SPEECH: Empowering Teachers In Building A Sustainable Society

Governor State of Osun Ogben Rauf Aregbesola, taking salutes of march pass by Teachers,during the 2015 World Teachers Day celebrations, at the Government Technical College, Osogbo on Monday 05-10-2015





It gives me great pleasure to be present at this year’s ‘Teachers’ Day’, an occasion celebrating teachers and the recognition of their role and contribution in society. I must therefore thank the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) for the kind invitation to be here.

Why are we not going to celebrate teachers? Teachers are the best thing that has happened to humans. Without teachers, humans would have been just a little better than lower animals. Anybody that can read and write should have a teacher to thank. All the knowledge and skills that have been gained in the past, we have teachers to thank for their transmission to successive generations. If not for teachers, each generation would have had to reinvent the wheel. Teachers therefore play a unique role in the society.

The theme of this year’s celebration, ‘Empowering teacher, building sustainable society’ is very apt. Indeed, at the Incheon Declaration at the World Education Forum (WEF) in May 2015, UNESCO made it known that “It is recognized that teachers are not only a means to implementing education goals; they are the key to sustainability and national capacity in achieving learning and creating societies based on knowledge, values and ethics”.

So, the role of teachers transcend teaching. It includes primarily the regeneration of society, the transmission and sustenance of values and connecting the past with the present and future.

It has therefore become pertinent for us to critically examine if we have lived up to this billing. There is this paradox of us living in an age that is saturated with knowledge and information and yet, globally, the ignorance index being alarming. While it is agreed that there are modern competitors for influencing and shaping pupils, such as the media, teachers are becoming less effective in imparting knowledge, skills and values to their wards. Teachers are now less effective in effecting discipline and building character in pupils.

The danger with this is that we stand the risk of creating an uneducated, uninformed, ill-disciplined and anarchical society. When the intellect of the youth is not well cultivated, untoward things happen since nature abhors vacuum. The societies where the youth acquire education in leaning and character are most likely to put greater premium on their own lives and that of others. They are usually hopeful and promotive of continuity and will therefore see the improvement of the human condition not only desirable but an imperative. We however see the consequences of lack of good education in the disorganisation, conflicts and nihilism in the most troubled parts of the world today, including the north eastern part of our country.

But, in all honesty, these are not all teachers’ making. Some of the blame lay with the government while others lay with the parents and the rest with the society at large.

One of the concerns of UNESCO is the dwindling quality of teachers. It is a fundamental axiom that you cannot give what you don’t have. Our society is evolving and so are the challenges. There are daily changes in information and knowledge, the fortunes of families, influences from the media, global events and the politics and sociology of the environment, which bring new challenges to the classrooms. It is necessary therefore that teachers adapt to these changes through self-improvement. There is no way we can meet new challenges with old knowledge. Charles Darwin is famous for his quote that ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

As a government, it has been our dream and aspiration to turn around education in Osun. Indeed, education has been accorded prime importance by our administration since day one.

Before the present cash crunch, our administration increased the running cost on students. Against the paltry N200 paid by the last administration, we now pay N400 on pupils in Elementary Schools and N500 for those in the Higher Schools and there was timely and adequate supply of modern instructional and learning materials to all our schools. Our free school meal programme takes care of about 254,000 pupils in the Elementary Schools. We also gave out, free-of-charge, two pairs of new school uniforms to all pupils and students in our public schools. We came up with a novel idea, the e-learning tablet, Opon Imo. We have distributed about 150,000 to both teachers and students in their final year. It is our own way of introducing our students to the widening digital world of Information and Communications Technology and also make learning more meaningful.

One legacy we are building in education is an enhanced environment of learning. We have come to the realisation that the school environment largely determine the quality and character of students produced. We are therefore building state of the art 100 elementary schools. The idea behind this is that there should be an elementary public school in every neighbourhood. We are also building 50 middle and 20 high schools. Out of these, 14 elementary schools, 15 middle schools and 11 high schools have been completed. Work is ongoing on the rest and they are at different stages of completion. It is our sincere hope that we shall complete them before the end of our tenure.

We are already having the results. The badly behaved pupils in dilapidated and run down schools are now well behaved when transferred to the new, beautiful schools that give them pride and enhanced personality.

Though the result has not been to our satisfaction, there has been a significant improvement arising from our efforts. This will put a lie to the unfounded allegation of our detractors that the performance of pupils has gone down under our watch. In 2007, the state government put forward 36,171 for WAEC examination out of which 2,483 representing 6.86 per cent had credit pass in five subjects, including English and Mathematics. In 2008, it was 37,715 candidates with 3,813 pass, representing 10.11 per cent. In 2009 it was 39,676 candidates, with 5,545 pass, representing         13.98 per cent. In 2010 it was 43,216 candidates, with 6,777 pass, representing 15.68 per cent. This four years gave us an average of 15.68 per cent.

However, our administration started sponsoring candidates for WAEC in 2011. That year, we fielded 53,293 candidates, had 11672 pass, representing 21.98 per cent. In 2012, we fielded 51,463 out of which 11,431 passed, representing 22.21 per cent. In 2013, we also fielded 47,013 candidates, recorded 9,301 pass, representing 19.78 per cent. The average performance for our first three years was 21.32 per cent. Compared with the average performance (13.26 per cent) of the three years that preceded us, the percentage improvement in performance during our tenure is a whopping 61 per cent. You can’t fight with figures.

Quantitatively, we are also better. While the previous administration in the last three years before us presented only 120,607 candidates for WAEC, we, in the corresponding period, presented 151,769 candidates. While that administration presented only those who passed their internal examination, we presented all qualified SS3 candidates. This should explain the differences in national comparison.

Like I said earlier, this is still below the standard we set for ourselves but let those who are obsessed with running us down keep quiet for now.

Nevertheless, the task on our hand is how all the stakeholders – teachers, government, parents and the pupils – must join hands to improve education in Osun. The time has come for us to see government as business, not business for gain, but business for service. The people must feel what we do and it must talk to them.

Teachers therefore must see themselves as agents for increasing the knowledge base of our society and for building their wards both in learning and character, from elementary school to all levels. They should therefore be assessed on how well they have performed in this task. Really, no teacher should consider himself or herself to have succeeded if his or her wards are not adjudged to have passed both in learning and character. An end must come to the practice of automatic promotion of teachers in the stark contrast of mass failure of their pupils. I understand that in some developed countries, schools now track the progress of former students and this count in the promotion and continuity of teachers. This is a new challenge which calls for new thinking and renewal of efforts.

I heartily congratulate all teachers on this day and will like to let you know that I hold you dear in my heart. I thank you once again for the invitation and wish you joyous celebration on your special day and all times.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

Osun a dara!


Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

Governor, State of Osun