A NOTE TO GOV AJIMOBI: YOU MUST PAUSE FOR THOUGHT AND ACT FOR POSTERITY TO BE ON YOUR SIDE
By Dr Olarinre Salako
I have been having sleepless nights ever since I saw your EXPRESSION OF INTEREST advert, asking interested individuals to pay N250,000 application fee for public-private-partnership and ownership of the public schools in Oyo State. I am terribly worried!
While some of your close associates have said you ONLY intend to return the mission schools to the original owners - the religious bodies, but right thinking concerned citizens, like me, consider the advert a clear step towards the sales of public schools into the private hands for profit making. You are not even smart enough to hide the anti-people idea.
YOU MUST PAUSE FOR THOUGHT.
Mr Abiola Ajimobi, you should NOT set a bad precedence in Oyo State for other non-progressive governors in Nigeria. You once noted that the Legendary Late Obafemi Awolowo conceived many good ideas in Ibadan, and implemented them, including FREE EDUCATION. Now, you should NOT conceive destroying foundation education totally, if you can not solve the problem.
If you are, just like your Dad - Late Chief Ganiyu Ajimobi faithfully was, a true political follower of Late Awolowo, you would strive hard to maintain his legacies, or make them better. Remember you took advantage, and partly rode to power on your father's political legacy as an Awoist. Awolowo was a thinking-leader, you can develop your thinking capacity too. And by the way, God is NOT wicked, as to have given us ONLY one Awolowo!
We know, even if you are succeeded, due to possible lack of strong opposition, in selling the public schools under the pretense of returning mission schools, it will be temporal, as surely those who would have bought the schools will be at a loss eventually.
But the students, parents and the hapless teachers would have been badly affected. This is why we MUST NOT allow you to succeed in selling the public schools to private hands. We MUST help you NOT to make a terrible mistake.
There is nowhere in the world where foundation education is fully privatized. At least, I can say of the UK, Canada and the USA, where capitalism have not totally covered their eyes to the welfare of the less-privilege in the society. The rich there, through taxes, pay for the education of children of the less-privilege. In fact, in Scotland and Canada, government pay for the cost of Primary and Secondary education of all children, all children, whether they attend public, private or religious schools. In Scotland, government knows the cost of providing free education for a child in public school. So, if you decide to place your child in private school, government will pay for the equivalent cost in public school, and you will pay the balance. In Canada, if any parent takes his child to private school, he first pays, but such parent eventually claims the money through the process of tax return. In fact, if the parent is unable to pay, the school sends the bill to government.
When I was conducting personal research into solving this problem in 2013, I contacted a good number of school teachers and principals in Oyo town who told me that many of the students don't even have money to buy lunch, not to talk of having money to buy notebooks. Now, would selling the schools to private owners or a share to joint owners (who are meant to make profits) solve this problem? Certainly no.
In the US where I currently live, we pay taxes. Our children attend public school because it offers the same quality as the others. We don't pay any fee, but we are encouraged to freely donate to school, and the PTA determines how such donation is used. Our 3 children get breakfast at 7.30am, lunch at 12pm and snacks at around 2pm for ONLY 40 cent, and they close at 3.00pm. We pay 40 cents per child for their meals because our income level is considered higher than been qualified for the free meals. Some people get absolutely FREE MEAL. Some people also pay more than we do for the same meal, because their income is higher than ours. We are even allowed to appeal the decision to pay for the meal. Any school material (e.g. reading books, notebooks, pens etc) we buy for our children, we claim the cost back in filling our annual income tax return. Now this may interest you, the school nurses/audiologists/speech pathologists/psychologists etc conduct hearing, speech, and other tests to the children regularly in school, and they help them improve in their learning experience. Any serious case is referred to the Hospital for treatment.
I believe this idea can be replicated in Nigeria with some possible amendments, indeed in Oyo State, if there is WILL AND DETERMINATION. Gov Ajimobi, you can start it in Oyo State. Your successor can continue later. Please do NOT be a lazy thinker.
Fine, you can return the land plus the buildings to the religious organizations, and you MUST get the evaluated COST, plus-PROFITS, for the new buildings, renovation of old buildings, and erection of other immovable facilities, put in place by the government over the years in those mission schools. That way, you can make a lot of money for the state, which MUST be used to SOLELY re-position other public schools.
The religious organizations MUST NOT inherit the human beings (Students and Teachers). You MUST make PROVISIONS (more classrooms, extended laboratories, new libraries etc) for these human beings in other nearby public schools.
For instance, if Baptist people are ready to take over Olivet Baptist High School in Oyo town, they MUST provide, among other things, evidences that they will run it well. They MUST be ready to PAY the evaluated cost (plus investment profits) of the new buildings/renovations cum maintenance of the old building/immovable facilities erected in the school since it was acquired by the government. Then, you MUST plan and make provisions to relocate the students and the teachers to nearby public schools like Ladigbolu Gramms, Oba Adeyemi Gramms etc. And the Baptist should be able to PAY and WAIT, until the provisions are made for the relocation and distribution of the students and teachers to these other public schools. Then, they can take over, and recruit their own students and teachers. This is ditto for other schools like Answaru deen Grammar School Opapa, for example.
A major aim of doing this is to raise money to re-position other public schools, while you entrusts the mission schools to the previous owners.
These missionary schools can decide to teach the students, in addition to educational curriculum, some moral values through the tenets of their religious believes. It is like that all over the world. It helps shape future leaders to be patriotic. My children attended a Catholic School in Canada, and they were involved in their Holy Mass. I am not a Catholic, and I could NOT stop the school from subjecting my children to Holy Mass. If I don't like it, I can only take my children to other school like Baptist School (which is very far from our house), since I was raised a Baptist, but it does not worth for me to do so. Another example is my wife, born and raised Baptist, attended Answaru deen Grammar School Opapa for Junior high School, and she was taught Quran recitation, before she got to Ladigbolu Gramms for her Senoir Classes.
Public schools can be secular in nature where no religious activities will be allowed, but still morals could be taught in a liberal manner!
These will allow people to make a choice from many alternatives.
You should study the process used by your predecessors - Late Gov Lam Adesina and Ex-Gov Ladoja, to return the St.Andrews College to Anglican Church. Maybe such process could be amended and utilized for the return of mission schools too.
Any action you want to take, you MUST be driven by the need to solve the problem bedeviling the foundation education, such that children of the less-privileged can also access quality education, in similar manner as their privileged mates. This MUST be either free of charge or with very little (affordable) fee. Some day, if they both have quality education, they will meet at the top. I presume you have heard the saying: "Education is a great social leveler." This is why I, a mere son of a watch-repairer, can talk to you in the interest of common public good.
Do NOT be a cog in the wheel of the progress of the children of the less-privileged, by selling public schools to private hands, under the pretense of returning mission schools or under the pretense of public-private-partnership, thus making it impossible for their parents to pay the exorbitant fees.
In any case, you MUST think of how best to fund the public schools to deliver acceptable quality in teaching and learning. I have studied extensively, how you can get free-will partners who are not looking for profits, and how to effectively regulate public, private and mission schools to ensure high standard. You MUST think of these too. Do public hearing on the problem, and ask people for help.
IF YOU NEED HELP, SEEK ONE.
YOU ARE VOTED TO SOLVE PROBLEM AND YOU GET PAID FOR IT. IN SOLVING THE PROBLEM, YOU NEED A THINKING TEAM. ASSEMBLE ONE NOW.
May I end this note by asking you to revisit your inaugural speech delivered May 29, 2011. You wrote:
" 11. Coming to specifics, our intention is to achieve free and qualitative education, so much so that no child is left behind. Government shall address the key challenges in the education sector, as exemplified by infrastructure decay; government shall also provide conducive learning environment, instructional materials and expose our teachers to regular in-service training.
12. We shall work assiduously to achieve a UNESCO student/teacher ratio in our primary and secondary schools. Our agenda in education will emphasize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to ensure that we produce students with cutting-edge skills for the needs of the modern world. Let me take time out to commend our teachers who have had to work under challenging environments and who were yet expected to turn out our children, not only as productive members of society but also as patriotic citizens. We cannot thank you enough and I pledge that you will not have to wait for the
heavens before you receive your rewards. We shall be partners in this process of restoration and together, we shall restore the glory for which the educational sector of Oyo State got its renown."
I can tell you now, that you are already going far, derailing from the substances of this speech. You still have three years to make a difference!
DR OLARINRE SALAKO writes from the USA.
PS: Any reader who agrees with this NOTE should please share it widely. Thanks