Opon Imo And SCARF Debates
By Rotimi Ajayi
When Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was inaugurated as the seventh Governor of the State of Osun, many would have expected that his administration would just be a change in name and personnel; that in deeds and operations, it would not be different radically from what people had known about Governments in Nigeria; corruption, nepotism, cosmetic treatment of the needs and welfare of the people and largely noise without action. Of course this expectation was not because the Governor harbours any of this traits in person but because over the years, Nigerians irrespective of State or tribe have become forlorn and despondent due to gross raping of the commonwealth by the elected leaders without making any visible efforts to attend to the crucial needs of the people.
Perhaps, Ogbeni Aregbesola read the minds of the people right or he was favoured by the Supreme Being with a supernatural compass to show the way to go. Steps taking by him as Governor after inauguration, so far, underscore the latter. He seems to be working under some carefully designed divine program like the biblical Moses, who was closely and carefully guided by God to take his people out of the land of Egypt. Right from the onset, he assured a crowd of previously oppressed people but jubilantly present at his inauguration that he will run a government unusual as a leader.
He acknowledged the myriads of troubles and challenges being faced by the people and promised to make the people the centre of his administration. 'We are face with many challenges and problems in this state but they are not insurmountable. Together and with the support of everybody we will get a good result that will advance the interest of the generality of the people of the state,' he added. He promised to create a new vision for the people and make leadership accountable to the people.
More than two years down the line, pundits have come to a common position on him; that he has been faithful on his campaign promises. Badly as they would like to hate him, the critics, the loyalists of the opposition administration have not taken on Aregbesola’s government on failure to meet the promises made to the people but rather on their perceived quantum of the degree of promise fulfilment. Immediately after being inaugurated, Governor Aregbesola unveiled the direction of his administration by putting in place various programs and policies all of which have become the defining paradigm of the State as a State on the crest of development. His programs, though fancifully tagged as six integral plan of actions, covered every aspect of life and living. Education, Physical Infrastructure, Security, Agriculture and Economic regeneration, Jobs creation, Human Capital Development and of course Culture and Entertainment are all adequately integrated into the plan of actions which themselves are being implemented within the global plan of the leaders in the South West to integrate the political and economic activities in the region into an organic whole.
Among his packs of revolutionary programs on which a lot have been written and much acknowledgement had been made however, one stands out as life-changing and generational shift. This is the introduction of computerised learning system into the public secondary schools in the state as part of the educational reform regime necessitated by the extreme rots in the educational sector in the state. The computerised learning system comprises of various sub-programs which are aimed at changing the way students and teachers in the state access instructional material henceforth.
The philosophy behind the computerised school learning system is that our children and the youth should be properly and effectively impacted with knowledge to make them function well and create a society that can stand at par with others in the developed world. According to Ogbeni at a press conference in Osogbo recently, “the distinction between a purposeful governance and others is not the road, the electricity you build only. In an underdeveloped economy such as we have, physical infrastructure is very important.
However, If we have to do things in a more purposeful way, the human capital is the most important thing to affect. Infrastructure cannot be the basis of success of any administration. It forms part of it but not the basis for it. If we look at what greatness entails and purposefulness entails, the human being is the most important element.” This is why Ogbeni Aregbesola is committing unprecedented resources to radically improve the education sector in the state and provide our country an inspiring reform model.
The reform in the education has witnessed the introduction of new uniform in line with brand colours of the State, building of world-standard 100 schools in the State, introduction of nutritious and constant regular free meals for all students in public schools in the state and the computerised of access to books and educational materials through the introduction of “Opon Imo,” tablet of knowledge in the public secondary schools in the state. The Opon Imo, though a component of the education reform, is a game changer which many students and parents in the state have been scrambling to get especially those in private schools as the device is provided free for all students in public senior secondary schools just as tuition and uniform are free for all pupils and students in the State.
In terms of configuration, the Opon Imo, 'Tablet of Knowledge', is an e-learning tablet that provides the senior secondary students with the contents required to prepare for school examinations. It provides three major content categories; Text Books, Tutorials and Practice Questions. These tablets are being distributed to all senior secondary students across state schools in a move that is expected to radically scale up 'access' to learning, regardless of means, location or status of the families from where the students come from. Opon Imo delivers compelling self- paced courses in a highly interactive manner.
The courses are syncronized to a library of relevant e-books and a computer- based testing environment. Opon Imo is a first of its kind initiative in Nigeria, which tackles the learning problem using contemporary ICTs, indigenous content and taking into account socially embedded factors accordingly. The tablet is a portable electronic device, which is controlled through its touchscreen interface, and is available across the open source android operating system. The tablet is already preloaded with 54 e-Textbooks covering 17 Subjects. 54 Tutorials covering 17 Subjects and over 40,000 practice questions and answers as well as 6 extra curricular books among others.
Just as the technical, content and physical infrastructure of the education sector in the state are being tackled in the mainstream policy and program of the State administration, wife of the Governor, Mrs Sherifat Aregbesola has also rolled out educational programs, under her development Foundation, known as the Sheri Care Foundation (SCARF) to directly complement the efforts of the State administration. The programs include schools debate, quizzes, cooking competition, Aptitude Game among others.
Penultimate week, SCARF debuted with its School Debate series. The maiden edition tagged “Osun Debaters.” Not less than 180 public schools participated in the maiden editition with excitement and indescribable zeal. Speaking at the finals of the debate program, the Founder and President of the Foundation, Mrs Aregbesola said, “the debate program is one of the elements of our educational programs designed to compliment the educational curricula in our secondary schools in the State. The objective of the “Osun Debaters” is to activate the spirit of competitiveness among our young ones in a way that would prepare them for the leadership roles in all facets of life in future.
“SCARF’s conviction is that debate is a challenging and highly rewarding educational activity for our students. We have no doubt that Osun Debaters program would enhance the analytical skills of our students and develop their problem solving ability both while in schools and thereafter. We are convinced that exposing our students to activities such as debates and quizzes would also develop proficiency in thoughts and public speaking ability of the students as they would be motivated to do I depth researches. This will increase the ability of the students to do well in life either in businesses, professions or government.”
Participants at the debate, which was won by students of Osogbo Grammar demonstrated so much enthusiasm and excitement at being allowed to take part. They were so active in both the qualification and finals stages. They commended the program and requested for constant hosting of such programs.
With the provision of Opon Imo, students in the State will now certainly be well positioned to build their research ability and now that the Foundation and other stakeholders are complimenting the government efforts in terms of out-of-class academic activities, Osun will soon become the place to send one’s children for education. In the words of one of the top rate media men in Osogbo, “the efforts of the Governor together with the support programs being unveiled by the Sheri Care Foundation have given students in Osun great unfair advantage over their peers in other States”. Parents should now be mobilised to ensure usage of these platforms effectively.