CHAIRMAN of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools, ASUSS, in Ogun State, Comrade Akeem Lasisi, bared his mind on issues surrounding the states’ free education policy, unified examination and appointment of Principal-Generals among others. Excerpts:
By Daud Olatunji
In his recent media chat, Governor Ibikunle Amosun cleared the air on the alleged plan to concession the multi-billion 28 model schools in the state. What is the position of ASUSS on the construction of the model schools?
Our union is not against the establishment of the model schools, but what we are trying to tell the state government is that they should renovate the existing schools. They should put it in proper position before establishing the model schools. Also, we cannot establish the model school and employ fresh graduates rather government should post experienced teachers who are already in the service to the model schools, because they are already on the field and they know better than fresh teachers recruited by government so far.
Whether the schools are concessioned or not, education development should be important to the state government. The existing schools should be taken proper care of in terms of structures, teachers as well as the environment. Most of the existing schools in Ogun State are over-populated. Many structures are in a sorry state, some buildings have leaking roofs, no furniture for the students and no replacement for retired teachers.
The stand of the union is that the government should focus on the existing schools and when they are through with renovation of the existing schools, they can focus on the model schools.
Will you say that the free education policy of this present administration is well thought out? Is the policy well implemented in your view?
Let us say the obvious, there is no way a government can single-handledly sponsor free education in any state or all over the world. The reason is the population of students keep increasing everyday. When we look at Ogun State because of the free education of the state government, parents have already abandoned their roles to the the government and teachers, because they are no longer buying any educational material for their wards. They believe the state government is running free education which has led to an explosion of students in our schools.
Explosion of students
If you go round the schools in this state, we are having over-population of students, because of the free education being run by the government. Now, in schools we have two categories of students, students that are willing to study and students that are forced to study because it is free.
Due to the free education policy of the government, the number of students who are forced to go to school are many because their parents are not paying a dime. This is affecting the infrastructure of the schools, the infrastructure continue to decay, we are having dilapidated walls all over the place. Most schools have leaking roofs, no desk and benches to seat on for both teachers and students. That is why we continue to appeal to the state government that no government can fund education solely if it want the best.
We are not opposing the free education policy but the government cannot do it all alone. They are saying education is free, are you saying health is also free? If health service is not free, education should not be totally free.
Students in public primary and secondary schools in the state last Monday resumed for the second term of 2015/2016 academic session, yet pupils and students have not be given their results for the first term likewise their promotion results in the last academic session to their present classes.
The JSCE examination result had not been released and the students have been automatically promoted to the next class. Do you think this is a challenge in the state education sector?
The society continues to blame teachers without looking at rudiments of this problem. The major part of the problem we are having with developing education in this state is the problem with junior waec.
Ordinarily, for a student to be promoted to SSS1 should be by choice. For example, if his knowledge is very low such student does not need to proceed to the senior school. If the intelligence of any student is in the hand and not the brain, such a student doesn’t have to proceed to conventional senior secondary school where you are stream lined to either commercial, science or humanity class. Such student is supposed to drop out from JSS3 and start learning a trade or go to technical college and start developing skills through the hands.
However, what we have today is 100 per cent transition to senior secondary school, that is why we continue to appeal to the federal and state governments to look into our education set up.
In the 2016 budget of Ogun State, over 20 per cent is allocated to the educational sector, what is your opinion?
UNESCO has stated that 26 per cent of the total budget should be allocated to the education sector, at this point I have to give kudos to Governor Ibikunle Amosun for allocating over 20 percent of his budget to educational development in the state compared to other states in the country where little is allocated to educational development.
One thing is to allocate funds to educational development, another thing is implementation. We have already made our stand known to the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mrs. Modupe Mujota and we believe the best will be done for us in the field.
Sometimes last year, one of your members was relieved of his appointment base on what the state government tagged “offensive examination question”. How far has the union gone in respect of this issue?
The issue of Mr. Adegbenro is a very pathetic one. We observed that what the man did was nothing but promotion of excellence. Although, as a public servant, there are certain rules guiding our profession, there are certain rule prohibiting a public servant on commenting on state policy. If you are a public servant, you have no right to comment on government policy in public service rule. Mr Adegbenro contradicted the public service rule.
But the deed has already been done, we will continue to appeal to the state government to temper justice with mercy on this issue. We have consulted eminent personalities in the state, and even beyond the state on this matter. The issue now is between Mr Adegbenro and the state government and I will not want to comment on it because the information at our disposal was that the matter had been taken to the court.
We will continue to appeal to the state government, laws are made for human beings human beings are not made for law. We appeal to the state government to allow the sleeping dog lies by reabsorbing Mr. Adegbenro back to the system.
What is your take on the unified examination system?
We believe quality educational services is one of the five cardinal agenda of the state government, that his why we are contributing our own idea to the state government, because we are on the field, we are doing our own practicability not on theoretical aspect, you can sit down in office and formulate the policy, we will implement the policy on the field.
Interest of the students
The first is the issue of unified exam, it will be our own joy and the interest of the students that the unified exam should be left to the school authorities in first and second term,while the state can conduct the third term exam. The reason is that academic calendar can be disrupted in some schools in the state, there are some activities individual school has that is different from others and this may not allow them to complete the syllabus.
But if we are organizing unified exam every term, we are trying to encourage examination malpractice because in situation where a teacher will not be able to complete the scheme of work before exam and the question were set on such topic that he was unable to treat with the student, the teachers have to pass such student.
We appeal to the state government to allow individual school to conduct first and second term exam and the state will be conducting unified exam in third term exam and we think they will consider our own observation. Also, on the inspection on schools, we believe inspection of schools should be done by experienced inspectors. In schools these days, you will meet 16 grade level teachers as classroom teachers. How do you expect an in-experience inspectors to inspect these officers.
They have started teaching over thirty years ago, the inspectors you sent to the school started work five years ago. Our experience is that an experienced inspector will inspect, observe, report, correct with maturity because, the experience is there. But inexperience inspectors will do all that with immaturity because they are young in the field that is why we are appealing to the state government that any time inspectors will be send to our schools, they should send the experienced one among them.
We advised the government to please remove the optionality in the payment of PTA support levy, because there is no way government can single handedly fund education in the state. If we look at the population of our schools, there should be support from the old student association, the NGO , the PTA and individual with enormous resources, so that the stae government will be able to recruit more teachers, because teachers continue to retire and transfer their service to a better agency without any replacement.
We need to recruit more teachers to fill the vacancies. Teachers must be allowed to control teachers and there is no way we have effective way of doing this without appointing principal general in the state like our counterparts in Lagos, Oyo and Osun.
Appointment of Principal General
However, the appointment of Principal General is also a motivation to the entire teachers in the state. Principal General is the highest career for anybody teaching in the state or anywhere in the country,just like solicitor general is the highest career in the law profession.
We used to have five PGs before, but now we have one and that PG retired on January 13. They are saddled with the responsibility of monitoring of the teaching in the schools. It is their responsibilities to monitor teachers in the schools in the four divisions in the state, but we don’t have principal general any longer and the
prayer of every worker in the world is to reach the peak of his/ her career and principal general is the peak of teaching career. It is only the Teaching Service Commission that is being control by outsiders, civil servants are our own directors instead of teachers. It should be teacher controlling teachers not civil servant controlling teachers.
Although, Mr. Governor has promised us that approval will be made for the appointment of Principal-General, but till this time,nothing has been done. We don’t want our profession to go into extinction and there is no way it will not go into extinction without Principal-General, because our students don’t want to become teachers. The teaching profession is not respected in our society and the only way it can be recognised is by appointing Principal-General.