By Abiodun Komolafe
Osun State Universal Basic Education Board, aka ‘Osun SUBEB’, was established though the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act 2003, which was domesticated in Osun in 2005. There was an amendment in 2013, when the immediate past administration changed the school structure in the state. Although that is what’s still in operation till date, efforts are now in the direction of an amendment to revert to the extant law, with further amendments aimed at suiting the present-day basic, functional education management in the state.
The new and current management of Osun SUBEB came on board in June 2020. Primarily, and, in line with the Act establishing it, the body was founded to, among other things, improve the education infrastructure in the state; recruit, and train teachers; see to their welfare;, and take disciplinary measures against teachers who violate the regulatory rules. Other remedial measures include provision for teacher development, reduction of socio-cultural barriers, making education both accessible and affordable, ensuring flexible programmes for children from nomadic communities; and introduction of social welfare measures.
As the inhibitive influence of the COVID-19 pandemic would have it, not much could be done in a little less than a year of its inauguration. But, so far, how has Osun SUBEB fared in delivering on its core mandate, vis-à-vis, the objectives of its establishment? Notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic, the Board has, within the last one year, awarded 169 contracts for construction, renovation, sanitation, provision of instructional equipment and furniture. According to Ajibola Famurewa, two-term member of the House of Representatives and Chairman, Osun SUBEB, many of these projects have attained completion and are now in use, while some are awaiting official commissioning by Gboyega Oyetola, the state governor. Seriously, even a visitor to Osun can attest to the bulging manifestations of this foremost government agency’s interventions as they traverse the length and breadth of the state. This is understandable, for, in Famurewa’s words, “the intervention spread is based on the situational relevance and expediency of the needs of the people and community.”
In the society generally, most parents and guardians are fairly aware of the fact that their children and wards must, or, should go to school. But, how about the children of the less-privileged in the society, who are without means; the disadvantaged people who, practically, don’t have the tools needed to survive these hard times? Sadly as we speak, Nigeria has the highest out-of-school-children in the world (13.2 million). Out of this figure, almajirai claim a whopping 9 million. The dangerous reality is that these are children who either never enrolled or did not complete primary school education. Again, while Nigeria occupies the 124th position in the world and 25th in Africa in the Global Education System, available indices have also shown that Osun is not doing badly even as concerted efforts are being made to see that more of the school-age children are enrolled in the state’s public schools.
Indeed, Osun SUBEB’s pragmatic approach to almajirai basic education in the state is commendable. For instance, there are 43 nomadic schools in the state under the Board’s supervision and management, presently. In close collaboration with the Committee on Peaceful Coexistence Between Fulani/Bororo and Crop Farmers, Osun SUBEB ensures that those schools are effectively, and efficiently managed. Accessibility is being addressed through concerted efforts of the stakeholders and the school feeding system, reinvigorated by the Oyetola-led administration.
While another agency of government takes care of the aged and the less-privileged from becoming a threat to the society, Osun SUBEB deserves accolades for its ability to mop up the children of the nomads and the physically-challenged – those who are of school-year age bracket – and put them in schools and vocational institutions so that they do not end up as street urchins. The belief is that, if Fulani and Bororo’s children are well-educated, their standard of living and the way they rear their cattle will change for the better. Not only that, since an educated mind is an informed mind, hopes are high that (the) educated Fulani children will also expose their parents to modern ways of doing their cattle business. Such a step will also help re-jig the economy, reduce social menaces and improve security conditions, among others. Above all, it will bring about an improvement in quality and opportunities available to the people.
As an agrarian society, mainly, people would prefer to withdraw their children and wards from public schools so that they could help on the farm. For the people to now jettison the age-long subsistence farming style, thereby allowing these children to choose education as a more viable option is not far from the fact that Oyetola’s government is propping the people through renewed hope and flicker of ‘paradise regained’ in job creation and prospects of employment for those who went to school.
Under the present administration, the Osun Education Quality Assurance and Morality Enforcement Agency and the Osun SUBEB have become critical stakeholders in the state’s education industry, ensuring the enforcement of minimum standards in the environment needed for learning and teaching to take place. Through this symbiosis, students’ performance and character profile are better monitored.
By intent, accident or design, there was a time in Nigeria when landlords were no longer willing to rent out their houses to teachers. Needless to repeat that Oyetola’s interventions in the basic education sector through prompt payment of salaries and allowances have gone a long way, not only in promoting pure principles in the basic education sector, it has also demonstrated that Osun teachers are no longer condemned to living forever in penury on earth, with the illusory hope of a bountiful reward in the life hereafter!
An excellent fact about Osun SUBEB not being a static institution is the noticeable change in the dynamics of its contract awards and execution. In other words, it is not enough that contracts are awarded, these days, higher premium is placed on keeping facilities functional and intact than merely building them. Impliedly, Osun SUBEB also owes it a duty to hold contractors accountable for failure or underachievement in contracts execution.
Again, Osun SUBEB’s outstanding achievements are matching up to what Oyetola promised in his inauguration speech on November 27, 2018. Back then, the governor pledged that his Administration would “continue to respond effectively to the yearnings and aspirations of public opinions on how to improve the state’s education sector so as to cope with both national and international best practices in the sector.” Thus, if a good foundation leads to the attainment of dreamed outcomes, can’t we safely say that, ceteris paribus, Governor Oyetola is focused, running to deliver the entire package; and that what he needs is the cooperation of the good people of Osun?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, make Gboyega Oyetola’s Administration the best in the history of the State of Osun!
Komolafe is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Oyetola on Media.