Hon. Jamiu Babatunde Olawumi, the Special Adviser on Education to Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State recently attended a special education summit in Ilorin, Kwara State capiital. He spoke with some journalists, including Hammed Shittu on the state of education in the state and country in general. Excerpts:
There was an issue about the federal college of education that was approved by the federal government for Osun State. Initially there was controversy over where it was located, as the host government, what is the situation now?
The state government has no position and the federal government owns its college. It has been given to Iwo and I have visited Iwo, myself and commissioner to look at what they can offer about permanent site and temporary site. And Iwo people have positioned themselves to receive the college. So since the federal government is the owner of the college, we are only to host. They didn’t allow us to choose a site for them, they announced the location, if they had announced that Osun Governor, Alhaji Oyetola go and decide, it’s a different story. But the baby was given birth to and the name was attached to the arms as Federal College of Education, Iwo and so be it.
When you came into office, what were the agenda of the government and how has it been so far?
Before the inauguration of the present administration of Governor Gboyega Oyetola, we made wide consultations across the state. First, we went on a thank you tour in December 2018, we tagged it ‘meeting of the people at the constituency’. When we got there, the governor expressed his gratitude for all their support and we also listened to them as they made input into what the government should do in each of the constituencies. Eventually we relapsed into town hall meetings which were conducted to draw people into government. The essence of the town hall meeting is to enable all Osun residents and citizens to make a checklist of what is demanded of the government and what the government is able to do at the end of the term. So in the town hall meetings, policies of the government for the past eight years then were looked at, and where we think we should readjust coming from the people so that they can say they are enjoying the dividends of the democracy because the first reward you have in the government is that you have your mouth there.
Whatever your idea is, the government is listening so at the end of it, we collated the repertoires for the constituencies, the needs of the people and those needs form the agenda for the government to run. So what the governor did in the first year was to try to situate these demands of governance and those informed his choices of cabinet members so that whoever is coming in, has an agenda already drawn by the people or the governor himself. So that was how we started, education was given the mandate of what to do as demanded by the people and so on and so forth.
Before I came into office, there was Department of Foreign Development (DFID), I also consulted on the needs of the people across the state and then their report, as concerned education was also forwarded to us and those requests from the people and the DFID also corroborated the town hall meeting report. So for instance, all the policies in education that we are looking at today were drawn from the town hall meetings and DFID reports.
What is the policy of your administration on education?
In our first memo to the executive council, myself and the commissioner diligently discussed those issues, our memo is a six-point memo to the executive council. One of those issues there is the National Policy on Education, the policy is 6-3-3-4 meanng six years in primary school, three years in junior school, three years in senior school and four years in tertiary education as applicable. For eight years, Osun State did not run 6-3-3-4 but 4-5-3-4. Let me explain that; it means that primary five and six were moved into secondary school prematurely.
If you look at the age grade expected in junior secondary school, you don’t expect anybody below age 10 and if you go by the policy that a child must be six years before he starts primary school, so by 12 or 13, that’s when a child should be in secondary school and if you look at the morphological development of individuals at a particular age, a particular person can’t operate higher than his or her age. It means what we had then was having a nine-year-old in secondary school meeting with those who are older who could be bullies and exposed to some other things beyond the age of that child. The surprising aspect of it is that while the government is running 4-5-3-4, the private schools which are more than the public schools with over 4,000 schools; these private schools were not running government programme because it was not enforced. it means children of the poor were made aliens in their fatherland, they were running a programme that was not in the interest of their future for eight years.
One of the negative takeaways of that was that we did not award primary six certificate in Osun for eight years. If you want to join military, they’ll ask for your primary six certificate so those who graduated in primary school at that point in time didn’t have the primary six certificate which you and I had so that policy can’t be sustained again. It is one of the policies we reviewed and anyone who thinks leaving primary school without certificate is a norm will have a problem convincing Nigerians. One of the policies is making a unisex school coeducational, for instance, there is Baptist Girls High School and St. Charles Grammar School in Osogbo.
St Charles is male only while the former is for female, if you now bring boys to Baptist Girls or girls to St. Charles and when they write WAEC, that will create confusion when an individual named Demola Johnson graduates from Baptist Girls High School which is for females. So if our government did not at that point think through what they were doing and people across the state, parents, stakeholders and even the children themselves are saying that we are making their future too challenging, help us revert it and I don’t think we’ve done badly. Another one is the structure itself, the 4-5-3-4, our reason at that time was because we were feeding primary one to four, we don’t want primary five and six to be traumatized, so we moved them to secondary school, good reason, sociological reason but it is not sustainable because it doesn’t help their future, food is not everything.
By the way, let me inform us that the Oyinlola government started school feeding. It was not started by APC, it was inherited by our administration, so anybody who thinks that it was created by APC government perhaps doesn’t know the history of that programme. So if you now say because primary five and six will be traumatised because they were not fed, they should be moved on to secondary school without certificate because of food so it could be impulsive when we were taking the decision but in fair fact, it is for the good of all. So we are talking about policy that will make our party sustainable and remain in the heart of the people as a very better party because we have two contending parties, APC and PDP.
In the past administration, there were some discrepancies in terms of certain policies, for instance, the mixing up of schools and the 6-3-3-4 system. Is there anyway these errors will be corrected in the future?
After our memo to the council, the governor raised another committee to look at the crucial issues. One of them is the mixing of schools and non-conformity of some local governments to the 6-3-3-4 system. Education anywhere in the world cannot be funded by government alone, there are stakeholders who support the government. For example, the old students association who have assisted in providing certain infrastructures for some schools. The review committee succeeded in reverting the names of some schools to their old names. The panel was made up of emeritus professors and educators who were not politicians. These people gave us professional advice on what to do. This is not about anybody but the future of future leaders.
Pundits believe that the governor was part of the administration of Rauf Aregbesola, what was his mind at that point in time on advising his principal on the policy that was currently reviewied?
I am currently the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education and the best I can do if he doesn’t do my bidding is to throw in the towel. The governor tells you what he wants to achieve and as a supporter, you assist him in achieving those goals. Aregbesola’s administration achieved so many things in eight years. Everybody was given a bit of governance which did not allow them to match the space, so as to encourage him to take another look at those policies. As the current administration, we must do whatever we can do to adjust those policies.
What has your administration been doing to woo teachers towards moving education forward?
Myself and the Commissioner for Education, Folorunsho Adedoyin started a stakeholders meeting, we met with NUT, ANCOPPS, forum of old students association. We also met with principals, headmasters and so many of them. We shared our ideas with them and they also shared theirs. They told us their problem. Then after we reassembled secondary and primary school teachers together and we apologized profusely to them for what they passed through in the hands of our administration. For half salaries to some and full to some. After the meeting, we gave all of them our phone numbers. And it was the first time teachers would ever have access to government on how to run schools. And today no parent or guardian can ever come to assault the teachers; it was the assault teachers received that led to the lockdown of schools in the state. Let your teacher know the worth of what he/she is doing, give your teacher integrity let him/her know the qualities of a teacher is inside him/her. By doing this he/she will teach well.
One of the problems we had when students became unruly was that almost all school wore the same uniform, no polices for uniform recognition, hardly do you know the difference between each schools uniform and this act resulted to something bad. For example a politician who is against the government can use that as an allegation. And cultists use them for causing harm in the state. If Aregbesola were to be here it would have been fixed.
School badge on the uniform couldn’t help because you have to move closer to see the name of the school. Now market women, textile dealers and the tailors make more profit from that, using materials. But by next academic session every school would go back to its own uniform. Those who were tempted to sell during the single uniform were taken to Ilesha and were remanded in prison for adulteration. The economic aspect that has been lost has been restored.
Is there any assurance that with the current hardship in the state, the people can be hopeful that things would be much better at the end of this administration?
As things are now, Governor Oyetola is being described generally as a godly, meek, gentle, industrious and intelligent man by the people and he dosen’t look for trouble, as we speak today this government started on a note of revitalization of 20 medical centres. There is no place in Nigeria that has been able to do that, like I said equipped medical centers except for nine general hospitals we are constructing, we are also building 100 hospital beds at Asubiaro for resident doctors, all within the space of one and a half years, we are constructing 54 kilometers of road. And there were areas that for 22 years, I cannot remember when the roads were tarred in Ofatelade in Alekuwodo, Peter Ajibola, Sawmill and Akindeko among others. Today, we have completed those roads.
In fact, it was one of the takeaways of the election for those people, they wanted to give a protest vote against our party. But on assurance by the governor who was candidate that “I will do your road, I will tar it”, they took him by his word and they voted for him. And the first round of roads we would be doing, we have completed those roads. All the inner roads, they have done it. Look at the COVID-19 pandemic, the diligence and commitment to the welfare of the people has done Osun a lot of pride among the comity of states in Nigeria. Because of the diligence, commitment and assistance from men of integrity, leaders of the people assisted us in putting up infrastructures.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in this case gave us a lot of money to build Isolation centres and we are better for it. If you look at welfare and the sense of commitment he has given to the welfare of the people, if you go to town, my governor is rated very well. In every ten people, eight people will say Oyetola is wonderful. And I want to challenge anybody to conduct opinion poll and let us see the result.
What is the position of your government on the federal government issue in the state about institutions?
Our schools are doing well today. One, there is reduction in acrimony and industrial issues. Normally what will cause unrest in schools is protest by workers when the work is no longer going on well. Like I said the other time, when Aregbesola started restoring full payment and other packages, it was also extended to tertiary institutions. So our schools are no longer restive. In addition to that, we have given them sense of belonging to contribute to the running of those schools. We don’t have board of governing councils but the ministry of education supervises as council. There is nothing they are doing there that we don’t supervise very well. We have increased students possibly, we have engaged workers and if you go to some of those schools, you will give credit to what they are doing. I was just passing at the front of Osun State College of Education, Ilesa Campus, what the management has done to that school, in terms of aesthetics, you will marvel.
it is very outstanding. During this COVID-19 pandemic their contribution towards helping the residents in town is marvelous. I have a copy of the sanitizer produced by that college to support government in the fight against COVID-19. Our academic year has been running without interference or interruption and the students are doing well. For instance, we are also looking at the academic staff profile of those schools. Very soon, we will be receiving results of accreditation that those courses are accredited and we also considering employing more teachers and lecturers who will go there, the processes have been very competitive.