Reopening of Shut Secondary Schools in Ile-Ife:
Reopening of Shut Secondary Schools in Ile-Ife:
Aregbesola government should educate young people; not jail them
The attention of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State Chapter, has been drawn to the reopening of the four secondary schools in Ile-Ife, which were previously shut down by the Osun State government over students’ protest. We in the DSM however reject all stringent conditions the government attached to the reopening of the affected schools such as payment of reparation fees and continued detention and expulsion of students who were reported to have participated in the protest.
We place the full blame of the protest at the door step of the Aregbesola government. We condemn in strong terms, the withdrawal of funding of WASSCE examination fees by the Aregbesola government. This latest repressive action, aimed at stifling all protesting and dissenting voices, will further make the young people to lose any trust in government, which is a potent tool for the rise of violence against the state.
The students of the secondary schools in Ile-Ife and Gbongan had protested against withdrawal of government’s payment of West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees, on the pretext that the students failed a Mock Examination conducted by the state government. The students’ protest reportedly turned violent when they got to the state government-owned radio station in Ile-Ife, Orisun FM. Rather than grant the request of the students to have their grievances aired on the public radio station, the management of the Orisun FM mobilized police to harass and arrest the students. This was the basis of the violence that the students resorted to.
Spending cuts harm school students
As much as we in the DSM do not, and will not, support any violent and destructive protest, we place the full blame of the protest and circumstances that turned protest violent squarely at the door step of the Rauf Aregbesola-led government. It is clear the use of Mock Examinations as precondition for payment of WASSCE fees by government is aimed at pruning the number of pupil that will enjoy this facility. Therefore, there is no reason for the stoppage of WASSCE fees other than an attempt to reduce government funding of the examinations. This implies that even if all the students passed the Mock Examinations, government would still manipulate the result or come out with other conditions to prevent most of the students from undertaking WASSCE. This is similar to how post-UTME examinations are manipulated by tertiary institutions in order to reduce those eligible for admission.
This policy of Mock Examination will surely lead to chaos for many students. As much as failing the WASSCE is bad, preventing students from participating in the examinations on the excuse that they may fail is worse. This is because without undertaking the WASSCE, the six years that a student used in secondary school will amount to waste, as such a student will have no certificate to show for attending secondary school. This is more so that the cost of WASSCE and other external examinations have been priced out of the reach of average working class parents. Consequently, as much as students must endeavor to pass, use of Mock Examinations to determine who government will pay for his or her WASSCE fees is faulty from the start. Even if a pupil fails the examinations, he or she would still need a certificate. Moreover, passing Mock Examinations is no guarantee for success in WASSCE.
More than this, government should be held responsible for the fall in education standards, which has led to consistently abysmal rating of Osun State in local and external examinations, including WASSCE. If truly, most of the students failed the government’s Mock Examinations, it reflects the failure of government policies in the education sector, which students’ performance only expressed. For instance, the government claimed to have spent billions of naira to procure computer tablets, called Opon Imo, for students of secondary schools; while several billions have also been reportedly spent on reconstructing about thirty schools, out of over two thousand, one hundred public schools in the state. However, most of the public schools lack basic facilities like laboratories, libraries and workshops.
Anti-worker policies damage education
Worse still, the government through its anti-workers policies, has caused disruption to academic activities in the state. In the past two years, teachers have been forced to embark on strike which has had negative impact on education. These strikes have been caused mostly by government’s poor treatment of welfare of teachers and workers in general. In the last six months, the Aregbesola government has been paying only half-salaries to workers including teachers; while for the first seven months of 2015, workers in the state were not paid a single month’s salary. In this kind of milieu, one can only imagine what the morale of the teachers will be. Moreover, there are no facilities for teachers to work with, as many schools are poorly funded, even when the state earned more federal revenues. At a time in 2015, teachers went on strike because there were no teaching materials such as chalk, lesson notes, etc.
It is therefore not surprising that just around 8,000 students passed the 2015 WASSCE, out of over 42,000 in Osun State, with the state coming distant 29th in the examination rating. Therefore, the Aregbesola government should stop using teachers and students as scapegoats for its gross failure in the education sector. Rather, the government should commit money to expanding facilities in all the public schools in the state and not just a few schools. Furthermore the government should improve the welfare of teachers by paying all the outstanding salaries and allowances and regularly remunerating them. Proper and functional facilities such as well-stocked libraries, ICT facilities, etc., should also be provided for teachers to use, while regular retraining at government’s expense should be organized, in order to upgrade teachers’ knowledge. Government should not expect teachers, who are poorly paid, to use their meagre salaries to improvise for dilapidated facilities.
The same government that claims to be enforcing discipline in public schools sponsored and is still sponsoring violent group called State Boys, which has been wreaking havoc on the people of the state. The government had used the group, comprising thugs, ex-criminals, etc. to win elections and subsequently repress dissenting views against the government. This group has now become a public monster that is committing violent and serious crimes against people, while the police and the state government look the other way. If the Aregbesola government is serious about enforcing discipline, it should stop the activities of the State Boys. What students need is functional education, not prison experience.