By Kayode Crown
This is going to be the final piece in this series, and I feel it is necessary to still highlight items on the communique presented at the end of the recently concluded two-day education summit in Ondo State.
The conference brought together egg heads, established leaders in the education sector and stakeholders in the sector to chew on the different issues affecting the education sector in Ondo State. It provided an opportunity for people to ventilate their feelings, express their opinions and generally make their own contributions towards the betterment of the education sector in the state.
We expect that similar summits should be in the pipe line, especially with regards to the desire of the administration of the Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to make Ondo State the economic hub of the South-West, thereby leapfrogging Lagos State.
This is not an impossible feat, but one that would task every bit of ingenuity that the administration can summon.
The big elephant in the room when it comes to the education summit is the matter of the fees as highlighted in the third item on the communique:
“That there should be a review of chargeable fees in State’s tertiary institutions in line with the needs of each school and current economic realities.”
What the people could make of this is to go to town and say the government wants to increase the cost of education to parents. They discountenance the fact that this is merely a poser from the Summit and something for further conversation between the people and the state.
And the Ondo State House of Assembly has done the needful, asking that it be carried along as elected representatives of the people in any implementation of the communique, in response to the hues and cries that have accompanied it.
We need not give in to unwarranted fear. It should be expected that the Government having been elected by the people would strive to listen to them and act in their best interest at all times. We owe the government the benefit of doubt and not cry wolf where there is none.
Each one of us needs to buckle up. The progress of this state on all fronts is the responsibility of us. We need not paint the government with evil brushes as its success is our own success. We are in this boat together.
My humble suggestion with regards to the above item of the communique, to add to the ongoing conversation, is that even if any changes would be made, it cannot be uniform across board.
We all hunger for tertiary education in this clime. What I am proposing is that the different courses can carry different fees so that the person who has an hunger for tertiary education but does not have the financial muscle would not be totally cut off.
The cost of training for the different courses should not be lumped together as an average used to levy everyone. That would be unfair as it would mean that those who want to study less exotic courses in school, which should ordinarily not attract much in school fees, would be unfairly and wickedly carrying the weight of those who offer more exotic courses.
There is gain in tertiary education, in the culture and the life long orientation one imbibes. So the school fees increase should not become a blanket thing, but measured according to the specific courses offered. And those who want tertiary education, who are mentally prepared and ready and hungry enough would have some courses they can offer in line with their financial capacity. With that, they can get a good paying job, become financially empowered and able to sponsor themselves further, if they would like to study the more exotic courses.
Also, let us not deceive ourselves, there is no amount of increase in fees that would suffice. None. What it will boil down to is for the lopsided federal system to be rectified so that the states can have enough funds to take care of its needs. In that case each component of the federation can develop without feeling smothered by the other, and development can be unfettered. This is a matter we would constantly return to.
It does not matter the amount of increase in school fees that would bridge the massive gap in the needed equipment for the next generation of academic leaders and effectively stem the slide in the quality of tertiary education. What we have now is a lot of cramming and pouring going on throughout our education. After four, five or six years, one may not have been exposed to some basic tools you would need to operationalise your learning after graduation. What does that make you if not an half baked graduate?
For starters, we need to have an holistic audit of available and needed technical facilities.
What are commonly done is staff and financial audits to fish out possible ghost workers or monies that should be accounted for.
But a good audit of the equipment-need would be the foundation of creating a template for progress, that can be adequately measured.
Universities and other tertiary institutions should be tasked to prioritise seeking of research funding from both outside the country and inside. Government can use its clout to attract funding, set up a task force to have a direct intervention in this area. This is something that has the possibility of bringing much fruits.
This takes us to the fourth item of the communique which deals with the primary and secondary schools.
It reads: “That the issue of return of schools to their original owners requires further engagement amongst stakeholders in order to arrive at amicable and workable solution.”
This proposal is bound to generate mixed feelings among different groups due to the perceived sensitivity of the issue.
It is clear that a whole swath of schools has the possibility of being affected. But we should also not forget the fact that the transfer of the schools to government happened a long time ago and it is clear that over that time, the churches might have evolved differently when it comes to the ability to manage schools while government has advanced.
So even if this proposal would be implemented, it should be done taking this fact into consideration, understanding that this would necessitate going through a steep learning curve to build the needed capacity to comfortably run the school. It needs to also be considered that Ondo State presents a different socioeconomic milieu from some other states in the country.
All in all, the education summit was geared towards making things better in the sector. And I want to repeat that the attention should now be geared towards having an economic summit.
Everyone knows that the Akeredolu administration means business. It is not one for dilly dallying and playing to the gallery, speaking with the two sides of the mouth, saying things to score cheap political points, which would have nothing to do with the concrete progress on ground.
Such a focused administration needs the support of all and not unnecessary backbiting and mudslinging. With such a sharp vision and no time for frivolity and flippancy from the political leadership, we know that the future is bright for Ondo State. We wish the administration God’s speed on the journey to transform the state to a true place of pride.