AKURE – Things seem to be looking good for public primary schools in Ondo State. The rot of the past is fast disappearing, leading to an increase in student enrollment in most of the schools.
While seeking the mandate of the people of the state in 2016, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu promised his government would revamp the education sector if elected. Akeredolu decried the decay in most of the public primary schools despite the huge amount claimed to have been spent on education by the successive administrations in the state.
After coming into the saddle, Akeredolu discovered that the state had not received any grant from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for some years. This was because of the failure of the immediate past government to pay a counterpart fund of N3.7 billion. The Akeredolu administration paid the whopping sum of money while the Federal Government paid a matching grant of equal amount, making it N7.4 billion available to revamp the primary school sector.
Princess Oladunni Odu, Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), said the primary education sector inherited by the government was a rotten one. According to her, that was the reason why the government decided to pay the huge amount of N3.7 billion in order to access the state’s share of the UBEC grants.
“If you went round at the inception of this administration, many of the buildings in these schools were actually dilapidated. They needed renovations. And the state government thought it was better to have a conducive environment for learning and teaching,” Odu said.
As at today, about 700 primary schools spread across the state have felt the impact of the government. The Oluwarotimi Akeredolu administration has completed the renovation and construction of these public primary schools.
Visits to some of these schools showed that they are now conducive for teaching and learning. Beaming with smiles, Olorunfunmilayo Rotimi could not suppress his joy even for a second while speaking about the new condition of his school. Rotimi is the head teacher of Saint Mathias Catholic Primary School, Ile-Oluji, Ondo State.
Established in 1953, Saint Mathias is one of the beneficiaries of the over 1000 projects being executed by the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government in primary schools across the Sunshine state. Recalling the rot and neglect of the past, Rotimi said: “You needed to be here before now to see that the school was in the grip of total decay.”
Having regained its freedom from rot, Saint Mathias is now a beauty to behold. All the blocks of classrooms wear a new look, a development that makes one wonder if the school is truly 66 years old.
“We now have a conducive environment for teaching and learning. On May 3rd, solar system was installed here to generate electricity. This is how it should be if we are serious about our education system. The primary school is the foundation. If the foundation is not solid, anything you build on it will not be strong.
“Since the condition of the school has changed for better, we’ve been having more pupils. The total population of our students is now 390. Despite the fact that we are approaching the end of the third term, more pupils from private schools are still coming to join us.
“Impressed by the state of affairs in the school, parents have employed two night guards. Our students are now happy. Also the teachers are happy. The only thing we need now is the fencing of the school,” Rotimi said.
Like Rotimi, Elizabeth Ajayi is also a happy head teacher. She is in charge of Muslim Primary School, also in Ile-Oluji. The school, which was founded in 1955, was an eyesore before now.
“Things have changed for our school. We thank God Almighty and the state government. Our environment is now attractive unlike before. We now have everything that can make teaching and learning easy. That’s why we have recorded an increase in enrollment,” Ajayi said.
But Ajayi still has one request to make. She wants the state government to expedite action on the construction of a perimeter fence for the school. According to her, the computer sets given to the school by the government are yet to be installed owing to fear that they could be carted away by hoodlums.
Muslim Primary School, Akure, the state capital, is also a beneficiary of the on-going massive renovation and reconstruction of schools in the state. The school was established in the late 70s to take care of the Muslim community. At a time, the rot in the school was so much that some parents withdrew their wards to other schools.
Speaking recently on the resuscitation of the school, the Chief Imam of Akure, Akeem Yayi Akorede, said: “The governor has done very well. He is a good man with a good heart. For a long time, the Muslims community watched as the school went into ruins.
“Our children could not go to the school as parents took their children to other schools. But despite not being a Muslim, the governor ensured that the school was reconstructed and fenced. Today, our children have gone back to the school and we are happy.”
Odu promised that the state government would sustain the tempo and put all public primary schools in a condition that will make them complete favorably with the best of private schools in the state. “What do private schools offer? Good surroundings, nice buildings. We think if the buildings of the public schools are attractive to the young ones, they will be motivated to come to school regularly. That’s why we have these projects,” Odu said.
She said over 1000 projects were being executed in the schools and they were made of the construction of new six classrooms, four classrooms and three classrooms. The chairman also said the projects included supplies of furniture, computers and construction of boreholes.
She said with these projects, children were now attracted to public schools in the state. The chairman added that another factor that had helped in raising enrollment was the school feeding being introduced by the government. “We noticed that the one meal a day has also attracted children to public schools. So, our population is really coming up,” she said.
One of the challenges still facing the primary education sector in the state, according to Odu, is shortage of teachers. She said no teacher had been employed in the state since 2006, adding that teachers were employed last by the Olusegun Agagu administration. According to her, a lot of teachers have retired, some of them died and some changed their jobs.
Odu, however, expressed hope of employing more teachers by the present administration. She said: “The governor has promised on May 1st that the state government will start the recruitment of teachers and we are waiting. When a verbal approval has been given like that, we must do the necessary things to see that it is properly done and we follow due process. We are trying to put the papers forward to receive formal approval for the recruitment of teachers.
“But in the meantime, we are looking inwards to see how many people have NCE within the system or B.Ed within the system. We can bring them into the primary education sector. So, we will have teachers because it is no point having those beautiful buildings and having enrollment increasing and not having teachers that will actually impact the knowledge.
“So, we are working within the system, meeting with the local government service commission to see if we can bring people inside the system into the teaching profession. We will do some little recruitment later
“We are working hard to see that the sector is developed. We know the importance and it is very germane that everything must be put right in that sector. It is the foundation and if you don’t put the foundation right, everything you put on top of it will not be right.
“It is a sector everybody must put in their best. All hands must be on deck to see that the basic education sector is actually put right. It is the beginning of a child’s life and we want these children to get it right.”
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