Yinka Kolawole reports that Governor Gboyega Oyetola has granted the request of Osun people as he reversed some of the policies made by the immediate past governor in the education sector, which generated controversies in the past
Education has been described as the bedrock of all-round development. However, during the Governor Rauf Aregbesola administration in Osun State, he changed the face of education in all ramifications, the move was greeted with spontaneous condemnation in all aspects which led to disappearance of diginity of schools.
But at inception of office, Governor Gboyega Oyetola promised to work along what electorates want so as to have enduring legacies in the state.
A year later, he set up a committee to look at all the issues and bold steps were taken on the recommendation of the committee headed by Professor Olu Aina.
Meanwhile at the first meeting of the State Executive Council, a decision was reached on Education Review Policy and the state reversed the single uniform policy, mixed schools, 4-5-3-4 system and retained Opon Imo also known as Tablet of Knowledge.
This was made known at the press briefing jointly addressed by the Commissioners for Information and Civic Orientation, and Education, Mrs. Funke Egbemode and Mr. Olayinka Folorunsho respectively, on behalf of the government after the State Executive Council meeting, held on March 2, 2020.
Egbemode announced that the decision was reached after an exhaustive deliberation on the report of the education panel set up by the governor to review some of the extant education practices and policies. She said the council unanimously agreed on the 10 issues raised in the report and accepted the recommendations.
“The council approved the recommendations to revert to the 6-3-3-4 structure in keeping with the provision of the National Policy on Education as this will entail adequate physical and instructional facilities at all levels; adequate provision in quantity and quality of well-motivated teachers at all levels.”
She added that “the council agreed that the state government will do well to allow every school return to its old established and recognised public uniform.
“The council observed that the Omoluabi Education Services Limited is not performing the duties, roles and obligations expected and it was approved that the operation of Omoluabi Education Services Limited be wound up since it has not been fulfilling the mandates for which it was established.
“It was also agreed that Early Childhood Care Development Education (ECCDE) in line with the practice in the 35 other states in Nigeria be restored,” Egbemode added.
Other decisions reached were the reversal of schools to their former status, whereby only single sex identified with those school names should be admitted while students already affected by the name change should be issued letter of attestation by the ministry of education and male students who are currently in senior secondary one (SS1) and SS2 in schools established for female learners only should be relocated immediately and vice-versa.
The council was said to have approved the reversal of ‘High School’ to the old nomenclature ‘Grammar School’.
Similarly, the council also stressed the need for government to strengthen technical and vocational education/training by upgrading structures and facilities of government technical colleges for effective service delivery, while Opon-Imo otherwise known as tablet of knowledge will be retained and restructured to serve the purpose it was meant for.
The governor, while receiving the panel’s report, said his administration is resolved to reposition the state for the betterment of all the citizens, adding that it is committed to securing the future of the children and those unborn.
He said the state government remains committed to improving every sector as its policies and programmes are driven by citizens’ needs.
The governor had earlier constituted the panel led by a renowned educationist, Professor Olu Aina to look at some extant education policies in the state, with a mandate to review and come up with workable recommendations that could further improve the state’s education system
Quoting a renowned American author, John C. Maxwell, who has written many books on leadership, Oyetola stated “a man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them,” adding that every responsible and responsive government must make people’s demands the basis of its policies and implementation.
He added that the need to review the education policy was informed by the people’s demand, saying the government would ensure full implementation of whatever that will improve the lots of the people and protect the future of its children.
“As a government, our policies and programmes are driven by citizens’ needs. These needs which were further validated by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)- funded Citizens Needs Assessment exercise in Osun, were harvested during the Thank You Tour/Town Hall Meetings, where the people told us in plain language that they wanted some aspects of our educational policies removed, adjusted or improved upon.
“That was what led to the Policy Review Roundtable Summit, the report of which we are receiving today. We are prepared to do what will improve the lots of our people and protect the future of our children.
“As a leader therefore, I am conscious of the need to be just and fair to all manner of people regardless of their leanings in the discharge of my duties. This I will always uphold.”
While thanking the chairman and members of the policy review panel for investing their time in the future of Osun children and those unborn, Oyetola said: “Rest assured that your efforts will not be in vain. We will be swift and proactive in debating it at our level with a view to implementing the recommendations without any further delay.”
In his remarks, Aina said the panel had painstakingly reviewed and addressed all education-related issues with a view to “strengthening the delivery of quality and affordable education in response to the wishes and yearnings of the people of the state.
He noted that the panel proposed 11 recommendations within the context of the national education policy and global best practices, saying that for instance, the merging of primary five and six, though laudable for reason of school feeding initiative, violated the 6-3-3-4 structure.
Aina added that the creation of the 4-5-3-4 and the middle school are unknown to the National Policy on Education (NPE).
While recommending the retaining of Opon Imo, other issues x-rayed by the panel were: policy of mixing male and female pupils in schools established for single sex students and desirability of retaining the posts of head masters general and tutors general in the rank of permanent secretary, among others.
“The issues were subjected to comprehensive and critical review; they were individually discussed in consideration of situating the education policies of the state within the context of the overall national education policy and global best practices, and especially considering the interest of students and their parents.
“Even though education is on the concurrent legislative list of the Constitution of Nigeria, a state policy should be closely aligned to, and flow from the national policy so that products of our education policy and practice are not disadvantaged,” Aina added.
Also speaking, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Ismail Omipidan noted that the speculations about the policy being a jab at the former administration was not correct, stating that the new policies are the government’s response to the yearnings of the people which the governor holds sacred.
Similarly, the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Inter-governmental Relations, Taiwo Akeju has said the mission for the reversal of some education policies introduced by Aregbesola was not aimed at destroying his legacies.
Akeju, who described the immediate past governor and minister of interior as his leader and brother from Ijesha Land, said the policy reversal in the education sector has nothing to do with administration vendetta.
In a chat with journalists in his office, the commissioner described the policy reversal as yielding to yearnings of the people of the state.
He said the people during a thank you tour by Oyetola in 2019 unanimously told the governor to look into the policies as it had impacted negatively on the lives of the students.
“The policy in 2018 became a talking point in the state. Opposition parties castigated the then candidate of the All Progressives Congress and now the governor, Gboyega Oyetola on it and the governor then said if it was the wish of the people to reverse it, he will do that.
“After the 2019 polls, the governor went round the state for his thank you tour and asked people what their wants were. It is on record that over 99 per cent of the people requested for policy reversal in education.
“Moreso, the Department for International Development (DFID) after carrying out a survey across the state, recommended to the governor a review of the present education policies.
“After that we realised that this is a consensus of the people. The exco, in order not to take a unilateral decision, assembled credible and reliable Nigerians in the education sector to sit on a committee to assess the report and feed it back. The likes of Prof. Olu Aina, General Alani Akinrinade and other credible Nigerians did the review and the exco approved it,” he said.
He said the present administration is committed to upholding, consolidating and sustaining the legacies of the immediate past administration led by Aregbesola.
“What I will tell those insinuating crisis between Aregbesola and Oyetola is that they should desist. The two leaders talk several times a day and they both discuss how to make Osun great.”
Reacting to the policy reversal, the old students association of one of the affected school, Ilesa Grammar School said the school is back.
According to the association, “on the day that one of illustrious products celebrated another year of God’s anointed blessings, we received official confirmation that the Osun State Executive Council, under the leadership of our dear Governor Gboyega Oyetola has granted our prayers of five-plus years by restoring the identity and glory of Ilesa Grammar School.”
The National Publicity and Mobilisation Secretary of the association, Temitayo Odeyemi said the initial fears of ability to marshal the appropriate political will to implement the recommendations of the panel were put away as the government restored the school alongside several others.
“We thought it would be much easier to convince the key actors of yesteryears. We could not. The advocacy, agitations and legal battles were painful and long drawn. The issues and controversies were energy sapping, but in loving memory of our founding fathers, the legendary Egbe Atunluse Ile Ijesha and other fine products of our cradle of ‘omoluwabiism’ who have since gone to be with their creator, Ilesa Grammar School is back. Our school is back in name, in colours and in character.”
The association noted that for thousands of old students that have lived to experience the announcement, “we return all glory to God. To our birthday celebrant and Patron, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (1956/60 set) and several other important actors in the sweet story of Ilesa Grammar School, including old students, staff, legal team, friends and fans across the world, we say thank you. No force, within and outside, no matter how powerful in actuality or self-glorification, will be able to put out our lights.
“Indeed, Ilesa Grammar School has outgrown the status of just any other school; our common heritage is now very much an ideology, of excellence, of doggedness and of virtues. It will always refresh, restore and redefine itself, overcoming all constraints to its ability to flourish in perpetuity. So shall it always be.”
The association added: “While again reaffirming our unalloyed commitment to the best cause of Ilesa Grammar School, we appreciate everyone for the support, in all forms, while the issues lasted.”