By Dayo Johnson, Akure
IT is an understatement to say public primary schools across Ondo State in the past were in a pitiable state, no thanks to their neglect by successive administrations. But the tide has changed under the two-year-old administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as over 700 public primary schools across the 18 council areas of the state have been renovated.
Pupils’ enrolment, which nose-dived, has, consequently, increased.
The state administration has also constructed toilet facilities in more than 300 public primary schools.
Before now, the schools were abandoned while mega primary schools thrived.
Many of the mega schools now lie unused while a few others have been handed over to tertiary institutions.
A pointer that the Akeredolu administration would not continue with mega schools manifested when he questioned the rationale behind the huge resources expended on them at the expense of public schools.
While taking his oath of office on February 24, 2017, Akeredolu had vowed to promote quality and sustainable education to ensure a technological growth never experienced in Ondo.
And true to his words, he made available N3.7 billion as the state’s share of counterpart funding while the Federal Government paid the matching grant of equal amount to revamp the primary education sector.
The restoration of the state public schools has attracted commendations from religious leaders, parents and stakeholders in the education sector.
While the stakeholders are asking for more attention on public schools, they commended Akeredolu for its efforts to reposition education in the state.
Many of those who spoke with Sunday Vanguard believed that the situation would have been a lot different if successive administrations in the state had paid similar attention to education.
“You will agree with me that most of our schools would be in a better shape if past administrations had paid similar attention to education in Ondo State. It is no gain repeating the fact that the move is beginning to yield results and life is gradually returning into state-owned primary schools”, the Chief lmam of Akureland Alhaji Yayi Akorede, said.
Akorede praised the governor for resuscitating public primary schools, especially Akure Muslim Primary School located in the heart of the state capital and which had been in dilapidation for years.
The cleric added: “The governor has done very well. He is a good man with a good heart. For a long time, the Muslim community watched as the school went into ruin. Our children could not go to the school as parents took their children to other schools. But despite not being a Muslim, the governor ensured that the school was reconstructed and fenced. Today, our children are back to the school and we are happy.”
The head teacher of Muslim Primary School, Ile-Oluji, established in 1955, Elizabeth Ajayi, confirmed that his pupils enrolment had increased from 80 to 150 after the renovation of the school by the Ondo government while the head teacher of St Mathias Catholic Primary School, Akure, Rotimi Olorunfunmilayo, said pupils enrolment in his school had increased from 200 to 390.
An educationist, Afe Oloketuyi, said: “Two years on, a solid and sure-footed foundation has been laid to ensure that the future of the state is better structured for modern day challenges through quality education. There is no repeating the fact that the Akeredolu administration inherited an almost comatose education system which, at best, was aimed at producing school leavers that struggled to pass in external examinations like WAEC and NECO.
“Despite the huge amounts purportedly spent on education, many public schools were in shambles, with roofs blown off and dilapidated buildings. Two years on, the Akeredolu administration has not disappointed in its promise to revamp the education sector.”
Believing that the morale of the teachers is also important to the building of sound education at the primary school level, the state government recently promoted one thousand and eight hundred primary school teachers in Ondo after a screening exercise carried out by the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Ondo State Chapter, Victor Amoko, lauded the state government for “the promotion of teachers and the unprecedented renovation of public schools across the state”.
Amoko said the promotion of teachers in the primary school sector was an incentive to commit their knowledge and time in teaching pupils “who are the leaders of tomorrow”.
He called on teachers to reciprocate the government gesture by putting in their best and impacting knowledge into pupils.
The Chairman of the Ondo SUBEB, Princess Oladunni Odu, speaking on the reversal of the fortune of primary schools in the state, said: “Some schools have renovation work; some have pupils’ furniture, some got computers while some have perimeter fencing for security. Some schools have boreholes, so, over all, we have about 700 projects and, in the next few weeks, another 314 projects will be awarded.
“So, we have over 1,000 projects which include the construction of six classrooms, four classrooms, three classrooms and we supplied furniture to the schools for pupils and teachers. Computers were also given to the schools. Apart from all these, we sank boreholes.
“On the new projects starting shortly, we will supply agricultural materials to our schools because we are trying to encourage the children on farming while we are also trying to encourage sports by making sporting equipments available to our schools.
“We are doing many boreholes this time, classrooms and containerized toilets, 77 of them.
“If you go round at the inception of this administration, many of the buildings in these schools were actually dilapidated and the state government thought it fit to provide a conducive environment for learning and teaching because what does a private school offer? Good surrounding, nice buildings and we think that if the buildings of public schools are attractive to the young ones, they will be motivated to come to school regularly and that’s why we have these projects.
“For schools that don’t have good buildings, we build new ones and for those that have manageable buildings, we do renovation. This is because we want to develop education and make it attractive. With these projects, children are now attracted to the schools while enrolment has increased as there are more children in our schools now.
“Another issue is the school feeding programme introduced by government which has also attracted children to public schools.
“Government has also recruited teachers as part of the efforts to strengthen the education sector”.