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‘Breaking News’ Ondo teachers agreed to withdraw their children from private school

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Education

‘Breaking News’ Ondo teachers agreed to withdraw their children from private school

The Chairman of the Ondo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr Victor Olabimtan, speaks to PETER DADA on the call on teachers in public schools to enrol their wards in public school as a way of boosting public confidence in the system

You were recently reported to have said it has become an offence for teachers in public schools to enrol their wards in private schools. Is this a government policy?

Nobody said it is an offence! On moral grounds, for confidence building, for you to say you are proud to be a teacher, register your ward in your own school or in another public school. With all the facilities we have now, every primary school in the state is a place where you can register your child.

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Is this a policy statement that the state government will enforce?

It wasn’t a policy statement! It was a piece of advice. It wasn’t even me. It was a joint decision of the NUT, PTA and the teachers. It was an interactive meeting and we thought it would be good for all of us to do it. The way they added colouration to it, not minding anything, is not what bothers me, but is it morally right for me to be a teacher in a government school and put my child in a private school? What knowledge am I practically imparting? Why can’t my child be there?

When Awolowo established free education in 1955, the first children to be registered were his three children. The three of them were registered the same day. That is leading by example. If someone can do it in 1955, now, why are we running away from it?

Doing the same thing, as a teacher, will enable you to put in your best because we have discovered that most of our teachers in public schools just need a little push to do their job. They are willing and ready. With the agreement, most of them have agreed to withdraw their children to public schools. Forget about what people are saying, that politicians should start first. If we tell them about the extent of the rot in education, if we even tell the world what those teachers told us, there is no stratum of the society that hasn’t contributed to the rot. It is only the politicians that people are talking about.

I can boldly say it; the best houses in Alagbaka and Ijapo in Akure are owned by civil servants in Ondo State. How many of these houses belong to politicians? But people aren’t talking about this; they prefer to shift blame easily. If I show you my salary and what my permanent secretary earns, you will marvel and yet, nobody is talking about it.

If schoolteachers are being advised to enroll their children in public schools, why isn’t the same extended to government officials?

I think it should be extended to them on moral grounds. Let us do the needful and from there, our society will be getting better. If I am in the Ministry of Education and my child is in public school, I will ensure that policies and programmes of government that I superintend are in the best interest of those children but if my child isn’t there and I am not feeling the pinch, there is nothing I can do. There is a lot of rot in the system and the rot was not created by politicians. When you look at 90 per cent of these mushroom schools, they are owned by civil servants but when the blame comes, civil servants will put it on politicians.

We discovered that the population of pupils in the schools is dwindling and we asked a lot of questions to know why? One of the answers we got was that most of the teachers have their children in private schools and it becomes practically impossible for them to be able to persuade parents to bring their children to public school. When you are a teacher in public school, you put your child in a private school, every parent sees it and you now go to the same parent and ask them to come and enrol their children in public school; the parents will definitely ask you, “If that your school is so good why didn’t you register your child there?”

That is why we all agreed, including teachers, parents, NUT at that interaction that we will now employ our teachers and appeal to them that since doctors are proud of their profession, lawyers are proud of their profession, architects are proud of their profession, let us, teachers, too be proud of our profession. Let us have that pride that we can say anywhere that I am a teacher and one of the things is on moral grounds, they should have their children enrolled in schools where they teach or in another public school near them. This is to build confidence.

Has the current government made adequate investment in the public schools to encourage enrolment?

Since we got here, a lot of work has been done, a lot is in progress and lots are still coming. When we came on board, the 2020 school renovation, school construction, provision of lockers and chairs were in progress and almost completed now. The duration of the contract is six months. Within the six months, it’s expected that they should finish their jobs. I think majority (of contractors) have finished their jobs now and I want to say that the jobs are well done, therefore we have more schools that have been renovated and reconstructed and we’ve provided more schools with lockers and chairs.

The major thing is the teachers who do the job. Before we came in, a lot of training had been organised for them. And when we came on board we increased the tempo of inspection in order to directly interface with the teachers because it is not ideal that people are working for you and you don’t go to check on them once in a while to determine whether they are happy or not. And our going out has shown that the teachers are happy. Things are getting better and our intention is to improve upon what we met on the ground so that things can continue to go higher and we believe that whoever will be our successor will take it to the next level.

What is the government doing about inadequate teachers in the public schools?

Yes, there is problem of inadequate teacher and this necessitated Akeredolu to employ 1,200 teachers recently. (The late former governor Olusegun) Agagu employed lots of teachers both in primary and secondary schools. When the next government came in, for almost eight years, even the few they recruited in primary school, at a time, they had to send all of them away over argument. Therefore, we can say the major recruitment in the primary school was during the Agagu era. Every day, teachers are retiring, some are dying, some resigning. It tells you that the population will be going down. If (former governor Olusegun) Mimiko had followed it up what Agagu did, we wouldn’t have the acute shortage of teachers that we have now. Now, Akeredolu has employed 1,200 teachers and he will still do more before he leaves.

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