It augurs well for education if well implemented

The decision by the Ekiti State government to return mission schools to their original owners in a bid to improve the quality of education is one we wholeheartedly endorse. According to Governor Kayode Fayemi who made the pledge, implementation of the policy would commence in September and the schools to be returned would be named at the start of the next academic session. The return of the schools, Fayemi added, would stamp the administration’s respect for values, promising that government would work out an efficient and workable model as practised in other states where schools had been transferred back to the missions.

Fayemi’s decision is laudable and we enjoin him to fulfil the pledge that his government would pay the teachers and give grants to the schools while the missions would take care of the administration. In supporting the idea of returning schools to the missionaries who built them, we recognise that in most of these schools, the infrastructure had collapsed while the quality of the education being offered is nothing to write home about. Therefore, returning the schools would afford the delivery of quality education, ensure proper character formation and all round development of students.

In returning the schools to the missions Ekiti will be following in the footsteps of Oyo State which did in 2016, Delta, Anambra and many states particularly in the south of the country. The former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, offered reasons for returning the schools to the missions: “The collapse of education in the state is directly connected with the takeover of schools owned by the missionaries, churches and voluntary organisations in 1970. That singular exercise signalled the disappearance of morality and building of character from our school system. This can no longer be allowed’’. Obi would later contribute billions of naira to the churches over a period of time for the upkeep and maintenance of the schools. The impact is very visible: the schools are better-managed, the infrastructural facilities were revamped while the performance of students in examinations is enhanced.

Indeed, back in the olden days of high academic and moral standard in schools, it was the missionary schools that took the lead. St. John’s Secondary School Kaduna, St. Gregory’s Obalende, CMS Grammar School and the Methodist Boys High School both in Lagos, Dennis Memorial Grammar School and Christ the King College both in Onitsha, St. Patrick’s Asaba, and of course the nation’s oldest secondary school, Hope Waddell Calabar, were just a few of the missionary schools that blazed the trail in discipline and academic excellence. But in the 1970s, after the civil war, the concerns for national cohesion prompted the summary usurpation of proprietary rights over private schools by government.

Sadly, whatever goodwill the government expected from seizing the schools was lost by its failure to compensate the original owners of the schools, or treat them with respect during the take-over process. Even worse, nationalisation saw a collapse of values of discipline and staff integrity and a precipitous decline of academic standards. Over the years what has been evident is the collapse of moral standards and discipline, not to mention decline in academic excellence. The entire school system has become epileptic, characterised by strikes and shutdowns as teachers made one frivolous demand after another.

Mission schools are unlikely to put up with the present nauseating attitude of teachers in public schools who more or less make their work part time: many of them engage in petty trading and related activities. Truancy, indiscipline and a laissez-faire attitude to work are the rule rather than exception. We believe Fayemi’s decision to return the missionary schools to their original owners is in the right direction. But it must be well implemented.