Following the abdication of one of the mega schools in Iwo by Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s administration, stakeholders have described it as a ploy to whittle down the giant strides recorded by former Governor Rauf Aregbesola era. The stakeholders expect the incumbent governor to ensure speedy completion rather than playing politics with the school project. Funmi Ogundare reports
When the policy to build mega schools across three senatorial districts in Osun under Governor Rauf Aregbesola was conceived in 2011, a few months after assumption of office, it was informed by crucial need to cater for the collective interest of the masses and give hope of a better future to the children.
By 2012, the administration commenced the development of 11 mega high schools, which were part of the comprehensive education infrastructure reforms of the Aregbesola administration, agreed upon after an education summit chaired by Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Based on the planning data and forecasts provided by the Ministry of Education and validated by external professionals, the intervention was to impact elementary, middle, high schools, teaching aids, teachers-to-students ratio and facilities. At the end of Aregbesola’s eight years in office, 11 high schools with 876 brand new classrooms for senior secondary students were up and running.
Out of the 11 mega high schools, three of them were fabricated models located in each of the three senatorial zones; Iwo (Osun West senatorial zone), Ilesa (Osun East zone) and Osogbo ( Osun Central zone). Other interventions under Aregbesola included construction of 28 new storey buildings of middle schools consisting of 764 classrooms, 21 quadrangle buildings of elementary schools consisting of 531 classrooms, construction of 143 blocks of between two and 10 classroom buildings consisting of 1,550 classrooms, mainly for rural settlements, as well as rehabilitation of 215 old school buildings to produce 1,213 classrooms across the state.
To complement the construction and renovation of classrooms, the Aregbesola administration, aside from putting in place furniture and teaching aids, employed about 3,230 teachers on merit in 2013 into public elementary and middle schools by pulling together the financial resources from Osun’s treasury, bond issuance, capital receipts from federal government and the National Assembly representatives (in the first term), worth about N11 billion.
The whole idea of having such infrastructure is also to maximise resources as the government provides other facilities such as laboratories, standard football pitches, volleyball and basketball courts, and examination halls.
The education project was also predicated on a succession plan that would take care of the administration/maintenance of the new schools, the proper staffing and possible involvement of private sector participants in the area of accommodation and transportation of students with improvement in the quality of education.
The seed capital was provided to acquire Omoluabi buses to test run the transport system for future expansion and modification required.
Sadly, one of the mega schools, Iwo Government High School (a two-storey building project sitting on 10,000sqm with 72 classrooms) meant to accommodate at least 3,000 students scheduled for completion in May 2017, is a cause for concern. It is alleged that Oyetola’s government has abandoned it, despite getting to about 85 per cent completion.
Some other mega schools, fully furnished and equipped laboratories, school hall capable of sitting 1,000 students for external exams, sickbay, bookshop, and car park are reported to be in disrepair and may be undergoing integrity test.
However, stakeholders have expressed fear that the huge educational infrastructure that gulped about N11 billion borrowed from the state’ Sukuk bond is being left to deteriorate and that taxpayers’ money is going down.
They accused Oyetola of playing politics with the school project since Aregbesola left in 2018. According to THISDAY checks, the infrastructure in Iwo, originally sited at Baptist High School Iwo, was moved to Iwo Grammar School after the hijab crisis involving the Baptists Convention.
It took about six months to choose another location agreed upon by community leaders. According to reports, the present administration also passed a vote of no confidence on the structures at four mega schools to justify the depopulation of high schools while abandoning its maintenance.
In his submission, an All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain in Iwo, Prince Yemi Abolusodun, told THISDAY that Oyetola chose politics above education infrastructure.
“I don’t know what excuse the government under Governor Oyetola would give for not touching that project. That was the biggest project cited in Iwo during his tenure, and we all know the crisis at Baptist High School that prevented him from completing the project,” he stated.
Abolusodun noted that a project that has reached about 85 per cent should not have taken Oyetola more than three years to complete. Asked why he thinks the present administration is playing politics with the project, he said, “If not politics, what other excuse does he have? I see this as part of the whole grand design to whittle down the great strides that were recorded that have made the Aregbesola era unforgettable in Osun. You cannot obliterate that fact.”
A former member of Egbedore Local Government Caretaker Committee, Mr. Qamarudeen Idowu Adabanija, also accused Governor Oyetola of playing politics with the school project, explained: “I am not surprised that the school in Iwo which remained very little to complete before Aregbesola left, has been in the same position. No one should be surprised because the governor has even prevented those hired to maintain the other schools to stop, and the result is clear to all of us.”
In a telephone interview with THISDAY on the issue, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi, simply stated, “I am a traditional ruler, and Governor Oyetola is doing a great job in the state.”
The Asiwaju of Iwoland and former Attorney General, Gbadegesin Adedeji, declined to comment but referred THISDAY to the Commissioner of Education, Folorunsho Bamishayemi. Mrs. Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, ex-Deputy governor, did not respond to calls and text messages.
The Commissioner of Information, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, told THISDAY regarding Oyetola: “For someone who has little or no resources to do anything and he keeps doing something new all the time, such as paying registration fee all the time, and even paid for 751 indigents students, he is going to continue to do more. When you talk about safe schools, you cannot say a school is safe if certain facilities are not there.”
She added, “He is doing perimeter fencing in different schools and buying furniture that will be useful for the teachers and students, as well as boreholes in schools. Billions of naira have been spent on infrastructure.”
She also mentioned that the administration renovated 68 blocks of 392 classrooms in less than three years despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot say that those who are unhappy with a particular school cannot complain. But for every school that needs attention, we have done a hundred. We will get everywhere as the governor is not interested in you praising him,” the information commissioner stressed. “But in doing more and getting the schools to the standard, they should be. If there is a school in the Iwo area that has not got enough attention, it is because we are working somewhere else. It is not because that school is particularly singled out to be left like that.”
Asked about the mega school that seemed to have been abandoned in Iwo, Egbemode said, “There is no school project in Osun that is actually abandoned. Our resources are available on the ministry of finance website for all to see. Abandoned is an unfair word to use.”
The commissioner further disclosed that the state’s resources “have to be stretched across to ensure that the workforce is happy, that the primary health care clinics that we are renovating are equipped, that the health insurance is in shape, so nothing is abandoned.”
She reiterated that Oyetola does not ignore assets and liabilities inherited from the previous government.
Asked to give a timeline when the Oyetola government will start to complete the mega school projects, she said an exco meeting would be held to decide that.
Culled from This Day, January 26, 2022