His impressive performance as the Commissioner for works, during the era of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the governor of Lagos state was no doubt the elixir he needed to turn a state like Osun around and make it the envy among other states of the federation. More importantly was the avalanche of ideas and information at his disposal to make Osun great long before he assumed power.
Indeed, with the physical development across the nooks and crannies of the state, Osun State can be said to be fortunate to have someone that is fully prepared to transform the state and take it to a greater height as it manifests in the implementation of the six-point integral action plan of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State in the past three years.
Of particular note is that, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola came into office with the determination to banish poverty, hunger and unemployment; restore a healthy living, promote functional education, and enhance communal peace and progress.
According to him, his commitment and determination is to make life worthy of living for the people of the State hence his introduction of programmes that touch the lives of every individual in the State.
Therefore, the unacceptable state of education in the State when the Aregbesola’s administration came into the saddle of governance informed the call for an education summit, attended by great educationists and intellectuals of all persuasions.
Professor Wole Soyinka made out time to personally attend the summit and made recommendation on which basis a complete overhaul of the education system of the state was done.
The most important conclusion of the summit was the restructuring of the system into three basic categories, Elementary, Middle and High schools. Primary 1–4 is the elementary school; 5–9 is the middle school, while grade 10–12 is the high school.
But for the effect of the change the new policy brought, it led to misunderstandings, and some have tried to mischaracterize the reforms as having a religious undertone. Whereas, the major features of the new education reform that attracted criticism are: the introduction of a single school uniform to each of the three categories of schools throughout the state, the merger of single sex schools with mixed sex schools, the merger of Christian schools with Muslin schools and vice versa, the total wipe out of some schools, the use of hijab in “Christian schools” and perceived change in the names of schools.
Critics of these reforms particularly argued that the introduction of single uniform to schools is capable of causing indiscipline as it will be difficult for schools to identify their students. Old students of phased out schools were afraid of what might be their lot in case there is need for them to come to their Alma Mata for documentation or even the agony of having their history wiped out.
Also advocates of single sex schools felt that the sanity in the schools might be eroded apart from the loss of identity while some religious leaders argued that their schools should be made to retain their norms as stipulated in their religion, hence the resistance that no female Muslin should be allowed to wear hijab in Christian schools.
However, government has argued for its actions and made remedies where necessary. For example, the fear of loss of names of the schools is no longer there as government has ensured that the schools maintained their names with little modifications, hence we have Salvation Army Primary School, Alekuwodo Oshogbo changed to Salvation Army Middle School, Alekuwodo, Oshogbo, Baptist Primary School, Ilare, Ile-Ife is now Baptist Elementary Primary School, Ilare, Ile-Ife.
On the issue of single uniform for the three classes of schools, government wants parents to enjoy cheap procurement of school uniforms and further assisted by distributing school uniforms free to all students across the state.
To solve the issue of identity, government has disclosed the plan to produce badges for each school and smart cards for each student of public schools in the state for easy documentation and identification as it is being practiced in some countries like Brazil, Malaysia Ghana, Benin Republic etc.
The most pronounced problem that greeted the reform is the allegation of trying to Islamize the State by government by encouraging the use of hijab in Christian schools.
Meanwhile government has consistently debunked the allegation insisting that hijab was never part of the uniform distributed to students more so that the matter is already in court for adjudication.
Besides, Government has been emphatic on the fact that all public schools belong to government and that it is out of its magnanimity that whatever is left of any religion in schools are allowed.
Recently, at the commissioning of school buildings at the Baptist Elementary Primary School, Ilare, Ile-Ife on 18th February, 2014, Governor Aregbesola charged the people of the state to support the new education policy of his administration, which he said was for the good of both the children and the parents.
Aregbesola in his speech at the commissioning ceremony which had the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade and other dignitaries in attendance said the new policy of the state government on education has no religious sentiment.
He warned the critics of his administration and the education policy in particular to exercise patience till the policy begins to produce good results, which he said would be beneficial to all and sundry in the state.
He stated that the hallmark of the new education policy in the state was the enhancement of better welfare for both the teachers and students of all public schools in the state. He also said that the government was being motivated by the ideal of development of young individuals in the state; hence the huge amount of money committed into the education sector.
Aregbesola who has consistently insisted that the philosophy of his education policy is the development of a new man intellectually, socially and morally maintained that the educational reform policy of his administration would achieve the desired objective in due course.
According to him, Government has the plan to build 20 new high schools, 50 middle schools and 100 elementary schools. Each of these schools will be equipped to state-of–the-art standards, especially with digital learning aids, electronic boards, functional and contemporary laboratory equipment, sports facilities, clean water and large power generators.
True to his words, the elementary school commissioned by the Governor at Ile-Ife apart from being unique in outlook, has facilities known to be peculiar to private schools such as recreation, sports, laboratory and library facilities all duly equipped.
The only way to provide these facilities at affordable costs is to make the maximum use of the available resources at the disposal of government, hence the need to merge small, poorly equipped schools, into larger schools where all the facilities can be provided to large numbers of students using economies of scale to maximum advantage.
It need to be emphasized here that Osun State Government has committed the larger part of its financial resource to education with the free launch provided to class 1-4 on a daily basis that costs N 3.6billion annually, provision of free uniform to students across the state with N900Million, the N1.2 Billion spent on the provision of tablet of knowledge, N14.8 billion expended on construction of school buildings under its O’ School programme.
Besides, government has recruited no fewer than 10,407 teachers to public schools
Won’t you rather allow the good works in the education sector continue? Asks Remi Odewale
•Odewale writes from Ifetedo, Ife-South Local Government
•Culled from CHAMPION Newspaper