Participants rose from the Ondo education summit last week, calling on the government to introduce tuition fees at the secondary school level. However, not many parents are buying the idea, reports
Ondo State has joined the league of states that have organised summits to arrest the rot in the education sub-sector last week. Eggheads in the sector spent two days at the International Culture and Event Centre, Akure, to address Governor Olurotimi Akeredolu’s challenge of finding solutions to the education system’s inability to drive development in the state.
Akeredolu described the state’s returns on investment in education as embarrassing, lamenting that it still had to depend on expatriates to drive its quest for technological growth.
Urging for inputs, the Governor, at the opening, said:”Your realistic inputs will be of tremendous assistance to our administration keenly desirous of charting a new course with regard to its avowed determination to introduce a purposeful and functional system of training.”
After deliberations, the participants came up with a 19-point communiqué, which, if implemented, they believe will set the state on the path to development.
However, the first two points of the communiqué, which called for funding of the education sector to become a shared responsibility and the introduction of tuition fees at secondary and tertiary levels, has raised concern among parents and teachers and may set them on collision with the state government if implemented.
The resolution of the 19-point communique, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Steve Awosika, reads in part: “That the issue of education funding is too important to be left in the hands of government alone if we must achieve functionality in education. It must be the business of all stakeholders.
“That government should fund education at the Primary School level while parents should be responsible for the education of their children at the Secondary and Tertiary levels.
“That there should be a review of chargeable fees in the state’s tertiary institutions in line with the needs of each school and current economic realities.”
Reacting to the news, some indigenes of the state, even among Akeredolu’s supporters, misinterpreted the communiqué to mean outright re-introduction of tuition fees in state-owned secondary schools. Critics have used various means, including the social media, to air their views on the outcome of the summit.
An Akure rights activist, Mr. Jimoh Damilohun, said he was not pleased with the summit’s outcome. He said the governor deliberately organised the summit to re-introduce tuition in the secondary unit of the state education system.
According to Damilohun, the public would have reacted negatively to the outcome of the summit if the governor had openly mandated compulsory payment of tuition in secondary schools.
He said:”The summit was meant to achieve one thing – re-introduction of tuition in secondary schools in the state. The plan by Akeredolu was to use the summit to fashion out solutions to the challenges in the education sector in the state is secondary. The summit was deliberately packaged to deceive members of the public. Akeredolu knew that people would scold his administration and did not involve stakeholders in his clandestine plan to bring back tuition in secondary schools.”
A concerned parent, Mr. Bodunde Ishola, also flayed what he described as subterranean move by the governor to put unnecessary pressure on parents.
Ishola reminded Akeredolu that former Governor Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin introduced free education at the primary and secondary schools levels in the old Ondo State.
He said the standard of education under Ajasin’s administration, despite being free, competed favourably with those in developed countries.
Ishola asked Akeredolu and his education commissioner to learn from Ajasin, “whose administration’s performance in all sectors was yet to be surpassed by subsequent governments in Ondo State.”
He said: “There nothing special in the outcome of the summit. Akeredolu should have told parents and guardians that he intended to introduce tuition, instead of hiding under a summit to deceive the people.”
But other observers hailed the summit, describing it as the right thing to do at the right time.
A graduate of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Mr. Benjamin Akinremi, disagreed with those claiming that the summit was meant to re-introduce tuition in secondary schools.
He said even at primary level, education was not free under the immediate past Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s administration.
Akinremi said instead of condemning the summit and its outcome, lovers of quality education should support the state to reposition the sector for impactful development.
He said as a parent, he paid about N57,000 when his daughter sought admission to a girls’ school in Akure, the state capital.
Akinremi also said the issue of payment of tuition at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, was politicised under Mimiko’s administration because his brother was the university’s vice-chancellor.
He asked why the state polytechnic in Owo was made to pay higher fees than the state university in Akungba-Akoko.
Akinremi said: “We need parents to be actively involved in the running or management of education in Ondo State. I believe that is the only way parents can be involved to get them responsible for the funding of their children’s education, while the state government should be contented with the provision of the friendly learning environment and qualified teachers.”
Another observer, Habib Olukayode, rejected Ishola’s view. He said the resources, including human, available under Ajasin were more than enough to drive the education policies of the former governor.
While it may be necessary to critically review the communiqué, Olukayode said the governor should also endeavour to implement the part of the communiqué that called for the recruitment of more teachers.
Reacting to the criticisms that trailed the communiqué, the government has tried to allay the fears of the people.
Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, said: “The communiqué from the summit was as a result of the summary of the views of all the stakeholders in the education sector in the state.
“It is expected that, at the end of any summit, there would be a communiqué, but it should be noted that the communiqué from the summit is not yet the position of the government or government policy.
“Expectedly, the state Commissioner for Education, whose ministry organised the summit, will ultimately present the communiqué to state Executive Council (SEC), where every point in it will be thoroughly discussed and debated before government takes a position.”
Culled from The Nation