Education, many have agreed is the best legacy any society can bequeath to its youths, as it is the driving force behind the development of such a society. It is also a consensus that any society that denies its younger generation quality education closes the door to its cultural, traditional and technological advancement.
This was obvious during the reign of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the premier of the defunct western region, when he proclaimed free education for all its citizenry from elementary to tertiary. What Awolowo gave the younger generation of his time is the benefit Nigeria enjoys today in all facets of life.
Today, the quality of graduates produced at the various Nigerian universities is an attestation of the quality of education across the country. From primary schools to tertiary institutions, the educational standard has fallen to an extent that it no longer contributes to either individual or nation development.
Osun State is not an exception in this as the quality of infrastructure in public schools is in total shambles, including the state-owned tertiary institution. Most of the schools have beenturned into kangaroo certificate awarding centres. Osun which used to be a pride among its peers in educational affairs has become one of the least performing states, as only 3 percent of its candidates in the 2010 West African Examination Council Secondary School Certificate Exams had five credits including English language and Mathematics.
However, immediately the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was inaugurated in November 2010, he did not hide his displeasure concerning the menace in the education sector, and his first assignment as a governor was to convey an education summit, the first ever in the state in order to look into ways of revolutionising the sector and it was chaired by the renowned Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and other stakeholders in the sector.
Determined to implement the recommendation of the summit, the governor is committing N30 billion to building 170 new model schools across the state to replace the dilapidated buildings that stand as classrooms, with state of the art facilities that will enhance and stimulate teaching-learning environment.
Twenty of these schools are for the high senior students, termed high school i.e. SSS1 to SSS3. When completed, it will conveniently accommodate 3000 students on the basis of 40 per class. Each of the structures would cost the state government a whooping sum of N700 million. The school would also have an examination hall that can comfortably seat 1500 students and two e-libraries- one for sciences and the other for arts and social sciences.
In a bid to encourage the enrollment of children into public schools, government rejuvenated the school feeding programme and tagged it O’MEAL.
This singular act has increased the enrollment figure in public primary schools by 25 percent in the last session and government is anticipating increase in the figure in the coming academic session.
Determined to ensure the sustainability of the programme, government is committing N2 billion annually for its implementation. Realizing the need for total reformation of the school system, the grading system is also to offer changes in line with the new system. Elementary schools would be graded along junior secondary classes.
Hence, the new system would be grades 1 to 9, while those that excel from these grades will move to the high school that would replace senior school classes. In addition, the school uniforms would also be changed to reflect reformation and uniformity.
The state government also increased the running and examination grants per student in public secondary schools to N150 and N400 making a total of N550 against the N150 made available by the last administration in the state. In primary schools, the fund was increased from between N150-550 per school to N400 per pupil (N100 as running grant and N300 as examination grant). In this area alone, government invest about N500 million annually.
Concerned with the plight of students in the state-owned tertiary institutions due to suffocating tuition fees, Aregbesola intervened and reduced the fees at the polytechnic and college of technology from N42,000 to N25,000, while those of the state university was slashed from N205,000 for Law and Medical students to N100,000. Sciences was reduced from N155,000 to N75,000 while Social Sciences and Arts now pay N75,000 instead of N130,000.
Yet, the reduction in internally generated revenue of the schools due to the tuition slash by government is returned to the schools authority as subvention.
Knowing full well that investing in infrastructure alone without boosting the morale of the teachers cannot help government reformation agenda, government embarked on the training of teachers to meet the challenges of modern teaching techniques, while the salary of those in tertiary institutions whose salaries were monthly augmented by their various institution to the tune of 20% from their IGR before the advent of the administration was stopped, while their full salary package was bored by the state government, thereby removing the burden from the school authorities and availing them the N108million saved by each of them annually to be committed to developing the schools.
LEADERSHIP learnt that all of the investment in the state educational sector is aimed at achieving one of the governor’s six points integral action plan which is to promote functional education, an educational system that would not only drive the development of the state, but also the bedrock of national development.