INDEPENDENT OPINION – Re: The Christians Against Aregbesola
I read this piece on the back page of Punch of today 17th Oct 2013 by Abimbola Adelakun and commend the writer’s informed views on many of the issues.
I however have serious disagreement with the writer on some issues below.
The writer wrote “My preliminary assessment of the re-classification remedy masquerading as a revamp of the education sector is that it is meretricious, and does not demonstrate genuine commitment to resolving the problems of education …. Why do governors go for artificial restructuring while they neglect the real issues of funding, curriculum content development, continuous teacher retraining among others? “
The question is a valid question when asked generally. However in the spirit of responsible intellectual discuss, I would have expected the writer to have made an effort to find out (through any sources) what Aregbesola’s government may have done/or failed to do on these specific issues raised and then comment agreeing, disagreeing, or advising in relation to them.
Otherwise how do you expect a thinking government to respond without restructuring to optimise resources, between for example a school with 15 teachers and 120 students population and another with 30 teachers and 600 students, both with dilapidated structures which are in such sorry state that even animals will complain being there.
It is widely reported that Aregbesola’s government increased running cost of schools – given to Principals to maintain schools – which he met at between N200 to N600 per month depending on the size of the school (Two hundred to six hundred Naira) to N400 per pupil per term implying a movement from N600 Naira per term to N40,000 (forty thousand) per term for a school with hundred pupils. It has also been reported that more than 2000 teachers have been retrained in collaboration with Osun State University in a continuous process of teacher re-training while substantial work has been done in terms of curriculum and provision of instructional materials including books, learning aids and Opon Imo, the internationally acclaimed Tablet of Knowledge.
Same government has been commended by UNICEF and several international agencies and won awards for providing nutritionally rich free meals to pupils in primary 1-4, provision of free school uniforms to about 750,000 students in public schools, increase in examination and running grants to schools and reduction in school fees in state-owned tertiary institutions.
Going by the National Education Policy there is no secondary school as we used to know it in the 70s and 80s. Now what we have is the 9- years Universal Basic Education – which enjoys financial support from the Federal Government – and 3 years Senior Secondary School which is entirely state funded. The 9-years is further divided in Lagos and some states which have attempted to implement it properly as 6 years primary, 3 years Junior Secondary and 3 years Senior Secondary. The Junior and Senior Secondary Schools are run as distinct schools with different structures and administrative heads.
Aregbesola’s government’s reclassification has not done anything to affect this 9-years, 3-years structure and it is not the basis of any of the current complaints from CAN or any of the religious organisations.
The current complaints are fall – outs of the infrastructure upgrade and the need to maximise physical, human and financial resources.
Has the writer checked the state of any of such schools before and the replacement structures constructed by Aregbesola’s government which necessitated the restructuring and reclassification before using words like meretricious or madcap to describe such efforts? (Please see attached file, Salvation Army School before and after.jpg and http://osun.gov.ng/education/oschools/model-middle-school/ )
Must we in the name of demonstrating writing skill use such a word that if incorrect in usage portrays the user as not only unfair and discouraging of genuine efforts at nation building, but also as indecent?
Osun Baptist Conference has a mixed-sex secondary school in Osogbo founded in year 2000 – Zion Baptist High School (in the premises of a school formerly called Newton memorial ) but are against mixing boys and girls in government -owned school which name was retained as Baptist school.
Same Baptist changed Baptist Boys High School in Iwo to Baptist High School to put girls there several years ago and it is still a mixed –sex school till today after government take over. So in Iwo the complaint is different from Osogbo, it is Hijab and not mixing of sexes.
It is because we run a deceptive and lawless society that any group of people can claim ownership of whatever kind, on schools taken over 38 years ago through the instrumentality of the law which they have not challenged in court.
They have for all intent and purposes not contributed to further development of the schools and do not pay teachers or any of the workers in the schools. They have gone ahead to found and run new schools with permissions from government.
In other places where people have respect for rules and laws and respect for the rights of other citizens, they will be prosecuted and fined for disrupting the peace. They will be held in very low esteem by the populace as liars and people working against the interest of the common man. But here religious leaders buy private jets without any other means of income beyond exploitation of the gullible and the society idolises them.
If we must call a spade its name, CAN, Baptist, Muslims and any other so called religious organisations claiming ownership on the schools, are being economical with the truth and except society rises up irrespective of our faiths against the indefensible, the self emancipation desired to make positive changes in our lives will continue to be illusory.
Governments in the South West have been bound to free education , not necessarily willingly but because Awo succeeded in making a positive difference in this region with it. We are yet to see any of the so called mission schools – Christian, Muslim or whatever – being free or even affordable to the widow, whose mite is collected everyday to build and run the schools in the name of God, while proceeds are used to pay salaries of missionaries.
I also disagree with the writers comments on Hijab in public Schools. We are a multi-religious and not a secular state as many people tend to proclaim. See section 38, Subsection 1-4 of the Nigeria constitution. Subsection 2 says and I quote :
“No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.”
The implication of this is that no child must be discriminated against by virtue of religious beliefs. If a child has grown up from childhood with the head covered or in any way that is not offensive to society at large, going to school should not impose on the child a contrary way of dressing in the name of uniforms. This writer knows at least a Nigerian girl attending Christian secondary school in the UK without restrictions whatsoever on wearing of Hijab not to talk of those in public schools. No school uniform should restrict one’s rights to practise his/her faith.
It is also condemnable in Yoruba land to discriminate against anyone because of religion. Yoruba have been the most tolerant of nations with everyone free to practise his/her faith under the same roof and within same family without hindrance. Agents of foreign domination should be condemned unequivocally for fanning intolerance amongst our people.
Finally a fair appraisal of Aregbesola’s actions in relation to religion which the writer unthinkingly labelled as ‘‘pandering’’ and ‘’madness without methodology’’ will show clearly that he is simply being fair and just to all, whatever their religious beliefs – upholding the Constitution of the Federal Republic – without denying his own right as a citizen to hold and practise his personal religious tendency. It is simple enough for discerning people to understand without resulting to demeaning vocabulary.
If Aregbesola is guilty, it will be in his failure to get his information handlers to do the needful, by educating the generality of people about his actions in simple language they can understand, so they do not get deceived by the posturing of those whose stock in trade is exploitation of the gullible masses for personal aggrandisement.
Kola Omotunde-Young is an IT and Human Development practitioner resident in Oke Fia, Osogbo.