By Kayode Crown
The groundbreaking Ondo Education Summit has continued to generate reactions and this is one of them.
This review focuses on the finer points of the communique released at the end of the summit held at the International Culture and Event Center, Akure, some days ago.
It was a two-day affair with a cross section of stakeholders contributing to the discussion which was towards the upliftment of education in the state.
The first item on the communique was a call for joint effort in the matter of education. This has generated a lot of hues and cries as people think this is the way for government to put more financial burden on the people.
But if we can just remove the emotion from the rhetoric and see that everything is not about money, we will make headway together.
You may not have money, but you have an idea etc. Everything is not money. What the communique is seeking for is a rethink, a paradigm shift, a new reorientation from all stakeholders, inclusive of the government, which should not just be content with throwing money at the problems of education.
For example, one of the items on the communique charges the government, specifically the Ministry of Education, to “reinvigorate co-curricular activities in schools while craft work and school gardens should be revived in all schools.”
Here government is asked to make the school system not just about the scores in the external examination. It is asked to expand what school really means, that it should be beyond the 8am to 2pm book grind, but rather an avenue to mould well rounded citizens of the state.
Also the communique stated: “That State Government, Philanthropists, Old Students Association, PTA and Corporate Organizations should embark on aggressive renovation/reconstruction of dilapidated school structures to make such schools learners friendly.”
Here we gave a clear collaborative mandate. We cannot continue to look away from the collapsed structures that house the primary and secondary schools. If you do not have the cash, you can mobilise the cash. That is the meaning of being altruistic, taking care of things beyond you, becoming your brother’s keeper.
Instead of having all manner of structures littering the place, the government can come up with a template for how the construction should be carried out.
There should be a basic template for building construction, a minimum standard to be followed.
There should also be regular budgeting for maintenance, which should be carried out as at when due.
People who should be in charge of maintenance should be made to answer for it when such things when they should.
Deliberate moves should be made to make the environment beautiful, it would begin to form part of the self concept of the pupils as they grow up. The environment is part of the learning.
We should pay attention to these words used in the communique: “aggressive renovation/reconstruction of dilapidated school structures to make such schools learners friendly.”
That the word “aggressive” is used is an indication of how grim the situation is.
Nothing short of declaring a state of emergency for the renovation of school structures in the state would do. And all hands must be on deck to make this happen. The word “impossible” should not be entertained.
The ball should be set rolling in earnest in this regard. We owe the young ones that. Education is not just about cramming and pouring, it is also about the environment where the learning is taking place, how “conducive” it is.
A neglected environment has a way of breeding “neglected” children.
We need a new way of thinking about the school environment and create appropriate government policy to back them up for sustainability. Things shouldn’t be done in a “flash in the pan” manner, but with long term sustainability in view.
Ingenuous ways should be sought to raise funds following the collaborative mantra, being the thrust of the communique.
Another interesting aspect of the communique is the call to place emphasis “on skills acquisition in our schools while technical workshops should be resuscitated. Skills Acquisition Centres should also be set up across the three senatorial zones of the State.”
Here we see something that goes beyond the confine of what we conventionally call the schooling. Here we have the marching order given to government with regards to things the children can do to be gainfully employed and not later be burdens on government.
It is clear that the era when after you finish from school, companies line up to pick up the graduates is over. We should stop looking at the past but rather look towards the future.
Parents should loosen up and not allow their egos to blind them from seeing that we are in a new era where individualism, entrepreneurship, skill acquisition is king.
It is now no longer about what the government can do for you, rather what you can do for yourself which would in turn help the government, because in a pure sense, everyone of us is the government. To make this work, from the next budget for 2018 the priority of the government should be made very clear. It should put its money where its mouth is to set up those centres.
Here is another thing on the communique worthy of note: “That curriculum contents in schools should be reviewed and domesticated to meet relevant needs while implementation should be enforced.”
The end has come, therefore, to “copy and paste” curriculum, garbage in garbage out, and mindless regurgitation of what Abuja has sent.
We have educational eggheads in the state and in the Ministry who can conveniently handle this task. And without the enforcement of the implementation of the curriculum, students cannot be expected to pass well in external examinations.
And talking about examinations, the summit recommended thus: “That the Ministry should enforce the cancellation of automatic promotion of students in schools while the conduct of Joint SS2 promotion examination should be sustained to present qualified candidates for the school certificate examination.”
This shows that people are being given automatic promotion before now.
How such a policy has been allowed to gain traction is beyond me.
Promotion should be on merit and pupils should have to fight for space, that is what will make everyone to buckle up.
When the education system is about mass promotion, the incentive for the collaboration of parents is fundamentally compromised.
If it does not matter what I do or do not do, my ward will be in the next class, then I am being trained to be lethargic, and to wake up, you really have to try hard.