them, came to school with tattered clothes, Buba and sooro but the Governor decided to change all that.
Since Adire is the major cultural clothing used by the Yoruba, and here in the State of Osun, we are known to be the best producers of Adire. We do it to promote our culture and ensure the kids are properly kitted to school.
Having addressed the infrastructural decadence with the provision of state of the art schools, we provided library and sporting facilities for that age group , food to make them mentality fit, and also good school uniforms, we know that for our elementary, there will be no problem.
Some of the uniforms are however fading, so how do you plan to replace them? Also on the controversy that broke up with the reclassification , have you resolved or you are still dialoguing?
We are dialoguing, and we have been telling our people that the reform is to ensure we have a positive impact on the educational system I am happy that our people have seen the positive impact of some of the things we are doing. They know and love the programme of this government but its natural for people to resist change, especially for things that they have not seen been done before, or promises that they are used to not being kept over the years. Its natural for them to react the way they reacted, so we have been dialoguing with them. From the antecedent of this government since it came on board, you will realise that we don’t make fake promises.
As regards the fading uniforms you observed , we have also done so and we are changing the ones for the middle school which has faded. The first set was given out free but subsequently, we have arranged for our youths, about 10,000 from all the local governments to engage in the production of these uniforms through the Omoluabi garment factory that we have , through a PPP arrangement set up in Abere. The arrangement is to train youths, some, who had been tailors, do not need training, but others will be trained by the private firm we are partnering with to sew the uniforms. We have also regulated the prices of the three basis uniforms, they are then sold in Red Shops created all over the state. These shops are owned by women selling them. The women have been encouraged to form cooperatives, they collect the uniforms without paying, sell and then make returns since they may not be able to afford making deposits. The Red Shops are in the local markets.
The uniforms are fading because we gave them just one set, and then advised them to buy, but you know parents, will try to play smart, waiting for the end of the year before they purchase. But some, whose parent have purchased a second set now have new uniforms. However because of those selling and adultrating our uniforms, what we have change it to, its impossible to adulterate it.
Without the reclassification, couldn’t your reforms still have been achieved? Could you not have retained the primary–secondary structure and then renovate, build and provide the meals with the old structure. Also the issue of population, some of the classes have as many as 50-60, is that not too large?
In line with the best global practises and especially from where we copied it, Nigeria was using the British system when I was in school, my children went through the American system introduced in 1982, the way it is done, which I pray we will attain here, is to put children of the same age bracket in the same classes. It has a big advantage and psychologists will say it does not augur well to group kids of different age groups together. That is why we have reclassification.
We have put kids of the same age bracket like in the elementary kids school, we have children between ages 6-9. They can relate effectively and work well together. Another reason is that in the US, where we copied it, they run what we run now and it has positively inspected on the educational programme in that country which we also want to achieve. Another thing is the mushrooming of schools which makes the very scarce resources of the state to be overstretched which has not helped the state.
For instance in the elementary schools before we came on board, each school was being given a paltry sum of N200 before we came on the board. This government reviewed it to N400 per child. There were 1,238 elementary and 587 secondary schools. We had more schools than many states that are bigger than us. Some of the schools had maybe 28 kids and some, 400 kids some had 28 kids and 18 teachers while others had 900 students and six teachers. There was that disparity and inconsistency in policy. The reclassification is to have graded schools.
Its also to afford children of poor people access qualitative education and state of art educational materials which hither to they may not be influential enough to access. The schools are distributed all over the local governments in the state. N25m has so far seen expended on the grants by the current administration as school grant per annum. Basic things are now available in the schools.
That why for the high schools, we have deployed Opon imo. For this year in the high schools, there are 44,560 kids registering for the SSCE. We have 100,038 students in all our high schools and they will all get Opon imo as it is cheaper than buying books which they may not be able to afford. We are also going to give the about 14,000 teachers I have. When we came, we had barely 5,000 teachers. These are all part of the reforms. 14,890 teachers have seen recruited since we came on board.
Another problem was that PTAs were running the administration of schools before we came on board. They had employed some teachers too but we took over all PTA teachers. We absorbed them and presently, we are recruiting teachers. There has been a major improvement. The population issue is because we are still constructing the schools, as the schools get completed, we will keep reducing the number in a class. If you had gone to the rural areas you would have seen classes having as much as 120 students with some sitting on the bare floor. We have been buying and still buying furniture.
Early childhood learning?
We as a government encourage the private schools to run the early childhood education. For us, we believe children should be nurtured by their parents until they are ready to commence elementary school. For parents who can afford or require it, we encourage them to go to the private schools, but we are not encouraging nursery or kindergarten education.