EXCLUSIVE: Aregbesola’s Education Policies And Election Promises

STUDENTSAn opinion article titled ‘Aregbesola, education and election promises’ written by Tade Adekunle from Osogbo on September 24, 2014 makes an interesting reading but still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The author does not sound familiar, but it matters little.

His main concern is on his perceived state of education in Osun which he used the last result of the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination to buttress. According to him, Osun pupils’ performance which was 22nd out of the 36 states that sat for the examination was worrisome and an indication that the state’s educational policies are not working. He then stacked his cards with the issues of merger of schools and uniform school uniform. Pardon the tautology.

The author tries hard to be civil but the piece is riddled with cynicism and thinly disguised mockery of the state’s education summit chaired by the revered Prof Wole Soyinka, that had recommended comprehensive review of the education policies of the state, early in the life of the administration.

Adekunle sounded like the voice of one of those who stoutly resisted the education reforms in the state from the standpoint of opposition politicians, religious former school owners, disgruntled teachers or an old student revelling in past glory, even when the alma mater had fallen into disgrace and disrepute. They forged a coalition of the disgruntled with the opposition in the August 9 election and were thoroughly trounced and disgraced. He might just have resumed where they left, considering his conclusion that the policies should be reversed.

It should be pointed out, however, that the immediate result of an examinationis not and cannot be the right yardstick to measure an education policy. Those who wrote the last examination in question must have been in the school system at least for 11 years (assuming they spent five years in primary school and six at the secondary level) in the school system. The result you have today is a cumulation of all the inputs and efforts within that period.

We all know that it is not the day you plant a crop that you harvest it. What is being harvested today could not have been planted yesterday. The result of today is the reflection of the neglect of the putrefaction that had crept in. that is not Aregbesola’s making and it will be illogical to blame him for this.

And it could have been worse, since the problem is longstanding. Governor Aregbesola noticed this and cried out when he was inaugurated upon observing that less than five per cent of those who took the WAEC and NECO of 2010 passed. This actually informed his convoking the education summit early 2011.

The state government is doing everything needed to turn education around. This includes hiring over 10,000 teachers, training and retraining them, kitting them and giving them all necessary motivation. It also involves building new state of the art schools, rehabilitation and equipping existing one and providing 150,000 computer tablets to senior pupils and their teachers (out of which 50,000 has been delivered and distributed). Do not forget that elementary pupils now enjoy free feeding and medication in all public schools, to which the government commits N3.6 billion every year.

For school furniture alone, the government, as at last year, had committed N2.5 billion. Grants to schools was jacked up to N856 million from the N122 million inherited from previous administration. Before Aregbesola’s coming, no school had instruction materials, but his administration has committed N506 million to providing these. These are verifiable facts.

Beyond those still sulking because the reforms had cut off their extortion channels in the schools, even the teachers and other stakeholders are full of praises to the governor, claiming that they feel proud to be teachers for the first time.

The central basis of opposition to the reforms is the inability of some stakeholders to reconcile to the facts that the state government owns all the schools in question. They are still living in denial since the takeover in 1975 or thereabout. The tragedy is that eight out of 10 agitators, when asked, still think that the schools belong to the old missions and the reforms are superfluous government interference.

The government had explained countless times that the mergers were brought about by the policy of classifying schools into elementary, middle and senior categories. The mergers are therefore necessary to streamline these schools into the various classes for operational and administrative purposes. These policies do not affect private schools.

What the governor promised, due to much agitation, was that some of the schools would be returned to their original owners. This is after some of the mega schools being built are completed and the pupils moved into them. At no time did he promise that the policy would be reversed. It is high time all the agitated were reconciled to this. Those hoping for a reversal are only engaged in wishful thinking and let no Tade Adekunle raise false hope where there is none.
The governor, being a student of history, does not wish to erase the memory of any school. However, mergers and closures are part of the history of education. Even in the affluent world, when the caretakers can no longer maintain a school or it is no longer relevant to the need of that society or community, it will be merged with others or shut down. Plato’s Academy no longer exists, but it is etched permanently in the books, in the philosophy and the memory of those who have acquired western education. Where a school is closed, a monument will be left as its physical legacy.

What is more important, however, is its intellectual legacy and how it has affected our time and society. Those still sulking over the carcass of a dilapidated and ruined physical structure should let go and embrace positive change.

On school uniforms, the government has explained that the uniform distinguishes those in public schools from others. Even in the United Kingdom, this is the norm – uniforms are the same and can be picked in any convenient store. What mark them differently are the badges, cardigans and berets branded for each school. In our neighbouring Benin Republic, all school children wear khaki as uniform.

Aregbesola has carried out a revolution in education in Osun. I am of the firm belief that with the policy direction, funding, equipment, motivation and technology, all driven by the passion and will to change things for better, Osun, within the shortest possible time, will be producing the best school leavers and world beaters in all fields.

Fasure lives in Osogbo