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Re: Imperatives of a Re-jig of Oyo State Education Sector

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By Jim Badru

I read with astonishment the above-mentioned title in your esteemed WESTERN POST of 13-19 September, 2015 edition, as authored by Dr. Gbade Ojo, the immediate-past Special Adviser on Political Matters, to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.

As a matter of fact, the falling standard in our educational system in Nigeria is not peculiar to Oyo State; it is a national experience that has aggregated to the low-quality university graduates annually churned out by our tertiary institutions all over the country. The situation is now so bad that overseas employers and institutions usually subject our graduates to various forms of ad-hoc scrutinies to authenticate the worth of our certificates.

A few years ago, Nigerian universities, in a concerted effort to remove the stigma of inferiority of our university degrees, were compelled to devise their own means of tackling the problem of low-quality entrants matriculating into their system by setting up their own pre-degree and post-JAMB examinations to assure the academic quality of their intakes that only above-average students of scholastic potential are admitted into their setup. As a matter of course, most Nigerians, especially parents, were critically sceptical of this, as it is cumbersome and regarded as a duplication of JAMB’s role which shows lack of confidence in the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, as many students were denied admission into the university system of their choice when they fail to meet their cut-off policy.

Many causative factors were responsible for the falling standard of education in Nigeria. First and foremost, there is a population explosion of students seeking admission to the tertiary institutions and secondly, the intrinsic tendency of most parents that all their children must attend a tertiary institution is another. Even though, there are presently many public and private tertiary institutions in the country, more than hitherto, it is still worrisome that a preponderant majority of admission seekers still experience immense difficulty in getting entry into them as admission parameters are highly competitive and the cost of university education in Nigeria is prohibitive especially the privately-owned ones..

While federal and state-owned universities are mostly subsidized, the private universities are quite expensive and only the children of the aristocrats and influential elites could get admission into them. To alleviate this problem and make university education accessible to most students, the Federal Government, as a deliberate educational policy, established a federal university in each of the thirty-six states of the Federation to enable the children of the proletariat to have access to tertiary education.

Population explosion of students in the country and the inadequate funding and poor infrastructures in our existing federal and state-owned tertiary institutions and student indiscipline and the lackadaisical attitude and lack of dedication on the part of the teaching staff in all our institutions, from secondary to tertiary, are some of the festering social factors militating against the production of high-quality university graduates. Many critics of our tertiary institutions are of the belief that the federal and state governments should increase funding of the existing institutions, at least, to about 15% of our Annual National Budget in order to enhance their teaching quality and research capabilities rather than establishing many more poorly-funded new ones.

Our individual home is the greatest single social factor affecting the quality of the university products we regularly turn into the scarce employment market. The global liberal attitude of most parents in bringing up their children has, unfortunately, resulted in the lackadaisical orientation of our young ones. Most of our youths are lazy and hedonistic, not wanting to do any serious work before being fabulously remunerated. When they carry this well-ingrained background into their academics, one can easily imagine the quality of graduates we eventually get. Most Students are now very adept at examination malpractices of various kinds in spite of the sanctions imposed by our penal system. Whether we like it or not, we must realize that the problem of stamping out examination malpractices among students is a tripartite venture between academic authorities, parents and Government Agencies.

On the part of parents, the standard of ethical values in our homes should be critically reviewed in order to lay good examples to our youths so that when they go out, they will behave properly and be honest in all their dealings with the society at large. Parents should be encouraged to be good models for their children and they should always remind the children that dishonesty and lewd sexual behavior among students will attract sanctions by the society at all times.

The Oyo State Government on its own part must not shy away from its responsibility of making laws to reactivate the administration of magisterial and corrective corporal punishment to erring incorrigible students for the purpose of making them amenable to norms of good behavior, not minding the hues and cries from some pseudo liberalist-activists who promote irresponsibility and indolence in the society. The present system of over-indulgence of students in Public Secondary Schools is compromising high standard of scholarship among them and there is no way we can achieve high-quality education if immediate remedial measures are not taken. The government can also include mandatory credit-pass in Civics in Public Secondary Schools to enhance the public morality of our youths right from the school.

While we are lamenting the fall in the standard of education all over the country, the Oyo State Government must recognize that not all students in Public Secondary Schools are materials for the tertiary institutions. Therefore, they can start career counseling at JSS3 in order to categorize talented students who are naturally endowed for vocational skills acquisition from the potential academics who will proceed to the Senior Secondary Classes. I believe this was the original conception of the 6-3-3-4 educational system.

All students right from secondary schools must be encouraged to imbibe the spirit of hard-work by the introduction of extramural teaching from JSS3 upwards in order to add quality time to their teaching period. This measure which the Oyo State Government has now introduced in Public Secondary Schools in the state is a well-meaning and commendable step in the right direction.

On the issue of payment of an annual Development Levy of N3,000 by students in Public Secondary Schools payable in 3 terminal installments, my submission is that this is not well-considered. Although the education levy is not too high, yet it could have been avoided if the Oyo State Government had done its education planning properly before embarking on free education for students.

Accurate statistics of children of secondary school age was available to the government by which they could have estimated the likely costs of educating them in addition to the cost of provision of infrastructures, the anticipated quality and quantity of teachers required and cost of all teaching and administrative and other support staff, and how many classrooms that will be required in all the 8 educational zones of the state and adequate provisions made for unforeseen expenditures. Here, it is pertinent to point out that the state government, like all other states of the federation, receives regular grants for Universal Basic Education from the Federal Government. This shows that the burden of education is not solely borne by the state government and everything depends on the priorities of individual states. A pragmatic and result-oriented education framework is what the state government should have critically looked at before taking on the burden of free education.

The population explosion of students in our schools has overstretched the available educational resources in an enormous dimension. Although, it may not be admitted by the government itself, I have witnessed cases here in the state capital Ibadan where more than 80 students were crowded in a single class and about half of the students were sitting on window ledges instead of chairs. This showed that more infrastructures are needed in terms of desks, chairs and even more classroom spaces and teachers.

The bitter truth is that majority of parents can not afford sending their children to fee-paying private secondary schools patronized by the affluent in the society because of the exorbitant fees they charge. Some poor elements within the society who tried it usually fell by the way side. However, when the education levy is finally gathered, government has the obligation to ensure that the fund is judiciously used in complementing the provision of all the teaching aids and other infrastructures required in the education sector.

The government itself has admitted in the new education policy thrust that a greater chunk of university entrants are drawn from products of private secondary schools in the state. The striking irony is that some of these private secondary schools are not well-staffed as the public ones. One finds the most-educated teachers in the public schools, yet most of their products are found wanting. The products of most private secondary schools are mostly proficient in spoken English Language and possibly Mathematics. This is the only cutting edge. Other things considered there is no reason why the products of Private Secondary Schools should be performing better than those attending public ones. This is worrisome in that if urgent steps are not taken by the government, only the products of the ill-staffed private schools would become our leaders of tomorrow, if the teaching staff and students in the public schools are not rightly-oriented.

The salient truth is that most of our teachers in well-staffed public schools are lackadaisical, uncommitted and not dedicated to their calling and the end-result is failure for their students who, themselves, are not actually serious with their studies. It is a serious problem and reasonable parents are worried that if the ugly trend is not reversed, it may eventually lead to social stratification and the envisaged policy of egalitarianism or equality and life more abundant of Chief Awolowo’s dream will not be realizable.

The Oyo State Government has done a very good job by the proposed establishment of Zonal Monitoring Agencies to scrutinize students’ activities in and outside their schools. This effort will put students on their toes by checking malingering, truancy and other ills.

Another welcome development is the cancellation of automatic promotion which will spell it to students beyond all reasonable doubt that there is no way they can get promoted to the next class without actually passing required examinations.

The state ghovernment in conjunction with the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools in Oyo State and possibly Parents/Teachers Association should dialogue on issues of a disciplined and dedicated teaching staff in all Public Schools to enable the best to be obtained from them.

The Oyo State Government, on its own part, should motivate and cater for the wellbeing of all teaching staff in all Public Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions under its establishment by regular payment of salaries and other allowances in order to motivate their dedication and loyalty. By so doing, their productivity will be enhanced and optimum-quality teaching will be given to their students and the students too will pass their various examinations proficiently.

The Oyo State Government has taken a step in the right direction by dialoguing with interested Stakeholders like Missionary School Owners, Old Students Association, Communities and other Stakeholders who may wish to partner with the Government in taking over the management and administration of their schools from the Government on adherence to laid-down conditions. If this comes to fruition, it will complement Government efforts at providing free and qualitative education in Oyo State. In any event, however, the Oyo State Government should not relinquish the inspectorial authority of the Oyo State Ministry of Education.

As a common practice to keep pace with the Jones’s, most parents now buy GSM phones for their children to be used in Schools during school hours. While this is advantageous for their personal and academic work, it is equally distractive in some ways and some even use their phones to perpetrate examination malpractices. It is even dangerous for students to be on ear-phones to and from their schools. With the ear pieces on, they are unable to monitor the traffic behind and many of them have suffered various accidents in this way. It is, therefore, a good point for the Oyo State Government to ban the use of GSM by students in all public secondary schools in the states.

The stoppage, by government, of payment of WAEC registration fees for students in public schools in Oyo State is highly objectionable and politically unwise as it is bound to have negative effects on the future chances of the ruling party in the state. Prima facie, the high rate of students failure in the WAEC examination influenced government decision. Since the introduction of free education in the South west right from the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the mid-50s, education had apparently been the only meaningful legacy we could impart to our children in this state for several years past. This is one of the reasons why Oyo State is enviably known as the pace-setter State in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the government must again recognize that majority of parents are below average on the income ladder and by paying the WAEC registration fees of final-year students sitting for the examination, the Oyo State Government is delivering one of the dividends of democracy they promised the electorate during electioneering. If both the rich and the poor are to be regarded as truly equal in a democracy, there is no justification for taking this privilege back from the people after having paid it for quite a period of time. The government of Oyo State should, therefore, on compassionate ground, regardless of the present downturn of the state economy and without imposing any additional tax burden on the people, continue to pay the WAEC registration fees for those eligible students who pass their terminal mock WAEC examinations creditably, preparatory to the actual WAEC examinations.

*Jim Badru,                                                                                                        

jimbadru@gmail.com 08056433889

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