BETWEEEN AREGBESOLA’S EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND THE CYNICS: WHERE DO YOU BELONG?
BY Ibrahim Lawal
Ibrahim Lawal an apologist of HE Gboyega Oyetola and brother to the Hon Commissioner for home affairs under the current dispensation of Oyetola wrote;
“We live in interesting times. Our psyche has been assaulted by years of criminal neglect and mediocrity that many have begun to mistake villa for village. An otherwise innocuous policy move of government that should generate encomiums is getting knocks as expected anyway from group of politicians whose stock in trade is to milk the state dry as exemplified in their years of locust.
The State of Osun’s decision to distribute school uniforms to the over 750,000 school children has attracted criticism from these set of people who question the rationale behind expending such amount (N800 million) , the rationale behind the conformity of the uniforms across board , the quality of the fabric and the likes. The penchant of these mischief makers to criticize any policy of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s administration and subject it to virulent attack, casting him in the mould of a controversial person is appalling. It is however pertinent to put the issues in their proper perspective.”
He went further to explain that, “The State Government decided to distribute school uniforms to pupils and students since it placed a high premium on education to reflect its avowed commitment to the uplifment of the plight of the hapless majority and to shift the burden on parents.
Uniforms ensure equality, as it does not indicate social or economic status, placing everyone on the same pedestal, hence a masterstroke by the government to instill strong moral values of oneness and togetherness in this children and disabuse their minds of feelings of superiority or inferiority. It also ensures discipline as no student worth his salt will misbehave while in school uniform as that makes him/her easily identifiable.
Also, uniforms are compulsory as they are the official attire allowed in school. Without them, students are turned back home, and the gates of knowledge are shut against them. Many Nigerian families in the light of the prevailing economic circumstances simply cannot afford the cost of uniforms coupled with the other costs they are required to bear such as school fees; examination fees; instructional materials; textbooks etc . So the state government’s decision should be hailed by all and sundry for bringing succor to those hapless families.
Interestingly, UNESCO did a survey in 2007 led by its advisor Dr Susan Nkinyangi in Kenya cataloguing the glaring gap in the number of school children, students enrolled and those of school age when the Kenyan Government decided to introduce free education to the whole nation. But, there was a caveat; parents were to provide for the compulsory uniforms while the government took care of fees payment, teachers’ salaries and instructional materials. In a nation where more than half of the population lived under poverty, many people still missed out on education despite the golden opportunity presented to them. It prompted worldwide calls for aid to help the millions particularly girls who couldn’t afford school uniforms to get a chance of schooling. Yet, Kenya is the economic powerhouse of East Africa.
Few are the number of people who haven’t experienced or saw someone experience the psychological trauma that follows being sent back home on account of torn uniforms, or having no uniforms at all. I personally experienced such in 1987 in Oduduwa College Ile-Ife while in Form 3 where I was made the Time Keeper and my friend Onagbola Ebenezer( now a PHD holder living in America) lost his place as Assistant Time Keeper due to his torn uniform. Words cannot express the disgrace and emotional battering he suffered as a result of what wasn’t his doing.
The uniforms in question are of three different types: Elementary, Middle ,and High school, with each student getting two pairs . Sam and Sarrah , the garment factory handling the production of the garment is training 3220 tailors(10 tailors per ward,322 wards in the state) based in Osun state on the sewing of the fabrics using modern methods. The company was also mandated by the state government to establish a factory in the state which it has done by sitting its factory in Abere area of Osogbo, in a brilliant backward economic integration move .
The uniforms distribution however pale into insignificance when compared to the other efforts of this government at revamping education in our dear state. The government shocked at the alarming state it met the educational sector initially wanted to close schools down for a year to reappraise the situation. It hosted an education summit attended by various stakeholders in the education sector and it was graced by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, where the various strategies to be adopted were discussed and mapped out. The government met classrooms that were waiting to collapse having been built over 50 years ago during Awolowo’s free education days, teachers who weren’t motivated enough , disoriented students who had no idea of what the purpose of education was about, leaving them unskilled, with deeply prejudiced minds, narrow thinking and shallow thoughts. Surely something drastic had to be done to stem the tide, and redirect the state on the path to greatness.
It has tampered with the curricula in such a positive way as to encourage the development of the body, brain and the mind. The calisthenics programme which involved scores of school children to celebrate the state’s 20th anniversary is a case in point. It has been hailed widely for the aerobics, inculcation of hard work, teamwork and patience which it fosters among those students.
The Government has commenced the building of about 171 schools which involve 100 elementary schools, 50 middle schools, and 21 high schools. The elementary school pilot project is being started in Ile-Ife, while the pilot high school is being built in Ejigbo with a capacity of 3000 students. Coupled with that is the increase in running cost of each pupil in primary schools to N400 per student per term as against payment of between N200-N1000 per school per month, While the secondary school receive N550 per child per term as against N300 per child per term during Oyinlola’s administration in the state. Instructional materials to be used by the teachers and students are provided by the government. Teacher emoluments and examination fees(WASSCE) are also being paid by the government as against the practice in eras gone by. Over N1.8 billion has been expended on the exercise so far.
The O-meals initiative is another feather to this administration’s cap, and a testament to what focus and mental strength can achieve. School feeding isn’t entirely a novel idea in this country; however the scale at which Osun has gone at it is amazing. Pupils in the various public primary schools from primary1 –primary 4, are being fed with healthy and nutritious meals that millions of Nigerians can only dream about. They are fed with chicken, beef, fish, cocoyam, rice, plantain (QUOTE ME ANYWHERE) being served these children on a regular basis. It’s no wonder classroom enrolment spiked by 25% in 2 weeks!!”