By Kayode Crown
The Ondo State Education Summit, held last week has come and gone and has left multitude of reactions in its wake.
This summit has been a priority of the new Administration in the state led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
At a recent forum, he said that the only reason the summit had been delayed till now was because he wanted to wait till the appointment of commissioners, so that the one in charge of Education can play a part in setting it up.
This is a summit that is long needed. Any meeting held where the matter of the education of the people takes pride of place is encouraging. Rather than sit in his office and create ideas for the education sector, the Ondo State governor wanted to open the discussion to all stakeholders. He wanted to make it a statewide affair, to carry everyone along.
The communiqué released at the end of the summit will form the basis of this discussion.
The 19-point communiqué touched on the matters of funding, quality assurance, discipline, promotion of teachers, etc.
There are certain provisions there that point to a veritable new direction in the education sector in the state which would augur well for the future and even provide a template for the rest of the nation. It may just need a bit of tinkering with.
Responsibility for the funding of Education should not just be about sharing the expenses between government and parents. It should be about the two becoming one throughout the education of the child.
I know that the communiqué has not attained the force of the law of the land. And this piece is adding a voice to the discussion and not merely picking holes in the communiqué. The conversion concerning the education sector is definitely an ongoing one, which has been set rolling by the two-day conference.
Both the capacity of the students and the financial ability of the children should be put into consideration. In view of this, scholarship facilities should be made abundantly available to cushion the effect of whatever increase will come to the cost of education for the exceptional students.
The matters of finding creative ways to fund education should also be in the front burner, being a veritable path to take, just as it is being explored in the health sector.
The number five item on the communiqué reads: “That State Government; International Development Partners; Non-Governmental Organisations; and spirited individuals should collaborate in the training and retraining of teachers; school Administrators/Education Managers in order to update their knowledge on contemporary issues on education.”
Here we see the priority put on the training and retraining of teachers. While funding can be sought from different angles, we cannot get teachers from “different angles.” We need teachers whose capacity and competence to teach is high and commitment to the teaching profession unquestionable. We cannot have best students without the best teachers.
Teachers should be regarded as invaluable personnel, which cannot be replaced, contributing in a very powerful way to the uplifting of the society. The more experienced and more effective teachers can be co-opted to train their fellow teachers.
I heard of a Physics teacher in Akure South Local Government, who always has 100percent result when her students take external examinations. 100percent in Physics is not child’s play. Such teachers should be celebrated, for producing such a formidable result year in year out, and parents and teachers would forever be grateful to them.
As students are awarded for doing well, teachers, exceptional teachers should also be isolated for special recognition.
The role of government is not just to punish offenders in the society, but to also reward those who do well.
One way this can work is to recognise them and ask them to teach others their “secret.” We should not just focus on bringing in resource persons who are not practitioners of what they teach, but are merely executives with highfaluting ideas, wanting to dump their theories on unsuspecting tutors. So the training seminars are not more than excursions for the teachers and means for publishers to sell their books. On the long run, the students are not positively affected.
The sixth section of the communiqué noted that: “That Community involvement in Quality Assurance support to schools is desirable and should complement the monitoring and supervision roles of the Ministry of Education Science & Technology to enhance quality of instruction in schools.”
That concept of community involvement is something that is elusive. In what way can that happen and is it different from the role presently being played by the Parents Teachers Association? This is yet to be clear.
Something that can work is to strengthen the feedback mechanism between parents and government and the individual schools, standardising it. The parents are already giving feedback but not in a structured manner.
There should be a form of parents’ complaints, feedback and suggestion forum or office to make this workable. While the schools take care of all students and pupils, the individual parents are able to give feedback about their individual wards, and such feedback should not be construed as witch-hunting, but for the betterment of the system.
The education summit should not just be a one off thing, but should take place, probably biennially, for sustainability, with the private sector taking a more central role.
The matter of teaching personnel gap in the education sector should be a priority. We play with the destiny of children when we allow such gaps to exist and persist.
The portion of the communiqué which highlights this is point 14. It reads: “That State Government should recruit teachers to fill all relevant vacancies in public primary and secondary schools.”