By Yaya Ademola
It is always better to tell the truth even when it is difficult to state. No doubt, Governor Rauf Aregbesola administration in Osun has brought transformation to the state in virtually all areas of lives. They can be clearly seen even by the blind.
Ordinarily, one does not need to bother responding to people who may want to rubbish these accomplishments, but to set the record straight, issues must be clarified especially for those who may be living outside the state.
For the attention of Mr. Rasheed Kunle Adegoke, a governorship aspirant in the forthcoming election in the state, he was quoted by the Nigeria Tribune Newspaper of the 14th January 2018 that “It’s tragic Osun lags behind Borno in education”. Although, it could be a media sensation, but facts must be stated.
Barely three months into his administration, Aregbesola convoked an Education Summit, chaired by Prof. Wole Soyinla, to look at various problems confronting education in the state with a view to finding a way forward. The communiqué of the Summit, consequently, became the pivot of Aregbesola Education Policy Direction.
Over 253,000 Elementary School Pupils are fed nutritious meals – chicken, fish, beef, eggs and fruits – on every school day. This has been a strategic tool to enhance primary school enrolment from 155,318 to 252,793 – 60%. Despite the economic hardship confronting the state and pressure from left, right and centre that the school feeding should stop so as to save some money, Governor Aregbesola insisted that school feeding must not suffer, as quality education is the only legacy a responsible government can give the sons and daughters of the poor. He believes that investment in today’s children and youth would yield the best return in not too distance future and that governance should be a tool to develop society via human being.
This initiative has won international accolades and has been adopted by the Federal Government. He believes that poverty can be banished via conscious education of the mind towards productive engagement which will trigger creativity and productivity that will meet basic needs of a man.
750,000 School Uniforms were distributed free for student of Elementary, Middle and High Schools. Omoluabi Scholars Buses were provided to ease transport at N20 per trip. The school children are taught the act of calisthenics – an exercise display aimed at building new generation of students who are physically robust, mentally-sound and socially well-adjusted. SSS3 students are given Opon Imo (Tablet of Knowledge) which makes learning simple and interesting. The devise contains all books required for the SSS3 Syllabus with the last 10 years past questions of WAEC, NECO and JAMB.
Ogbeni is the first to implement UNESCO recommendation on digital education in Nigeria which is being understudied by all states in Nigeria. Aregbesola administration pays for External Examination Fee of every SSS3 student who justifies the need to spend taxpayers’ money on him/her by having credits in four subjects including mathematics and English Language in a mock examination organised before the real examination.
Ogbeni Aregbesola administration, realising that teachers as the souls of education, decentralised Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) into three districts headed by a Tutor-General – an equivalent of Permanent Secretary in the State Civil Service – to ease implementation of welfare policies of teaching and non-teaching staff. Teachers Establishment and Pension Office (TEPO) was established for training and retraining, promotion and taking care of teachers’ pension after retirement.
Over 100 of the targeted 170 magnificent and functional Model Schools with all facilities that promise conducive environment for teaching, learning and culture have been built and commissioned across the state while the remaining are awaiting completion. Aside, over 100 dilapidated Elementary and Middle Schools have been renovated throughout the state. Members of the National Association of Private School Proprietors of Nigeria, Osun Chapter, have confirmed that Aregbesola education policy has drastically reduced pupils’ rate of enrolment into private schools and increased withdrawal from Private Schools to Public Schools in the last few years.
The tertiary institutions are not left out. 65 UNIOSUN Medical Student under the State sponsorship to Ukraine have completed their studies and returned last November. They are now qualified Medical Doctors. Without being prompted until when economic challenges forced it to be suspended, Aregbesola increased Bursary Award to Osun indigenes in recognised tertiary institutions in Nigeria from N2,000 paid to final year Students to N10,000 while the final year Law and Medical Students bursary increased fromN3,000 to N20,000.
Mr. Rasheed Kunle Adegoke and other aspirants in the forthcoming governorship election should concern themselves on how to consolidate and build on the solid foundation Ogbeni Aregbesola has laid. Ogbeni investment in education will manifest sooner than later. If he cannot be commended on this huge achievement, he should never be castigated.
It is also instructive to react to Alade Bashir Lawal, Secretary-General, Association of Senior Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) who viewed that there is no economic reason that should warrant a State Government to owe workers salaries. Alade was quoted in a feature story/ interview in Sunday Guardian Newspaper of the 14th January 2018, page 14-17, “ …….. go to Osun State for example, the whole place, including its economy is dead. The state is a civil service state and once workers are not collecting salaries, the artisans, food vendors would not make sales, and schools that supposed to be taking care of children would send the children back home. It is quite a vicious circle, and the workers are having it very rough”.
Yes, workers deserve their salaries and that had always been until the middle of 2015. Before then, on or before 25th of every month, salaries and pensions were paid. Again, Governor Aregbesola had introduced and paid 13th month salaries of 10%, 25%, 50% and 100% workers basic salary as a gesture to motivate workers in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. The workers were paid their leave bonus either on their birthday or date of joining the service, as chosen by each worker. He increased beneficiaries of Car Loan from 2,189 to 10,000 and also increased by 100% government monthly subvention to this loan from N10 million to N20 million. He increased the rate available to workers on Grade Level 1-3 from N100,000 to N170,000; workers on Grade Level 9-10 increased from N250,000 to N400,000; and Grade Level 16-17 increased from N500,000 to N750,000. Same increment applied to Housing Loan. Working place and its environs were renovated and beautified.
The Pensioners were not left out. Osun has 11,000 pensioners and their bill per month is N600 million, the highest in the South-West except Lagos. In 2015 and 2016 , despite financial difficulties, Aregbesola committed N5,426,720,195 and N3,981,312 respectively to payment of pension. In December 2016, N1,539,227 was committed to pension.
In November 2016, Osun received the first Paris Club Refund of N11,744,237,793 and paid N8,519,437, 233.43 for September, October November and December salaries; N924,676,305.24 as leave bonuses for September, October, November and December; N2,496,605,100.64 for Pension of September, October, November and December and N1,704,828,033.73 was transferred to Ministry of Local Government for the LG salaries. Osun Government added N1,901,308,879.48 to make up.
In July 2017, Osun received the second tranche of Paris Club Refund of N6,314,106,340.62 and paid N3,768,669,258 for workers salaries; N503,908,457.4 as leave bonuses; N791,074,280.8 as Pension and N934,841,306 for LG Salaries.
This same pattern applies to last tranche of Paris Refund in December 2017, with N1,000,000,000 set aside to pay pension.
A labour leader like Alade Bashir should not talk flippantly. An iota of fact should not be entirely missing in his interview.
In summary, as it is usually said among writers, opinions are free, facts are sacred. Accordingly, writers should get their facts well before making malicious comments on other people’s works.