Femi Ogbonnikan writes on a one-day education stakeholders’ forum organised by the Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in a bid to reposition the state’s education for outstanding performance
It is common knowledge that education is an effective tool for a nation to attain greater height in its quest for technical know-how and subsequent advancement. That is why it is often said, “if you say education is expensive, why not try ignorance”? Neither building edifices for their fancies nor constructing model colleges without admitting students are panacea for promoting and sustaining qualitative education in a given state, but structured curricula that suit the ever-changing global world.
Essentially, the advent of the British missionaries led by Rev Thomas Birch Freeman in the early 1800s no doubt was a great blessing to the ancient Abeokuta, now Ogun State capital.
With the attendant multiplier effects, evangelism network driven by a penchant for mass literacy of all and sundry shot Ogun State into prominence as the cradle of western education.
The state has produced great icons and pioneers such as Alexander Akintola Sapara-Williams (the first Nigerian lawyer); Hon Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu (the first Nigerian judge to sit on the Supreme Court bench); Sir Adetokunbo Ademola (the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria); Chief Obafemi Awolowo (the first Nigerian lawyer to head a regional government); Chief Simeon Adebo (pioneer Permanent Secretary, Head of Civil Service and Permanent Representative of Nigeria at the United Nations).
Others are: Prof. Anthony Asiwaju (renowned historian); Prof. Wole Soyinka (black Africa’s first Nobel Laureate); Dr. Tai Solarin (foremost educationist); Adeoye Lambo (a one-time Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation); Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti (leading light in health medicine); Chief Adeola Odutola (foremost educationist, merchant and philanthropist); Chief Kolawole Ajayi (SAN); Chief (Mrs.) Kuforiji Olubi (foremost banker); Prof. Adebayo Adedeji (foremost economist); Chief Kehinde Sofola (SAN); Chief Idowu Sofola (SAN); Chief Abraham Adesanya (SAN); among others.
While appraising the sharp decline in the educational qualities of the students being churned out from both the elementary (primary) and secondary schools, and to tertiary institution level in the last one decade, the present administration in the state led by Prince Dapo Abiodun is doing the utmost to restore the lost glory.
With well over 17 tertiary institutions (both public and private) that operate in the state, the governor is poised to bequeath an enduring policy that would rejig the educational curricula in response to the ever-changing trends.
At a day education stakeholders’ forum tagged ‘Repositioning Our Education for Outstanding Performance’ that attracted foremost educationists and resource persons, held at June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta on September 20, 2019, the governor underscored the importance of the sector as the only beckon of hope to attaining technological development and economic growth of any nation.
“I said in my inaugural speech that we would declare an emergency on the education sector. We have the largest number of tertiary and primary institutions in this country. We are what we call, as I described in my speech “what Boston is to the United States.” However, the results of our students in both internal and external examinations have been on a decline.
“In the past, Ogun State’s position used to be in a digit, but now we are at the bottom five. This is unacceptable as the state is known to be first in every facet of our nation life. We cannot continue and we are doing everything possible to reverse the trend.
As a result, we are following it up with the rehabilitation of 236 primary and secondary schools in each of our wards across the state.
“We set up committees to resolve issues that affected the smooth running of academic activities in some of our tertiary institutions.
“The committees have since submitted their reports and recommendations. I want to assure our good people that education which is one of our pillars, will continue to receive due and prompt attention,” the governor added.
Abiodun, while promising that teaching and learning conditions in public schools would be improved, added that teachers and non-teaching staff would be trained and retrained in latest teaching methods and schools’ administration.
He promised that their welfare would also remain paramount to ensure improved performance of students in both local and international examinations.
The Special Adviser (SA) on Higher Education to the Governor, Prof. (Mrs.) Sidi Osho in her paper, ‘Roadmap on Ogun State Education Programme’, identified strategic sustainable and economic plan for education to include quality and quantity of physical infrastructure; state-of-the-art learning resource; addressing the out-of-school children phenomenon; strengthening basic and secondary school education; teacher education, capacity building and professional development; adult literacy and special needs education; education data, planning and development; curriculum and benchmark minimum academic standard; and technical and vocational education and training.
According to Osho, who was the pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ekiti State, the Ogun State strategy is meant to serve every student by giving every student equal opportunity to succeed; making primary and secondary education universal for all; providing access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education; ensuring the equal access for all to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university; developing relevant skills for future employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship; achieving gender equality in all levels of education; improving literacy, numeracy and essential life skills of people; acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to promote the sustainable development and lifestyles where all the human rights are granted, gender equality is established; the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence are successful, among others.
She noted that the state holds essential benefits to its citizens which in turn reduces poverty, which is the most terrifying issue for the society; enabling the flow of additional income and the possibility of occupying better career positions; enabling young men and women to about plenty of mistakes that happen due to lack of information and discussions; and promoting peaceful co-existence.
Also, Osho remarked that the Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is guided by CAP 35-Edict of 1978 which states the objectives of the State Education Policy Thrust to include allowing education of higher quality irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic background; equipping students to live effectively in a modern world of science and technology; developing and projecting the Nigerian culture and language as well as in numeracy and cultural heritage; rearing a generation of people who can think for themselves; inspiring students with a desire for achievement and self-employment, both at school and later in life; and enabling them to live and function as good citizens.
· In her remarks, the Special Adviser on Primary, Secondary and Technical Education to the Governor, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo noted that education is the only legacy that could be given to the young generation, adding that raising the bar of education in the state is a major priority of the state government.
In her paper, ‘Effective/Impactful Leadership and Management in Schools’, Mrs. Adedoyin Adesina looked into how to “unlock the creative and critical mind.”
According to her, “if teachers hold the key to ‘potential’ and ‘promise’, are custodians of the ‘irrepressible’ minds in our custody, what are the key enabling factors the school management must provide to ensure this happens seamlessly and consistently in the classrooms? As a school teacher, examine your role and your entry behaviour; are your goals and visions clearly articulated? Are these outcomes driven”?
Also, Adesina, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Corona Schools’ Trust Council, delved into ‘Best Practices that make a Difference’.
“To be effective and impactful in a transformative and regenerative dispensation, you must be dynamic and strategic and work hard to hone your skills to become better at what you do. You must lead the way, and the truth is that students and teachers perform better when directed by high quality leaders; studies from the Wallace Foundation, a philanthropic educational organisation, report that “leadership is second only to classroom instruction among school-related factors that affect student learning in schools. Teacher quality stood above everything else, but principal leadership came next, outstripping matters, including dropout rates, STEM education, student testing, and preparation for college and careers; and knowing this, what are some critical practices to consider”?
While narrowing it down to the realities on ground in the state, Adesina raised six posers:
· What is the set standard for schools in Ogun state?
· How do these standards prepare our students for the challenges of the new century and the contemporary global world?
· What is your role as school leaders and administrators in helping to actualise the vision?
· What are the critical resources/strategies you require to achieve this?
· What would you consider to be the most critical school leadership best practices to follow for making your school successful?
· How do you ensure these impact performances?
Other discussants, including Mr. Olatunji Akoni, CISCO Consultant to South West Resource Centre, Abeokuta, ANCOPSS President, Dr. A Womiloju, Permanent Secretary, Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Ola Aikulola, among others, commended the efforts of the present administration in the state for placing more premium on the education sector towards restoring the lost glory of the past.
Ogbonnikan is Media Consultant to the Ogun State Governor