Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Osun State Government recently effected a reversal of its education policies. In this interview, Commissioner for Education, Folorunso Bamisayemi, sheds light on the review describing it as a new dawn.
What informed the review of some education policies by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola?
Government’s decision to effect change in education policies was in response to the yearnings of the people. During the governorship election campaign, there was a television debate for the candidates. Governor Adegboyega Oyetola was asked a question concerning the common uniform used by all the students in the state. He said point-blank that he was ready to ensure a reversal of some education policies if the people demanded for it.
When he came on board, he embarked on a thank-you tour of the nine federal constituencies. Top on the list of the people’s demands was a review of the education policies. Also, one of our development partners, Department for International Development (DFID), after carrying out a survey across the state, recommended a review of the policies to the governor because they were not in tandem with the national policies on education as well as education development strategies.
Review of the policies was also on the list of the Department of State Security (DSS) because of the security challenges that common uniform was posing in schools. When we also embarked on stakeholders’ visits to eight different schools, teachers also requested a review of the policies. Several stakeholders and old students associations of different schools, as well as parents and guardians, demanded the review of the policies.
One of the obvious reasons for the agitation for the review was the indiscipline among students due to the use of common uniform. There was a time that cultists were also putting on the uniform and going to schools to fight and settle scores. Some students also harassed teachers and toast female ones, asking them out. Whenever they were reported, they would deny and claim mistaken identity. It was difficult to link them with any particular school due to the common uniform advantage they were using. As a result, the agitation for review of education policies was on the rise in the public circle.
As a responsive government, we decided to look into the demand. The executive council did a memorandum to the governor to inform him about it. We set up a policy review committee made up of experts in the field of education chaired by Professor Olu Aina, representatives of elementary school teachers, and several other educationists. They came up with recommendations that were adopted by the state executive council.
Out of the 26 recommendations by the panel, the state adopted 10. Among them were the reversal of 4-5-3-4 system to the 6-3-3-4 national system of education, a reversal of middle and high school to the old grammar school nomenclature, retention of “Opon Imo” (tablet of knowledge), retention of Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD). The new policies will take effect from September when the new academic session begins.
But there are insinuations that the review was meant to obliterate former governor Rauf Aregbesola’s legacies?
That is not true. It is just a figment of imagination by the speculators. The reviewed policies were collectively made by the government. They were not Aregbesola policies as being perceived by some people.
I was chairman, House Committee on Education during Aregbesola administration for eight years. The current governor was Chief of Staff for eight years under the former governor. Twenty eight out of 42 members of the present administration served under Aregbesola. So, they were our policies. When it was time to reflect on the policies to see where we were and where we are going, we had to do so which led to the review of the policies.
This is contrary to the belief in certain quarters that Oyetola is wiping out Aregbesola’s legacies. There is no legacy peculiar to Aregbesola. They were state legacies put in place by all of us. They were legacies of our party. All of us came together and made the policies collectively. And all of us came together again to review the policies in the interest of the people. We are continuing where we need to continue and discontinuing where we need to discontinue and improving certain areas that we need to improve upon. If for instance we had about 24 policies and people are complaining about only four or five, it meant we did well under Aregbesola.
What were the implications of the 4-5-3-4 system of education as opposed to the 6-3-3-4 national policy?
During Aregbesola’s administration, we introduced the 4-5-3-4 system because we were the only one running elementary school feeding programme known as O’Meals until the Federal Government adopted it and asked all the states to do the same. We were feeding the primary one to four pupils. But when we observed that it would be traumatic for primary 5 and 6 pupils to be watching them eat while they are not eating, we decided to join them with JSS 1-3 students. We ran it as a middle school. But the implication is that it became a primary school curriculum in a middle school setting.
This had some negative implications. The pupils had to pass out with the first school leaving testimonials and certificates with a middle school principal’s signature and stamp. It was a serious contradiction and an irregularity in law. Such testimonial or certificate could not be recognised in other states or outside the country. In the new 2020/2021 academic session, they (primary 5 and 6) will no longer join JSS 1-3 in the middle school. But those that are there currently have to complete their studies.
The ‘Opon Imo’ was heavily criticised as tool for immorality among students because they allegedly used it for pornography and other social media vices. Why did government retain it?
The retention is based on the recommendation of the review panel. They said we should not throw away the bath water with the baby since it is an innovative, ingenious, and creative idea due to the need to use ICT to improve the standard of education. We were advised to reconfigure and repackage it in a way that students would not be able to abuse it anymore.
Parents and guardians will also be encouraged to buy into it as opposed to the first time that it was free of charge which also led to the abuse. Before we gave out the tablets, we had removed the internet component of the device to avoid students loading pornography into it and abusing it in any other way other than the purpose that we wanted to achieve with it.
But through the help of local phone engineers, the students had the internet installed and loaded pornography into it. Consequently, immorality surged in our schools. Teenage pregnancies were on the increase. But now that we are reintroducing it, we shall engage ICT experts and consultants who would install another software capable of blocking any internet device that can be used to load pornography. There is a device that can fight pornography just like an antivirus device can fight the virus. Programmers will help us to do that.
What are the other prospects of the reviewed policies?
With the review of education policies that we have achieved which everybody, including the old students’ associations of the various schools, is pleased with, the standard of education will improve. They will be willing to assist with the provision of more qualified teachers in addition to the government teachers. They will also help build science laboratories and libraries.