To many residents of Osun State, the recent reversal of the education policy put in place in the last administration of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola by his successor, Governor Gboyega Oyetola was a pleasant surprised.
Majority of the people in the state would not believe that the policy could be reversed given the fact that Oyetola was part of the Aregbesola’s government where he (Oyetola) served as the Chief of Staff and believed to be a major determinant of the decision taken in that administration.
While people see the education policy reversal as good step by Oyetola, political watchers in the state considered it as sign of crack in the relationship between the governor and his predecessor.
Others also viewed it as a serious indictment on Aregbesola and this has set the political camp of the former governor and current Interior Minister against the supporters of his predecessor.
Osun has been operating the 6-3-3-4 education system in line with the National Policy on Education but Aregbesola adjusted it to 4-5-3-4, a policy which many people in the state were said not to be happy with.
Also, every public school in the state had its uniform specially designed for it since establishment but Aregbesola as part of his education policy introduced single school uniform for all public schools in the state.
This aspect too did not go down well with many parents and alumni of the schools.
In the same vein, some schools that hitherto operated as either girls’ or boys’ schools were merged under the policy, thus, altering their cherished age long identity.
For Oyetola, the reversal of the policy was response to the yearnings of the people and in line with the citizens’ needs assessment conducted in the state last year.
He said the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in partnership with Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a programme of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (UK-DfID) went round the nooks and crannies of Osun State asking the residents to state what they wanted Oyetola’s administration to do for them and that DAWN Commission and PERL/DfID gave him the report of their findings.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Ismail Omipidan while featuring on a live radio programme “Frank Talk” in Osogbo said “there is no policy that is cast in stone”, adding that at any point in time the people desire change on any policy, the government of the day should look at it. He said, when Oyetola came on board, most of what people requested from the administration was to take another look at some of the educational policies.
Omipidan said “The Department of International Development (DFID), carried out citizen’s need assessment of Osun State independently without the government and stated in its report that the people of Osun State want certain policies of the government changed. One of what was stated was the issue of a single uniform policy. So we arrived where we are today based on the demands of the people and every responsible government must ensure that its programs and policies answer to the demands of its people.
“During the citizens’ needs assessment exercise, majority of residents demanded that the education policy must be reviewed and reversed. The team submitted the report to the governor and he promised to implement it.
“In fulfilling his promise, the Governor set up Education Review Panel led by Professor Olu Aina to look into the demands as contained in the report of the citizens’ needs assessment team.
The Panel eventually made some recommendations to the state government.
“According to the Aina’s Panel, the policy left behind by Aregbesola was alien to the national education policy and must be reversed. The report of the Panel was debated at the State Executive Council Meeting of Monday 2nd March 2020 and the Council unanimously adopted the recommendations of the panel and announced the reversal so that the schools would return to their former identity. However, the state government retained the tablet of knowledge also known as “Opon Imo.”
The Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode said “the decision was reached after an exhaustive deliberation on the report of the Education Panel set up by the Governor to review some of the extant education practices and policies. The Council unanimously agreed on the ten issues raised in the report and accepted the recommendations.
“The Council approved the recommendations to revert to the 6-3-34 structure in keeping with the provision of National Policy on Education as this will entail adequate physical and instructional facilities at all levels; adequate provision in quantity and quality of well-motivated teachers at all levels.
“The Council agreed that the state government will do well to allow every school return to its old established and recognised public uniform. We also agreed that Early Childhood Care Development Education (ECCDE) in line with the practice in the 35 other states in Nigeria be restored.”
Also, the state Commissioner for Education, Mr. Olayinka Oladoyin Folorunsho added that “Other decisions reached were the reversal of schools to their former status, whereby only single sex identified with those school names should be admitted while students already affected by the name change should be issued letter of attestation by the ministry of education and male students who are currently in SS1 and SS2 in schools established for female learners only should be relocated immediately and vice-versa. The Council also approved the reversal of ‘High School’ to the old nomenclature of ‘Grammar School’.”
Reacting to the development, Mr Semiu Okanlawon who served as Director of the Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the Aregbesola’s government said the former governor cannot be averse to policy reviews if the objective was to make them deliver on the original goals.
He however warned that necessary adjustments could be done to the policies without making them appear “evil” particularly since Oyetola was part of the last administration.
“We must collectively defend our policies and adjustments to them when and where necessary without falling into the error of making them appear evil.”
“Please, note that review of any government policy is nothing strange. Aregbesola, even before his exit in 2018 had been reviewing some aspects of his government policies where necessary. Just one example will interest you. Recall the school uniforms we started with are not what we currently see on the students.
“As part of plans to create a booming market for local fabric makers, the uniform that was first distributed was made of local fabrics. And there was a reason of commerce behind this. With the huge population of students, it was not a bad idea to see if local fabrics could enhance the economic fortunes of local fabric makers and so, the decision to adopt it for the uniforms.
“But along the line, I think it was discovered that the local fabrics were not too suitable for the purpose, hence the review at that time and the eventual replacement with what is now in use.
“So, I can assure you that former Governor now Minister of Interior, a man of great and novel ideas, would not frown at any review of the policies under him as long as those reviews are to make the policies better, polished and aimed at delivering the original and people-oriented objectives for which they were set in motion in the first instance.
“Where he is now as Minister of Interior, the whole world can see he is also reviewing policies and introducing new ideas in order to give Nigerians better services in the portfolios under his watch.
“The error that none of us must fall into is for any genuine and committed member of the APC -either serving in the current government or not- is to turn around and condemn any of those policies. This is because these were courageous decisions taken as part of the patriotic desires to change the conditions of the people.
“I think the language should be that what we all started collectively -because here we should be talking of collective responsibility – we would continue to review, remodel, and rework until we have a near perfect situation on our hands.
“For instance, the current Chief-of-Staff was the Director General of the Office of Economic Development and Partnership (OEDP). He was a core member of the intellectual powerhouse just as Aregbesola’s successor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, who I always love to refer to as the brain-box of Aregbesola’s administration. So, either in or outside of the government, every genuine member of the APC has a duty to defend our policies and be ready to explain the rationale behind any reviews.
“This is where the question of language and nomenclature comes in. Those saddled with the responsibilities of executing those reviews, reforms, and remodeling should avoid impressions that could portray what we all did together as something condemnable,” he said.
He said anyone who tries to make any of the policies appear evil would “inadvertently be casting the current Governor in bad light and that won’t be fair to him.”
“This is because right-thinking people would remind us that he was a major factor in all those policies. Same thing would go for my brother the Commissioner for Education who served as Chairman, House Committee on Education and others who have been part of the family since 2010 or thereabout.
“Aregbesola is a revolutionary thinker, backed by strong ideological convictions. So, you might need to catch up with such very strong ideological convictions as well to appreciate fully some of the ideas people took to be crazy during his time.
“The policies were controversial but they were needed to change the old order. They raised dust because change is the most difficult thing for people. I must add that only very courageous leaders take such decisions without being afraid of their selfish electoral gains. And if Osun people would reject Aregbesola’s policies, they would have done that by punishing our government with the re-election bid of 2014.
But you would recall that even with the most adversarial, horrendous intimidation from the PDP/Jonathan-led federal government, we still won that election convincingly. And all these policies had been executed during the first term.”
Meanwhile, beyond the merit and the demerit of the actions and inactions of the parties, most people in the state read different meanings to the development.
Observers said the recent turn of event were signs that the relationship of the two political figures might not be smooth and it’s obvious that they are not on the same page on many issues.
The policy reversal, no doubt may have set the governor and his predecessor on a collision course but only time will tell.
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