Rejigging Education in Oyo State II
By Dr. ‘Gbade Ojo
One of the challenges of governance in Africa especially Nigeria is that some leaders do not exhibit passionate concerns about issues of their time. They do not see current tasks of governance and bureaucracy as the foetus of the future. A self-centered government will be engrossed with meeting only the demands of the day. They do not spot the presence of tomorrow. This is perhaps the reason why not much planning is done coupled with dearth of critical data for good governance.
Yet, being able to prudently discern the future really starts in the present and is the key to planning for both success of today and tomorrow.
On the misconception connected with the planned management of some public secondary schools in the state out of the total 631 public secondary schools, the opposition has over- exploited the gullible population of the state, using their lack of access to adequate information, data and empirical evidences from other climes to hold them captive.
They sold lies about Ajimobi to the people and concluded that he was planning to sell schools to the missionaries, which is far from the truth.
Ajimobi’s visibility in the last few weeks on the media has helped to collapse the lies spun by the opposition against him to rubbish his initiative to partner interested stakeholders in giving facelift to secondary education in the state.
No doubt, each public policy has its own pros and cons. The beauty of any policy is that the larger members of the society targeted by it should be satisfied. This is in line with Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian theory which states that public policy should be targeted at the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people.
A public policy no matter how robust may not be wholly acceptable to all but large chunk should heave a sigh of relieve with the public policy aimed at achieving public good.
It is within that context that this piece explicates Oyo State’s policy thrust on education.
There are two major rubrics in the policy as enunciated by the state government and the two are very contentious by the irreverent critics of Ajimobi administration cum the opposition elements in the state.
They are the introduction of a thousand naira development levy in public secondary schools and the plan to partner stakeholders in the management of some of the public secondary schools in the state.
These two elements appear like a policy shock to the down-trodden more so in a state which is reputed to be the intellectual capital of Nigeria.
The fundamental question is why the need for partnership? It is an open secret so to say, that the sector is nothing to write home about. It takes a courageous and patriotic governor to attempt a general overhaul. This is what the Senator Ajimobi-led administration seeks to do. The empirical analysis below suffices to explain why the planned partnership is imperative.
It is instructive to note that between 2007 till date, the state government expended a total sum of N3.2 billion naira on public examinations. With that, the highest pass rate ever was in 2011 with 20.55%. In 2007, 52,551 registered for WASCE with entry fee of N3,250.00 per candidate. Government paid a total sum of N170,790,150.00. Only 3,706 could manage to get five credits and above. Percentage pass was 7.05%.
Government lost N158,745,650.00. In 2008, 55,878 candidates registered with entry fee of N3,500.00. Just 5,608 could get five credits and above with 10.04% pass rate. Government forfeited N175,945,000 on the failures. In 2009, the bad trend continued. Out of 52,484 that registered, the pass rate was 14.11%. In 2010, 52,448 candidates registered and only 7,357 could manage to pass, that is, 14.03% pass rate. By 2011 when this administration came on board, 60,000 candidates registered, 12,327 passed with five credits and above which translated to 20.55% pass rate which was to be the highest ever!
With population explosion and desire for education, more candidates registered in 2012, with as many as 67,786, the highest figure since 2007 which is under our purview, but 9,973 only too could pass WASCE at 14.71% pass rate. In 2013, 55,432 registered with 10,285 securing five credits and above, i.e. 18.55% pass rate. The story was not really different in 2014 and 2015 with 54,862 and 59,945 respectively registered with WAEC.
Nevertheless, if between 2007 till date, Oyo State WASCE candidates have not recorded 25% pass rate talk less of 50%, automatically, the sector requires general overhaul. To do this, the state government took a holistic view of the situation.
This is done by targeting students/pupils, parents, teachers and infrastructure.
Long before the 2015 elections, a total of 5,300 teaching and non-teaching staff were recruited to redress the anomaly. But the sector requires well-thought out policy beyond mere recruitment of teachers.
In its quest to reposition and further enhance quality education through concerted efforts of all stakeholders in Oyo State, the administration of Governor Ajimobi in his second term took some bold measures. Few of them include enforcement of 80% attendance for all students to ensure good performance in external and internal examinations. Students who fail to make 80% attendance may not be eligible for promotion examinations. Still targeting students and pupils, automatic promotions in all public secondary schools was cancelled forthwith. Promotion is, henceforth, based on merit. This is to ensuring that quality products are graduated from public schools.
Not only that, extra-mural classes were re-invigorated for JSS3 and SS3 students in all public secondary schools to add quality time to the teaching period.
Nevertheless, the state government, having properly carried along all the stakeholders in education sector most especially Parents/Teachers Association (PTA), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPS) and Association of Heads of Primary Schools among others decided to involve the parents effectively in the care of their children and wards. Hence, a sum of N3,000.00 education levy was agreed upon by all which could be paid per term on a thousand naira installment basis, to compliment government efforts vis-à-vis provision of teaching aids and infrastructural facilities.
Parents and guardians too are to equally bear the burden of payment of WAEC registration fees. With the involvement of parents, they are more passionate about what the future of their siblings is in their educational pursuit.
Back to the students, government also made it mandatory that they pass mock examinations to be conducted on final year students to ensure that only serious and quality students are presented for examinations.
The state government also directed that the use of GSM phones be banned during school hours. Much as GSM has value for learning, the abuse is prevalent among the students and pupils.
Perhaps the hallmark of the policy thrust on education is the desire by the government to partner effectively with the interested stakeholders who may desire to be involved in the running of some of these schools, that is, old boys and girls or missionary founded schools including community schools where the community-owner is keenly interested. Under this, six different models were presented which are management services model, professional services model, support services model, government purchasing programme model, adopt-a-school model and infrastructure services (Private Financing Initiative-PFI).
Even during the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, education was not absolutely free as being peddled by some ignorant people, but he carried out an enduring revolution in the education sector.
When Chief Awolowo found out that the money raised through the budget was not enough to fund the free education, a special education tax was imposed; and people paid it. They paid because they were seeing the benefit of what they were paying for.
The state government seeks to promote the participation of more investors at the secondary school level so that better products get to the tertiary level. Government cannot afford to be complacent in the education sector. The rot over the years is now telling with debilitating concomitant effect on the sector. It is pathetic that the rate of failure is ‘criminally’ high.
The negative effect is that more products of private schools get admitted into tertiary institutions. This is very dangerous for the state and the society at large. It may lead to social stratification whereby the children of the poor may not be able to compete with the affluence in a society that needs to pursue egalitarianism in virtually all facets of the society.
At the end of the day, if implemented with the needed zeal, the policy will definitely lead to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people and it will further complement government efforts at providing free and qualitative education in Oyo State.