An urge for thoughtfulness in reviewing Aregbesola’s education policies
Tongues have started wagging following the submission of the report of the Prof Olu Aina-led committee set up by the State Government of Osun on education in the state. What is being discussed in hushed tones by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and celebrated by the opposition Peoples Democratic (PDP) is the tell-tale sign that Governor Gboyega Oyetola is set to unravel the education legacy of his former boss and predecessor in office, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
This is in light of the recommendation of the committee for the scrapping of the school uniforms and school reclassification introduced by Aregbesola. We urge caution, wisdom and tact so that the wrong impression is not passed to the public. A good intentioned deed sometimes rubs bad on the public.
For the avoidance of doubt, there are opposition members who have been expecting the implosion of the party and have never missed any opportunity to insinuate that the governor and his predecessor are at loggerheads and inexorably set on the path of full-blown conflict. They have been largely disappointed but this may raise their hopes again.
It has been their prayer and indeed, every opposition intends to profit from a conflict in the ruling party. Even when none exists, it is part of the dark arts of politics to engineer one. Governor Oyetola and indeed the APC leadership in the state must be careful not to give them a piece of bone to chew on.
Ogbeni Aregbesola made it known quickly after his inauguration that education was going to be a major focus of his administration and indeed it was an area where he spent most and achieved most. From the convocation of an education summit chaired by Professor Wole Soyinka, to school uniforms, schools reclassification, home grown school-feeding programme, construction of state of the art elementary, middle and high schools, appointment of headmasters-general and tutors-general, introduction of tablet of knowledge, payment of WASSCE fees and others, he brought what will qualify as a revolution to Osun education. The immediate result was that Osun recorded a surge in external examination performance from 16 per cent achieved by the PDP government to 46 per cent before he left office. This is his legacy which many now perceive, rightly or wrongly, (we believe wrongly) as being set up to be rubbished.
Going down memory lane, no education policy is cast in stone. What we have now emerged from a process of distillation, innovation and review over time. In the colonial era, there used to be a standard school which was calibrated to last between seven to 10 years and terminating at standard six, depending on the age and cognitive capability of the pupil. It later changed to a straight six-year primary school system. Along the line, a three-year modern school system came, which was later abolished. Then in the 1980s, the military came up with the 6-3-3-4 system. Then Aregbesola came up with 4-5-3-4.
Continuous review of policy is an evolutionary process which brings change at the point in which those in the position to know have come to that conclusion. The argument has never been that an innovation was strange or that those concerned have nostalgia for the system they went through. Of course, an innovation, by definition, must be strange because it does not exist before. But so is every innovation that has brought a quantum leap for humanity.
Opinions vary on school uniform then, and not less now. However, the government’s argument then (and well supported) and still valid today was that:one, governments schools have always had same uniform until the military era; two, it is the practice in some parts of the country and even our neighbouring countries and, three, it is the prevailing practice in the United Kingdom from where our educational system came from.
This school uniform issue is a very sensitive one. A multi billion-naira garment factory has been established on its account and the government must be careful not to jeopardise its business on account of policy instability at thetime investors are being wooed to the state.
We are by no means suggesting that a policy cannot be reviewed, since, as we said earlier, no policy is cast in stone. However, the ground for such change must be convincing and compelling, nothing flimsy or whimsical.
Ogbeni Aregbesola left an enviable legacy in education. This will remain indelible in the hearts and minds of the parents and pupils of public schools that benefitted from the revolution he brought. These are beyond the physical structures and other tangibles.
Governor Oyetola is an honourable man, noted for deep introspection, wisdom and sound judgement. We urge him to think this through and act statesmanlike. We are confident that he will consider the possible consequences of policy instability on his administration and the party that brought him to power. We trust he will do the needful.