With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
There is a popular Yoruba adage; Ibere o ki n se onise, a fi eni ba fi ori ti de opin. Literally meaning that hardwork is not judged by the starting but by the completion of a task. It is for this reason that the Kwara State Commissioner of Education and Human Capital Development, Alhaji Musa Yeketi supported by Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Hajia Mariam Ayodeji Garuba, as well as others on their team deserve plaudit for the tour of public schools embarked upon recently. The temerity and tenacity with which they pursued the exercise is highly commendable. This did not come as a surprise though because both the commissioner and permanent secretary are evidently passionate about their jobs and have unquenchable thirst for the revival of the education sector.
Despite lean resources, they ensured conclusion of the evaluation tour, which commenced last year and took them to the nooks and crannies of the state.
Understandably, the tour is geared towards repositioning the state education sector.
Through the exercise, it is believed that the team was able to unearth rots in the education system and effectively evaluate the various government owned schools spread across the state.
It is noteworthy that the problems confronting public education in the state are protracted and multi-faceted. While government could be apportioned some blames for these malaise, stakeholders in the education sector such as teachers, parents, community leaders as well as traditional rulers can be faulted for their ‘sins’ of omission or commission. Especially in the traditional areas of Ilorin metropolis and rural areas in the state, where parents would rather engage their school age children in hawking rather than have them in school. That is why one would find preponderance of children-traders in Idi-Ape market during school hours. I was shocked recently when I paid a visit to Ara in the heart of Ilorin and discovered child-hawkers in large numbers. Surprisingly these kids hawk their wares in school uniforms. This problem accounts for poor school attendance by pupils in some parts of the state. It is in this area that the aforementioned stakeholders need to step in to arrest the ugly situation through enlightenment campaign, as it cannot be left alone for government to address and arrest the situation. Teachers too have been found to contribute in no small measure to the problems besetting the sector. Most of those posted to rural areas, as observed abscond from duty post or play truancy while some lobby for redeployment when posted to the countryside. This is why there is high deficiency of teachers in rural areas. There is noticeably uneven distribution of teachers with the urban centres having excess hands and deficit in rural communities. The situation is so bad that some rural schools can only boast of two teachers. Inadequate staffing is the bane of standard education in rural areas in the state and account for the abysmal academic performance of pupils.
Another way in which teachers contribute to ills in the sector is aiding and abetting malpractices. Most rural schools are now miracle centres where students rush to for external examinations. Teachers connive with parents who pay handsomely to perpetrate this evil. Also, abound are teachers who do not have passion for the job and have divided loyalty owing to fact that they are engaged in one business or the other, which they sometime attend to even during school hours and the popular cliché has been, ‘Ona kan o wo oja’. Literally meaning one must have alternative source of income. While one is not totally against this, it must not be at the detriment of a paid ‘government’ job. It is the innocent pupils who bear the brunt on the short and long run.
Coming down to government, one can safely say that some of these problems have persisted because proactive measures are yet to be taken. One, infrastructural decay is a major challenge to teaching and learning in schools in the state. The unconducive environment has impacted negatively on quality of education. This problem calls for urgent special interventions. Government should expedite action on massive renovation of schools since it has been accommodated in this year’s budget. Aside this, adequate teaching materials, lacking in most schools must be provided for effective teaching and learning.
Welfare of teachers vis-a-vis retraining of teachers should be of priority to the present administration while those posted to rural areas should enjoy incentives to boost their morale and motivate them to work with much dedication. Only qualified teachers should be employed because they are beleived to be the fulcrum upon which education is hinged. More teachers should be posted to rural areas for a balance, particularly schools in Kwara north where there is a huge vacuum.
The state government must ensure right investment in the education sector in order to get the desired results. Adequate funding and good management will provide high-quality education in the state.
Gov Abdulfattah Ahmed is believed to know the importance of quality education, therefore it is hoped that after a careful perusal of the report of the Yeketi-led monitoring team, he would do the needful to restructure and save the sector, in line with his administration avowed commitment to developing the education sector.
Nonetheless, monitoring and evaluation should be a continuous exercise because without consistency and commitment, the desired result would not be achieved, which is qualitative education, as it is common knowledge that education is key to development. Monitoring strategies needed to be adopted for positive result.
The state commissioner must again at this juncture be lauded for some unscheduled visits to schools in the state capital some time ago, which led to punitive action taken against some teachers. He must however not rest on his oars because Ibere ko ni onise.