By GBENGA OLARINOYE
The recent reclassification of the educational system by the Rauf Aregbesola administration is generating a lot of heat between the Christian community and the government. The main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, is cashing in on this development to garner more support ahead of the 2014 governorship election. Our correspondent spoke with leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and PDP on the issue. It is simply explosive.
Barrister Kunle Oyatomi is the Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Osun State. A seasoned journalist and administrator, he spoke on the position of his party on the issue.
WHAT really is the problem between the Osun Christian Association of Nigeria and the state government over the merger of schools in the state and the reclassification of the educational system?
As far as we are concerned, there is no problem. It is the Baptist Christians that have problem with the innovation going on and it is all about their selfish interest and not the State of Osun. The BaptistChurch was around when the entire educational system in Osun collapsed and they did nothing. Now that they have somebody who is comprehensively overhauling the system, they are crying wolf where none exists.
What is in this policy?
The policy wants to desegregate schools run by government and it also wants to make sure that Osun students will not break their education from Primary to Secondary school and thirdly, the new system is designed to align with international best practices in teaching and learning that was absent in the old system.
Fourthly, the new system intends to ensure that our children are healthy at school and the government is providing for the most vulnerable children from Primary 1 to 4. Overall the policy is to develop a total man in our children. That’s what the policy intends to achieve. The policy does not intend to promote any religion whatsoever. So if the BaptistChurch is now fretting over its phantom Islamization that is its creation and it has nothing to do with the government of Osun.
Why did Opon Imo contain Ifa?
It is for the same reason that it contains the Quran and the Bible. But these are subjects in WAEC syllabus. That WAEC does not contain Ifa does not make Ifa irrelevant. Ifa is the traditional religion of the Yoruba nation. It has nothing to do with Babalawo. So if Christians are paranoid about Babalawo (fetish priests) it is unfortunate. Ifa is a divination of the religion of the worshippers of Olodumare and Olodumare is the supreme deity whom the Christians call God and the Moslems call Allah.
As far as we know, the BaptistChurch does not own any school in the State of Osun. They could be Baptist in name due to their former ownership but they are essentially run by government. If Government had no such interest in the school, Baptist would not have been part of the merger. There is no privately owned, managed and funded school that is affected by this reclassification policy.
Why this classification when the nation runs 6-3-3-4 school system?
That system remains in place and the government in Osun has done nothing to alter it. What has been done is to align it with global best practices to ensure that no student breaks his education at primary level. For instance, the syllabus is unchanged and all students are, in the final analysis, expected to write WAEC NECO and JAMB examinations. So there is no basis whatsoever for hues and cries on this issue.
With the criticism that greeted the new policy on education by the state government in some quarters, is the government willing to go back on the policy?
This government will not go back on the policy that is well intended to nurture and programme our children to a better future, to actually improve on their standard, which was so low and appalling before this government came in. The government sat down and did education summit, which was headed by Professor Wole Soyinka and the outcome of this summit is what we are implementing now: from the structure of the school to the content and appearance of our children. This is the entire thing not just looking at the uniform, to differentiate OsunState students; students in the state from other students, or from privately owned schools and government schools. The uniform will also differ from elementary to middle school and high schools, and to further get this thing done without tasking parents, there is a garment factory that has been established where you can go to and replace the uniform of your ward.
Government means well and is investing very heavily in education because that is the only thing we owe our children. If Awolowo didn’t do free education there wouldn’t be professors, doctors, etc, today.
The Christian Association of Nigeria in the state has just given the government a seven- day ultimatumto reverse the policy. What is the position of your party on the ultimatum?
I think they still have time to rethink their ultimatum because it would produce nothing. This government is not a government that would be given ultimatum, they will still go back to re-appraise their stand on this matter. We are appealing to them to do so.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is not fusing. The idea, plan and target is to make the students in Osun a target of world pride. It is not a question of Muslim or Christian. It is a wrong motion to think like that.
In our education system, he wants to make sure that we have the three religions that are peculiar to Osun. If they are not doing it in Ogun or Oyo states it does not mean that it is wrong,that is what federalism is all about.
We can’t ignore traditionalists because this is the religion that has been in existence even before the two religions, Christianity and Islam came, that is the truth.
The position of opposition parties and those opposed to the policy is that this policy will wipe out the issuance of school leaving certificates, what is your take on this?
They are warped in their thinking. Let me tell you, this policy like you must have heard and listened to, has three categories.
Elementary school 1-4 wil have pupils of age range 5-9 years, middle school grade 5-9 pupils of range 10-14 years and high school grade 10-12 with students of ages 15-17.
What are we talking about primary school? In your first question I think I told you that we want to to make sure that no student drops out of school at primary level; so what he is doing with the primary school certificate for God sake? In this clime and age that we are we are talking about primary certificate?
There is elementary, middle and high school, the ultimate is WASCE and nobody is saying that our students will not write WASCE, JAMB or NECO. So don’t let us t put nothing on something.
What Osun government has done in the past has attracted the interest of Federal Government. An example is OYES, which reduced unemployment in our society. What we are saying is if something is not working for you why should we switch to it? People should embrace positive change.