Jacob Apagbo: Ogun and the lessons from Kizito High School
You may or may not have seen the recent pictures showing students of St. Kizito’s High School, Iwopin, Ogun Waterside, writing their promotion examinations on the bare floor. That, actually, paints an accurate picture of the situation across the country. Only last year, pictures of primary school pupils singing the national anthem at a school in Lagos, with almost half of their bodies submerged in water, went viral on the internet. The truth is that quite unlike in the 60s and 70s when primary and secondary schools could compete quite favourably with their counterparts across Africa and even the world, things have gone so terribly bad over the years. Inheriting the rot left by the military, successive state governments since 1999 have not given the education sector the attention it truly deserves. The current situations is traceable to the factors of maladministration, brain drain, corruption, inadequate training for teachers and so on. Certainly, while quality infrastructure for schools is a sine qua non, having quality teachers is equally, if not more, important.
In many parts of Nigeria, educational infrastructure has decayed as a result of long years of neglect. As a result, even if the government of the day decides to put its entire budget into education, it will be just like a drop in the ocean. With respect to the Ogun State government led by Prince Dapo Abiodun, this situation is really unfortunate, because it belies three years of hard work in the education sector. The lesson, really, is that whatever you do, there will still be much more left to be done because you are dealing with decades long problems. On assumption of office, the administration unfolded a project of rebuilding a school in each of the 236 words in the state. The objective is to give all parts of the state a sense of belonging. On completion of the first phase, the government will again pick a school per ward and bring it to global standard. Of course, we are in the era of politics and many will deliberately play politics with the decay in the system, but that cannot deter a focused administration. Some of the dilapidate schools in the state have been in existence before independence, some after independence and some since the Olabisi Onabanjo government of the Second Republic. They are in decay and the question why previous administrations failed to renovate them is a salient one.
In any case, most of the model schools built by the Ibikunle Amosun administration have been abandoned. That administration simply did not address the real infrastructure decay, and the eight years of neglect definitely have a negative bearing on the educational system. Happily, a day after the pictures were published, the Ogun State government provided the schools with chairs and desks. The fact is not contested that in the last three years, the Abiodun-led Administration has revamped the education sector through infrastructure renovation across the 236 wards and all 20 local government areas of the state, restoring the state’s academic reputation. Naturally, given the paucity of funds and the time factor, it cannot have fixed all the deplorable roads and other public infrastructure left unattended to by the immediate past administration. But it has promised to leave Ogun State better than it met it, and that is crucially important.
It is not Dapo Abiodun that fingers should be pointed at. The government identified so many schools with similar problems and has been giving them attention in the last three years, but of course there’s still a lot to be done. Then there is the problem of cash crunch, as even the Federal Government recently indicated its dilemma with N1.6 trillion revenue versus N1.9 trillion debt servicing. What this means is that every segment of Nigeria will be affected by the issue of inadequate funding: Ogun State is not an isolation. However, one thing that we must give the Ogun State government credit for is its responsiveness. And that, really, is how to know a responsible government: one that will not shy away from its responsibility. That is something missing across Nigeria, as many a state government does nothing when issues are raised. It is to the benefit of Nigeria if other governments take a cue from the Ogun State government. The story was meant to embarrass the government but the tide has turned, as many people are now commending the governor’s intervention.
Government cannot see everything. It is not omniscient or omnipresent. But when issues like this are raised, it has to act. Even if it is something that cannot be done immediately, it must have a response that will give people confidence and hope. In this case the government has not only given an appropriate, it has solved the identified problem. This is the kind of government that Nigerians need.
A survey of the education and human capital development activities of the Abiodun administration does paint a positive picture. For instance, in March 2021, it commenced Ogun TEACh, a paying special-intervention, two-year scheme set up to fill the existing vacancies in public primary and secondary schools and technical colleges in the state. Some 5000 interns were recruited across state. Also, its “Yellow Roof Revolution” has seen classrooms, hostels, toilets, offices, stores, and fully equipped e-libraries/computer rooms built. Besides, with over 1000 primary and junior secondary schools rehabilitated to date, including the Emeritus Ogunlesi Model School in Sagamu, the programme is obviously a success. Besides, the administration has acquired renown for rewarding outstanding performance. On April 22, 2021, Governor Abiodun gave special recognition to Ms. Faith Odunsi and Mr Oladimeji Shotunde, amongst others. Odunsi had topped the Global Open Mathematics Competition, while Shotunde emerged the Best Graduating Student of the Lagos State University. While the government launched an endowment fund seeded with N5 million for Odunsi, it awarded Shotunde a 2-bedroom bungalow and a N2million cash prize, just as 32 other teachers and students got various other prizes.
The government has ensured school security with the employment of security personnel, instituted a free education policy with the cancellation of all forms of levies in primary and secondary schools, and pioneered Ogun DigiClass (televised class sessions) to compensate for physical class time lost to the COVID-19 outbreak. It procured 25,000 tables and chairs for distribution to the state-owned primary and secondary schools and approved a 120 percent increase in running costs and a 50 per cent increase in feeding allowance for learners in special needs schools. Over 10,000 teaching and non-teaching staff in the state have been promoted.
Again, Governor Abiodun facilitated the return of the prestigious Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ojere and Tai Solarin College of Education to their enviable status and has seen to the payment of bursary to Ogun State indigenes in tertiary institutions. Indeed, with a N200 million Education Trust Fun for the development of infrastructure in tertiary institutions and the repositioning and construction of the Central Education Management Information System (EMIS) for data gathering, analysis and presentation, he has shown his love for education. Let’s not forget that the Ogun State Institute of Technology won the Best Compliant Institution in Nigeria from JAMB, carting home N75 million. Yet, much more has to be done because the problems are decades-old.
Apagbo sent this piece through email@example.com
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