TEXT OF KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE DEPUTY GOVERNOR/COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION STATE OF OSUN, IYAAFIN GRACE TITI LAOYE-TOMORI AT THE STATE MEDIA SUMMIT HELD AT ‘IDEAL-NEST’ HOTEL, OSOGBO ON MARCH 12, 2014.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this unique event of an organised Media Summit, wherein content analysis of government activities i.e. programmes, policy statements, goals and objectives, etc, are presented to the public for their appraisal and objective scrutiny. This is in tandem with Aregbesola’s administration open door policy, built on the tenets of democracy, good governance and accountability. Chief Obafemi Awolowo pioneered free primary education in Nigeria in the Western Region, and this policy gave the people from the Southwestern part of Nigeria a headstart in life above their counterparts from other parts of the country. Nor is this all. Several thousands Nigerians would not have gone to school but for the free education policy of the Awolowo era. Through this same policy, the middle class social stratum was created, which bred the elite class of the then Western region. At the cultural level, the mass majority of the people in the Western region became more refined, and receptive to other socio-cultural elements of other climes. However, it is pertinent to note that embedded in this education policy is the underpining philosophy of the development of the total man.
For instance, while addressing the Nigerian Union of Teachers in 1947, Chief Obafemi Awolowo described education as “the process of physical and mental culture whereby a man’s personality is developed to the fullest.” In 1993, as if to elucidate further the need for the development of our human resource, the Director-General of UNESCO, Dr. Frederico Major while addressing the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century in 1993, pointed out that “Education is not only instilling knowledge, but awakening the enormous creative potential that lies within each one of us, enabling us to develop to our fullest potential and better contribute to the societies in which we live.”
In the same vein, the education policy of the Aregbesola-led administration in the state of Osun, is to produce students who can compete effectively and perform excellently like their counterparts in advanced countries of the world. Osun education policy seeks to empower the youths to be roundly relevant in meeting the challenges of their immediate environment and the society at large. This is the thrust of the education policy of Osun.
As the Commissioner of Education in the state of Osun, it is within the purview of my official responsibility to present the Aregbesola-led administration’s Education Policy, and explain, where necessary, some of the definitive interventions of government in the education sector.
For the records, we inherited a moribund Education Sector from the immediate past government. Public school buildings were dilapidated, instructional materials and teaching consumables such as chalk, board-dusters, other teaching materials and resources that could aid learning such as lesson notes were non-existent. Teachers’ morale was at its lowest ebb as they neither were motivated nor assured of a better tomorrow in their chosen career. Students were not only disoriented, they were disinterested. The statistics tell it all; showing poor and abysmal performance of students of the State of Osun in both internal and external examinations. Indeed, only 3%, (representing a miniscule percentage) of products of our public schools system used to move on to the next phase of their anticipated education plan. However, I am happy to inform you that within three years of our administration, records show that 43% of our students now qualifies to matriculate in any university. Notwithstanding, the state packaged intervention still goes on, indeed, a total overhaul.
The underpinning philosophy of the Osun Education Policy is to produce complete and totally rounded persons who will not only excel academically, but morally too. In addition, they would possess relevant skills that could compete favourably, at the international fora and among the comity of nations. However, the aforementioned could only be made possible if certain infrastructural facilities are in place.
Hence, one of the first initiatives of the Aregbesola-led administration upon assumption of office was the convening of the Osun Education Summit within the first 100 days. The Summit was an eye opener as the deliberations and findings, including the preliminary work carried out by the organizing committee revealed the sorry state in which we have been plunged into and the enormity of the rescue work to be done. The communique issued at the end of the Summit has since become the road map for the education sector in the state of Osun. And the following are the specific policy initiatives aimed at redressing the anomally in the education sector.
OSUN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FEEDING AND HEALTH PROGRAMME (O’MEALS)
As part of the effort of the Aregbesola Administration to promote functional education in the State of Osun, it embraced the school feeding programme in line with the recommendation of the UN. Thus the government makes the students the centre stage in this respect, particularly, their well-being and fitness for learning. A well-fed pupil is likely to more attentive in class than his/her counterpart on an empty stomach.
Consequently, Aregbesola-led administration in the State of Osun reviewed the old school feeding programme known as Home Grown inherited from the previous administration. The government came up with a re-branded, re-invigorated, and value added content programme, which we christened as O’Meals (Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme)
This newly repackaged programme was re-launched in the State on 30th April 2012 with pupils in primaries 1-3 of the 1378 public primary schools resulting in the feeding of 155,318 pupils with one meal a day.
Interestingly, we witnessed a geometric leap in school enrolment and unprecedented improvement in attendance and retention records of the pupils within 3 weeks of the introduction of the O’Meals. Enrolment figure short to 194,253. Encouraged by the astronomical increase in enrolment, the government extended the programme to primary 4 pupils in the Public Elementary Schools in the State, bringing the figure of pupils being fed daily to 252,793 by December 2012. As at the beginning of this academic session the figure has since risen to over 300,000 pupils being fed daily. It is important to note that as free education attracted people to school in the days of Awolowo, so also has the free school feeding programme attracted kids to school. It is instructive to note that 38,935 pupils who later enroled, may never see the walls of public schools, but for the free meals.
According to the data presented by the Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics, as updated in December, 2013, the State of Osun has the highest increase in the figure of public primary school pupils’ enrolment in the country to date. The success of O’Meal programme has received superlative accolades from both within and outside the country.
Our intervention at revamping the infrastructure in the Education sub-sector of the economy is glaring. The state-of-the art schools are being completed and commissioned. We have successfully moved the pupils/students away from dilapidated buildings to a more conducive enviroment for teaching and learning. These state of the art schools have modern facilities such as adequate toilets, exam hall, large classrooms etc. For instance, each elementary school is designed to accommodate about 1000 pupils, unlike the previous population of less than 200 students. It has twenty five well-ventilated, spacious, learning conducive classrooms, equipped with requisite furniture and fittings. The implication is that children will never be over-crowded in any one classroom. The school has one large Examination Hall, which makes central monitoring of examinations possible. Other facilities include 16 modern toilets, two well-equipped laboratories, one Audio-visual room, staff room, Headmaster’s room, Assistant Headmaster’s room, one Dining room, recreational facilities and football field, which make Physical Education possible and stress free. There is uninterrupted supply of pipe borne water; with a back-up supply from a bore hole sunk within the school premises. For effective maintenance of the structure, a well-trained Facility Manager is attached to these schools. This is to ensure that the building is well maintained and that the Headmasters and Teachers concentrate on teaching and moulding the characters of the pupils under their care and protection. The school is well fenced for effective security and access control. This reduces the burden of teachers on security issues. These buildings will rival any of such school buildings in any advanced economies of the world.
Presently, the government has committed a whooping sum of N14.41billion to the o’school project. To date, we have built 13 Elementary schools, 14 Middle schools, and 12 High schools, which translates to 1724 classrooms. In addition, a sum of N1.6billion is being expended on renovations of schools that we will not rebuilt outright.
In the same vein, we have spent a sum total of N2.5 billion for the purchase of 150,000 beffiting furniture for 300,000 pupils/students in the puplic schools. The implication is that pupils and students will not be crowded into a small room without adequate sitting arrangement, which is necessary for conducive learning environment.
THE NEW SCHOOL UNIFORM – O’UNIFORM
The central rule in group dynamics is identical similarity. A Student who for one reason or another could not be provided with school uniforms like his peers is likely to be easily distracted, and thus put the goal of functional education in jeopardy. Thus, the introduction of unified school uniforms is part of efforts by the State Government of Osun to create a unique identity for our students and promote our culture. This innovation is also expected to ensure uniformity and engender deep sense of belonging in public primary and secondary school pupils/students.
For clarity, I wish to reiterate that no aspect of the new school uniform is designed or intended to be offensive in any way because the sensibilities of all religious faiths in our state and our culture have been duly considered in its conception and design.
For the production of the new uniforms, a garment factory known as Omoluabi Garment Factory has been established in Osogbo for the supply of complete set of uniforms for all categories of students. The factory has produced Uniforms for 750,000 (seven hundred and fifty thousand) students in the Public schools, which were distributed free to all students. However, parents and guardians are to provide uniforms for their wards subsequently. To date, we have spent N900million on the School Uniform project.
Meanwhile, one of the possitive fallouts of Standardised school uniforms is the creation of jobs for the hitherto jobless ones amongst us. At the Omoluabi Garments Factory, the biggest of its type in the whole of West Africa, designers, tailors and allied artisans, now have gainful employment. In addition, the fabric traders, who formed themselves into cooperatives now supply the school uniforms to interested parents of guardians of the pupils/students in the public schools at sales point established in all local governments in the state.
EDUCATION INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS: –
To promote functional teaching and learning in schools, the Aregbesola Administration has committed a whopping sum of five hundred and three million naira (N503million) for the provision of instructional materials, Home Economics equipment, science equipment and teaching kits for public primary and secondary schools in the state.
Unlike what obtains in the past, we have moved from the use of blackboards and chalks to white synthetic boards with pen in our state of the arts school buildings. This has modernity written all over it.
Today, I am happy to say that if we take a cursory look at our education sector in the state of Osun, it is crystal clear that something akin to a silent revolution has taken place within the system. Our approach has been holistic as we began with the overhaul of the day-to-day running and administration of the public schools. Governor Aregbesola removed the financial burden of public school administration from the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), while retaining the association to function in advisory and collaborative capacities. We pay a sum total of N131,630,966.60 per term for the primary school, while the secondary schools receives N142,483,000.00 per term as Running/Exam grants. Per annum for the Elementary schools is N394,892,899.80, while Per annum for the Middle and High School is N427,449,000 respectively.
In effect, we spend a sum total of N84,000=00 on each elementary school pupil (because He/She is fed daily with nutritious meal through O’Meals programme. Also, we spend N30,000=00 on each of our students in the Middle and High school per term. As things stands now, children are no longer asked to bring chalk, brooms, excercise books etc from home.
This government pays WAEC fee and charges for every final year student in the public school in Osun. During the 2012-2013 session, we payN324745,150=00 as WAEC fees. For this year alone, we have paid a sum total of N400million (four hundred million naira) as WAEC fees and charges for the final year students in the State of Osun. This is to further democratise education in the state of Osun, and make it accessible to all and sundry. Students are now confident that they would write their exams since all expensex are paid by the government, unlike what happens before, when selected few staudents benefited from government. The financial burden is further removed from parents.
SPONSORSHIP OF OSUN STATE UNIVERSITY (UNIOSUN) MEDICAL STUDENTS TO UKRAINE
It is no longer news that some medical students from 300 to 500 levels of the Osun State University (UNIOSUN) got stagnated in their academic activities as they could not proceed to the clinical classes. This was due to the fact that there was no Teaching Hospital with adequate facilities to cater for their needs.
In the wisdom of Mr. Governor and in order not to abort the vision and dreams of the affected students, the state government sponsored the transfer of the affected 98 students to Karazin University in Kharkiv, Ukraine to continue and complete their academic programme. The cost of training and maintaining the students in Ukraine in the first year, excluding other miscellaneous expenses is one hundred and fifty-five million, nine hundred and forty-two thousand, and six hundred naira (N155, 942,600.00). All the 98 students are now fully settled in the institution.
The need to develop an efficient ‘knowledge based economy’ and the importance of a knowledge-based society are increasingly being mentioned in global discourse. Indeed, it is the preferred choice among myriads of state development policy options. In consonance with global best practice, this administration has taken concrete steps towards ensuring that our students become ICT compliant, both for learning and self development. Towards this end, the Aregbesola-led administration has concluded arrangement to distribute Computer tablets (Opon-Imo) to students in all the High Schools (SSS) in the State.
The tablet is preloaded with lesson notes on seventeen (17) subjects offered by students in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) and NECO SSCE. Besides, seven extra-curricular subjects such as Sexuality Education, Civic Education, Yoruba History, Ifa Traditional Religion, Computer Education and Entrepreneurship Education, and Twelve Thousand Yoruba Proverbs are also included. Opon-imo is an indigenous Computer Programmed Instruction (CPI) with locally produced content and designed for the Nigerian secondary education system.
Embedded in the Computer Tablet are over 40,000 past examination questions spanning a period of ten years, for (private) practice, 63 e-textbooks; covering 17 subjects’ areas that students do register for in external examinations. In addition, it has 51 audio tutorials installed as study aid. Without doubt, this initiative is a silver-bullet means of democratising access to learning materials, ever undertaken by any government in Nigeria. This is another landmark achievement by the Aregbesola-led administration which is novel and unprecedented in the annals of Education not only in Nigeria but in the World at large. This initiative will definitely aid teaching and learning and would improve the general performance of the students in the State of Osun.
The tablet makes teaching and learning exciting to teachers and the learners. The 63 books in the e-library section of the tablet removes the burden of prohibitive cost of conventional textbooks and afford the students unfettered access to knowledge necessary to learn and prepare adequately for internal and external examinations including the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME). The Opon-Imo initiative has proven to be cost effective. Whereas the purchase of physical textbooks for the students would have cost about N9.6billion, the option of Opon-Imo has saved the state gobvernment an estimated sum of N8.4billion as it has only cost government a sum of N1.2billion to procure 150,000 tablets of Opon-Imo for the high school students.
DOWNWARD REVIEW OF SCHOOL FEES IN STATE-OWNED TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
Government has reduced fees payable in the state-owned tertiary institutions across-board. Government slashed Colleges of Education fees from N28,000 to N20,000. Polythecnics got theirs cut from N42,000 to N25,000. Also, Osun State University cut their fees for law and medical students from N195,000 to N100,000. For those in Sciences, their fees came down from N155,000 to N75,000 while Others had theirs cut from N130,000 to N75,000.
Non-Discriminatory Regime of School Fees
The Osun State University is the first state university in Nigeria where students are not discriminated against on the basis of school fees. For the government of Aregbesola, the indigene and non-indigene divide does not exist. All students are the same in the eyes of the Aregbesola Administration. The same principle applie to Awolowo free primary education policy.
RECRUITMENT, PROMOTION, TRAININGS, PROMPT PAYMENT OF SALARY AND PENSION.
Invariable, government was concerned about the competence profile and professional delivery capacity of our teachers; therefore, Aregbesola initiated competence-driven policy, culminating in the compulsory training and re-training of teachers of all cadres in the state employ. To shore-up the commitment and moral fibre base of the ranks and files of teachers in the state, Mr Governor approved the promotion, training and recruitment of new teachers for innovative teaching/learning in public schools. To this end, over two thousand teachers of public secondary schools were trained by Osun State University (UNIOSUN) in year 2012. Series of training programmes has been scheduled for public school teachers in the year 2013.
As we speak, our administration has employed 10,407 teachers in all categories of schools. We now have a total number of 12,715 teachers in Elementary schools and 7,848 teachers in the Middle and High schools. This is 54.8 per cent more than the number of teachers we inherited in November 2010.
Prompt Payment of Salary and Pension
We pay monthly salary and pension of our Elementary school teachers to the tune of N1, 402,520,773 =00 (N1.4billion). While teachers in the Middle and High schools receives N945million per month as salary and pension. The cost implication per annum is N44.9billion. we pay this huge amount of money and still recruits more teachers because we know the importance and relevance of teachers. We met a horde of poorly motivated teachers when we came into the saddle of government. Today we are happy the story has changed. Our teachers are happy, and the students are excited.
OUR PROJECTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
We are aware that many of our programmes are in their gestation period. However, it is expected that in another five years, the kids that are current beneficiaries and or, participants in the pioneer programmes of the nascent education policy initiative of Aregbesola would be the leading lights in the country academically. Whereas, Awolowo’s free education policy brought higher literacy level, and a people with moderately liberal world veiw, which helped in no small measure in ensuring religious tolerance, accommodation of opposing views and diseenting voice(s) within the society. Aregbesola’s education policy will produce intellectual giants that would galvanise the critical mass of the people for development.
Pa Awolowo did not have the privilege of Computer Tablet, yet he didi what he had to do, and the result is glaring for any one to see. Now, Aregbesola has introduced ICT, and the education sector is now being driven by cut edge technology. The future implication can only be glorious. In another ten years, an Osun young man who bgenefited from our education policy will stand shoulder high anywhere in the world.
Just like in the days of the sage, Awolowo, the free education policy had specific impact, which gave the southwest people a headstart above the other regions in Nigeria, the same way, the Aregbesola education policy will give Osun youth a headstart above thier peers in the country, in the next five years on. And like it happened in the days of the sage, I will not be supprise when parents bring their ward from other states to attend schools in Osun.
I thank you for your audience.
Osun a dara