With a firm belief in education as a veritable tool for total emancipation of the people, the Governor Ibikunle Amosun administration is confronting head-on years of neglect in the education sector
Arcade Ground, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, was filled to capacity on Thursday January 12, 2012. The occasion was the flag-off of a programme so dear to the heart of Ibikunle Amosun, governor of Ogun State. That programme is the distribution of textbooks to pupils and students in the state public primary and secondary schools, a rare gesture that was only done in the defunct Western Region, now comprising South-west states on the one hand, and Edo and Delta states, currently in the South-south geo-political zone, on the other during the time of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo.
With an unshaken belief in education as a tool to shaping the future, every step the administration has taken since being sworn in after a sweeping victory at the polls on May 29, 2011 has not left anyone in doubt that indeed the administration has come with the renaissance of the education sector as its cardinal objective.
Segun Odubela, commissioner for education, aptly captures the commitment of the administration when he said the government accords “topmost priority to the provision of free and qualitative education. In fact, education has remained at the top of the hierarchy of the five cardinal programmes embarked upon by the state government.”
In order to meet its objective, the government ensured an increased and effective participation of all stakeholders, provision of essential infrastructural facilities, provision of instructional materials, rehabilitation of classroom buildings, procurement and distribution of textbooks in core subjects to pupils and students of primary and secondary schools and regular payment of running cost/monthly subventions to secondary schools and tertiary institutions.
The government also embarked on the rehabilitation of 100 schools covering the three senatorial districts in the state with the total sum of N278.8 million. This step was taken to make sure that the learning environment becomes more congenial for the students/pupils and the teachers by decongesting the usually crowded classrooms. Before Governor Amosun came on the saddle, virtually all the buildings were in bad shape, owing to long years of neglect.
Realising that it is pointless renovating the classrooms without giving the students the tools to work with, the government embarked on the procurement of textbooks. The sum of N1.8 billion has so far been expended on the purchase and distribution of textbooks to pupils and students in public schools across the state. This was done with the aim of encouraging the students and pupils to embark on private learning to complement whatever they might have got from the classrooms while N365.8 million has also been committed to the purchase of instructional materials like biros, pencils, mathematical sets, exercise books, file jackets and other stationery to ease the tortuous process of impacting knowledge to learners.
Determined to leave a lasting legacy and break away with the past, the Amosun administration is targeting the establishment of a total of 50 ultra modern model secondary schools across the state and it has commenced with the award of contracts for the construction of 26 of the schools, which will be fully equipped with hostel facilities. The schools will be distributed across the 20 local government areas of the state with some of them having two of such schools at a cost of N750 million per school and an additional N300 million for equipment and furniture. Thus the cost of the schools comes to a total of N1.05 billion, bringing the total cost to some N27.3 billion.
To ensure that education is totally free, the administration has distributed 80,000 copies of students’ dossiers freely to students in junior secondary schools at a cost of N8.8 million while 120,000 copies of students’ dossiers have been distributed to senior secondary schools too. The administration also resuscitated the payment of running cost to state secondary schools and government science and technical colleges. Before Governor Amosun took over the administration of the state, secondary schools were owed running cost for three terms by the previous administration. To demonstrate the governor’s total commitment to changing the face of the education sector, the sum of N17.2 million was quickly paid to offset part of the arrears.
“However, the present administration, in an attempt to provide adequate funding for effective and smooth running of secondary schools, the running grant of secondary schools for first and second terms 2011/2012 academic session has been paid. A sum of N39.6 million and N41.12 million were paid as running cost for the first term and second term 2011/2012 academic session respectively,” Odubela said.
To further demonstrate the sincerity of the administration, all bona fide students in all public secondary schools in the state got their May/June WASCE fee underwritten by the state government just as the government also picked the bill of the May/June 2012 National Business and Technical Education Board, NABTEB, for eligible students in Government Science and Technical Colleges to the tune of N9.9 million. Similarly, the government has committed the total sum of N253.2 million to offset the backlog for 2010/2011 WASCE owed by the previous administration besides the sum of N262.4 million which has also been paid for 2012 May/June WASCE fees.
Convinced that no nation can move forward without science education, the administration has procured science equipment which has been distributed to 481 secondary schools to promote the teaching of science in the state while the administration has banned the culture of impunity that led to the non-payment of subvention and running cost grant to state-owned secondary, technical colleges and tertiary institutions.
Effective January next year, the state government will begin the implementation of the State Education Sector Strategic Plan, SESSP, and the State Education Sector Operational Plan, SESOP, which is an attempt to re-engineer the entire gamut of the education sector in the state. The state had, along other eleven states in the country, participated in the activities culminating in the production of State Education Sector Strategic/Operational Plan in accordance with federal government directive, a prerequisite to get the intervention of the International Development Partners, IDP, in the education development in any state. Pursuant to this, the sum of N10 million was paid as UNICEF counterpart fund for the preparation and production of document under the supervision of Education Development Strategic International, EDSI, and the National Institute for Education Planning and Administration, NIEPA, Ondo.
Determined to keep reliable data to enhance policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and impact assessment in the education sector, the government set up the Education Management Information System, EMIS, office. “EMIS is a system designed to systematically organise information related to management of education development. EMIS is responsible for collection, processing, analysis, publication, distribution and rendering of information for users of education information,” Odubela explained, adding that it is an attempt to avert daunting data challenge in the state. He said two consultants were engaged by the state government to capture both infrastructural facilities and secondary schools in the state for effective planning.
Now having provided facilities and the enabling environment, the Amosun administration also believes in giving comfort to teachers who will drive the education policy. It therefore resolved to pay the agreed national minimum wage to teachers and promptly too. Similarly, they are paid all their allowances and leave bonuses, which had not been paid for a long time. Under the Rapid Employment Programme, the government has employed 189 teaching and 125 non-teaching staff, bringing to 314 the total number of persons employed under the scheme designed to alleviate the pains of unemployment.
“Any responsible government cannot toy with the education of our youths because these are the leaders of tomorrow. We are already planning it and at a particular point in time what we will only be spending money on is just to maintain those structures because we have done it in a way that it would have become very solid that you might not even say you want to start building schools in the near future. With 50 model schools, there is no amount of increase in students’ population in admission that will outgrow that in the next 20 years and that is why what we are doing is that by the time all our plans are fully in place, we can all go to sleep. So I believe that it can be sustained with proper planning,” Odubela said.