Friday, 7 February 2014

School Merger and Religious Crises in Osun State Schools:



SPN Calls for Genuine Education Summit
·         We oppose merger of schools, but call for massive expansion of all schools

The attention of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Osun State has been drawn to a recent event in Iwo, Osun State as reported in the 5th February, 2014 edition of the Punch newspaper. According to the report, Baptist High School, a public school, was turned into a centre of religious cacophony. According to the paper, “there was confusion at Baptist High School Iwo, Osun State as some students shunned their uniforms and wore choir gowns, white garments, Islamic apparel and other unconventional dresses to the school… But Tuesday confusion reportedly became more pronounced at the assembly ground as the pupils could not listen to their teachers because they were busy lining up themselves along religious lines.”

 While government will expectedly explain this away as being sponsored, it is glaring that the underlining cause of this patently dangerous trend is the anarchistic and undemocratic education reform of the Aregbesola government, especially the School Merger policy, that has seen many schools merged into one, even when the various structure and administrative policies in these schools have not been resolved. This policy rather than unites the students, parents and teachers has engendered division, and more importantly hardship for them. Prior to this time, violent incidents have been witnessed in schools across the state since the introduction of the merger policy. In Ede some months ago, a school vice principal was assaulted by some Islamic religious fanatics for allegedly turning away their veil-wearing wards. Also, in Osogbo, for more than a month now, ADS Grammar School, Osogbo has been closed down due to violence witnessed in the school after students were merged without adequate security and facilities. These are among other cases not reported in the media.

Added to this is the hardship students, teachers and parents are made to go through. There has been overcrowding in schools where merger has been carried out, while teachers and students do not have enough facilities to use. For instance, students have been facing serious transportation problem since the merger policy. A visit to such school as Islaudeen Grammar School, Osogbo will reveal the hardship pupils are made to go through, in search of transportation. In this kind of situation, no meaningful knowledge impartation can take place. Meanwhile, the main excuse of the government for merging the schools, that is, building of mega-schools, have not materialized as less than 30 (thirty) so-called mega-schools have been constructed to replace hundreds of public schools already demolished and merged.

Worse still, parents, teachers and pupils who will be affected by this policy, were neglected and alienated. The question of how to run schools without promoting religious intolerance, and ensuring the security of lives of students were not discussed with those to be affected, as the so-called education summit convoked by the government some three years ago was only populated by imported stakeholders from Europe, North America and other parts of the country. This has given various religious interests opportunity to lash on the merger policy to promote their interests. While some Christian groups have been using the crises of merger policy to call for the return of public schools to private religious missionaries – a retrogressive and reactionary demand the SPN is staunchly against – some Islamic groups have also been using the crises to promote their narrow group interests, some with sycophantic connotations. Meanwhile, students and their parents continue to be at the receiving end. While we in the SPN condemn attempt to turn our public schools to places of promoting religious demagogy and intolerance, we place the blame of this squarely at the doorstep of the Aregbesola government, whose policy engenders this in the first place.

While we in the SPN are not against genuine reform in the education sector that will mean total refurbishing of schools and expansion of facilities, we are however against an anarchistic reform that only ensure piecemeal improvement, while engendering new crises. To us in the SPN, what public schools need is not some dozens of mega-schools in replacement for hundreds of public schools. This amounts to denying students opportunities to functional education. A genuine education reform will mean massive improvement and refurbishing of all schools and building of new ones with modern classrooms, laboratories, libraries, sport facilities, ICT facilities, etc. It will also mean employment of thousands of teachers and other education workers and constant retraining. It will also mean better working conditions for teaching and non-teaching staff, including improved salaries.

More than this, genuine education reform will be democratically developed by the people themselves. This will mean convocation of a genuine democratic education summit of teachers, pupils, parents, education workers, communities, government representatives, etc. Through this, the running of schools will involve democratic involvement of these stakeholders. It is only through this that genuine education reform can be carried out.

Consequently, we in the SPN, while condemning what happened in Baptist High School, Iwo, call for the reversal of the merger policy and demand immediate convocation of genuine education summit that will include representatives of education workers’ unions, students’ unions, parents’ associations, community and civil society groups, and government’s representatives. We also demand government’s immediate commitment to expansion of schools and improvement in facilities across all schools in the state.

Signed


Alfred Adegoke                                                                            Kola Ibrahim
State Chairman                                                                           State Secretary

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