INDEPENDENT OPINION: Osun School Reclassification – Before the Delusion Sells
The Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the State of Osun did not get their facts right about the Education Reform package of the State Government under Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. CAN has come up with very interesting but factually erroneous issues upon which the leaders of the organisation based its reservation to the implementation of some aspects of the reform. Specifically, CAN leaders said christian schools were merged with non-christian ones thereby compelling the christian students to attend (and possibly) learn non-christian doctrines.
The CAN leaders also attempted to justify this erroneous view by pointing to the inclusion of the study of Ifa Knowledge in the school curriculum in the state. They also claimed that students of single-sex schools are pooled into mixed schools thereby changing the character of those schools. Now what are the facts? As part of the Education Reform package, the state government embarked on the building of ultra-modern schools with proper educational facilities. This material fact has not been denied by the CAN leaders because it is the real gospel truth.
The building of the schools across the state was in line with the reclassification of the schools in the state into Elementary, Middle and High Schools. The Elementary School is for children aged six to nine and it has grades 1-4 corresponding to the old primary 1-4. The ultra-modern Elementary Schools accommodate 900 pupils each. The Middle School would be for pupils aged 10-14 and it correspond to old Primary 5 to Junior Secondary School 3.
This has the new education grade system 5 to 9 while the last category, the High Schools accommodate those in the old Senior Secondary School Classes 1 to 3 having grade levels 10 to 12. Other components of the complete reform package has the free school feeding program, the computerisation of the school instruction and learning materials, as encapsulated in Opon Imo, the redesign of the school uniform and the reclassification of the schools. Let me quickly add here that the curriculum of learning was also improved upon by the inclusion of subjects that would make the children learn and understand our indigenous knowledge.
Now to the main issue of contest by CAN.
It is categorically not true that the Governor merged Christian schools with a non-Christian ones as there was no public Christian or Islamic schools in Osun. The schools which were affected by the reclassification were all public schools. Yes, it would be true to say some schools were originally established by Christian missions but 38 years ago, these schools were taken over by government and the original owners were adequately compensated. Since then, all these schools have lost the characteristic of the original founders and took on that of secularity.
So it would be wrong now to say Christian schools were being merged with non-Christian ones. On the surface, the argument of the CAN leaders that single-sex students are being pooled into mixed school might look sound on the ground of morals but experience has shown that this position is not. Indeed research findings on same-sex education has shown that separating girls and boys in classrooms made it difficult for them to learn how to efficiently and harmoniously work together. The American Department of Education also established that single-sex classroom or school practise does not guarantee success in education, rather other factors such as good learning environment and instructional materials do. Also, research has established that children spend their formative years in the classroom developing skills that will help them maintain relationships throughout their lives.
If a child has little exposure to the opposite sex, building meaningful friendships and even successful romantic relationships can be difficult. Research published by Dr. Lynn Liben in 2011 shows that there is strong evidence of negative consequences accompanying segregating by sex and that doing so promotes the development of negative gender stereotypes. Today, our society is full of undesirable homosexual behaviour. The population of Nigerian gay and lesbians are becoming so loud that there is advocacy for same sex marriage. Has CAN undertook research to know the effect of single school system on this? Emerging from this, the position of CAN leaders on single schools may not aid family unity as a child that goes through single school may grow up without appreciating the need for matrimonial harmony.
In any case, the rationale behind the school reclassification was the need to maximise the educational advantage to the students in the face of the lean financial resources available to the State. With the new schools, every student in the State would have access to better and more conducive learning environment which were hitherto unavailable for them in the old derelict schools.
The argument of CAN leaders on the inclusion of Ifa in the curriculum clearly pointed to the fact that they did not understand the need to promote Yoruba culture and knowledge so that it is saved from extinction. The Ifa divination system, which makes use of an extensive corpus of texts and mathematical formulas, is practiced among Yoruba communities and by the African diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean.
This was established by the UNESCO and it was equally established that colonialism led to tagging such indigenous body of knowledge, which clearly established code of ethics and morals for our parents, as inferior to the religion or way of life brought by the colonial people hence the misconception that only two religions of christianity and Islam are sacrosanct. There is however no doubt from the point of the constitution and democracy that those who believe in IFA has the right as well to propagate such and now that the Ifa has been included in the curriculum, there are choices of what to study for the children. The need for choices underscored why no religious study was made compulsory in the State.
The truth is that Governor Aregbesola does not promote any religion in the schools in Osun. It is deliberate falsehood to try to twist this fact. In April this year, the President of Baptist Convention Rev. Supo Ayokunle underscored the unbiased nature of the governor when he stated that the Baptist Mission would continue to hold the governor in high esteem, as he had clearly demonstrated tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the people of all faiths.
The Rev clergy described Aregbesola as amiable, visionary, a gift to this generation, a friend and a man of the people. All these took place at the Baptist Convention. Nothing has changed in the inclusive and integrative manner the governor has related to every religion in the state. Just as the governor has stated in many of his public statements, his focus and attention is to enhance the standard of living of the people, especially children in the state. This is why every leader, social, religious and all should support the fundamental development efforts now taking place in the State of Osun.