The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the Oyo State government not to succumb to the pressure to return public schools to the missionaries and the so-called original private owners. Rather, the government should commit adequate funds to education at all levels with the primary aim of providing all necessary facilities that will guarantee quality study, improved welfare and working conditions for teachers as well as other education workers.
The Guardian newspaper, in its Thursday August 23, 2007, edition reported that Oyo State governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, had “pleaded for time to look into the desirability or otherwise of returning schools taken over by the military government in 1975 to their original owners”
The ERC strongly holds that return of schools is not desirable. Contrary to the impression created by the proponents of the idea that the schools were just taken over, the missionaries and private owners were fully compensated before relinquishing ownership. Thus, return the schools amount to dashing out public property to some selected private organisations or individuals. The ERC equally is of the opinion that the return of schools to missionaries/private investors is irresponsible on the part of any government. As a matter of fact it will further deepen the educational crisis in the country because the profit avarice of the private investor will further edge out most students/pupils from getting education.
In any case, return of schools is not a guarantee for turn around of secondary school education in the state nay Nigeria. The proponents are not scientific in their argument. They wont make reference to the quality of affected schools in pre-1975 period, whereas, there are more appropriate reference point they have turned blind eye to. They should inform us what have become of the schools returned to the so-called original owners in other states. For example, Most of the 48 schools returned by Bola Tinubu, the former Lagos State governor, were greeted with further neglect and abandonment by the so-called missionaries/private investors. Despite the fact that the fees charged by these private investors are beyond the reach of students of poor background, it has become a shadow of its old selves in term of quality. The facts are there to check.
To further buttress the absurdity of private education as the panacea to education crisis one can recall the performance of schools released by the WAEC recently. The public schools out shine the private counterpart in performance at the O’ Level examination.
Besides, in the pre-1975 period the public schools were also of high quality like most other public institutions. Most people in the positions of authority, distinguished professionals, academics, etc., are beneficiaries of free public education. Therefore, the problem that has characterized public funded education is the total neglect of these schools in line with the neo-liberal policies of privatisation, commercialization etc., which has promoted the philosophy that government should be irresponsible to the people and for government to further hands off all commitment to the vast majority of people. So, the only way out of this vicious circle is the commitment of adequate resources to provide the necessary facilities such as conducive classrooms, well equipped laboratories adequate writing materials, well-trained and motivated teachers/instructors etc. Well-funded public education will make education accessible to all, but private schools, which must necessarily exist for profit, are only made available to the privilege few. Of what use is education system that only caters for the few in a society?
The ERC hereby calls on Oyo State governor and all other government at all levels across the country to adequately fund free qualitative public education at least to the 26% UNESCO recommendation in order to provide all necessary facilities and motivate teachers for quality delivery. This, to us, is the best panacea to the deplorable state of education in Nigeria.