ONE of the areas in which the regime of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State has frequently been in the news is the education sector. Apart from reintroducing free education in the state, Aregbesola has also embarked on revolutionary measures that have kicked up much dust, which does not promise to settle any time soon.
Starting from the current academic session, the school calendar has been detached from the 6-3-3-4 system that is being practised all over the federation. Rather, Osun is now the only state that runs a 4-5-3 system, meaning that pupils will spend their first four years in primary, next five years in middle schools and last three years higher schools.
Part of the “reclassification” includes the merger of public and missionary schools, which ensures that all schools in Osun will be co-educational, and only one colour of uniform is worn in all schools throughout the state. The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Osun State are among concerned stakeholders, who have criticised the government for embarking on this scheme, but the state government insists that its policy is aimed at addressing the rot in the system.
We are concerned at the way the sensitive issue of religious interests has been handled in the state since Aregbesola assumed office in 2010. He has unwittingly come across as someone, who is carrying out policies that constantly pitch Christians against Muslims. The reclassification policy, according to its critics, will deprive the Christian community of many of its schools, which were set up through the efforts of its missionaries.
We believe that Aregbesola’s laudable free education policy can succeed without tampering with the rights and legacies of any religious group. Osun, being a state in which Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers have coexisted harmoniously should not be put on knife-edge through maverick handling of policy, especially in the field of education, which is the state’s number one prized asset.
The government must also move quickly to solve the chaos arising from the merger of schools. Reports say that students are experiencing tough times going to their new schools and back everyday. Apart from that, the mono-uniform for all schools in the state runs counter to the pride and distinction that differentiated uniforms and the unique academic traditions impose on the psyche of students.
This is a major driver of healthy competition not only on the academic front but also unique traditions of the various alma maters. Products of schools always hold the systems that produced them with pride throughout their lives. This reclassification may result in the “mass-production” effect that may not add much to students’ sense of academic upbringing.
While we applaud reforms, we also caution that the good intentions are not defeated by impulsive innovations that do not have the approval of majority of education loving people of Osun State.