Concerned Osun group laud state education policy, organise stakeholders symposium

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by Akan Ido

Worried about the current spate of misrepresentations being created around the Osun public school policy, a group of concerned citizens of the state are hosting a symposium in Osogbo, the state capital,to avail stakeholders of the opportunity of dissecting all the components of the policy.

The group, Osun Movement for Peace, said it was unfortunate that a unique policy that could have translated into a national strategy for bail-out of the public school sector, has suddenly assumed religious and political colourations.

The group, which claims to be non-political, noted that current trend of discussion relating to the Osun School system in circles expected to churn out informed opinions continued to focus solely on the reclassification of schools and an attempt to rubbish the wider public spirit and mission of the policy. It added that efforts were being made to play down the holistic beneficial impact of the various components of the policy such as the OUniform, OMeal and Opon Imo, which have been adjudged as revolutionary concepts in public school management approach in the country.

The group described the on-going rejuvenation of the public school sector in Osun as a strong rebranding project that has begun to impact positively on the state’s overall education management profile as well as the state’s economy in key areas like job creation, empowerment and agricultural development.

It therefore called on all well meaning Osun indigenes to shun sentiments and support the effort to create a new public school order in the state for the future of Osun children.

The symposium which holds today at the Ideal Nest Hotel in Osogbo will seek to dissect the various components of the Osun policy on public school management with a view to enhancing public understanding and appreciation of its desirability. The symposium will also serve as a platform for constructive engagement of critical stakeholders to ensure the non-derailment of the noble vision behind the policy formulation.

It would be noted that while counting the modest gains recorded by the state’s new education policy in less than two years of its implementation, the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, had posited that the need for the policy as a comprehensive and holistic response to a scandalous educational rot, which had threatened the socio-economic growth of the state, was non-negotiable.

“Our education policy is tailored towards making the Osun public schools system produce the complete child, to become the complete youth and grow up to become the complete citizen, empowered in learning and in character, in the best tradition of the Yoruba Omoluabi.  That way, they would be equipped, culturally and academically, anywhere they find themselves in the world, aside from becoming patriots, to take care of their state and country that had earlier taken care of them”, he explained.

He noted that the reforms have had tremendous multi-level impacts on the Osun educational competitiveness. According to him, “In the area of funding, the reforms have led to a radical increase in grants and subventions for the administration of public primary and secondary schools as total grant for the 1378 pubic primary schools in Osun jumped from N7.4 million a year to N424 million a year”.

“Additionally, Osun, from a 34th placing among Nigeria’s 36 states in 2010, moved to 18th position in 2011 and 8th position in 2012, in performance rankings in the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE).  Pupils from the state have also chalked up improved performances in national and international competitions, according to compilations by the Osun Ministry of Education. In addition, the reforms have earned a partnership with UNESCO to build a regional teacher training institute in the state, and a fresh programme in the area of adult education”.

Governor Aregbesola added that since the critical success factor for any reform is sound management and welfare, at the heart of the new education reforms is a restructured Education Administration Modality which involves creating specialised agencies to address key components in public schools management. According to him, one such special agency created by the new education policy is the Teachers Establishment and Pension Office (TEPO).

“As the name clearly implies, aside from teacher recruitment, TEPO takes charge of human capacity development in Osun public schools: teachers’ career advancement, training and retraining, teaching incentives, promotion, prompt payment of salaries and allowances. TEPO not only tackles teachers’ welfare while they are in active service; it also looks after their pension after retirement”, he explained.

Ogbeni Aregbesola also explained the role of the Opon Imo initiative as an integrative approach to providing qualitative learning aids by the instrumentality of ICT. He expressed delight that the initiative which was hailed as a masterstroke by many education pundits within and outside Nigeria has received the commendation of the United Nations as a revolutionary learning innovation to help Africa and the rest of the Third World improve its educational capacity.

He went on to reveal that the concept of standard uniforms for Osun public schools, branded O’Uniform, was conceived with an eye to rebrand public schools in the state as well as reflate the Osun economy to employ as many designers, tailors, local textile workers and allied artisans as possible, in the production of school uniforms.  “This culture-fired indigenous and standardised uniform for 750, 000 public school pupils, which the Omoluabi Garments Factory is currently implementing, has received international commendations from UNESCO, just as the first sets of the uniforms produced under the scheme were distributed free to the pupils.”

On the school feeding scheme, branded O’Meal and currently being implemented in the Elementary Schools with nearly 255,000 pupils served highly nutritive daily lunch on school days, Ogbeni Aregbesola said the idea was founded on the principle of good nutrition as incentive for learning readiness. He said the scheme has helped to boost public school enrolment figures in the state, in addition to serving as a catalyst of backward integration for a renewed Osun agricultural programme.

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