Education as a catalyst for Oyetola’s development agenda ( Part I) By Adebayo Adedeji

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Quality education is the springboard for genuine progress. The great Plato even says so in his preachment. Plato was a Greek aristocrat, philosopher and dialectician who was hostile to everything base and vulgar. His treatise on education is eternally seminal. He, like Socrates his preceptor, holds that a soul, which already possesses power to learn, is nurtured to love wisdom and truth by creating a good environment for learning. Plato believes a functional education is one that is capable of comprehensively solving future challenges and
producing competent adults to meet the needs of the country. Meanwhile, can an ideal adult, as conceptualised by Plato, be produced in an environment full of strife and tension and confusion, as Osun was some years back, when education policy, which was at variance with what obtained nationally, was a subject of heated debates? However, the decision of the current government of Adegboyega Oyetola to cure the defects in the disruptive old policy, emplace institutional framework, increase the budget fund for education, recruit 1,000 teachers, etc, etc, have restored all hopes and confidence. This article, divided into three parts, will speak to some of this issue.

If there is any action of Governor Oyetola that has endeared him to the people and projected him as a thoughtful administrator, it is his political will to implement the recommendations of the Olu-Aina Committee regarding the education policy his government inherited. Recall on assumption of office in November 2018, Oyetola, in response to agitation of stakeholders, had set up an 11-member committee headed by Professor Olu Aina, former chief of the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB). In the committee were Professor Ibidapo-Obe, former UNILAG VC, Professor Oluwayemisi Obilade, former VC of TASUED, Professor Pai Obanya, Dr Iyi Uwadiae, ex-Registrar of WAEC and other eminent educationalists in the country.

The committee, after its sittings, recommended that the abberant and chaotic 4-5-3-4 policy and reclassification of schools into elementary, middle and high school be changed to the 6-3-3-4 to align with the national policy on education. The committee further recommended that the alien idea of same school uniform be discarded to accommodate cultural identity and foundational peculiarities of each school.

The implementation of the new education policy by Oyetola has not only remedied the social dislocation caused by the abrogated policy, it has also brought about administrative convenience, sectoral harmony and effective partnership among stakeholders which have resulted in the injection of about =N=3billion by alumni of secondary schools across the state. According to the Commissioner for Education in Osun State, Folorunsho Bamisayemi Bambam, St Lawrence, Ilesha old boys association, for example, has since committed over =N=70million for the renovation of the school’s laboratories and the classrooms. This has been possible just because the government chose to review an unfriendly policy which previously alienated the old student association.

The Christian Association of Nigeria, equally, has lauded the state governor for the careful review of the education policy of the previous administration, saying the action has reduced tension in our schools. In his words, Pastor Elijah Fagbile, the association’s Vice Chairman in the state, “Oyetola’s achievement in the education sector, especially the review of education policy is indeed a welcomed one. Such a bold initiative salvaged the state from religious tension created by the previous education policies.”

Similarly, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) commended the state government for the reintroduction of the Early Childhood Development Education, describing it as neccesary for remarkable brain development. According to Dr Tushar Rene, the field officer in Nigeria, “The commencement of the ECDE is a good development. UNICEF Nigeria will continue to support State of Osun’s Ministry, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Education.”

UNICEF, an agency of the United Nations responsible for providing humanitarian and development aid to children worldwide, acknowledged the political boldness of Governor Oyetola to reverse a policy that had hitherto stunted the successful steering of an important programme like ECDE.

The primacy Governor Oyetola gives education is also reflected in his drive to appropriate adequate fund for it. The yearly budgetary allocation is a testament of his commitment to the sector. In spite of financial challenges bedevilling Osun, Oyetola does not pay lip service to education. In the 2022 budget christened “Budget of Sustainable Development,” =N=26.6 billion, representing 21% of the total expenses for the year, was allocated to education sector. This even surpasses the UNESCO benchmark of 15-20 % of the annual budget for education. This, of course, is an improvement on the 2021 budget for this same sector. =N=10.7 billion, representing 18% of the 2021 budget, was what went to education last year. No government in the annals of the state has recorded this feat. Nay, no state in the country, with the exception of Kaduna, has committed as much as 21% of its annual spending on education. Devoting huge resources to this critical sector demonstrates the government’s emphasis on the education as a driver of human capital development and essential ingredient of its Development Agenda.

Money answereth all things. Access to better funding has motivated the Ministry of Education to implement its yearly plan and reposition it for efficient service delivery. Although the allocation, in real terms, may be grossly inadequate considering the ambitious programme of the government, that the biggest slice of the budget is voted for the ministry accentuates the dedication of the Oyetola led government to education.

Just a year in the life of this administration, in 2019, 32 blocks of newly constructed 167 classrooms came on board, 31 public secondary schools were renovated, 8,900 units of students furniture and 900 teacher furniture were procured and distributed to schools. Today, over 200 school buildings have either be newly constructed or renovated for the use of students. Could these have been possible if the needed fund had not been made available? The last time the state government recruited teachers into its schools was 2013. This year, no fewer than 1,000 teachers, mostly science-oriented graduates, were employed by the state government. Could the state have undertaken this critical step if there has not been deliberate and concerted effort to remodel education in the state to an enviable height capable of adequately grooming the students towards making the desired impact and contributing to future development of the state?

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