Osun State and Mega Schools – By P. Tade Adekunle
It is now in the public domain the intention of the government of Osun State under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to demolish some of the dilapidated primary and secondary schools in Osun state. By this, the state government intends to upgrade the educational infrastructural standards of the various schools within the state. With respect to this laudable idea therefore, schools within the state has been identified for total upgrading in terms of facilities and construction of new structures. In the light of this, some schools will become mega schools with students’ population of not less than three thousand!
That the structures and facilities have been neglected over the years is an understatement. Most of the buildings under which students are supposed to be learning are inhabitable. Budget has been allocated year in year out for the refurbishment of most of these structures and nothing has been done. So we really need to commend Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s government for this laudable initiative.
However, as laudable as the idea might seems, there are still some views that government still need to take on board to make the whole concept more robust. The truth is nobody has a monopoly of knowledge or wisdom and this is not limited to our elected representatives and political appointees alone, as the government of Osun state will want us to accept. Other stakeholders need to make their points and government should take them on board as well if truly we are in democratic setting. A project of this magnitude that will involve spending over seven hundred million naira in each school must try as much as possible not to take care of only today but also withstand the test of time and solve challenges in the future.
In this regard therefore, the government of Ogbeni Aregbesola still needs to consult beyond the political appointees, political jobbers as well as the civil servants that have ‘connived’ to neglect the structures in the past.
The Osun state mega school concept as explained is to have three schools in one with different teachers, renovate existing structures and build new structures to accommodate the three thousand pupils to be cramped into the existing school premise. In line with this concept therefore, mega libraries, mega laboratories etc will be constructed which the over three thousand students within the school premise will share.
The implication of having three thousand pupils in an existing school premise needs to be critically looked at. Be it three schools in one does not really hold water. In order to solve a particular challenge now, government must not be seen to create a disaster for the future.
Having three thousand students on one premise as it is will create unforeseen problems in future. The number is too huge to check truancy. This is the kind of number that will breed cultism, drugs, hooliganism and other societal vices too numerous to list. In attempting to solve one problem, government should not create a monstrous challenge for the future. The students will be engaging in uncontrollable sexual practices with terrible consequences; there will be lots of deadly fights due to class warfare and envy. How does the three schools manage the recreational facilities, conveniences etc for over three thousand students? It may be true that some of these vices currently exist but it will increase and reach unprecedented height with the number proposed for the mega schools.
If as usual and as suspected this mega school concept is been copied from abroad, can the right model please be copied and executed? Even in the United States of America where our politicians like to quote and copy from, the public are kicking against creating mega schools. In India where the idea first stated, the whole concept has been discarded not only because it did not meet UNESCO standard but also it created more problems than solutions. Certainly Osun state concept is far from meeting the UNESCO concept!
The arguments over there, which can also apply to Osun state and are quite apt among others, are; research has shown that smaller schools’ students compared to mega school students have better grades, improved attendance, greater safety and are less violence. Above all, mega schools deter students from engaging in extracurricular and leadership activities. In fact, research has shown that, apart from mega schools having negative effects on students/teachers relationship, the concept will also increase administrative burdens and consume more money in the short and long term compared to smaller schools, as they exist now. In summary, mega schools will not serve the interest of students who should be the primary focus!
Furthermore, in trying to solve educational challenges, government must to be seen not to create more ecological challenges. For example, areas that usually see traffic of less than one thousand pupils per day suddenly there is now over two hundred percent surge without improvement in facilities around the area.
The more reason government still needs to consult other stakeholders and explore other options like;
Private schools abound in the state and other states of the federation. Government should consider as a matter of priority handing over some of the schools forcefully taken by past government to the rightful owners. Other states are doing it and the result has been positive. Fortunately, Ogbeni Aregbesola served in the cabinet of Bola Tinubu when he handed schools back to the rightful owners in Lagos state. If Osun state government can do this, the new owners will renovate some of the old structures, new structures and other facilities will be added and above all the government would have saved some money from this gesture to focus on the remaining public schools.
Virgin land – Building a mega school on existing structures seems to be the easy way out and this is the route government should not follow. If government really wants to have its own modern, amiable and friendly learning environment, the right thing is to seek out virgin land and build new schools. Manageable schools not mega schools. Rehabilitate the old schools after considering point one above and build new schools on virgin land. Once again, certainly not one that will accommodate over three thousand students.
Furthermore, training and re-training for all the teachers at various levels will go a long way to ensure that the products the public schools are turning out can compete favourably with their counterparts in the private schools. Mega schools will not and cannot guarantee this!
Government can use the limited resources available to improve on existing schools facilities without converting them to mega schools or turning them to modern motor parks! Somebody’s legacy!
Above all, over the years some of these schools that will be merged have created names for themselves beyond the shore of the state. They are brands in their own rights. These brands cannot just be wished away and the legacy built over the years cannot just be wiped out from a misconceived concept in the name of mega schools.
We pray and hope that it is not the figure been quoted to be spent on this project that has become the attraction for some advisers and contractors; the Governor should please take in more views from other stakeholders and have a rethink on the implication of this concept on future generation of students, the parents, government and the environment.
A good legacy is one that can last and stand the test of time!
Culled from Daily Post
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