Education, as they say, is the bedrock of any nation. This axiom has gained traction in the modest efforts of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the State of Osun. In all ramifications, the state towers over others in addressing the educational needs of its people.
This is in spite the fact that Osun ranks 34th among the 36 states of the Federation on the revenue allocation table. Ogbeni reasons that “the only way to conquer and banish abject poverty from humanity is through conscious education of the mind towards productive engagement, which in turn will trigger creativity and productivity that will meet the basic needs of man”. This is more so with the recent United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report which says 10.5 million Nigerian children have no access to basic education.
If there is any sector Aregbesola holds tenaciously dear to his heart since his assumption of office, it is the education sector and its composite development such that it would meet the yearnings of, and be accessible to every inhabitant of the state.
Interestingly, his effort has yielded tremendous result with the renovation of dilapidated schools structures and building of model schools to replace the decrepit ones. Since then, pupils and parents alike have been applauding the governor.
The governor has committed billions of naira into the elementary and middle school buildings, which will each accommodate 900 pupils. The high school buildings will have capacity for 3,000 pupils. The state has almost delivered 100 of such buildings at the elementary, 50 at the middle, and 20 at the High school levels – making a total of 170 in all – in his first term in office.
The Middle Level is from Primary Four to Junior Secondary School 3 (JSS 111) (now classified as Grades 5 to 9), for pupils aged between 10 and 14. At the High School Level, the age range is between 15 and 17 years for Senior Secondary School I-III pupils, to be known as Grades 10-12. The schools have been designed so that residents, groups, organisations, or individuals, religions or interest would not suffer as a result of the school reform.
The reforms are aimed at meeting UNESCO’s standard for compulsory education by 2030 and to eliminate excruciating poverty.
Apart from building structures, the Governor has employed some 3,000 women who have been cooking for the elementary school feeding programme. This is in addition to the programme boosting the production capacities of farmers and suppliers of farm produce, as well as poultry farmers and cattle rearers to supply the food for the menu. The pupils eat eggs, chickens, fish and red meat to enable them meet nutritional requirements for mental development.
In addition to the free education policy of the state government where the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB ) are paid for, Governor Aregbesola has established Omoluabi Garment Factory in the state which caters for school uniform needs of the pupils across the state. With this, parents who would have otherwise bothered themselves about school uniforms for their wards have swiftly enrolled them in schools across the state without buying uniform for them since it has been provided for by government.
For his noble strides and enduring legacy in the education sector, Aregbesola was honoured by the Yoruba Education Trust Fund, (YETFUND), two months ago, as the best governor of the year in the Southwest – nay Nigeria – who has dedicated the largest chunk of his budgetary allocation to the promotion and development of education for actual growth of the Yoruba people in particular, in so short a time.
The group singled out the award winning Opon Imo (Tablet of Knowledge) as the basis for the award. The technology wonder is in a class of its own. The tablet is preloaded with 17 subjects examined in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) in forms of lesson notes, textbooks, mostly provided by publishers and master teachers’ input. Content verifiers, who happened to be some of the local teachers, were also made to verify lesson notes on each subject. Besides, seven extra-curricular subjects, such as Sexuality Education, Civic Education, Yoruba History, Ifa Traditional Religion, Computer Education and Entrepreneurship Education, and 12,000 Yoruba Proverbs were also included.
The device also allows pupils to assess themselves through the e-testing platform with which they can solve 10 years of past questions for the examinations conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and WAEC. Audio tutorials further aid students through virtual study plan.
The state saved a whopping N8.4 billion for hard copy textbook as just N200 million was spent to purchase the 56 e-books on Opon-Imo with 150,000 user licences from a major educational publishing company from the country.
As it is structured, the Opon-Imo ensures that each pupil has an e-textbook, not only in all the subjects he is taking, but also on every subject offered at secondary level. This, in itself, is legendary and revolutionary!
A report in October by the African Health, Human and Social Development Information Service, Africa Coalition on Maternal Newborn and Child Health and Pan African Campaign against Forced Marriage of Under-age Children gives credit to the state.
“Among the 36 states in Nigeria four states – Osun, Lagos, Imo, Enugu – feature in the all-best categories for all indicators: highest girl-child education, highest female literacy, lowest adolescent girl ‘marriages’ and lowest underage birth rates”.
There is no gain saying that it is on the basis of Aregbesola’s commitment to educational development that school enrolment has increased and students have recorded improved performance in both WASSCE and JAMB.
However, it is clear that there is a lot more to be done with the poor WAEC results released a few days ago that falls short of UNESCO standard.
The council withheld results of 38,260 candidates, representing 12.88 per cent, over alleged examination malpractice and sundry issues. Yet, for anyone to gain admission into the tertiary institution in the country, you must obtain at least five credits, including English Language and Mathematics in WASSCE or Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) conducted by the examination body.
The situation in the nation’s basic education system, as well as tertiary institutions calls for national emergency or requires a call to emulate Governor Aregbesola who has devoted a huge chunk of the state’s resource for educational development of Osun people. We await such a time in Nigeria when the plight of the electorate form the fulcrum of governance, as witnessed in the state of Osun.
•Ikhide writes from Lagos.