By Ola Ajayi
Ibadan — Truancy among students of public secondary schools has become a recurring decimal in Oyo State, especially in Ibadan metropolis. During school hours, scores of these students are usually in town. While some of them use the school period to do some menial jobs like cleaning of vehicles wind screens and pushing carts, others spend the period playing football.
No wonder, results of the students in some international and national examinations like the Senior School Certificate Examination and National Examination Council leave much to be desired. So, it is a welcome development when the Governor Abiola Ajimobi led administration put some measures in place to discourage the act in schools across the state.
Some students in public secondary schools in Ibadan metropolis on Valentine’s day skipped school to mark the lovers day with their heart throbs.
This came just as the Oyo State government arrested eight students from some schools for loitering within the city during school hours.
Vanguard gathered that some students at Ogbere area of the city who were supposed to be in their schools had agreed to meet with their valentine colleagues.
In order not to give room for any suspicion, the students wore their school uniforms and put extra clothes on their rendezvous. It was further gathered that instead of the students to attend schools in the morning, they just went into a corner to change their school uniforms to avoid being sighted by their teachers.
A female teacher who had gone to the office of the Local Inspector of Education was returning to school when she saw some of her students wearing mufti clothes. She stopped and asked the three girls who were already clad in valentine outfits why they were not in uniform.
A source who told Vanguard said the girls told their teacher that they had informed their parents at home that they would go out with their friends to enjoy the day. As the teacher moved closer to the school, she reportedly saw another set of school girls and boys dressed in the same way.
She reportedly handed one of the girls her bag instructing her to bring the bag to her in school to prevent her from going out with others. The girl was said to have grudgingly heeded the instruction.
On Tuesday, a team led by Alhaji Abidemi Siyanbade, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Community Relations arrested eight students for roaming the streets. The students were taken to Oyo State Social Development Centre, Samonda for counselling so that they would not engage in the act. Four of the arrested students attend Methodist Grammar School, Bodija; Bishop Onabanjo Memorial Grammar School, Bodija and St Luke Grammar School, Molete.
According to Siyanbola, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, would not renege on his promise to reform the education sector adding that frowning at truancy, is one of the measures taken by the government to ensure students in the state turn a new leaf.
“This initiative evolved the newly inaugurated School Governing Board (SGB) across the 628 secondary schools in state. Imagine the students being tagged ‘Olu-Igbo’ because they are always in the bush when others are in class. Just last June, the state government came up with an initiative targeted at repositioning the education sector of the state. You can see that the communities support the efforts of the government and I can assure them that we will achieve greater successes from the exercise,” he said.
Repositioning the education sector
Mrs. Adekemi Opatunde, a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the governor on Community Relations said, “it was painful to see students roaming the streets, when they are supposed to be in school. I am sure we have made a point with this exercise”, she said.
When Vanguard went to some schools in the city to feel the pulses of the students on the new move by the government, some of them complained that the introduction of N1,000 school fees per term is causing them a lot of distractions.
Those who volunteered to speak pleaded anonymity for fear of being punished by their school managements but did not object to using their first names.
According to Gbenga, it is true that the tuition fees of N1, 000 is not a big money, some of our parents cannot even afford the token. “So, it is left for some of us to look for that money. To get the money, there are times, our school work suffers. We do menial jobs like mixing sand for bricklayers, hawking just to raise money. You see, if some parents cannot afford just N1,000, what happens to our daily transportation to and fro to school. No doubts, the govern-ment has done well in the aspect of transportation, but, the buses cannot take care of all of us.
“As I am speaking with you, some students have not paid their tuition fees for last term, so their report cards are not released to them because they owe. When it comes to paying the money at designated banks, it is another headache. Go to the banks and see how students struggle to pay. Some may waste the whole day there. What happens to all the subjects that our teachers taught us for that day”, he wondered.
Another student who is a girl, Kafilat, simply said, “it is a pity that the government doesn’t know what we are going through, I have to hawk pure water before I get money to pay my tuition fees and meet other needs. How can you say N1,000 is a small amount?
A female teacher who confided in Vanguard said though truancy is not the option, she, too agrees that introduction of school fees is causing a lot of distractions for the students.
According to her, “Some of the students who could not afford to pay for last session have not been able to get their report cards. Since, we resumed, many of them have not reported in school. And to worsen the matter, the new policy of “no automatic promotion” has driven some students who feel too big to repeat away. They have stopped coming to school. It is a source of concern to us as teachers”.
Non-payment of tuition fees
“When you train these students, your joy is to see them succeed in life. But, it is sad that some of them are looking for options to education now just because of non-payment of tuition fees. This is very discouraging,”she said.
A Vice Principal of a school in Ibadan also expressed fear that introduction of school fees and enforcement of ‘no automatic promotion by the government may have discouraged some of the students, he said,
“In our school, less than 20 students passed from JSS to SS1.We don’t know what the government would do about it. How would students not engage in truancy. Some of us feel that government should have put some facilities in place before implementing the policies. In this school, chairs are not enough for students. A student who absented himself from school said how do I come to school when there are no chairs. We could not punish him. There are times when five students would sit on a chair that is meant for one person during examination. How do you measure the performance of a student in such a situation? We are waiting to see how government would solve the riddle. But, it has to be urgent as number of students is reducing on daily basis.”
Speaking on the issue of new government policy, Mr. Ogundele Michael, the Education Rights Campaign state coordinator noted, “Learning under this circumstance will not only be difficult but somehow be impossible given the fact that most public secondary schools in the state lack of adequate facilities for proper teaching and learning. Classes are often overcrowded with a teacher responsible for a minimum of six classes across various levels.”
“Proper students monitoring through assignment, tests, and other forms of continuous assessment under this kind of situation can rarely take place. This is as a result of the volume of scripts teachers have to contend with.
Compounding this gory tale is the fact that workers in the education sector, particularly teachers, are being owed over six months arrears of salaries and allowances by the Ajimobi-led government in the state.”, he said.
“In as much we of the ERC oppose the idea of automatic promotion; it is also our opinion that it is only where all these situations and circumstances are taken into cognizance, that the newly formulated promotion policy can be regarded as anything close to a valid and fair assessment of the performance of Oyo state public secondary students”, he said.
The Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun, had earlier spoken on how the government would tackle these problems. Part of the measures, he noted, informed the release of the white paper on Education that categorizes Urban Schools with a population of 1000 and above, Semi-Urban Schools with between 250 – 999 students’ population and Rural Schools with a population of 60 – 249 taking into consideration the Universal Basic Education Commission standard, probable infrastructure, current enrolment and availability of teachers.
While agreeing on the continued payment of N1,000 levy by each parent per student, per term, the government directed that each school’s SGB retains the levy collected for infrastructural development. It also noted the observation of the committee that there has been gross neglect of Technical and Vocational Education in the educational system.