Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Sustaining Awo’s Legacies in Education

Development all over the world is work-in-progress. An objective appraisal of any administration must, therefore, be based on the amount and quality of work done within a particular time or term and the resources available. A comparative analysis is even better as it affords the public the opportunity to assess the management of their resources and sum of socio-economic development under different administrations.
 
 
When I said recently that “in less than 3 years, the Amosun administration has achieved far more than what the previous government accomplished in 8 years,” it was not a hyperbolic comment. In Ogun, as I opined, “the blind can see!”
 
 
The recent happenings in Ogun APC have turned out to be a referendum of some sort. From all I have read in the newspapers and heard on radio and television, feelers from towns, villages and hamlets, the common denominator is that the Amosun administration has been outstanding: Never in the history of Ogun has this quantity of work been done in such a short space of time with such meagre resources. Such remarks from the overwhelming majority of our people should constitute a ‘morale-booster’ for Senator Ibikunle Amosun, especially at this momentous time.  Following a report in the papers last month suggesting that Amosun was the first governor to visit the school, I went to the Social Development Institute (Shasha), Iperu. This is a college established in 1956 by Chief Obafemi Awolowo to offer leadership training to community leaders, traditional rulers, politicians and social workers. I established that the current governor was not the first to pay a visit to the 58-year-old school in a decade or two but Amosun is the first governor who made a promise to the school and fulfilled it. “Governors came, they promised, but they never fulfilled their pledge.” That much was confirmed. So the news report did not err, materially.
 
 
I was on the entourage of Amosun in June, 2013 when he paid an official visit to the college, which now offers Certificate and Diploma in Social Works and Social Development to our youths. I was numbed by the level of the decay that I saw. Just picture structures abandoned in the bush for decades or that have lost their innocence to wars or some natural disasters. I looked at the termite-infested hall – the best of the buildings – the (high) table and chairs standing grudgingly on legs that had lost their souls to the rage of termites, the pock-marked asbestos ceiling, windows without covers, roof threatening to collapse at the slightest fury of the elements… The governor was downcast: “How can this happen in Ogun State?”
“The labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain,” goes a line of our National Anthem. The students have been evacuated; reconstruction work is going on at a steady pace.
 
 
The Social Development Institute (Shasha) is one of the thousands of abandoned structures scattered across the state. Even if you devote the entire yearly budget to education alone and consecutively for ten years, you will still be left with one or two dilapidated buildings. Yes, what Amosun inherited was a sector in ruins. Some of the buildings need to be pulled down. Some of the schools need to be relocated because they are currently choked by development. As at the time some of them were built, the locations were conducive for learning. Now, imagine voices of commercial bus drivers – Oshodi! Oshodi! Ilaro! Ijebu Ode! – drowning those of classroom teachers! Population has risen. Also, new schools have to be erected as schools are returned to their original owners.
 
 
Here is Amosun during his inauguration on May 29, 2011. “It appears that our public schools were deliberately destroyed so as to justify government’s abdication of its responsibility to educate the citizens, feigning inability to shoulder the attendant financial requirements as the basis.” My belief is that education is a social service which in the end serves the public good. Nowhere in the world is education treated as purely a profit-making venture. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of blessed memory, will turn in his grave if he hears that due to inability to pay school fees many pupils and students are dropping out of school in his state of birth. Or that as a result of ill-conceived policies, many of them are excluded from going to the school of their choice.”
 
 
“(i) Education is now free in both primary and secondary schools. (ii) All illegal fees and levies in both primary and secondary schools are hereby abolished. (iii) The government will also be responsible for the payment of the final examination fees for primary and secondary school leavers in Ogun State. (iv) Tuition fees will be drastically reduced in all the state’s tertiary institutions. (v)  The bursary and scholarship scheme for students in tertiary institutions will be reinvigorated. (vi)  Allocation of at least 20 per cent of our annual budget to education with emphasis placed on improving the quality and capacity of staff through training and re-training, improved welfare packages and provision of teaching and research facilities. (vii) Three state-of-the-art and well-stocked public libraries will be established, with one in each senatorial district. (viii)  Immediate commencement of construction, rehabilitation and expansion of physical facilities in the sector with a target to achieve a ratio of 30 students per class in our primary and secondary schools. (ix) and Reinvigoration of the inspectorate division of the Ministry of Education.”
 
 
Three years on, I believe Senator Ibikunle Amosun can look back and take pride in his achievements, for he has accomplished between 75 and 80 per cent of his promises. Indeed, by the time the world-class model schools under construction are completed, the governor would have recorded between 90 and 95 per cent success. For instance, instead of three state-of-the-art and well-stocked public libraries, you now have fifteen in the first phase. Even in ‘WAEC’, once you have 75 per cent, that is “Distinction or A1”. If politicians in Nigeria could just fulfill 50 per cent of their promises, I’m sure our nation would be better off.
 
 
Today, the over 20,000 children that would have been out of school due to the policy faux pas of the last government are in school. Enrolment figures have soared as more children are abandoning private education in order to enjoy the free education policy of the current administration. TASUED has been taken off the life support while OOU is gradually coming out of the stench. Revenue from the Federation Account has slumped drastically from 2013, but due to prudent financial husbandry, teachers are receiving their salaries.
 
 
Of course, occasional hiccups are inevitable under our warped federal arrangement, but with the very first bridges and international standard roads adorning our state, the restoration of the climate of security, which has resulted in investment of about N730 billion in two years with attendant thousands of jobs, introduction of luxury buses and brand new taxis on Ogun roads for the very first time, distribution of new 500 transformers to revive SMEs, generation of over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs, scale-up of free health policy (Gbomoro) and launch of Community Based Health Insurance Scheme (Araya), payment of backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities inherited from the last government, on-going construction of power plant to ensure steady supply of potable water, construction of state-of-the-art markets, strategically located in business districts (not in the bush), revival of agriculture through release of N1 billion to farmers to boost production, purchase of massive land-clearing equipment to aid mechanized agriculture, resuscitation of Farm Settlements, among others, the current government has, indeed, sustained the legacies of Awo.  Senator Ibikunle Amosun can hold his head high for having launched modern Ogun into its golden years.
––Soyombo, a journalist, sent in this piece via densityshow@yahoo.com

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