In this interview with Osun State Correspondent, ABIMBOLA ABATTA AND FLORENCE AYOOLA, the Special Adviser on Education in Osun State, Honourable Jamiu Babatunde Olawumi, xrays some of the achievements of the education sector under the leadership of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola. He also expressed confidence in the success of the State Governor’s second term ambition.
At a colloquium held earlier this month in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the creation of Osun State, there was so much talk about education in relation to the development of the human potential. How is this government investing in human development via the instrument of education?
I will like to start by laying a premise for the discussion. It is getting late to be talking about policy reforms. We have done that. We can only talk about the dividend of the reform. The policy review and the implementation we started about nine months ago, we have been able to create an inclusive management system for the education sector in this state. It is important to let everybody know that ever since we started the implementation, we have attracted about 1.4 billion naira investment in support of our education. We have had secondary schools whose names were once changed but now restored. The old students of those schools out of their enthusiasm have joined us in also reviewing the structural deficiency their school suffered during the abandonment which the former person caused them for seven years. They have started renovation, completed some, and handed some over to us. For instance, I can tell you of Ilesa Grammar School whose old students donated about 160 million naira in facility enhancement. I can tell you of Saint John Grammar School Ile-Ife and Osogbo Grammar School. Osogbo Grammar School recently handed over to us 6 blocks of 6 classrooms each and library refurbished. I can also tell you of Ijesha Muslim Grammar School. There is also Saint Charles Grammar School that is putting in place SMART arena where one can have access ICT and all aside the classrooms they have refurbished and handed over to us. We have Baptist Girls High School, Osogbo that has done wonderfully well giving out uniforms, 1500 at a go. The same Hope Grammar School, Ilesa. If I start to count, it will take most of our time.
And put together by our technical department, we have attracted close to 1.4 billion naira investment in that corner.
We have furniture and ICT. This is because we made it inclusive. We have the old students association of those school and you can imagine former Minister, former permanent secretary at the federal level coming to chairman their old students’ association. Such calibre of people can not just sit and watch facilities collapsing. The former vice chancellor was the chairman for board of governor for Saint Charles Grammar School, and what we have witnessed is amazing. If we have all these, I can tell you that to enhance human capacity and putting in place of system that will produce the next generation of people who will have capacity, knowledge and versatility to lead their generation, we are doing greatly in Osun state.
How would you rate Osun’s educational performance now in comparison to the previous administration?
Our story started in 2010. Ogbeni Aregbesola and Oyetola government. What we inherited was 11.6 percent matriculable pass in WAEC. And year in year out, we have added value, raised the bar. We took it from 11 to 48 percent in 2018. We are taking it to 59.6 percent now of matriculable pass. Matriculable pass is 5 credits including English and Mathematics. So year on year, we had improved from what we inherited from the PDP government in 2010. And there is no magic to it other than the massive investment the two governments have made in education. Infrastructure upgrade, rebuilding of schools and facilities including furniture and digital education are what the two government had focused on over time.
These mega schools you find around was done by our government. This digital literacy, we are treading on its path from when we started the introduction of Opon-Imo and we have built capacity. There is no school today that does not have ICT support staff in our over 600 secondary schools, both junior and senior. And it’s also a policy statement, policy matter for private schools to have ICT support staff. I can tell you that over 180 schools now have their websites, and this is going to help in the areas of virtual classroom, upgrade of teachers’ knowledge. You cannot just go to the class to teach. You have quite a number of teachers online that will see their delivery pattern and the capacity they are adopting to also personally improve yourself in what you do every day. I can tell you now that most of our schools have websites. We can have a centrally coordinated scheme of work, note lessons and lesson plans. This means that what Osogbo Grammar School is teaching is the same thing that will be taught at the far end of the state where there is secondary school. So on capacity building, we are very serious about it and we work every day and night to achieve it.
Recently, the state governor advocated for vocational education as a panacea to unemployment among the youths. What are the efforts put in place to make vocational education promising for the youths?
We have nine technical colleges in Osun State, and that is the highest I can tell you a state can pride itself to have even in the south west. We have been refurbishing our technical education and vocational education department since 2009/2010. Our government has invested 5 billion naira so far in capacity, infrastructure, implements, tools and all other things that they require to teach our students. In fact, our technical colleges by the time the last administration was winding up under Ogbeni Aregbesola government were being turned into Life Academy. That is like an upgrade from just any technical college. Life Academy will give you students who are already admitted for technical education programme. We also have the window for artisans in town to come and learn more to what they do at the trade level. So we are running technical and vocational education as Life Academy. And if you visit technical college in Osogbo, Ife, Gbongan and Ilesa you will see our efforts, new buildings and equipment. What technical education had suffered before now, things were too worse. Bad communication. People tend to see technical colleges as schools for the drop out, people who couldn’t have passed WAEC or gone to the university but it is not true. What we are doing in our technical education department now and what we are doing for technical and vocational education, apart from the three subjects, we are now including subjects that one can write at WAEC level. So we are combining their subjects with the academic stream. So when you go there, as you are writing the tests, you are also writing WAEC. So from there you can go to polytechnic, university. We are introducing photography, computer science, animal husbandry, catering and hotel management at WAEC level using the syllabus of WAEC. So most of those schools are going to become WEAC centers while they also go on with the trade subject, that is the subjects they do.
Over the period of time, that type of education has suffered communication so to put in place the constitution policy strategy that will enlighten parents and assure them that their children will join the stream of vocational and technical education at no infraction or risk to their academic progression to the university or polytechnic. So that is what we are doing. I can assure you that the flower vase you are seeing on my table was made by our technical college in the ceramic department. There is furniture department, carpentry department as they used to have but we have added the academic stream to it so that when you come there you are built to go on academic stream you are also empowered to be an employer of labour and stand on your own.
There is a SMART School Project construction site ongoing at Alekuwodo, which is connected to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Can you tell us the aim of the project?
The smart school project is like when you are using your phone under 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G. You now have you smart phone and we want to run smart education. So that is the essence of smart school to simplify it. It is the current level, the current height of digital literacy that we have in smart school. School that can study on the internet. Now look at what they are doing in other countries, students learn on their own using ICT material (laptops, desktop) and virtual class. So students who will be in our smart school are those who will sit in a class. For example, if a class has 4 or 5 arms, the teacher stays in one class and teaches all the other arms simultaneously. So those will be the features of our smart school education. We have one under construction in Osogbo and we plan on having four at a go.
Despite the efforts of the state government to tackle the problem of out-of-school children, the issue is still prevalent. What is this administration doing to ensure that no child is left behind?
Every economy of the world has suffered the pandemic and when there is economy challenge to parents, it affects the children. This wasn’t how it was before the Corona virus. In fact, on the federal ministry of education policy list, Osun does not have serious out-of-school children menace. But if we look at the consequence of the pandemic, there is economic downturn; people are challenged. As a parent there is the need to eat every day and parents who find it difficult to feed the child will not think about education. So what we are trying to do is to fix our education, but I am glad to let you know that the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics put Osun state at number four of where there is good cost of living supportive to life. So our economy is not that bad in Osun. If you look at it, we have always oscillated between no 3 and 4 where people are living well. The unemployment rate in Osun is the least in Nigeria at 11 percent. So the out-of-school children you could imagine will be the consequence of Coronavirus pandemic. But nonetheless we are facing it squarely. The government is funding the infrastructural sector that will lead to boost in the economic activity of the people, we have put other policies that are boosting commerce in place. Now every Thursday in Osun state, civil servants put on Adire and if you do that, it is a boost to commerce because people will buy and sell. Our tailors will work and all will enjoy it. So what we are doing is being creative in our approach to governance so that people can have enough to spend. At least when you and your child eat, you can think of school. So what you are seeing now is an Egypt that you can never see again in Osun with what we are doing. We are doing well, and it is obvious everywhere.
How is the education sector impacting on the chances of governor Oyetola in the 2022 elections?
A governor who started the assignment by going round the town hall meeting in nine federal constituencies already has the needs of every federal constituency, and we have our checklist. We tick our checklist as we implement those demands. We can proudly stand with our shoulders high before the electorates and tell them we have delivered. Put to that, we have enduring peace here. You can’t rate two states better than Osun state when it comes to peace and security. We have also boasted of the launch of Amotekun to support community police and ensure security. We are doing a lot of infrastructural activities. A flyover is going on in Olaiya. There is no federal constituency where we are not constructing roads. We are building new schools. We have put in place 332 revitalised maternity and primary health centres. Every ward has one, revitalised with Nurses, Doctors, and paramedics, including drugs. We have expanded some; they have solar power, water, and our referral service is superb. We are about completing the 120-bed Doctor’s quarters at Asubiaro in Osogbo. We have revitalised about 4 general hospitals in Ejigbo, Ifetedo and others. This government has been very creative, and I tell you that we are contesting against all others. We are not challenged by even our closest rival, PDP. If you look within their camp, there is a lot of issues with them and I don’t think they have a candidate that can challenge us. So our 2022 I can tell you that God is in our side. We are coasting home to victory.