By; Bayo Akamo, Ibadan.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Oyo State has said Governor Abiola Ajimobi led government’s planned policy of private partnership of public secondary schools in the state is “ill-conceived, illegal and unconstitutional”.
SDP in a press statement made available to newsmen in Ibadan and signed by its spokesman in the state, Alhaji Akeem Azeez described the planned education policy as nothing but “a subtle privatisation of state public secondary schools.” capable of “destroying today’s hope of a greater tomorrow”.
According to SDP, Governor Ajimobi should forget the planned policy saying, “the proposed Private Public Partnership initiative in Oyo State public schools is a preamble to the outright sales of government schools to capitalists and affluence in the society”.
“Critical stakeholders; government, unions and parents have all stated their reasons for and against the proposal but almost everyone failed to emphasise the illegality of the initiative. To make matters worse, the explanation given by proponents of the initiative was unsatisfactory and completely ignored the unconstitutionality and illegality of the initiative. Perhaps, they forgot that government derives its sovereignty from the people who elected them into power and not the other way round,” it said.
The party maintained that Governor Ajimobi should thread softly on the proposed new education policy geared towards engaging private partnership in the running of the state public secondary schools, saying,
“Section 2(1) of Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2003 states that every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age” and that “finally, the Child Rights Law 2006 of Oyo State states that It shall be the duty of Oyo State government to provide free and compulsory education to every child in the State.”
“The above laws have neither been amended nor repealed, so why is the government in a hurry to hand over the schools to the highest bidders? Any action taken in contravention of the above stated laws is illegal, unconstitutional and should not be allowed to see the light of the day”.
SDP in the statement stressed that “In 1975, government started the process of taking over schools from private owners, in response to the Educational Review Committee Reports in all regions in Nigeria, particularly the Banjo Educational Review Committee of the Western Region. The reports revealed that the owners of privately owned schools charged exorbitant fees which led to fewer pupils intake and that these privately owned schools could not give quality education to students”.
“The Banjo report highlighted the role and responsibility of the government in social protection by providing access to affordable qualitative basic education for the poorest of the poor without religious and tribal considerations. The implementation of such report led to the takeover of all the previously owned private schools in Oyo State by the government and all efforts and attempts by successive governments to return schools to private owners have been abortive and such ideas were later abandoned.
The illegality and unconstitutionality of the initiative Edict No. 14 of 1975 was the first law enacted to legalize the takeover of schools by the government.
Commenting on the violent rejection of the initiative by the masses, the party pointed out that it was not ready to support any violent act “but will dissect the bone of contention without minding whose ox is gored” saying, that the present government in the state has been allegedly found wanting in integrity.
“Majority of the people have lost confidence and trust in the APC led Government of Oyo State because their words have not matched their actions. In 2013, a Public Private Partnership Bill was signed into law. It was stated that the government shall establish the office of the PPP to look into how government could benefit in the areas of agriculture, waste disposal, public utility, provision of water and tourism. Education was not specifically mentioned in the Act. The APC led government has tried public private partnership on a few occasions and failed to bring any of these projects to fruition”.
SDP added that “a couple of instances are cited below to buttress this point; “Senator Abiola Ajimobi claimed that Oyo state Technical University will be established on PPP mode. Having allegedly spent billions of Naira on the white elephant project, the government declared that the partners from Texas University were no longer coming due to Boko Haram insurgency. One wonders where in Oyo state Boko Haram has wreaked havoc to warrant the cancellation of the project”.
Shortly after the inauguration of APC government of Senator Ajimobi in 2011, he announced that a four star hotel will be built under PPP arrangement and a piece of land at Dandaru lake behind Cultural Centre was chosen as the site of the multi-million project. Since 2011, the only thing visible on the site is a perimeter fence. Again, millions of Naira of public funds was wasted on the phantom project. No cogent excuse was given for the inability of the government to deliver on the white elephant project. The Ogun State instance cited by the government and proponents of commercialization of public schools does not provide a good example. When Otunba Gbenga Daniel returned schools to private owners and missionaries, Ogun State recorded a staggering 17,000 students withdrawal from formal education because their parents could not afford the school fees”.
It stated that “this decision was thus reversed by the Ibikunle Amosun administration which once again, took over the ownership and management of the schools” cautioning on the consequences of deprivation of free or affordable basic education to the masses.
“There are dire consequences of depriving the masses access to free, affordable, basic and qualitative education. Oyo State will breed a younger population that will be easily susceptible to engaging in social ills such as petty crime, kidnapping, armed robbery and advance fee fraud aka 419. This will lead to greater insecurity of lives and property in the State. Furthermore, there will be inadequate manpower to manage the formal sector of the economy owing to lack of formal training in the requisite disciplines.
Solutions: Adopt a school initiative: The government can approach both corporates bodies and individuals to participate in an “adopt a school” initiative. Former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili had started this concept before change of government in 2007.
“Oyo State can do the same by getting corporate bodies to support public schools in the State by providing necessary amenities for them as part of their corporate social responsibility. Create an Education Endowment fund: At the inception of this administration, government created a Security Trust Fund where individual and corporate bodies operating in the State and beyond were co-opted to make donations for the security of life and property. The education sector is as critical as security, thus establishing the fund will afford the State the opportunity to generate more money for education. It could be backed by an enabling law similar to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, Etc.) Act 2011 enacted at the Federal level. Approach international and local educational donor agencies for fund: There are international agencies who are concerned with education in developing countries like Nigeria. All you need is contact and operate a transparent government. There are sizeable local donors as well. Encourage old students associations to contribute their quota to their Alma mater: Old students of Government College Ibadan, Loyola College, Ibadan Grammar school and Olivet Baptist High School have supported their alma maters over the years”.
By; Bayo Akamo, Ibadan.