By Isaac Olusesi

LIfe is no longer deadly, brutish and short for pupils in Osun public schools. Today, an Osun child no longer wakes up unkempt to the drudgery of hawking wares all day. He or she is no longer vulnerable to all kinds of danger. This is because as Governor Rauf Aregbesola marked his 6th year in office, the pupils have got state-of–the–art school buildings. In their variants and numbers, these have been formally commissioned. It is a deliberate response to the strains and pains the pupils in Osun schools were made to pass through during the erstwhile government in the state.  The pupils grew up with low esteem, phobia, anxiety, disorder, aggression and truancy. Threats to their health and safety hampered their right to qualitative education in a conducive environment. Statistics showed that a high number of the pupils dropped out of school. Others were put into child labour with the attendant physical, mental and emotional abuse, torture, neglect and maltreatment of all kinds that took a heavy toll on them.

The state had overcrowded, ill-ventilated classrooms, lack of trained, qualified teachers; lack of workshops for teachers’ re-training; inadequate books; poor laboratory equipment/teaching aids; and poorly dressed, malnourished pupils. Private schools in the state did not fare better either. Osun was bedeviled by the multiplicity of private schools located in churches, mosques, motor parks, club houses, tree shades and room and parlour apartments in a free-for-all atmosphere. The scenery was a mixed grill of uncertainty, a confusion that adversely affected the education sector. Private schools did not meet the increasing demand for qualitative education. Generally, Osun State during the past administration witnessed an era of proliferation of public and private schools, as government did not pay attention to their growth, development and sustenance, which is necessary for education reform in the state.

Specifically, the combination of poor funding, poor quality control, poor evaluation of schools and poor political will ruined the Osun education system. The sector did not make any significant impact. The decay in the management of schools in the State required proper handling by Aregbesola’s government. And, strategies have been put in place to address it. The resolution of the education crisis in the state has been tailored towards capacity building for curriculum implementation and a functional entrepreneurial education with skills that prepare the pupils to compete favourably with their counterparts in the country and beyond. The governor is aware that access to qualitative education would maximally reduce economic problems such as indiscipline and indolence. These are partly caused by poor curricula and subjects that were not properly taught in the school system.

As a result, the teachers and students were not properly motivated. Things were half-heartedly done in the areas of teaching and learning. And, the state governor was thus confronted with the problem of generating things that will motivate pupils to learn. Also, boosting of the capacity of teachers to improve their productivity and enhanced provision of requisite tools to facilitate teaching and learning were lacking. The Osun Education Colloquium on “Resolving the Educational Crisis, Bridging Analysis and Implementation Gaps” held recently agreed with Aregbesola’s recipe against the constraints which crippled education in the state.

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As a corollary, his government went straight to reposition the state education system, with school re-classification; physical infrastructure development; school feeding and health intervention; as well as the provision of tablets of knowledge- Opon Imo. This 4-contact strategy has democratised education in the state. The re-classification of schools ended the former Primary 1 – 4 into Elementary School of Grades 1 – 4. The former Primary 5 & 6 and Junior Secondary School (JSS) 1 – 3, subsumed under Middle School of Grades 5 – 9. And the Senior Secondary School (SSS) 1 – 3 classes were re-structured into High School of Grades 10-12. Interestingly, the re-classification has not disrupted the national school curriculum and normal school calendar in the state. Neither has it modified the 9 – 3 – 4 national policy on education. How? The Primary 5 and 6 pupils, with those in JSS 1 – 3 in the Middle School graduate with the Basic Education Certificate (BECE), before they move to the High School for a 3—year Senior School Certificate (SSC). Rather, in Osun , the school re-classification runs on 4 – 5 – 3 – 4 system. This has fostered effective quality control and evaluation of teaching and learning. It has also stopped multiplicity of schools and the attendant overstretched scarce resources, while permitting the application of global best practices in education to Osun. It eased the supply of appropriate teaching aids to classes of same age pupils and relieved parents of financial burden of administering the schools. Besides, it has made available best facilities, including Information Communication Technology (ICT) in schools.  It is envisaged that the re-classification will reverse the poor performances of Osun pupils in public examinations, and transform them into  informed citizens who can midwife  desirable changes in politics, economy, society, science and technology in the task of nation-building.

The Osun government’s effort in the education sector has removed the  dilapidated, neglected school buildings and inconducive learning environment. Of the 100 Elementary Schools, 50 Middle Schools and 20 High Schools in the infrastructure upgrade under the first phase, government has successfully commissioned 20 Elementary Schools, 22 Middle Schools, and 13 High Schools. The Elementary Schools have 500 classrooms of standard dimensions, with capacity for 900 pupils between ages 6-and 9 per school, who enjoy free books, free mid-day meals and de-worming vaccines that address micronutrient deficiencies, and improve their nutritional status. And the Middle Schools, for pupils within age range of 10-14years from 3-4 kilometers catchment radius, have 550 standard classrooms, with capacity for 900-1000 pupils per school; while high school(s), for students of 15-17years of age, have capacity for 3,000 students per school at 1,000 students per wing.

Olusesi writes from the Directorate of Publicity, Research & Strategy, Osun State.