Osun Counts Gains of New Education Policy

By Eric Eghaghe

The on-going reform of the education sector in the State of Osun has been described as a strong rebranding project that has begun to impact positively on the state's overall education management profile as well as rejuvenation of the state's economy in key areas like job creation, empowerment and agricultural development.

While counting the modest gains recorded by the state's new education policy in less than two years of its implementation, the State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, said the need for the policy as a comprehensive and holistic response 77to a scandalous educational rot, which had threatened the socio-economic growth of the state, was non-negotiable.

“Our education policy is tailored towards making the Osun public schools system produce the complete child, to become the complete youth and grow up to become the complete citizen, empowered in learning and in character, in the best tradition of the Yoruba Omoluabi. That way, they would be equipped, culturally and academically, anywhere they find themselves in the world, aside from becoming patriots, to take care of their state and country that had earlier taken care of them”, he explained.

He noted that the reforms have had tremendous multi-level impacts on the Osun educational competitiveness. According to him, “In the area of funding, the reforms have led to a radical increase in grants and subventions for the administration of public primary and secondary schools as total grant for the 1378 pubic primary schools in Osun jumped from N7.4 million a year to N424 million a year”.

“Additionally, Osun, from a 34th placing among Nigeria's 36 states in 2010, moved to 18th position in 2011 and 8th position in 2012, in performance rankings in the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE). Pupils from the state have also chalked up improved performances in national and international competitions, according to compilations by the Osun Ministry of Education. In addition, the reforms have earned a partnership with UNESCO to build a regional teacher training institute in the state, and a fresh programme in the area of adult education”.

Governor Aregbesola added that since the critical success factor for any reform is sound management and welfare, at the heart of the new education reforms is a restructured Education Administration Modality which involves creating specialised agencies to address key components in public schools management. According to him, one such special agency created by the new education policy is the Teachers Establishment and Pension Office (TEPO).

“As the name clearly implies, aside from teacher recruitment, TEPO takes charge of human capacity development in Osun public schools: teachers' career advancement, training and retraining, teaching incentives, promotion, prompt payment of salaries and allowances. TEPO not only tackles teachers' welfare while they are in active service; it also looks after their pension after retirement”, he explained.

Ogbeni Aregbesola also explained the role of the Opon Imo initiative as an integrative approach to providing qualitative learning aids by the instrumentality of ICT. He expressed delight that the initiative which was hailed as a masterstroke by many education pundits within and outside Nigeria has received the commendation of the United Nations as a revolutionary learning innovation to help Africa and the rest of the Third World improve its educational capacity.

In the same vein, he revealed that the concept of standard uniforms for Osun public schools, branded O'Uniform, was conceived with an eye to rebrand public schools in the state as well as reflate the Osun economy to employ as many designers, tailors, local textile workers and allied artisans as possible, in the production of school uniforms. “This culture-fired indigenous and standardised uniform for 750, 000 public school pupils, which the Omoluabi Garments Factory is currently implementing, has received international commendations from UNESCO, just as the first sets of the uniforms produced under the scheme were distributed free to the pupils.”

On the school feeding scheme, branded O'Meal and currently being implemented in the Elementary Schools with nearly 255, 000 pupils served highly nutritive daily lunch on school days, Ogbeni Aregbesola said the idea was founded on the principle of good nutrition as incentive for learning readiness. He said the scheme has helped to boost public school enrolment figures in the state, in addition to serving as a catalyst of backward integration for a renewed Osun agricultural programme.