The education summit organized by the Ondo State Government under the coordination of ministry of education could have being a welcomed development for the repositioning of the educational sector in the state if not for some cardinal mistakes observed at the proceedings of the summit. Prominent among the anomalies was the reduction of critical state holders in the sectors to mere spectators at the summit. Bodies such as ANCOPSS, ASUSS, NUT, PTA NASU and a host of others were not given a paper to present nor allowed to discuss any of the paper. The student’s were only allowed to present a position paper when they became a threat to the continuation of the summit.
At the formal opening ceremony, the speech of the First Citizen of the state as well as his body language clearly reflects the directions he would have loved the summit to take. To worsen the case the first lady also tows the same line as she could not be diplomatic in telling the summit some of her premonitions.
As an individual who have invested about 19 years in the teaching and mentoring service in Ondo state, and as a keen observer of the educational politics as influenced by the Religious Bodies I feel the strong need to pen down my stand on one of the agenda raised and resolved progressively at the summit. I think I have all the moral obligations to pen down my observations and opinion about the summit, its proceedings, issues raised, resolutions made, as well as politics that played out on the floor of the summit.
The scope of this write up is not to Xray the details of the 19paragraph communique released as the resolutions of the summit, this write up only seek to correct paragraph/item number 4 as well as to present my progressive opinion about the return of schools to Faith Based Organizations FBO’S.
Item number 4 of the communique read thus ‘that the issue of return of schools to the original owners requires further engagement among stake holders in order to arrive at amicable and workable solutions’. With all sense of responsibility, the above was not the resolution of the summit rather it was the opinion of the general session moderator, that was not the resolution of the agenda of return of schools to the FBO’S.
At the summit when the agenda was presented, and it was the first to be read, the PTA, NUT, And the entire Muslim community of Ondo state represented by my humble self clearly rejected the entire idea because of the imminent dangers it poses to the educational development of our dear state. To cap the story up the agenda was later subjected to a voice vote and a thunderous and resounding NO resonates the main bowl of the Dome. To my greatest consternation, the moderator said our conclusion will be that further consultation will be made on the issue of return of schools to FOB’S! I called his attention to the fact that his statement does not reflect our resolutions at the floor of the summit only for the communique to reflect his statement rather than what transpired at the summit. The resounding NO on the return of schools to FBO’S was echoed in the presence of the Catholics Arc Bishop of Ondo diocese, the First Lady as well as CAN and Anglican Leadership, I believe these eminent personalities would not deny this fact.
I am personally disturbed at this educational politics of religious inclusion, the return of schools to the FBO’S was just one out of the many issues raised towards the development of the educational sectors in the state, several issues were raised which borders on funding of education,.strategies to reposition education in the state towards making education productive and purposeful, but as thing were now it’s as if the education summit has been reduced to one agenda of return of schools to the FBO’S. This is very unfortunate considering the huge resources invested in the prosecution of the summit and most embarrassingly is the current postulation of the First Lady who was a witness to the outright rejection of the agenda on the premises that it will be suicidal to the development of education in Ondo.state. The First Lady would have honorably kept mute as her position was well stated at the summit and it was out rightly rejected by the stake holders in the educational sector.
Ondo state government being the constituted authority with all power vested on it can return schools to FBO by fiat, it can even sell the schools to private bodies and dare the consequences, but for the government to invite critical stake holders to a two day marathon, brain tasking summit and at the end of the day starts postulating and brandishing something contrary to what was resolved at could best be described as irresponsible hypocrisy.
WHY THE PEOPLE OF ONDO STATE REJECTED THE RETURN OF SCHOOLS TO FBO’S
Education is the strongest tools of empowerment and development, it is a major factor which distinguishes man from other animals, and it is a yard stick to measure the level of the development of a country and also to forecast its prospect, in fact it is said that no nation will develop above the level of it’s education. If education will be effective and productive achieving its aims and objectives for individual and the nation, then it must be provided in an atmosphere free of religious bigotry and discrimination which was the bane of Nigeria education when the FBO’S was its custodian.
Permit me to say that the return of schools to FBO’S is archaic, barbaric, backward and non-progressive. It is a call to return to the colonial era and above all the call is contradictory to the electoral promises of the present administration. It is a call to hand over public properties to individuals in the name of FBO. It is a call to return to the dark era in the history of educational development in our nation, the call is fraudulent which is against progressive educational policy. It will result in more children being thrown out of schools, it is a call to.deny the children of the impoverished masses access to affordable qualitative education in an atmosphere of religious freedom devoid of bigotry.
THE CALL IS FRAUDULENT
The idea of the original owner of the school is fraudulent as it is a call to hand over government property to cooperate bodies in the name of FBO’S. The question that have been begging for answer whenever the issue of the return of schools to the original owner is raised is, if the FBO’S are claiming the schools originally belongs to them what do we say about the huge amount of money the government used in compensating them (even though some of the organizations are denying this historical fact) when the schools were acquired in the 70’s, are they ready to refund the money in its true value i.e. 2 dollars to one naira , or are they ready to buy the school in its present status, if the answer is yes, I think they should go ahead and negotiate with the government rather than embarking on cheap propaganda in other to arouse unwarranted sympathy from the innocent masses who are ignorant of the consequences of this fraudulent request.
It will be a bad precedence, an ungodly act and the fraud of the century that the property that we (Muslim, Christian and traditional believers) owned together under the government trust to be handed over to profit oriented organization under the guise of been original owner or FBO’S after acquisition, full compensation and heavily investing on the school by the government.
GOVERNMENT POLICY ON EDUCATION
If one of the policy of the government on education is aimed at making qualitative education to be available, affordable and accessible, then the fraudulent handing over of school properties and its administration to FBO’s would deny the Nigerian masses who are presently living below the poverty line access to qualitative education. Schools that were dubiously handed over to their acclaimed owner in Lagos for instance were converted to private institution and huge school fees affordable by only the money bags were imposed, even majority of the members of such organizations could not afford to pay such a fee and had to send their children elsewhere. It is a known fact that some of the most expensive schools in Nigeria today belongs to the FBO’S, for god’s sake why will the FBO’S seek dubious means to embark on business ventures as it is confirmed that the schools returned to the churches in the name of original owner or FBO’S were converted to money making ventures.
MORE CHILDREN WILL GO BACK TO THE STREETS.
When schools are returned to the so called original owners, or FBO’S, will the government hands of primary and post primary education? if no, will they quickly build new schools to cater for the children of the masses who will definitely not be able to afford the consequences of that action? if the answer is no, then the implication is more children will be thrown out of the school by this move. This will be antithetical to the vision of providing qualitative education to the majority of the Nigerian children. Nigeria is currently battling with serious security issues and one of the factors traceable to this situation is ignorance and illiteracy. Our stand is that government at all levels should not only improve on the facilities available in the existing schools, they should build more in other to remove more children from the streets..They should increase the educational votes in the federal and state budget.
A DARK PERIOD IN THE HISTORY OF EDUCATION
Without fear of contradiction, the call for the return schools to FBO’S or their original owners is nothing but a call to return schools to the Christian Missionaries or Church. This was established at the summit based on the arrays of supporters of the agenda which are majorly Christian Leaders. We say without the fear of criticism that this call is dubious, callous and fraudulent. It is a calculated attempt to further deny the Muslim child free access to qualitative education in an atmosphere of religious freedom. All our fathers who are now elder state men who had the opportunity to attend the formal schools especially in the south in the early forties and fifties would bear us witness that it is a call to re awaking the systematic Christianization of the Muslim children. Anybody who knows the history of education in Nigeria and the adventure of the Muslim child in his quest to formal education which was then in the custody of the Christian Evangelists would agree with us that this period can best be described as a dark period in the history of education and development in our dear Nation. During this sad and unfortunate period, the Muslim child either chooses his religion or western education if he wants to access formal education, consequently brilliant and talented young Muslims, who could have contributed positively to the development of Nigeria, were denied access to qualitative education because of religious bigotry. Those who agreed to access it were forcefully Christianized.
Even forty years after the schools were acquired by the government, formal educational institutions as it is presently in most part of the country and Ondo state in particular are nothing but Christian Evangelical Centers. The schools especially the primary and post primary institutions are consistently been used by the church in connivance with the government officials to forcefully Christianize Muslim children. Muslim children are either barred by state legislation or school administrators from exercising their religious rights. Even in the federal unity schools where two uniforms have been adopted with one as hijab compliant, the educational administrators in major part of the country have refused to implement it and allow our children access qualitative education in an environment free of religious bigotry. The case is devastating and demoralizing to the level that not only are the Muslim children denied the practice and profession of Islam in schools funded with their fathers money successive government in Ondo state have deliberately refuse to declare vacancy in Arabic and Islamic studies and some states in the south have deleted the duo from their curricular so that the young Muslims will be denied the teaching and learning of Islam and its language as a path towards the elimination of the future Muslims and their religion.
Governments and school administrators in southern Nigeria and Ondo state in particular in the last 1 5years have refused to employ even a single Arabic or Islamic studies teacher The school activities/curriculum as it is have continuously forced the Muslim children to live the life of a Christian and dress as such. The Muslim Children are forced to study Christianity by massive employment of Christian Religious Studies teachers. They not only ensure that Islam and its culture is not obtainable in the school but even outside the school and if possible our homes. Muslim students who dare the situation are brutalized, dehumanized, demoralized, traumatized and are worst threatened to be expelled from schools maintained and managed by their parent tax.
It is disheartening that the Christian in the south and even the entire country have always raise false alarm that granting the Muslim permission to profess and practice their religion in government owned schools will bring about religious violence. We are surprised at this statement by the Christian that suppressing a section of the community and denying them their religious right will guarantee peace. Our Christian brethren are saying that violent will erupt when Muslims are allowed to practice and profess their religious belief in the school built and maintain with the tax payers (which include their father) money. We belief this is a call by the Christian group for the return of the country to the colonial era when education was used as a tool in the hands of the missionaries to not only suppress the Muslim but also to forcefully convert them to Christianity We believe the agenda is masterminded and orchestrated by the CAN leadership in Nigeria who has nothing good to offer Nigerians but to criticize Islam and its heritage. They have authored the script of Muslim elimination by substitution and the Christian governments especially in the south are acting this script using their legislation as reflected in the school curriculum which is manifestly anti-Islam. My argument is that if this is the situation of the educational institution when it is said to be controlled by the government, we emerging what will happen if it is eventually handed over to the so called acclaimed owners or FBO’S or Church
OTHER CRITICAL REASONS
The over 2000 critical stake holder who painstakingly participated in the 2 day summit and my humble self in particular do not share the thought of returning schools toFOB’S, it is true that educational reform policy which will guarantee free access of the citizenry and assures constructive development is expedient at this point in time but, I maintained that this can not be achieved through the so called Faith Based Organizations which today have proven to be materialistic more than the capitalist! My stand and strongest conviction is that, the decision to take over the schools from the Faith Based Organizations was one of the best thing that ever happened to educational administration in this country. Even before the acquisition of the schools from the Faith Based Organizations government not only provided the landed property for the sitting of the schools but more than 60% of the running cost were borne by the government of the various regions in the country.
THE IRONY OF THE POSTULATIONS OF THE FIRST LADY
We need to critically read between the lines of the Ondo state First Lady’s postulations on the subject matter to be able to appreciate the fact that it will be anti-productive to hand over public schools to the FBO’S. For heaven sake how will the state reduce the incidence of overcrowding in the class by handing over some schools to the Faith Based Organizations? The infrastructure and personnel available in Ondo State public primary and secondary schools as at now is grossly inadequate. Instead of thinking along the line of improving on the existing facilities, some people for reasons better known to them are clamoring for the handing over of some of these schools to private bodies in the name of FBO’S.
The idea of some parents wanting their wards to be raised under religious atmosphere and as such some of the schools should be returned to the FBO’S is not only laughable but does not hold water, this is because as at now there are more than enough private educational institution from primary to tertiary owned by FBO’S which can adequately take care of that quest. Perchance if the institutions are inadequate then those parents can convince their FBO to build more schools rather than seeking fraudulent means to.take over public properties.
MORAL DECAY IN FBO’S
Aside from the above the FBO’S have not lived up to the expectations of showing dexterity in balancing moral aptitude with educational advancement in our modern time. Most of the Faith Based Institutions are today infested with moral decadence, pedophilia, incest, drug abuse and addiction, cultism, lesbianism, sodomy and all shades of immorality are the hall mark of most Faith Based Organisations. Cases of rape, adultery, pornography are easily raised these days against religious leaders and their organisations. Immorality have infested the FBO’S and the institutions which they have established are not immuned from these evils. Some few years back cases of cultism were raised against an institution established by one of the largest and fastest growing church in the country and funny enough some of the cult member were sons and daughters of senior pastors in the organization, .Even one of the kingpin eventually killed his own biological father, what an irony.
Leaders of FBO’S have in recent time show high level of corruption to the extent that a one time President of one of the largest Christian denomination in the country is presently facing corruption charges with EFCC. Little wonder why some secularist were of the opinion that religious institutions have failed the congregation and the country at large because of the fact that some of the superrich personalities in the country today are the religious leaders with private jets, business conglomerate and huge wealth they can’t account for.
If 304 and 1141 public Secondary and Primary schools respectively in Ondo state are characterized with overcrowding as orchestrated by large number of students on enrollment, I think it requires sane mind to appreciate the fact that it will be catastrophic to hand over even a single school to the FBO’S. It requires a progressive idea to know that the most reasonable policy to saxe the educational sector from total collapse is to build more schools, improve on the existing ones and expansion of the infrastructure and personnel of such schools to reduce crowd and make education conducive and attractive with positive developmental touches.
The idea of quality and responsive education will be a mirage if we think that FBO’S and their educational institutions is the answer. As a seasoned senior tutor of about 19 years and as a former administrator of a private institution, I am fully convinced of my postulations, it is an established fact and empirically proven that students of public institutions have continued to excel and perform better than the students of private institutions. If there is any doubt the summit can sponsor an independent research on identifying primary and secondary schools of first class and second class upper division holders from public universities in the country. Even most private higher institution graduates and school livers cannot defend their academic grades. This is because private institutions are nothing but business organizations and good academic result is a catalyst for the business development as such everything must be done in other to have a good fruit, we know what we are talking about. Despite the poor funding of the public institutions, best students are mostly from public schools and they are admitted into the federal and state higher institution while students from Faith Based Institutions and other private schools mostly further their education in private institutions. I know for sure that any organization will prefer results from OAU to that of any private university in the country.
Ondo state government sake of posterity, the unborn generation, the development of the state and even for the sake of the traumatized and impoverished masses should not return schools to the FBO’S under any banner. This is because of its daring consequences as more children will be thrown out of schools because their parents would definitely not be able to afford the fees that will imposed by such organizations. As at now more than 90% of the students on enrollment are on the register of the public schools, their parents are at the mercy of the government to provide qualitative and affordable education for their children, what will be the plight of such parents and their children considering the fact that more than 70% of !Nigerians are living below the poverty line. Returning of schools to FBO’S will be the fraud of the century because this is simply handing over public properties to private business oriented individuals in the name of FBO’S.
It is a call to the return of the nation to the dark period in the history of educational development when educational institutions were used as tools in the hands of the religious bigot’s for forceful conversion and intimidation of the masses. It will work against the federal government policy on education as well educational policies of prominent international bodies with stakes in educational development of the developing nations.
Rather the government should build more schools, improve on the existing educational infrastructures, increase or improve on the educational personnel especially teaching staff as well as prove adequate teaching materials. This can be achieved most importantly considering the dwindling government resources by dedicating the governor’s security vote’s to educational development. We can emerging if about N500M from the security vote is invested in education on monthly bases! The government should establish Ondo State Education Trust Fund and set up a committee of eminent personalities to manage the funds that will be so accrued. Ondo state should also increase the budgetary allocation for education and above all the funds that is used in running the office of First Lady should be channeled to Education and the office should be scrapped because it is an unconstitutional office. With these measures there will be more than enough funds to manage, improve and take the educational sector in Onto state to an enviable height. This is what I called a herculean agenda and if my amiable governor Arakunri Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN could embark on its execution, posterity will not only smile at you but will be lenient and write your name in gold. Thanks.
May Allah bless Ondo state, it’s populace and the government.
Sirajudeen Abdulazeez Folayemi is the Former National President, Muslim students Society of Nigeria.