Rauf Aregbesola’s education reforms in Osun State sail into stormy sea. Christian Association and Baptists lead the protest
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct. 28, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
RAUF Aregbesola, governor of Osun State, never bargained for what he is now getting. His on-going educational reforms namely the reclassification and mergers of schools, introduction of one school uniform and the alleged introduction of ‘Ifa’ as a subject to be taught in all schools are stoutly resisted in and around the state. Christians in Osun State, especially members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Osun Baptists Conference, have protested against the attempted merger of Muslim students wearing hijab with the Christian students under the new education policy in the state.
Elisha Ogundiya, chairman, Osun State Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said that they would not allow any programme to erase the legacy of the Church. “We have maintained this stand from inception and we will continue to defend lawfully what belongs to us as Christians in the state. As a major stakeholder in the state, the leadership of CAN expects the state government to invite us to discuss this issue without delay. We wish to explain it clearly that at no time did the new leadership of CAN in Osun hold any meeting with the state government on the issue of merger of schools,” Ogundiya said.
Bayo Ademuyiwa, presiding minister for the 35 Baptist churches in Iwo land, said the church had nothing against the government’s attempt to equip schools in the state but that the church would not allow any attempt to erase its identity and heritage. “Our forefathers and missionaries sacrificed their lives, resources and everything to establish schools, reputable schools with morals and values and that is why the Baptists in Iwo land are here to protect our schools. Without any doubt, the Baptists in the state are known for excellence, decorum and dignity. These virtues are highly cherished by the Nigerian Baptist Convention and this is the reason why the Baptists are making these two submissions which are that Baptists in Iwo land say no to merger of schools and Baptists in Iwo land say no to the use of hijab in Baptists schools. While we welcome genuine efforts to provide modern infrastructures and equipments in schools in Osun State, the Baptists see the merger of schools as a step in the wrong direction as it will rob us of our identity and bring more pains to parents and students,” he said.
Anthony Cardinal Okogie Archbishop emeritus of Lagos, has also lent his voice to the call on Aregbesola to reverse the new education policy, warning that such a policy, if implemented, would negate on the educational fortunes of the state. Okogie wondered what might have necessitated the action of the Osun State government in wanting to merge schools, when it is very obvious that such a move would be inimical to the educational advancement of the State.
“I do not understand why Aregbesola would want to take such an action. What is the rationale behind it? What does he really want to achieve by such an action? Those who say they know all about education know nothing at all. No single individual or group can provide sound education. Qualitative education can only be enjoyed when there is ample co-operation between parents, the government and the church. The government cannot do it all alone. By trying to merge all these schools, including changing the single sex schools to co-educational, the government would only succeed in drawing back the hands of the clock,” Okogie said.
The archbishop emeritus also recalled the futile effort of Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State, to monopolise the education sector in the eighties. “We all know what happened to Jakande schools in Lagos State. That experience did not work because he did not involve all the key stakeholders. It was Brigadier Buba Marwa who blazed the trail by giving back the school for the blind to the Catholic Church. After him, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu also did the right thing by giving back some of the mission schools to their owners. Since then, we have witnessed a rapid leap in the quality of education, especially those managed by the missionaries and voluntary agencies.”
Okogie reminded Governor Aregbesola that he was only a caretaker of the state resources; hence he should retrace his steps by putting in place only enduring policies that would move the state forward. “The state is nobody’s property. The governor has no right to force his religious belief on others. He must be the father of all by respecting other people’s right to the kind of education that their faith approves. Failure to do so would only result in chaos. Enough is enough,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state government claims that the reforms are a product of an earlier organised education summit in the state, which recommended that the reclassification of schools and the other components of the reforms were the best ways to reposition the educational sector in the state. According to the state government, stakeholders at the summit agreed on having three structures of basic education, that is, elementary, middle and high rather than the existing primary, junior and secondary levels, and a comprehensive overhaul of physical and human components of the education system.
According to the reforms, the elementary level, comprising pupils aged six to nine corresponds with primary one to four in the existing system. The middle level is from primary four to Junior Secondary School, JSS III for pupils aged 10 to 14, now classified as Grades five to nine. The high school level covers ages 15 to 17 and corresponds with the Senior Secondary School, SS III, known as Grades 10 to 12.
The reforms also scrapped pre-school education in all public schools in the state because, according to Governor Aregbesola, it was wrong for mothers to dump their babies in schools in the name of building careers. But what he failed to realise is that pre-schooling such as crèche, kindergarten and nursery education, are so fundamental to early educational development because this is when they learn the art of socialising which is so important to normal development, activate their gross and motor skills, begin to gain numerical recognition and also develop other associated skills.
The state government has promised that the interest of all groups, organisations, religious and social bodies would be protected in the ongoing re-classification and reform. It urged the people of the state to discountenance and dismiss “any untrue and baseless insinuation” critics of the government might be spreading across the state.