... As Mimiko Makes Education In Ondo Africa’s Benchmark
When Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was sworn-in as the governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2009 and promised to work for the people of the state, little did the people know how he meant it. Apparently because of the antecedents of his predecessors, many perceived the promise as a mere political statement although he was not campaigning for election at the time.
In full recognition of the role of education in socio-economic development and its increasing relevance in the actualisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the state government has taken a giant stride to provide qualitative education for its citizenry through laudable policies, programmes and projects embarked upon in the education sector.
This is probably in the realisation of the fact that education is the strength of the state and that it has been one of the areas where the state has comparative advantage over others. Hence, the governor accorded the sector priority in his 12-point programme tagged ‘A Caring Heart’ programme. The aim was to reposition the state’s education and restore its lost glory.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the South West states and Ondo State in particular, since the advent of Western education, had thrived tremendously. However, not much of these education successes remained after the incursion of the military in the governance of the country.
The story began to change especially from the mid 1960s, leaving governments after governments struggling to revive the sector, using one strategy or the other. Unfortunately, all these efforts yielded little or no success.
Having taken the pain and the time to study the prevailing situation, Dr. Mimiko, upon assumption of office as governor, felt the education standard set by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, must be improved upon in conformity with the 21st century. This gave birth to his resolve to invest in physical infrastructure in schools all over the state with the realisation that the environment in which learning takes place has an overwhelming effect on the learning process.
However, the existing structures in public primary and secondary schools inherited by the administration were in shambles and could not guarantee the desired standard of education, as they were in state of total disrepair. Some walls had given way while some roofs had been blown off. Yet, pupils were made to make use of these dilapidated structures as classrooms.
Then, the intervention of government in infrastructure in the schools became necessary. This was approached from two ways. The first was the building of model schools tagged ‘Caring Heart Mega Primary Schools,’ while the other is a massive renovation of existing schools.
The idea of the Mega Schools, according to the state Commissioner for Education, Honourable Remi Olatubora, is to make available, a world class facility with state-of-the-art instructional materials that will enhance learning to the people. There are Types A and B of the Mega Schools. While Type A will accommodate 1,050 pupils in 42 classrooms on the basis of 25 per class in line with UNESCO standards, the Type B with 21 classrooms will accommodate 525 pupils. He added that the model schools in no distant time will cut across the state to replace the ramshackle structures scattered across the state.
Other facilities in each of the Mega Schools include among other things an interactive electromagnetic board in each classroom to replace the conventional chalk boards, a multipurpose hall that can serve the purposes of housing ,indoor game facilities and assembly for the pupils. Also obtainable in the schools is ICT centres with 50 computer sets connected to the Internet, an administrative block with offices for the Head Teacher and other members of staff, a sick bay, toilet facilities and standard football pitch.
Of more interest, Hon. Olatubora explained, is the affordability of the schools. He said government was not going to charge any fee so that the children and wards of the common man will have access to the same level of qualitative education with those of the well-to-do in the community. According to him, for five of the schools that are commencing academics activities, government had sewn the school uniforms and they will be given to the pupils free of charge.
The first of this Mega Primary schools, All Saints Caring Heart Primary School situated at Oke Ijebu in Akure, the state capital, was on Monday June 25, commissioned to the admiration of all, including the Federal Government represented by the Minister of State for Education, Barr. Nyosom Wike.
The event, to the people was a loud testimony to Mimiko’s commitment to evolving an education system that will work in this age and time in Nigeria as it is acclaimed a benchmark standard by all in attendance.
Obviously buying into the mega school idea, the Minister announced that it had earned the state the hosting right of a recent free text book launch for students in the South West. He said the state, through the construction and the eventual commissioning of the Mega School stood out among other states in the zone.
The remaining five of the first set of the Caring Heart Mega Schools prepared for academic work alongside All Saints are the ones at Olorunsola in Ondo, Ile-Oluji, Araromi Obu and Okitipupa, while 12 others are almost completed all over the state, with 10 new ones just awarded to contractors.
While it is impossible to change all existing schools to the status of mega schools at once, it is also worthy of note that massive renovation are going on in some of the other schools. Alagbaka Estate Primary School, in Akure and St. Andrews Primary School, Ilara Mokin in Ifedore Local Government Area of the state, are examples of such schools that had witnessed a total transformation as a 100 per cent renovation of the physical structures in the schools were recently completed. The story is not different at St. Peters Unity Secondary School, Akure and St. Helen’s Unity Secondary School, Ondo.
Other schools all over also have various interventions in the area of their critical needs. These include building and renovation of Science laboratories, libraries, technical workshops, toilets, blocks of classrooms, depending on the critical needs of the particular school.
All these investments in the education sector of Ondo State, if properly managed and sustained, will make the state the cynosure of all eyes, as it will become a reference point whenever education is discussed, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole of Africa.
Tona Sina-Adeyeye wrote in from Ondo State Ministry of Education