By Inwalomhe Donald
Osun State under Governor Aregbesola can now boast of recording the highest school children enrollment rate in Nigeria and the least state with lowest number of Out of School Children, OOSC, in Nigeria according to the National Bureau of Statistics. It took determination and strategic intervention to eliminate out of school children in Osun State.Aregbesola’s strategic intervention of providing a meal per day for primary school students and free education did the magic which have increased elementary school enrolment in Osun State. Historically, the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP) through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act, in 2004 but the scheme failed and it was re-introduced by Governor Aregbesola of Osun State.
In 2009, a large number of school-aged children in Osun were not attending school, and that posed a serious threat to achieving attendance goals laid out as part of Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Like many developing countries, Nigeria is facing serious challenges related to the phenomenon of out of school children.
Recent estimates show that the sub-Saharan Africa region accounts for 52% of the global out-of-school children. 22% of primary school age children in sub-Saharan African were out-of-school. Nigeria’s Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) data for 2016 in fact show that some 15.3 million children of primary school age were out of school and North East Nigeria accounting for more than 50 percent. When the junior secondary school component is taken into account, the out of school children (OOSC) problem becomes even larger, with wide regional, geographical and gender disparities across the country. Even when enrolled, hundreds of children (especially girls) are not showing up for class. Although girls’ primary school attendance has generally been improving, this has not been the case for girls from the poorest households.
Osun State Government under Ogbeni Aregbesola has been responding through a number of strategic interventions intended to improve enrolment by addressing the issue of accessibility. Efforts are made to improve retention and achievement by improving quality, and reducing inequalities by paying greater attention to gender sensitive and inclusive policies, as well instituting more effective education management systems. Accessibility is being addressed through increased number of schools within reach of populations. Other remedial measures include provision for teacher development, making education more easily affordable, flexible programmes for children from rural communities, reduction of socio-cultural barriers and the introduction of social welfare measures.
The Osun government’s effort in the education sector has removed dilapidated school buildings and introduced conducive learning environment. Of the 100 Elementary Schools, 50 Middle Schools and 20 High Schools in the infrastructure upgrade under the first phase, government has successfully commissioned 20 Elementary Schools, 22 Middle Schools, and 7 High Schools.
The Elementary Schools have over 2000 classrooms of standard dimensions, with capacity for over 300,000 pupils between ages 6-and 9 per school, who enjoy free books, free mid-day meals and de-worming vaccines that address micronutrient deficiencies, and improve their nutritional status. And the Middle Schools, for pupils within age range of 10-14years from 3-4 kilometers catchment radius, have standard classrooms, with capacity for 900-1000 pupils per school; while high school(s), for students of 15-17years of age, have capacity for 3,000 students per school at 1,000 students per wing
Osun is taking the lead in the number of students enrolment in Nigeria, including female student, across the country. A report by the National Bureau of Statistics in Wikipedia puts Osun children’s in primary school enrolment between 70 to 80 percent. More children in Osun State are entering school and the gender gap is quickly closing as more girls make their way to the classroom. In the 2012/2013 school year to date, the overall rate of children enrolled in primary school was 95.2 per cent (95.8 per cent for boys and 94.6 per cent for girls), showing that the gender gap at primary level has essentially been eliminated. However, these gains are undermined by persistent challenges that affect a child’s ability to stay in school. While Osun children are filling the seats in primary schools, completion rates for primary, and particularly lower secondary education, are low.
Before Aregbesola’s administration poverty pushes many students out of school as many parents, especially in rural areas, cannot afford the direct and indirect costs related to education and families often require children to help at home with chores and field work. Lack of quality of education in schools, leading to high rates of repetition, also contributes to high dropout rates, particularly at the primary school level. Before now, Osun has witnessed low enrolment turn out in primary schools until the debut of Elementary School Feeding and Health programme of the present administration. The programme, no doubt spurs a great deal of parents and pupils into enrolling in public school in large numbers and this explains why the state towers above other states across the country.
Governor Aregbesola’s strategic plans have eliminated over 200,000 out of school children in Osun and ensured that the strategic planning process is an important form of accountability and public involvement. The process ensures Osun Education works to develop a curriculum, instruction, and assessment consistently focused on state standards and student achievement goals. The planning process allows all stakeholders including Partners like you – teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community leaders – the occasion to discuss their vision for the education of their children and the best methods for achieving that vision. The plan serves as a guide for all members of the community aimed at providing a coherent, comprehensive, and logical progression of curriculum and instruction and assessment. All stakeholders, then, can determine how their work fits into the plan and how they can support schools and students in their efforts to achieve their goals.
No fewer than 200,000 children of school age have been enrolled in public elementary schools in the state of Osun since 2013/2014 academic session to date. Osun state was ranked second state in 2009 with highest number of out of school children in the federation but today stands as best in elementary school enrolment in Nigeria following the introduction of these education oriented programmes and increase in the state government’s investment in education.
Osun is ranked 34th among the thirty-six states of the federation in terms of federal allocation did not deter Aregbesola’s administration from fulfilling his electioneering campaign promises to the people of the state, said actualization of his six point integral action plan have positively impacted on lives of people of the state.
According to Governor Aregbesola, there must be a functional education for the children of the state. The quality, sound education for the children has to take place within modern facilities. What exists in Osun in terms of educational infrastructure development is not symbolism but substance.
More than 12,000 teachers have been added to the already existing pool of teachers across the schools in the state. It is not just about physical infrastructure; the human infrastructural is also seriously taken into cognisance, for no educational system can rise above the quality of the teachers.
Inwalomhe Donald writes from Benin City