By Kola Omotunde Young
I read this piece on the backpage of a newspaper on 17 Oct, written by Abimbola Adelakun, and commend the writer’s informed views on many of the issues. I however have disagreement with the writer on some issues. The writer wrote: “My preliminary assessment of the re-classification remedy masquerading as a revamp of the education sector is that it is meretricious, and does not demonstrate genuine commitment to resolving the problems of education …. Why do governors go for artificial restructuring while they neglect the real issues of funding, curriculum content development, continuous teacher retraining among others?
“ The question is valid when asked generally. However in the spirit of responsible intellectual discuss, I would have expected the writer to make effort to find out (through any sources) what the Aregbesola government may have done/or failed to do on these specific issues raised and then comment agreeing, disagreeing, or advising in relation to them.
Otherwise, how do you expect a thinking government to respond without restructuring to optimise resources, between, for example, a school with 15 teachers and 120 students population and another with 30 teachers and 600 students, both with dilapidated structures.
It is widely reported that Aregbesola’s government increased running cost of schools which he met at between N200 to N600 per month depending on the size of the school to N400 per pupil per term implying a movement from N600 Naira per term to N40,000 for a school with one hundred pupils. It has also been reported that more than 2,000 teachers have been re-trained in collaboration with Osun State University in a continuous process while substantial work has been done in terms of curriculum and provision of instructional materials including books, learning aids and Opon Imo, the internationally acclaimed Tablet of Knowledge.
Going by the National Education Policy, there is no secondary school as we used to know it in the 70s and 80s. Now what we have is the nine- year Universal Basic Education – which enjoys financial support from the Federal Government – and three-year Senior Secondary School which is entirely state funded. The nine-year is further divided in Lagos and some states which have attempted to implement it properly as six years primary, three- year junior secondary and three- year senior secondary. The junior and senior secondary schools are run as distinct schools with different structures and administrative heads.
Aregbesola’s government’s reclassification has not done anything to affect the structure and it is not the basis of any of the current complaints from the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, or any religious organisations.
The complaints are the fall – outs of the infrastructural upgrade and the need to maximise physical, human and financial resources.
Did the writer check the state of any of such schools before and the replacement structures constructed by Aregbesola’s government which necessitated the restructuring and reclassification before using words like meretricious or madcap to describe such efforts?
Must we in the name of demonstrating writing skill use such a word that if incorrect in usage portrays the user as not only unfair and discouraging of genuine efforts at nation-building, but also as indecent?
Osun Baptist Conference has a mixed-sex secondary school in Osogbo founded in 2000 – Zion Baptist High School (in the premises of a school formerly called Newton memorial ) but are against mixing boys and girls in government -owned school which name was retained as Baptist school.
Same Baptist changed Baptist Boys High School in Iwo to Baptist High School to put girls there several years ago and it is still a mixed –sex school till today after government take over. So in Iwo the complaint is different from Osogbo, it is Hijab and not mixing of sexes.
If we must call a spade its name, CAN, Baptist, Muslims and any other religious organisation claiming ownership of the schools are being economical with the truth and except society rises up irrespective of our faiths against the indefensible, the self emancipation desired to make positive changes in our lives will continue to be illusory.
Governments in the South-west have been bound to free education , not necessarily willingly but because Awo succeeded in making a positive difference in this region with it. We are yet to see any of the so called mission schools – Christian, Muslim or whatever – being free or even affordable to the widow, whose mite is collected everyday to build and run the schools in the name of God, while proceeds are used to pay salaries of missionaries.
I also disagree with the writers comments on Hijab in public schools. We are a multi-religious and not a secular state as many people tend to proclaim.
The implication is that no child must be discriminated against by virtue of religious beliefs.
Finally a fair appraisal of Aregbesola’s actions in relation to religion which the writer unthinkingly labelled as “pandering” and ‘’madness without methodology” will show clearly that he is simply being fair and just to all, whatever their religious beliefs – upholding the Constitution of the Federal Republic – without denying his own right as a citizen to hold and practise his personal religious tendency. It is simple enough for discerning people to understand without resulting to demeaning vocabulary.
If Aregbesola is guilty, it will be in his failure to get his information handlers to do the needful, by educating the generality of people about his actions in simple language they can understand, so they do not get deceived by the posturing of those whose stock in trade is exploitation of the gullible masses for personal aggrandisement.
*Omotunde-Young is an IT and Human Development practitioner resident in Oke Fia, Osogbo.