History till date gives credence to Ogun State as the cradle of civilization. The earliest access of the state to education enabled it to take the lead ahead of its contemporaries in the nation. This, no doubt, informed the reason the indigenes of the Gateway State are known to be trail blazers in many areas of human endeavours.
The nation called Nigeria cannot forget the first Premier of the then Old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who set the tone for development by adopting free education policy for residents of the region. This stride put the children of both the rich and poor at par since the government did not compromise standard in its educational drive. Without attempting to be selective, the government in the Western region afforded all and sundry the opportunity to go to school irrespective of ethnicity or religion. The government went as far as giving free and quality meal during school hours to ensure that no pupil or student attended class on empty stomach.
It is on record that the place of Ogun among the comity of nations is second to none given its commitment to education in order to remain atop of others. Invariably, it is not out of place to conclude that education is more of a cash crop which the Gateway State exports to other parts of the country and the world at large. This gives cause to the sons and daughters of Ogun to stand tall ahead of their counterparts anytime.
The Prince Dapo Abiodun-led government came on board with the “Building our Future Together” mantra which encompasses every form of human life with education at the front burner. As such, within the first week of the present administration, Governor Abiodun declared a state of emergency on the sector with a firm pledge of ensuring that the pride we used to have in education is completely restored.
Without wasting time, the government swung into action by setting up committee to look into issues relating to tertiary institutions such as the establishment of Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology, Abeokuta, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic,Ipokia as well as crisis rocking Tai Solarin College of Education,Omu-Ijebu which had reduced it to a comatosed institution in the past years.
The various committee were able to present their reportand recommendations to the Governor ahead of the stipulated time. And the State’s helmsman in living up to his words creatively made efforts that have laid the various crisis to rest. For example, the reversal to status-quo of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta was greeted with encomium by both the students and workforce of the school as they expressed appreciation to the Governor for such decision.
Within this short time, the government has begun the rehabilitation of 236 primary and secondary schools across the state in a bid to tackling infrastructural deficit in public schools. The state government also promised to replicate the gesture in all public schools without leaving any stone unturned.
This move, will in no small measure enhance learning since the face-lift given to the school environment will boost the morale of the workforce as well as students and consequently promote sound learning.
The recent decision of the state government to suspend Parents Teachers Association (PTA) Levy in public schools is another step in the right direction that will engender the growth of the education sector. Governor Abiodun who believes that fingers are not equal assured that his government had come to deliver free education at basic and secondary school levels in public schools in line with his avowed electoral promise.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting held in Abeokuta, the Governor mandated concerned officials to look into how the government can make insurance and accessories which were part of the details of the free ducation without making parents and guardians uncomfortable.
Without mincing words, the PTA Levy which was N3,700 was too much an amount to pay for some parents. It is unarguable that some poor students would have had their academic pursuit truncated as a result of their parents inability to pay the levy. However, the decision to lay the issue of PTA levy to rest will help douse tensions relating to how the funds generated through it have been managed so far.
Governor Abiodun said the declaration of a state of emergency on the education sector was to take a holistic approach in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that the welfare of teachers would continue to receive the needed attention as his administration was poised at repositioning the sector.
In his words, “Our administration promised to offer free education at these levels, and as our performance has so far shown, we will not renege,” he enthused.
The empathetic Governor of Ogun State who usually refers to himself as Omo Teacher (Teachers Son), did not just have either of the parents as teacher but both, said the education stakeholders could go to bed with the assurance that Dapo Abiodun understands their heartbeat and will definitely live up to expectations.
In addition, Prince Abiodun without delay announced the re-introduction of running cost to all public primary and secondary schools across the lengthen and breadth of the Gateway State. Of a truth the importance of running cost in any government establishment cannot be over-emphasised given that it enhances the day-to-day activities of government and keeps the agency going without having to wrack brain on how and where to get help.
Obviously, the introduction of running cost in public schools will put an end to having to unnecessarily suspect government officials just as it will also reduce the temptation to steal, compromise and engage in untoward activities especially in relation to finance. They would not have to cut corners to siphon parents or pupils on the school needs since the government has done the needful by making adequate provision. But in the event that a public officer who had been well catered for is caught in the web of corruption, the excuse would not be hinged on absence of monthly upkeep on the part of government.
Since the present administration has said it time and again that it will not renege on giving the teachers welfare a pride of place, it went a step further to affirm it when Prince Abiodun while speaking at the 2019 World Teachers Day held on October 5, ordered immediate reinstatement of the former Chairman of the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr. Oludare Ilekoya and a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Education,Science and Technology, Mr. Majekodunmi Olusanjo who were compulsorily retired by the immediate past administration.
According to the Governor, I have approved the immediate reinstatement of Messrs. Olusanjo Majekodunmi and Oludare Ilekoya back to service from their compulsory retirement over the 2015 English Language examination question and 2017 World Teachers’ Day celebration, respectively”.
“This move is dictated by natural justice, and it is the right thing to do. It is my hope that this gesture will be reciprocated with increased commitment to duty and that appropriate lessons have been learnt,” he said.
While speaking with stakeholders in the sector on the steps taken so far by the present administration in Ogun State to reposition the education sector, they agreed that that the government has started on a good footing, just as they admonished the Governor to sustain the tempo without looking back.
Mr. Ayanfe Olayiwola, a teacher in the rural area said that public schools in the urban center cannot really understand the importance of the return of running cost regime than their counterparts in the remote areas. He commended the Governor for such gesture, which he described as such that will inscribe his name on the sands of time.
A science teacher in a government secondary school who spoke on condition of anonymity, pointed out that the reintroduction of free education in its totality in public primary and secondary schools as we had during Awolowo’s era has brought an unqualifiable relief to parents and made the government of the day to score a huge political point.
“This is the only way by which dividends of democracy can be uniformly felt. More importantly,on the side of students,the newly admitted ones enjoy the early academic exercise unlike before when they used to come late for admission in the course of scavenging for school fees,”Science teacher stated.
On his part, a staff of Tai Solarin College of Education who also spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that “the committee that the state government set up on higher institutions is a good step in the right direction. It is a good means to know the problem faced by these institutions and it will help the government to proffer solution to the issues at hand.
“If some of their recommendations are Implemented by the government, it will portend good future for our education sector in Ogun State,” he said.
Femi Onasanya wrote from Ogun State Ministry of Information,Oke-Mosan,Abeokuta via email@example.com (08036170135)