In the immortal words of former U.S president Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
Indeed, a sound mind can only be built through quality education, which enhances knowledge and skills to practice proficiently in a field and helps to build competence, character, and a sense of purpose. Nations that have made significant investments in building sound minds through education are rapidly developing, leaving behind those who pay scant attention to this all-important pillar of national development.
In Nigeria, nationalists like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who invested massively in education, remain eternal heroes for the level of political awareness of their regions. Conversely, a new breed of leaders, many of who are beneficiaries of Awolowo’s education intervention and strategic development of South-West Nigeria, has continued with the laudable initiative.
One such leader is Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. Taking the equally far-reaching and commendable education programmes and policies of his predecessors to the next level, Sanwo-Olu and his team of education leaders are taking on a full-course re-vitalisation of all the weight-baring structures for quality education.
In 2018/2019, Sanwo-Olu, a rather unobtrusive actor in public service and the politics of Lagos State came out of the backroom to literally snatch the APC gubernatorial ticket from the incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. His controversial emergence was met with tentative acceptance by most Lagosians. Still, the people would rather keep the progressive, proven governance structure entrenched by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu since 1999 than experiment with the opposition parties.
Sanwo-Olu’s campaign was anchored on six pillars of the strategic development agenda termed ‘Project T.H.E.M.E.S (Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, and Security and Governance), which he espoused robustly that they are sine qua non to achieving the vision of a greater Lagos and placing the state among the comity of great global cities. He won the governorship election convincingly and was handed the tough task of surpassing the giant strides of his illustrious predecessors including Babatunde Fashola, SAN.
A surveyor by training, banker, and public servant, he, immediately, brought to bear his uncommon leadership qualities of patience, innovation, and methodological approach to governing Lagos State. At the first public review milestone of his 100days in office, Lagosians had begun experiencing the exceptional leadership abilities of Governor Sanwo-Olu especially as the state’s education sector had begun its steady ascent to a place of regional and global competitiveness.
Sanwo-Olu’s administration began with a comprehensive assessment of schools to determine their immediate needs for prompt and proper attention. The administration also started developing plans to hire more well-trained teachers to strengthen the quality of education and establish 300 fully-equipped and functional computer laboratories in secondary schools across Lagos while imbibing a long-term maintenance culture. The governor communicated the ultimate goal to develop an educational system that can provide skills that will meet the needs of the 21st Century economy by prioritising the global STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) model.
As his first term nears its twilight, the vision of Sanwoolu’s administration is beginning to flesh out. Several key metrics underscore this for Doubting Thomases. A major one is the severance of ties between Lagos tertiary institutions and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, with its unending strike actions. This was achieved through qualitative leadership, funding, massive welfare programmes, and infrastructural development. All the state’s institutions have moved up in various global rankings in the past three years.
To ensure the effectiveness of the plethora of intervention projects, the state Ministry of Education partnered with the Lagos State Infrastructure Asset Management Agency (LASIAMA), which is charged with the management and maintenance of the vast portfolio of Lagos State government assets.
The government’s intervention in bringing back to school young girls who missed their education due to early pregnancy, trafficking, poverty, or other such factors is also a very commendable move. Through sensitisation, thousands of these girls have been provided with alternative school systems to re-enrol for secondary education and learn a vocation that would make them become entrepreneurs.
Below are some interventions in key areas of education as at September 2022.
- Infrastructure, Facility, and Equipment have been prioritised by the Sanwo-Olu administration.
- Commissioned over 1,097 school infrastructure projects, covering 970 schools across the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas.
- Renovated 322 dilapidated public schools
- Providing 87,000 units of dual composite furniture for 775 primary and secondary schools
- Built additional 300 classrooms
- Built seven new blocks of students’ hostel students
- Over 500 libraries updated and upgraded with IT learning facilities to go with them in our schools
- Teachers’ Welfare and Capacity Development
- Over 15,000 teachers trained in the Eko Excel Programme and given tablets preloaded with the curriculum
- 12 brand new cars presented to outstanding teachers, as a motivation to do better
- Disbursement of N12.8 million housing loan to teachers
- Financial Support and Out-of-school Children Intervention
- N679million paid to WAEC for 45,447 for the final exams of SS3 students in all public schools
- Over 4,500 out-of-school pupils were brought back to the classroom
- Stem the intrusion of hoodlums in schools by providing security facilities such as security alarm systems, fence upgrades, watchtowers, and floodlights.
- Initiated a security programme to engage and interact with security agencies on proper ways to secure the students while in school.
- Curriculum, Future-proofing Learning & Schools Management
- The school curriculum has also been reviewed just as the State Government launched new schemes of work integrating 21st Century skills, which are aimed at preparing the children for an excellent future.
- Partnered with Casio and SKLD Integrated services to install a Casio Mathematics and Science Laboratory at the Education Resource
- Centre to further enhance the teaching and learning of science-related subjects.
- Re-introduced the school-based management board and initiated the Volunteer Teachers Mentoring Corps Programme to improve the capacity of school personnel, thereby, creating opportunities for education stakeholders to support the government in mentoring the present and upcoming teachers/school administrators.
- Public-Private Partnership programme of the Ministry provided over 27,000 additional mobile devices and MP3 devices preloaded with the curriculum. items were distributed to students to further enhance their learning and make them technologically savvy
- Skill Acquisition and Tertiary Education
- Youth centres established to impact out-of-school children. Over 60,000 for the Job Initiative Lagos across tertiary institutions inclusive of those empowered by Eko Digital, which adds up to over 200,000 plus.
- Establishment of the Lagos State University of Science and Technology and upgrading of the Lagos State Polytechnic to a University.
- Planned establishment of Lagos State Tertiary Education Trust Fund as an innovative solution to the growing need for funding. This will replicate the success of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund model.
- The state government has concluded plans to establish new schools, including vocational and special schools in addition to the plan to launch an educational radio station to cascade learning to the grassroots.
The above list is not exhaustive, but only paints the full picture of the scale and dimensions of Sanwo-Olu’s education intervention programs.
It is not in doubt that Sanwo-Olu and his education sector team are chattering a new course towards a highly competitive future for not only Lagosians but Africa. As countries around the world deal with the severe gap in their labour market, Africa, particularly Nigeria, has become a major channel to fill them up.
Our collective future will be at risk if there isn’t a more concerted effort to develop the skills of the future for our massive youth population. Sanwo-Olu is leading this effort to ward off this unfortunate possibility with ingenious interventions in education that will develop a citizenry with the finest minds and enhanced capacities to choose the best leaders for a more prosperous democratic future.
Why change a working formula?
This article was first published in the 10th anniversary edition of Metronews magazine.