OYO NUT OPPOSES PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC SECONDARY EDUCATION IN OYO STATE

The attention of the Oyo State Wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has been drawn to the advertorial publication of Oyo State Government carried on page 5 of the Nigerian Tribune of Wednesday 25th of  May 2016 titled

"expression of interest in the management of public secondary schools in Oyo State".

          As a major stakeholder, the NUT Oyo State Wing, having critically considered the negative implications of the proposed sale of Public Secondary Schools to private owners in the state is poised to make the following observations and to also raise strong objections to the policy on some patriotic grounds:

          In this contemporary discourse, while we don’t intend to necessarily join issues with Oyo State Government, conscious efforts are desirous to appeal to the conscience of the general public, in particular the people of Oyo State as to the negative impact the proposed privatization policy of government will have, not only on the system of our education but also on the culture which our own generation will, by the resultant decision and steps taken, bequeath to our successor.  Lester Smith (1975), who was the Chief Education Officer to Essex and later, Manchester, between 1931 and 1949, said “the core of education is the culture which each generation purposely gives to those who are to be its successors, in order to qualify them for at least, keeping up, and if possible, for raising the level of improvement which has been attained.”  We owe it a duty as the current active participants on the stage of life to make better, not to mar our invaluable educational inheritance, so that in future our contribution through this opportunity, will be mentioned on the positive side of history.  Perhaps, we could approach a discussion of this issue by raising relevant questions, which, in their answers, are capable of eliciting salient facts for a logical reasoning and conclusion.

1.                 Why were the schools initially taken over by government in 1975?

By Edict No. 14 of 1975, government took over all private schools because, according to available records, “the owners charged exorbitant fees and did not given quality education to students.  School buildings were of substandard structures, unqualified teachers were employed, teaching and learning materials were inadequate while classrooms were over-crowded.”

This was the summary of the situation of privately owned schools that prompted the takeover of all in 1975.  It should be mentioned here however that the findings of the Western State Government in 1975, was not at variance with, but a replica of one common feature of the reports of the various Educational Review Committees set up at different times in the old three main regions of Nigeria.  These include the Oldman’s Report in the old North, Dike’s Report of the old East, and Banjo’s Report of the Western Region.  The reports of the various committees intensely reflected the acute immobility that had characterized the inherited colonial system that involves prejudice, high handedness, religious discrimination in pupils’ enrolment, staff recruitment and the general administration of schools.  This, perhaps, was what informed the wisdom of the old East Central State when it took over the control and management of all primary and post-primary schools in the State in 1970.  The reason advanced by the Government was that the takeover of the schools “will more readily provide stability, satisfy the people’s basic educational needs, combat sectionalism, religious conflicts and disloyalty to the cause of a united Nigeria”.  The Government of the old Western State might have reasoned along this line of worthy and people-oriented objectives, when it initiated the take over of all schools in the state, an act which endeared the Government into the hearts of the entire enlightened and education-loving but poor masses of this State.

The absence of any case of resistance from these former owners then, can as well be traced to the truly gloomy condition of their existence, which obviously, was salvaged by the timely intervention of government.

2.                 What then are the motives behind privatization of public secondary schools in Oyo State?

The major grounds of arguments of the progagonists of privatizing schools in the State are that, the standard of education has fallen and indiscipline and moral laxity have been on the increase in recent years.  Their reasons may seem compelling but they have no basis for logical argument.  That the standard of education has fallen is a comparative statement about two standards.  What was the standard before the take over?  Who set the standard?  What were the parameters for setting the standard?  Those who argue on the basis of standards failed to recognize that at present, the population of schools at all levels has grown more than triple the size in 1975.  The curricular have expanded, made more comprehensive and favourably disposed to the demands of the developing world of knowledge.  There has been an increasing number of high achievers at the various levels and the level of achievement compares enviably with those of yesteryears.  The seeming large number of poor performers should be viewed in the comparable context of the large increase in school population and not as a mark of falling standard.

In the area of morality and indiscipline, the position of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) is that if school children are indisciplined and morally decadent, it is a reflection of the adult population in the society.  Indiscipline and moral laxity cut across the broad spectrum of the Nigerian society and it must be noted that the inculcation of discipline and moral values should not be seen as the monopoly of any one group nor should it be used as a reason for demanding the return of schools to Voluntary Agencies.  Rather, it is a joint responsibility of all, particularly in a plural society such as ours.

          It is therefore, obvious that the pressure on government by some groups for the return of schools to their former owners was for the economic gains foreseen as derivable from the schools.

          These pressure groups have observed that by the current state of economy, these schools, some of which were established cheaply through the exploitation of the kindness and hospitality of the local populace at that time, have become, by the current valuation, incredibly large investments.  It has also become a common practice in the present circumstance for certain groups of people to arm – twist our politicians especially, when they are going about pleading and seeking peoples’ support for election, to get them into promising a change in matters of public concern, no matter how selfish the motive behind the change demanded, even if it will only benefit a few to the disadvantage of the majority.  The issue of proposed return of some schools to the former owners may not be unconnected with such practice of trading ballot paper for selfish demands.  It is however unfortunate that the objective of complementing government efforts at removing illiteracy and developing the youths for the greatness of the country, which were paramount on the minds of the original founders of the schools, had disappeared in the hearts of their modern day successors.  The early missionaries, for instance, would rather attempt to contribute more, than seek to acquire for any selfish advantage, what had been given for the benefit of the majority.

3.       Why Public Schools should NOT be sold to Private owners?

(a)              With reference to the situation of our schools which prompted the takeover by government in 1975, no other agency apart from the government can tackle the current problems in our schools without heaving unbearable heaps of burden on the masses.  No private individual, group or missions will deliver quality education free, employ qualified teachers without retrenching the long experienced ones, recruit staff without discrimination and pay its staff according to the government salary scale currently being earned under government service.

(b)             Most curriculum of privately-run schools are fraught with “hidden syllabus” which have tendency for political, economic and or religious aggrandizement and indoctrination, as opposed to the broad-based and liberal policy of developing patriotic, nationalistic and cultural values necessary for the survival of a united multicultural society like Nigeria.

It also amounts to mere illusion to think of private owners, who could not shoulder the responsibilities of effective educational management prior to 1975 when population of schools was by far smaller, as capable of surmounting the relatively overwhelming problems prevailing in our schools today.

(c)              Returning schools to former owners amounts to privatizing education, which, in principle and practice, negates the resolution of the UNESCO to which our country is a signatory.  Privatization of education means commercialization of education and a ploy to remove education far beyond the reach of the poor masses.  This in essence deviates from the universally acclaimed position on the right of every child to education without any form of hindrance which is also the position in the UBE law signed into law by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.  Thus, the State government will be doing injustice to its responsibility to the people, if it could not defend the rights of the people who it represents.

(d)             The return of the schools and the resultant commercialization of education will definitely widen the difference between the rich and the poor and precipitate class rift, social disharmony and social menace.  According to the UNESCO Resolution of 1998 on Privatization of Education, it has been found that “privatization or handling of schools by private Agencies, increases the gap between the rich and the poor and prevents social cohesion, which is the whole essence of public education.  The more you privatize, the more unequal and divided your society will ultimately become.  So we think it is very important that we defend public education as a public good”.

(e)              It is about three decades since the schools were taken over by the government.  The edict No. 14, of 1975, legalizing the take over did not say that they were leased, contracted or temporarily taken over by government  but that they have become public schools and property.  Government, on behalf of the public, has since, invested quite a lot of the people’s money into expanding, improving and equipping the schools.  All the schools are therefore public property and to return the schools to certain groups or individuals would amount to looting and a daylight robbery of the innocent masses of their goods and possession.

(f)               The argument that the missionaries entirely owned the schools is, in the first instance, uncharitable, impious, irreverent, disrespectful to the people, wicked and unpatriotic.  There are records to witness that out of patriotism and love for education, the various communities donated the land on which missionaries built schools.  Should the people also turn round now as the original owners of the land, and demand for the return of their land?

(g)             Missions do not possess the capability to manage the schools that are now much larger than they were in 1975, when they were even unable to cope with a far smaller size.  Asides, it is much more costly than when they were managing them in the past and to maintain the required standard of today, will result in undue exploitation of the masses and consequent denial of poor students of education.

(h)             No single institutional site or organization can on its own be able to transform education.  Education can only be transformed through a people-driven process.  Unless we mobilize the mass of our people to lead the process of transforming education, no victory can be achieved through the return of schools to private owners.

(i)               Returning schools to private hands will lead to exorbitant schools fees that will be beyond the reach of the poor thereby negating the philosophy of free education of the present government of Oyo State and also of the Federal Government as propagated through the UBE Programme.

(j)               It mounts encouraging and promoting exploitation of the majority by a few, a situation which runs foul of fairness, justice and equity which a democratic government is designed to protect.

(k)             Returning schools to the missions in particular, will definitely widen the gulf of religious differences which the public schools systems have been suppressing by its nature of non-partisanship and indiscrimination.  There is bound to be religious domination in schools governed by missions and this will definitely escalate the wave of religious sensitivity and crises in areas of admission policy and recruitment of staff.  We must be aware of the trend of religious intolerance currently parading our land and which has resulted in destruction of lives and property in recent years.  Acceding any of the public schools to any religious body is nothing short of further aggravating the crises and arousing an unending social unrest capable of paralyzing the entire school system.

(l)               It must be emphasized that Education is the most crucial instrument for shaping broader societal values.  It is always a carrier of particular messages both explicitly and implicitly.  We should therefore, be wary of a situation where education will be used as an instrument of religious oppression, subtly shaping the minds of our youths along the narrow and parochial line of a religious ideology as against patriotic values and commitment to national unity in a multicultural society like ours.

(m)           The return of schools, works negatively to the provisions of the National Policy on Education (NPE), which states; “education in Nigeria is no more a private enterprise but a huge Government venture that has witnessed a progressive evolution of Government’s complete and dynamic intervention and active participation”.

(n)             There are also legal and constitutional impediments to the return of schools.  By the “Take over of schools Validation Decree” of 1977, which still remains in force, schools should not be returned to Voluntary Agencies.

“It states that the hold of government on those schools has afforded the government to be able to provide sustained education to the mass majority of the Nigerian public at an affordable cost, without religious discrimination and bias”.

(o)             Return of schools to former owners amounts to Government abdicating its principal responsibility of providing accessible, affordable and qualitative education to her citizenry.

(p)             Should schools be returned and a large percentage of our population unable to cope with the exorbitant fees, many children will fall out of schools, the result of which will be continuous increase in illiterate population as against the spirit of the current international drive on Education For All (EFA).

(q)          It is also a fact that Oyo State being the seat of the then government of Western State is unarguably reputed and stands famous in quality education delivery, given the 1955 track records of the Free Primary Education Program of the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Limited as the resources  was as at then, the program was entirely prosecuted by government on the understanding that government owes it as a constitutional obligation to provide quality education to the citizenry. It will therefore be a hallmark of deceit, great dis-service and sinful for the current administration which claimed to be a strong adherent of the principles and ideals of Awoism and which leadership made provision of Free and Qualitative Education a cardinal manifesto during electioneering campaign to take the unsuspecting people of Oyo State for a ride under the guise of paucity of fund.

(r)               It is public knowledge that Oyo State Government recently introduced education development levy of one thousand naira (N1000.00) per student per term which makes three thousand naira (N3000.00) per student per session through which it has since gathered millions of naira for the purpose of funding and management of education in the state; a development that has forced many parents to withdraw their wards from schools for inability to meet government regulation for the new tuition. There is no gainsaying the fact that where government proposed policy of privatization is allowed, education will definitely become elitist and for exclusive reservation for the children of the rich and the political "powerfuls"  in the state thereby widening the existing avoidable gap between the rich and the poor masses.

 

 

 
 

 

 

 



                             Com. S. W. Olojede,

State Secretary

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