By Bamgbola Gbolagunte
There is excitement in Osun State over the resuscitation of the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme adequately provided for by the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola administration in the 2012 Budget.
Indeed, the 2012 budget, tagged, “Budget of Service and Progress”, seeks to provide the enabling environment to ensure increase in food and encourage agro-allied industries with substantial participation of the private sector; promote functional education by improving basic infrastructure and enhancing capacity of teachers at all levels; restore healthy living to the people through the provision of affordable, effective and quality healthcare for all; and reconstruct social infrastructure, economic and industrial base of the state, among others.
The budget size is N15billiom made up of N79billion recurrent and N71billion capital. As all-encompassing as the Osun 2012 budget appears, three areas, viz: education agriculture and rural development, and health stand out. Education is crucial to societal development. The western region under the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo offers a case study on how education can be deployed to move the society forward.
This being the mind frame of Ogbeni Aregbesola, the Osun 2012 budget is being deployed to reform education at the various levels to restore quality and functionality. With a princely sum of N13.7 billion allocated to the education sector under the budget, the free education programme of the administration at the primary and secondary levels continues while the resuscitated Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme, rechristened, Elementary School Feeding Programme, is to be reinvigorated.
The Elementary School Feeding Programme, covering pupils in primary one to three in public schools in Osun, affords indegent pupils the opportunity of at least a meal in school. All forms of charges in the state public schools have also been outlawed.
The governor said in the budget presentation to the Osun State House of Assembly: “In addition, the poor condition of the infrastructure in our public schools is already being addressed. Towards this end, the first phase of the construction of New Model 100 Elementary Schools, 50 Middle and 20 High Schools across the state has commenced.
The 2012 fiscal year will witness massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of the dilapidated school buildings inherited by this administration. This is in consonance with our determination to raise the standard of education in our dear state.”
The icing on the cake of the giant strides of the Aregbesola administration in the education sector is the reduction in exorbitant fees charged by the Osun State University. Similar gesture has been extended to other tertiary institutions in the state i.e., the Polytechnic, Iree; the College of Technology, Esa-Oke and the two Colleges of Education in Ilesha and Ila Orangun.
The Aregbesola government is also combating the perennial acute shortage of teachers and concomitantly ensuring effective teaching and learning activities in schools by commencing the process of employing 8,000 qualified and competent teachers selected from Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), voluntary teachers and PTA across the state. “This process will be completed within the first quarter of
2012”, the governor said.
The other leg of this effort is that more unemployed youths will be taken off the streets as the recruitment of teachers for the schools will create more job opportunities. There are also great expectations of bumper harvest in Osun State going by the action plan for agriculture in the 2012 fiscal year.
The Aregbesola administration wants to bring this about through the consolidation of the achievements of last year in the sector. N5.6 billion has been set aside to fund the agriculture and rural development sector during the year.
“It is incontestable that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of this State as over 70 percent of our population is engaged in all forms of farming enterprises. Consequently, our administration will not relent in its efforts to invest massively in food production, security and agriculture”, the governor said in the budget speech.
In 2011, according to him, the state government embarked on various programmes geared towards boosting agricultural output in the state. “One of such is the land validation exercise carried out in four out of the nine farm settlements in the state to determine the status of the performance of the settlers.
This exercise will be extended to all the farm settlements in the 2012 fiscal year. In order to facilitate the transportation of agricultural produce from the farms, a total of 49 kilometres access and 25 kilometres feeder roads were constructed during the year to link the farm settlements with the urban centres.
The affected settlements are Mokore, Esa-Oke/Esa-Odo, Iwo/Patara and Orile-Owu/Agu-Owu. The State Government will intensify its efforts in the provision of access/feeder roads in the rural areas in 2012”.
Aregbesola pointed out that Osun in 2012 will witness bumper production of broilers through the state Poultry Grower Production Scheme, a tripartite arrangement involving the state government, an agricultural concern (Scheme Manager) and the Poultry Association of Nigeria.
“About N340 million has been disbursed out of the N1billion loan obtained under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme. A large number of poultry farmers in the state who benefited from the scheme in 2011 will also be opportune through the scheme to expand their poultry farms under a well guaranteed market for their broiler production in 2012”, the governor explained.
Similarly, a total sum of N621million was released in 2011 for the procurement of modern agro-inputs which include 3,580.00 metric tonnes of fertilizer, 14.68 metric tonnes of improved maize and rice seeds and various quantities of agro chemicals.
Apart from the 42.50 per cent subsidy provided by the state government, farmers were also granted loan pending harvesting and marketing of their produce to be able to buy fertilizer. We will continue in the 2012 fiscal year to give necessary encouragement to farmers by making fertilizer available to them at subsidized rates.
An independent committee of experts has been put in place to advise the government on the distribution of fertilizers to genuine farmers as part of our resource optimization strategies. To validate this, the state now has reserve of fertilizers and agro-inputs for active genuine farmers”.
He also spoke on what to expect in the health sector during the year which has a budgetary allocation of N1.8billion. Last year, the free qualitative health programme initiated by the Aregbesola government was pursued with all doggedness.
“As a mark of our commitment to free qualitative health programme, a total of N191.7 million was expended by the State Government during the year on purchase of drugs and medical consumables alone. The commitment of government to its free qualitative health programme will continue unabated in 2012, “the governor said.
He continued:”In pursuance of our vision to save our people from avoidable deaths, government will continue to increase accessibility to qualitative health care services in all the nooks and crannies of the state by ensuring the completion of all on-going hospital projects in 2012 as well as the upgrading of the Comprehensive Health Centres and General Hospitals in selected towns. The School of Health Ilesha and the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Osogbo will be properly equipped”.
Aregbesola noted that significant improvement has been made in the reduction of neo-natal, child and maternal mortality while there has been increased immunization coverage and other relevant indicators of MDGs.
“Our government will continue to pay particular attention in 2012 to the development of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, he added.
On scale, the Osun 2012 budget, certainly to be approved by the progressive-minded lawmakers, signposts the road to accelerated educational development, food security, health for all and economic prosperity in the state.