We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), OSCOED, Ilesa Chapter welcome this initiative to discuss the state of education in Osun State, especially as it affects the tertiary institutions in the state. We also welcome the idea of inviting active student organizations and unions/unionists into this forum. This is a far cry from the previously organized Education Summit some two years ago where some bigwigs who have nothing to do with public education were made to draw policies for the education sector in the state, while the stakeholders are left out.
However, we will advise that this effort should not be used to co-opt student activists into government policies as this will prevent government from sincerely assessing itself as it relates to addressing issues in the education sector. Moreover, we believe this kind of forum should have representation of appropriate government organs associated with formulating and implementing policies in the education sector. This to us will allow for proper evaluation and implementation of decisions taken in this forum. Despite these observations, we wish to raise issues that we feel are most germaine to public education in Osun state as of this moment vis-a-viz item 1, 2 and 3 of the terms of reference in the invitation letter of this summit.
(1) The Situation Report and Recommendation Concerning the State of Existing Infrastructure on Campuses
The state of infrastructures in Osun State-owned tertiary institutions is very bad. Many institutions lack key teaching infrastructures like modern lecture theatres equipped with public address systems. Libraries where they exist are completely denuded of relevant and modern materials. Laboratories are an eye-sore. Many of the institutions have no provision for hostel facilities thus exposing students to exploitation by private landlords and other dangers associated with off-campus accomodation. Many tertiary institutions in Osun state are in reality no more than glorified secondary schools. There is still huge infrastructural gaps in our schools vis-a-vis adequate lecture rooms, well-stocked libraries and laboratories, and workshops. There is also huge shortfall in academic staff. All this has affected the quality of education we receive. The case of OSCOED, Ilesa is particularly pathetic as the institution is expected to churn out educators who will impart education on young ones. Government policy on education seems to suggest that tertiary education is not that important. If this is the position of the government in the 21st century, then there is serious problem. While government has rolled out drums to celebrate its 'Opon Imo' project in which some secondary school students are to be given computer tablets that store textbooks, most tertiary institutions lack functional computer centres and information technology facilities, which are essential for proper education in this age. How can we even talk of information technology when most physical infrastructures are in their dilapidated conditions. Even in secondary schools where the computer tablets are being distributed, basic facilities are fundamentally lacking: well-functioning and adequate classrooms, laboratories, libraries, sport facilities, etc. Even, most schools lack electricity connection while the teachers are not integrated into the "Opon Imo" project.
We recommend an immediate crash program funded by government to begin to upgrade the facilities, employ more teaching and non-teaching staff and fundamentally improve condition of education in the state-owned tertiary instititions.
(2) The Social and Academic Realities on Campuses as Conditioned by Administrative Policies and Recommendations on Way Forward
In our opinion, the undemocratic nature of the administration of osun state-owned instititions is a fundamental problem for anu effort to put tertiaru education on a sound footing. Mismanagement of funds, victimisation of students and staff and complete alienation of students and members of staff from vital decisions about how their institutions should be run are parts of the negative consequences of the undemocratic nature of administration in Osun state institutions.
We recommend the democratisation of the institution's administration through the involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in all decision making organs of the institution's administration.
(3) The Social and Academic Realities on Campus as Conditioned by Governmental Policies and Recommendations on Way Forward
Governmental policies on education has for a long time been anti-poor. Regretfully, this has not changed fundamentally over the past two years. Fundamentally, we in the DSM believe that education is a social service that must be funded from public till. We are not asking government officials to fund education from their private pockets but from the society's common wealth. This is because society gains from an educated youth. We have gone beyond the era when government feels that its commitment to education should be for basic education alone. Even in the first and second republics when governments concentrated on basic education, tertiary education was highly subsidized and in many instances made free. Unfortunately, things seem to have gone 180 degree in the opposite direction, even when more people are getting poorer. We believe that provision of free and quality education at all levels today is not only a right but indeed of urgent importance today for any government that claim to be progressive and pro-development. It is to this end that we demand immediate downward review of fees payable in our tertiary institutions.
(a) We in the DSM, OSCOED Ilesa, hereby call on the Osun State government to immediately accede to the demands of the currently striking academic staff of the state-owned tertiary institutions. This is with the aim of ensuring smooth running of calendar, peace on campuses and improvement in the quality of training we get. We wish to reiterate that there is no meaningful learning that can be transferred when the teachers are not properly motivated and their future assured. More than this, we in the DSM OSCOED, Ilesa believe that the demands of the lecturers are genuine and that it is within the capacity of the state government to accede to these demands. We shall not fail to utilise all available civil means including aligning with other section of the oppressed to support the academic staff and compel the state government to do the proper thing, which is acceding to the demands of the striking workers. Indeed, the current strike has knocked a big hole in the so-called education reform of the state government.
(b) On School Fees We in the DSM hereby call on the government to review downward fees payable students in the state-owned tertiary institutions. Without being immodest, the fees are not sustainable for students, as the fee reduction promised by the state government has not led to substantial reduction in fees in the state institutions. For instance, currently in OSCOED, Ilesa, students are still paying as much as N40, 000 as fees, in a country where over seventy percent of the population is officially living in abject poverty. It is worthy of note that most of the students come from working class background with many parents being pensioners whose pensions are not paid as at when due. More so that the state government has not implemented the nationally legislated N18, 000 minimum wage.
(c) Education Reform and Dilapidated/Inadequate Facilities
One of the central planks of the current government's programme is the education reform, vis-a-vis improvement in facilities and infrastructures in the education sector. We wish to state unequivocally that these reforms have been cosmetic at best. For instance, while the state government spends almost a billion naira on procurement of school uniforms for pupils and students in primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutions have not enjoyed any fundamental improvement. To us in the DSM, a genuine education reform must be holistic. More importantly, such must involve the real stakeholders such as teachers, lecturers, students, communities and parents, in democratically drawing out programmes and policies to revive education in the state, and not the government giving piecemeal and haphazard projects that are aimed at projecting the image of the government and servicing the profit interests of some people without caring about the real future of the state.
Consequently, we demand a massive but immediate investment in facilities and infrastructures in our tertiary institutions in the state. We believe that a genuine investment and reform programme must be done through democratic process at all levels, involving the aforementioned stakeholders, through their popular organizations. This kind of approach will not limit education reform to mere funding, but also address the issue of absorption of graduates, as a way of making education more attractive and useful to society.
We believe this our position will contribute positively to improving public education in the state if the government is sincere about reviving education in Osun State.
Osun State College of Education (OSCOED) Ilesa Chapter