Woeful WAEC Results for State's Students shows failure of Aregbesola Government's Education Policies
Again, the positions of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) on the bankruptcy of the so-called education reform of the Rauf Aregbesola/APC government in Osun State have been borne out with the latest results from the West African Examination Council (WAEC) SSCE. According to the latest results, Osun State came distant twenty second (22nd) in the examination. While just 35 percent of the hundreds of thousands of students who stood for the examinations nationally passed with at least five credits including English Language and Mathematics, Osun State fared worse as it fell much below the average of this ridiculous 35 percent pass rate.
Without mincing words, this horrible performance of Osun State students in the examination is a direct indictment of the Aregbesola government, whose so-called education reform policies have only dislocated the already dilapidated education system without effecting any fundamental improvements in the state of public education in the state. Prior to this time, the Aregbesola/APC-led Osun State government's propaganda machine stopped at nothing in telling us that Osun would reap bountifully from the government's education policies in all external examinations. Interestingly, the same government is now telling us, after its edifice of lies and propaganda has fallen flat, that we cannot get result of the so-called reform in three years. This is funny. Meanwhile, politicians and contractors who have been rewarded with mouth-watery contracts under the guise of education reform have continued to see the bountiful results in their fat bank accounts.
The government, just a few months after into coming to power, organised what can be termed an elitist Education Summit in which so-called 'international eggheads', who knew little or nothing about the state of education in the state, were brought to decide the fate and future of hundreds of thousands of young people, without the democratic input of teachers, parents, students, education workers and the communities, who constitute the primary constituencies and stakeholders in the state's education sector. The outcome of this summit is a package of policies that, though they may appear innocuous on the surface, are aimed at furthering the interests of the politicians and contractors.
As a result of the detachment of the real constituencies and stakeholders from the policy formulation, the implementation of the Summit resolutions has, rather than improve, actually worsened the poor state of education in the state. The merger policy of the state government in which several schools were merged together without consideration for convenience of and implication for morale of students and teachers, is a classical example of this. Many of these schools were merged without provision for improvement and expansion of facilities for the schools. On the contrary, the government claimed to have reconstructed some 40 primary and secondary schools. This is at best a token as there are over 2, 100 schools in the state. In the real sense, what the government is interested in is not fundamental improvement in education system, but a political arrangement that will reduce government's spending on running of schools while diverting public resources and facilities of vital schools like Fakunle High School to private ends. This is why government wants to collapse over 2, 100 public schools into 900, even when the national population projection shows that the state's student and pupil population, currently at over a million, is bound to grow significantly in the coming period.
Rather than committing public resources to improving the conditions of schools by heavily investing in provision of infrastructures like classrooms, libraries, laboratories, sport facilities, ICT facilities and employment of adequate teaching and non-teaching staff, the government embarked on piecemeal reform by rebuilding handful of schools. While we in the SPN welcome any improvement, no matter how little, we make bold to state that unless this improvement is holistic and premised on democratic planning and genuine interest of the working and poor people, such reform will bear little or no result.
Currently, the few schools that have been completed and put to use are becoming overcrowded as more pupils and students are leaving their dilapidated schools for the few new schools. While government committed more than N14 billion on these new schools, the remaining over 2, 000 public schools lack basic facilities and adequate teaching staff. In many of the secondary schools, including those that were merged, there are few teachers for general subjects like mathematics and English language. In most of these schools youth corps members have become the only saving grace. Laboratories and libraries are ill-equipped and non-functional in virtually all the schools, while no school can boost of working computer centre or ICT facility. Therefore, the so-called school merger is only an aggravation of the already horrible situation.
However, if you read government's propaganda, you will believe the education system in the state has reached El Dorado. We were once told how the governor was collecting award after award for the introduction of computer tablets for senior school students. As much as we support all effort at modernizing teaching and learning, the reality is that the so-called 'Opon Imo' computer tablet project of the Aregbesola/APC government is nothing but a sham. As said earlier, most of the schools are in deplorable conditions; therefore, introduction of computer tablets in these conditions, as the WAEC results have shown, cannot achieve anything. Computerization is supposed to serve as a complement to the teaching system and available facilities, not a replacement. Can the tablets replace laboratories, sport facilities, properly motivated and well remunerated teaching staff, etc?
Most of the students who were given these tablets are very poor in the understanding of basic subjects such as English and Mathematics, which is a product of lack of adequate teaching facilities. Therefore, tablets in their hands, in these conditions without addressing the fundamentals are like giving them play toys. It will further isolate students from the teachers.
Rather than looking for cheap excuse, the Aregbesola/APC government should accept responsibility for the failure. Clearly, the government, just like its predecessors, and like other anti-poor governments across the country (both at the state and federal level) is a capitalist government rooted in neo-liberal policies that put public resources at the disposal of the rich few in the society while majority of the population continue live in penury, illiteracy and squalor.
For us in the SPN, we believe genuine effort at revamping the dilapidated education system should start with genuine education summit of workers, teachers, students, parents and communities, who will democratically chart out programmes for the revitalization of education system. This, followed up with massive investment in provision and improvement of modern infrastructures in all educational institutions from primary to tertiary level, will result in significant improvement in the quality of education. This however presupposes that public resources will be democratically owned and controlled by the people themselves. This will mean for example that, rather than billions of naira being handed over to handful contractors in the name of rebuilding of schools, Ministry of Works will be empowered with adequate and modern equipment and machineries to undertake massive refurbishment of schools. There must however be in place public monitoring and supervision of such projects and spendings under community and workers' control. By this, billions will be saved by ending the bogus contract system while thousands of secure, decent and well-remunerated jobs will be created.
However, a capitalist government rooted in rotten politics cannot do this. This is why we in the SPN are calling on working people and the youth to build a new political alternative to all capitalist politicians of all shades. This is why the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) was founded, to serve as political voice for the actualization of the aspirations of the working and poor people for better lives.
Alfred Adegoke Kola Ibrahim
Osun State Chairperson Osun State Secretary