Osun education policy reversal: An answer to people’s agitation?
In the 16 months that he has been in the saddle as governor of Osun state, the Gboyega Oyetola administration has engaged in continuity of his predecessor’s projects and a radical policy shift, especially in its education sector, creating a fuss in some quarters YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports that amidst insinuations that it is an intentional act to rubbish his predecessor’s legacies, people within and outside the state have continued to laud his courage in bowing to the yearnings of the people.
Last week, the Osun State government under the leadership of Governor Gboyega Oyetola, made a policy change in its education sector by approving a reversal of the single school uniform, reclassification of the public school system and the abolition of single-sex schools introduced by his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, in 2013, consequently returning to the 6-3-3-4 model of the Federal Government rather than the 4-5-3-4 education policy in place at present.
This change in policy is expected to take effect from September, when a new academic session will commence while the state is expected to work on modalities of ensuring the change is seamless. The reversal in policy is the result of recommendations by a panel led by Professor Olu Aina which made 26 recommendations out of which the state considered 10.
The panel, according to the state’s Commissioner for Information, Funke Egbemode, was set up to review education policies of the past administration due to the clamour for policy reviews from diverse quarters as well as among major stakeholders in the state’s education sector.
The state reversed nine of the policies but retained the ‘Opon Imo’ education tablets which would be improved upon and the early childhood education be restored in the state. However, though the people received the development with joy, there are insinuations in some quarters that have started to build a kind of underground controversy in political circles.
In the midst of great accolades that the reversal was a step in the right direction, there have been some dissenting voices who felt that the efforts were to rubbish the efforts of former Governor Aregbesola. Though there are insinuations that the dissenting voices are from the camp of the former governor’s loyalists, some are pointing at opposition parties trying to create a wedge within the ruling party.
But it seems the insinuations that it is from the opposition may be unfounded as the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while reacting to the development through the party’s secretary, Bola Ajao, stated that the reversal was already long overdue, adding that the former governor was known for his ‘policy summersaults.
But while the dissenting voices seem to be voices from the wilderness with no face or means of identifying the grounds for their dissention, people from different states have joined the people of Osun to laud Governor Oyetola for doing what is right while the government, through its cabinet members, have continued to emphasise that the reversal is not based on the whims and caprices of the executives, but a result of the needs assessment of the people of the state which was a major request during campaigns and the thank you tour of the governor.
Mazi Okoroafor from Arochuckwu in Imo state while speaking on the issue on a television programme stated that people need to stop politicising issues that will benefit people, adding that the government of Osun state just did what is right as it cannot be operating a system different from others in a federal system. “How can all students wear a single uniform? In my state when you see students roaming during school hours, you automatically know which school they attend and who to hold responsible, that is the function of individual uniform. For me Oyetola has done well, this is not about destroying anyone’s policy but doing what is right,” he said.
Joshua (surname withheld) from Irewolede in Ogun state on his part stated that Governor Oyetola and his cabinet must be lauded for the courage to change what is not working for the people despite the fact that they were part of the action, adding that this is what the society needs to develop. “I laud their courage in admitting that some of these things are not working and should be changed despite the fact that they were part of the administration that introduced it. The courage to change what is wrong is what we need to move this nation forward and others should emulate it. I want them to keep up the good work,”
Explaining the process that led to the change in policy, the Commissioner for Works and Transport in the state, Engr. Remi Omowaiye in an interview stated that what happened was not a shift or reversal but a review of policy based on emerging situations, adding that there is no one that can rubbish the legacies of former Governor Aregbesola because he remains the architect of modern Osun.
According to him, 28 out of the present 40 cabinet members including the governor were part of the Aregbesola administration and there is no way they can rubbish his works because it amounts to rubbishing themselves. “Most of the cabinet members today have one thing or the other to do with the Aregbesola administration; we are his legacies, so we cannot rubbish ourselves. But I must make it clear that policies must be about the people because democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. If it is for the people, then, policies must be in their interest.
“We were part of the policy from inception, we cannot deny that but it got to a point that there were serious calls for the review. Immediately this administration took off, the agitations kicked off. During the campaigns, Governor Oyetola as a candidate was asked during the debates if he would reverse the single uniform policy and he replied that he will look into it if it is the wish of the people. Also, during the ‘thank you’ tour to all federal constituencies, the aggregate of people’s requests bordered on review of education policy among other issues.”
Omowaiye, who said the governor did not wake up one day to demand a review explained that there were security challenges which led to reports from DSS on the single uniform issue while the DFID needs report forwarded to the government also emphasised need for education policy review.
He stated that it wasn’t that the policy was not well thought-out by the previous administration but some aspects were not working as expected and some unexpected issues were cropping up. “For example, the Federal Ministry of Education has only one permanent secretary but in Osun state, we have 18. In order to allow teachers get to the peak of their careers, we had Tutor-General and Headmaster-General in districts who were on same level with the permanent secretary but there was a command line deficiency and the permanent secretary in the ministry couldn’t control them because they believed they were contemporaries. So the review suggested that we continue with the positions but they shouldn’t be on the same level as the permanent secretary.
“A fallout that we didn’t envisage was the issue of Baptist Girls High School in Osogbo which was a girls only school but after the policy, it became Baptist High School and boys were added to the school to become a mixed school. But when they wrote WAEC, but when their results came, WAEC retained the name Baptist Girls High School, so the boys also had results carrying Baptist Girls High school, about 20, 000 of them. This is a serious issue and for us to get attestation for them, WAEC said we have to pay three million naira. We are still in court in cases instituted by the alumni association of various schools.
“Power is a responsibility and those that gave us power must be considered. We have not changed our direction, government is about the people, those that gave us power want the policy reviewed and we have to listen. People should not cry more than the bereaved, our leader, former Governor Aregbesola in his last ‘Ogbeni till daybreak’ programme in November 2018, told the people that he is different from Oyetola and they would likely not approach things the same way. He said Oyetola would do things differently if he thinks there are things he should do differently in his style after consulting with the leaders of the party,” Omowaiye said.
Also speaking on the issue, the Chairman of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Osun state, Mr Wakeel Amudah, who is part of the review committee, lauded the governor for taking the right step. He said “the review is at the request of the people. Governor Oyetola promised during his campaigns that he will do whatever the people want and that is what brought about the review. In the education sector, we as teachers appreciate the efforts of the governor and his cabinet in taking the bull by the horn.
“The truth is people want so many things that they presented before the governor and the governor acceded to peoples’ wish. On the issue of 6-3-3-4, we are now at par with the whole nation, implementing the national policy on education, it was only in Osun state that we operated a different system and this has affected us and hindered us from getting what other states are getting as education aid from UNICEF.
On the uniform, we appreciate former governor Aregbesola for providing free uniforms to students but the aftermath of the single uniform is what we never expected, we have gotten series of security infractions that were perpetrated by people who are not students wearing this uniform and we cannot identify different schools, people go from their school to other schools to cause mayhem. Before, immediately you see a uniform, you know which school the student belongs to.
The worst is that of male students taken to all girls’ schools and boys are given certificates bearing the name of all girls’ schools. This has been causing trouble, one boy that travelled out of Nigeria still has issues because his certificate was rejected; the state is now working hard to change these certificates. I appreciate the governor for listening to the yearnings of the people.
And while there seems to be dissention in political circles, the people of the state are rejoicing that their yearnings have been met.