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Group Blasts Aregbesola over Merger of Schools in Osun, Calls for Mass Protest

By Eric Ojo

Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola

Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola

The Osun State chapter of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), has called on students, parents and teachers in Osun to collectively reject and organize a mass protest against the proposed rearrangement and merger of primary and secondary schools in the state.

The call is coming at the heels of the Osun State Government’s recent plan to merge primary and secondary schools in the state. The group also urged trade unions, especially the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), parent association and student movement in the state to reject the policy and demand free, properly funded, and quality education at all levels in the state.

“We hereby call on the labour movement, Nigeria Union of Teachers, genuine student activists and change seeking Nigerians to rise up and fight for a genuine education reform as opposed to profit motivated reform being implemented by the Aregbesola-led administration in Osun State”, the group said in a statement signed by its Cordinator, Abiona Castro and Secretary, Kola Ibrahim.

The CDWR condemned the planned merger of primary and secondary schools, saying that it will seriously affect the already ailing education sector in the state, if implemented as proposed. The group noted that the idea of merging schools located in different areas in Osogbo with several kilometers apart including many primary schools that are equally affected, is symptomatic of a neo-colonial and retrogressive education policy of the Aregbesola-led government.

“In Osogbo for instance, the government is planning to merge Fakunle Comprehensive High School (arguably the biggest secondary school in the state) with Osogbo Grammar School or Ataoja School of Science. Also St. James Grammar School, Ayetoro, Osogbo is to be merged with Anglican Grammar School, Testing Ground, Osogbo. These are schools located in different locations and areas in Osogbo with several kilometers apart. Also, many primary schools are affected.

“What this means is that many students of Fakunle and those who reside around Olaiya junction to Old Governor’s office will be denied access to secondary education unless they relocate to Osogbo Grammar School to access secondary school education. Those who cannot relocate will have to trek a long distance every day or their will have to part with huge sum every day as transportation fees for their children”, the statement added.

The riotous situation Aregbesola is planning to create in the education sector, according to the statement, can be likened to the situation under colonial era where there were Grade II schools in very few towns and students used to travel far before they could have access to education. This, it said, will automatically create hardship on students, their parents and including the teachers.

“This will also make many teachers redundant and make them liable to be victimized by the Government and subsequently retrenched. Already, the government is asking some school principals, whose schools are to be affected to resign.  Moreover, most of the Schools the teachers and pupils were relocated to, had little or no infrastructure to sustain even their existing pupils/students population. This can only lead to worsening of conditions of learning”, it further explained.

The statement lamented that the trend is also replicated throughout the state, adding that some towns in the state have one or two secondary schools currently. “By Aregbesola government’s design, some of these schools will be closed down while in some cases, some two or more towns will share a school; a situation that can generate communal crisis on its own”, the statement stressed.

It said government was basing the proposed arrangement on a superficial policy of creating three grades of schools namely, elementary, middle and high schools.  The statement however warned that aside from the fact that the arrangement is against national policy on education, which arranges schools on basic school (1-9) and secondary school, the policy is also absolutely useless and will disrupt the whole education arrangement.

“For instance, it will lead to undue change and dislocation of curriculum; disrupt continuous assessment of pupils and students; mobility of teachers from various classes; useless stratification of teachers; aside other serious consequences. Already, school resumption has been extended by two weeks, because of the failure to put this policy to practice.

“Ridiculously, the Government that is so particular about reforming education in the State has not deemed it fit to renovate hundreds of schools that are in decrepit state across the State. For instance Fakunle High School built some 50 years ago, aside being arguably the largest in terms of student population, has one of the most outstanding facilities in terms of classrooms and landmass, is still in terrible state with dilapidated classrooms, non-functional libraries and laboratories, etc.

A reasonable approach, according to the statement, would have been to embark on massive development of facilities in the affected schools and other schools across the state in order to expand facilities and modernize the schools but on the contrary, the government is planning to turn the school into a shopping mall.

“How then can a state government that has added nothing new in terms of infrastructure to existing schools, other than the never-ending construction of some few model mega-schools, decides to demolish existing schools and turning the biggest of them into a shopping mall or motor park?

“Most schools lack basic facilities like laboratories, libraries, workshops, staff offices, etc. In this kind of condition, it is be at best be ridiculous to start the so-called ‘education reform’ with some bogus school rearrangement. For us, the real reform in education will mean that the real participants in the education sector such as teachers, education workers, labour movement, students, parents, retired teachers and communities will be involved in the planning, execution and supervision of education policies, programmes and projects”, it further suggested.

Genuine education reform, it said, will mean not just rebuilding of a handful of schools, but a complete plan of rebuilding and refurbishing of schools and school infrastructure, adding that it should involve massive recruitment and constant retraining of teachers, adequate  remuneration of workers, renovation of existing schools and establishment of new ones, provision of basic and modern facilities in schools such as laboratories, libraries, sport facilities among others.

“While we will welcome any genuine effort at solving or mitigating any problems facing education, no matter how minimal, we are bound to point out the futility of a piece-meal approach based on capitalist logic. By capitalist logic, we mean education policy that is premised on awarding contracts to quench the profit thirst of big time contractors and big business while giving token to the masses, as a way of courting their political favour”, the statement further admonished.

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