What has happened to Osun mega schools built by immediate past governor, Rauf Aregbesola? Three years into the tenure of governor Gboyega Oyetola, both parties are trading blames over the state of the schools, especially the one at Iwo, which appeared to have been abandoned since Aregbesola left office.
As part of Aregbesola’s efforts to uplift education and address the problem of out-of-school children, the former governor introduced new policies and built new schools, including 11 mega schools across the three senatorial districts in the state. The intervention was to impact basic and secondary education, improve teacher-to-students ratio, provide facilities, teaching and learning aids.
Each of the mega schools has 72 classrooms with capacity for 3,000 senior secondary students. The mega schools were part of the comprehensive education infrastructure reforms of the Aregbesola administration.
The reforms were agreed upon after an education summit, which was chaired by Prof Wole Soyinka in March 2011, few months after assumption of office.
Three of the schools – Ataoja Grammar School, Fakunle Unity School and Osogbo Grammar School – are in Osogbo, the state capital. Others are Ilesa Grammar School, Ilesa; Wole Soyinka Government High School, Ejigbo; Akinorun Grammar School, Ikirun; High School, Ila; Adventist Grammar School, Ede; Oduduwa Secondary School, Ile-Ife; Ayedaade Grammar School, Ikire; and Iwo High School. The one in Iwo was originally cited at Baptist High School, Iwo. It was however, relocated after the hijab crisis that rocked the school. So, time was wasted in the course of deciding on a new location. That explains why this particular school was not completed.
Other interventions under Aregbesola included construction of 28 new storey buildings of middle schools consisting of 764 classrooms, 21 quadrangle buildings of elementary schools, consisting of 531 classrooms, construction of 143 blocks of between two and 10 classroom buildings consisting of 1,550 classrooms, mainly for rural settlements, as well as rehabilitation of 215 old school buildings to produce 1,213 classrooms across the state.
To complement these efforts, the government employed about 3,230 teachers in 2013 into public elementary and middle schools by pulling together the financial resources from Osun’s treasury, bond issuance, capital receipts from Federal Government and the National Assembly representatives (in the first term), worth about N11 billion.
The project was also predicated on a succession plan that would take care of administration and maintenance of the new schools, proper staffing and possible involvement of private sector participants in the area of accommodation and transportation of students to ensure qualitative education.
Aside from the mega schools, other policies introduced by the Aregbesola-led government included enforcement of a single uniform for students in public primary and secondary schools, re-classification, renaming and merger of schools, among others.
However, when Oyetola came on board, his administration reversed some of the policies of his predecessor in the education sector. The governor, for instance, reversed the 4-5-3-4 educational system introduced by the Aregbesola administration to 6-3-3-4.
He reversed the single uniform system and reverted to old names of the schools. He also decentralised the school structure by separating the merged schools that, hitherto, operated as girls’ and boys’ schools.
But three years down the line, Iwo High School (a two-storey building project sitting on 10,000sqm) scheduled for completion in 2017, is a cause for concern.
The school project, which is 85 per cent completed before the exit of Aregbesola has allegedly been abandoned.
Worried by the development, some concerned indigenes have cried out over the situation, accusing Oyetola of allegedly playing politics with the project. The group noted that since the project was already 85 per cent completed, Oyetola only needed about 15 per cent efforts to complete and put it to use. Sadly, they lamented that the huge infrastructure is lying fallow, and may deteriorate further if nothing is done to complete it.
Stakeholders reminded that the state government took N11 billion Sukuk bond for the purpose of the mega schools and should not be allowed to go down the drain.
Other mega schools, said to be fully equipped with modern laboratories, school hall capable of sitting 1,000 students for external exams, sickbay and bookshop, are reported to be in disrepair and penciled down to undergo integrity test. This decision by the state government is already generating ripples between loyalists of the two gladiators.
All Progressive Congress (APC) youth leader in the state, Oluwaseun Abosede, while speaking on the abandoned project by the present administration, reminded that government is a continuum and wondered why governor Oyetola departed from the norm.
Abosede, in his response to enquiries from The Guardian accused the governor of not only refusing to complete the Iwo project, but also failing to maintain the already completed mega schools.
He alleged that for over three years that governor Oyetola came on board, no maintenance was done in the schools. “And now, the government has come out with a white paper that the mega schools should undergo integrity tests. What do you expect from schools that have been abandoned for over three years? Facility managers put in place by Aregbesola administration to oversee maintenance of the schools were sacked the moment Oyetola government took over.
“The government refused to pay them and eventually sacked them. But these officials were not directly on government’s payroll. They were paid from monies paid by students in these model colleges. However, because Oyetola allegedly wanted to do away with any trace of his predecessor’s achievement, he refused to maintain the mega schools.
“I want the government to be up and running. It should continue the projects his predecessor started, he should stop playing politics with the future of youths in the state and invest in their future.
“Oyetola refused to complete the Iwo mega school project because he was just jealous of Aregbesola and allegedly out to destroy his legacies,” said Abosede.
When reminded that the delay may be as a result of lack of resources, the APC youth leader said the school projects were financed from a Sukuk bond loan taken by Aregbesola.
“Resources are already on ground. Government just refused to complete the project to whittle down Aregbesola’s achievement. As a matter of fact, the Sukuk loan had been fully repaid. As it is now, Oyetola administration is even guilty of diverting funds meant for the mega school projects into another venture, because the Sukuk loan was primarily for building the mega schools.
On his part, Special Adviser on Communications to Aregbesola, Semiu Okanlawon, in his reaction, said: “I don’t want to assume that governor Oyetola won’t have Iwo High School in mind because it was definitely the biggest project cited in the ancient town. He will be proud to finish it. I recall raising it with the Governor in April last year, and I think he was talking about availability of funds. Maybe the commissioner for education will help you shed more light on what could be the reason for the delay in completing the school because I know the governor would even like to showcase such a project to the people of Iwo.
“I have no doubt in my mind Oyetola has a number of highly respected people who speak with him and I am sure they may have raised it with him. It is a lovely structure and it will be a pride to his administration,” Okanlawon added.
The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi, declined comment.
In the same vein, former Attorney General and Asiwaju of Iwoland, Gbadegesin Adedeji, also refused to speak.
But the state government, in its reaction debunked claims that the project was abandoned. The Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, who said they were on tour of local government councils when The Guardian called said the project is on and would be completed in due course.
She said the present administration, despite its lean resources has done a lot in the area of education since it came on board. For instance, Egbemode said Oyetola paid registration fee of 751 indigents students and providing facilities to ensure that schools are safe.
“The governor has spent billions of naira on infrastructural development. He is doing perimeter fencing in different schools and buying furniture that will be useful for teachers and students, as well as boreholes in schools.
She assured that every school that needed attention would be touched by the Oyetola administration. “If there is a school in Iwo area that has not got enough attention, it is because we are working somewhere else. It is not because that school is particularly singled out to be left like that.”
The stakeholders also accused Oyetola government of stopping the Omoluabi Education Services Ltd, which was in charge of maintenance of the mega schools, which is hasting deterioration.