For the former Minister of Industry and immediate past President Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), Chief (Mrs.) Onikepo Akande, all stakeholders in education sector should join hands with the government to address the falling standard of education in Nigeria. The Septuagenarian, who is chairman of Oyo State Education Trust Fund (OYO ETF), in this interview with MUYIWA ADEYEMI (Head South West Bureau Ibadan) in her Onireke, Ibadan office spoke on her determination to change the narratives in education sector and redirect the attention of youths to Technical Education in Oyo State.
How will you describe the quality of education in Nigeria and Oyo State in particular?
Oyo State, like all other states of the federation, is facing serious challenges in the education sector. This can be attributed to the attitude of all stakeholders. There is no doubt that education today is not what it used to be and we all are guilty. We have all neglected this sector and we are paying dearly for it today. What do we have today, students are being forced to go to school and parents have neglected their responsibilities. All these and many more have contributed to the quality of education we have today not just in Oyo State, but the nation as a whole. To now worsen the situation is the incessant strike in most of our institutions. Although the contribution of the private sector to education cannot be overlooked; it is important for all to take responsibility for all this important sector in order for the nation to be liberated and set on a road to victory.
What is the essence of OYO ETF, considering other initiatives like Oyo State Model Education Systems Intervention (OYOMESI) etc?
OYO ETF was established by law to assist the state with the financing of education at all levels, because it was established by law, its activities are governed by law. Its aims are to source for finance to supplement the provision of education in the State at all levels so as to raise its quality. It takes care of not just infrastructural development but also capacity building for teachers and students while not neglecting all other aspects that are important to ensure that our schools are able to compete favourably well with not just standard schools in the nation but also all over the world.
The establishment of OYO ETF was the initiative of Governor Abiola Ajimobi to restore the dignity and glory in education for quality education, quality schools, quality teachers and quality products. OYOMESI is an acronym of Oyo State Model Education Systems Intervention. Its aim is to promote students’ achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence through character education, localized education content, improving teachers’ competences and motivation while Oyo ETF is improving the quality of education at all levels through collective financing.
N50B Education Endowment Fund was launched last year by ETF, how much did you realized and how much has been utilised?
Yes, there was a fund raising on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. The programme was well attended by dignitaries from within and outside Nigeria and it recorded a huge success. People are still sending in their pledges. The issue of donation to OYO ETF could be seen as an on-going process.
The money realised so far and other monies are being used at the moment to give the five technical colleges in the state a face-lift. Already, advertisements have been placed in some of the dailies asking for bidders to bid for contracts for the renovation of some buildings in the Government Technical Colleges in the state, which will have an impact in students’ patronage of the colleges. This is just the first phase of the work. The second phase will soon take off and at their completion, our technical colleges will be wearing new looks to enable the students learn in a more conducive teaching/learning environment. I have this confidence that this intervention will have a direct result in the improvement of the quality of education being received by students in these colleges.
The importance of technical education to the development of any society cannot be over-emphasised and in fact very important for sustainable growth. There is no gain saying that part of the problems we are facing today is as a result of neglect of Technical education not just in the State but also in Nigeria as a whole. A visit to the Technical Colleges in the State by OYO ETF Management and Members of the Project Committee of the Board of Trustees pointed to this fact. The structures: some dilapidated, some uncompleted would now have to be completed to have students attracted to the Colleges which will in no small measure boost Technical Education in the State and will eventually help to solve some of the problems the nation is facing in the area of skilled manpower. It is in the realization of the neglect that Governor Abiola Ajimobi directed that the Technical Colleges in the State be given a facelift. Little wonder Technical University was also established in the Pace Setter State.
I have met many Ministers from foreign countries and in the course of our discussions, have expressed the importance of Technical education as a means of sustainable development. It is important for our nation too to key in to this so that the necessary development needed will be achieved.
Our tentacle is not limited to Technical Colleges only; very soon, Primary, Secondary Schools and Tertiary Institutions in the State too will experience the intervention of OYO ETF. As the Government is doing its part in seeing to the raising of the quality of education in the State, all stakeholders are enjoined to play their own part too. Students, who constitute the major stakeholders, should reciprocate this gesture of the Government by their commitment to their studies and coming out in flying colours in all their examinations. On the day of the Fund Raising, students that came out in flying colours were recognized and schools that were doing very well were also recognized through commendations and awards.
From your personal experience, will you say Nigerians have harkened to the reasoning that government alone cannot fund education?
I believe we are getting there. I guess, it is getting clearer to many, the importance of having the cooperation of all in the provision of quality education for our teaming students. With the cooperation of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), many are buying into the idea of cooperating with the Government in funding education. If you go round our schools in Oyo State today, you will see the impact of the School Governing Boards (SGB) and Old Students Associations in the upgrading of physical structures in our schools, for example: Government College, Ibadan, Queen’s School, Ibadan, Lagelu Grammar School, Baptist High School, Saki just to mention a few. If this should continue, in the next two years, schools in the State will be in better shape than we had it in the past few years.
However, a good percentage of the Nigerians would still have to be sensitised on the fact that Government alone cannot single-handedly fund education if the best is to be achieved in the sector.
The problem with quality of education in Nigeria was also traced to the quality of teachers, which many said was appalling. The competency test for teachers in Kaduna State further confirmed the belief, is there anything ETF is planning to do to elevate standard of education in Oyo State through quality teaching.
As I have said earlier, the interventions of this establishment is not limited to the renovation and provision of infrastructures but also to capacity building for teachers, which will have an impact on teaching quality. OYO ETF will also organize series of trainings, seminars and workshops to equip our teachers for the challenges of today’s education.
You see, understanding of the meaning and purpose of education is a necessary foundation for treating the issue of quality education. I want to believe that the issue of attainment of quality education in Nigeria will definitely not be limited to the teachers. Every one of us has one role or the other to play. The home, the parents, the teachers, the society, religious groups, educational administrators, policy makers and of course the Government are contributors to education quality. It is when all of us can collectively identify the need to play our parts that the quality of education can start to improve.
Intelligence is indeed the hallmark of a good teacher all along and what you do not have, you cannot give. A quality teacher is expected to have gone through all the stages and rigours of teacher formation and ready to impact knowledge as should be done for quality education. It is the plan of OYO ETF anyway, to organize capacity building for teachers from time to time.
There is a legislation that compels corporate organization to contribute certain percentage of their profit to ETF at the national level, are you also thinking in this direction in Oyo State for you not only rely on donation.
Thank you, the Oyo State Education Trust Fund Law also provides that the Corporate Organisations contribute to the Education Trust Fund and arrangement have been concluded to reach out to them to contribute in form of Corporate Social Responsibility, if everybody will see the policy as a means of helping the education system and in fact the future of Oyo State Children, then much can also be achieved from the organizations.
I want to believe that there was a time when education was seen as the sole responsibility of Government. It should be seen now as a collective responsibility.
Apart from the Corporate Organisations, I feel all and sundry, market women, artisan, Road Transport Workers and all of us should contribute to the Fund. During the lunching, we invited all the stakeholders to sensitise them about the establishment. The readiness and the willingness should be there for all of us.
How much of support are you getting from the government?
The government of Oyo State under the indefatigable leadership of Senator Abiola Ajimobi has been very supportive in all aspects to ensure that the purpose for which OYO ETF was established is achieved. Aside this, each time we approached him for approval and support in any form; he has never denied us of such.
Most government initiatives expire at the end of the tenure of that government; will you say there is adequate institutional framework that can make OYO ETF exist after May 29, 2019?
I don’t have any iota of doubt that Oyo State Education Trust Fund will exist after the May 29, 2019. The policy of the Fund is a worthwhile one, which has no political undertone. It has nothing to do with politics or politicians.
The policy of the Education Trust Fund is a good initiative; it is a right decision in the right direction. I don’t personally think that any government who wants the best education for the children of Oyo State will want to stop the laudable idea.Let me add that this idea of Education Trust Fund has been in practice in some states. Law established OYO ETF, aside from that, the idea behind it is laudable, and so, I see it as a project that has come to stay in the state.
Source: Naija Hope Team