The Oyo State Government has debunked insinuations that its new policy direction on education is aimed at privatizing its secondary schools, just as it clarified that the proposed partnership with stakeholders would not lead to retrenchment of a single teacher.
The government’s position was conveyed at a news conference by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Communication and Strategy, Mr. Yo,mi Layinka, in Ibadan, on Tuesday.
Other stakeholders at the press briefing were the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Mrs. Aderonke Makanjuola; and her counterpart in the Information and Culture ministry, Dr. Bashir Olanrewaju.
The government’s representatives said the press conference was called to allay the fears of members of the public who have been fed with what he termed half truth and outright falsehood by a few uninformed individuals and organizations.
Layinka assured that the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who was elected on the popular mandate of the people for a historic second term, would not take any decision that would be against the overriding interest of the public.
He explained that the government only responded to clarion calls by religious leaders, missionaries, old students’ associations and communities to partner with it in the management of few of the schools, which they originally owned.
Layinka said, “We are only going into partnership with these bodies who might meet the criteria for return of such schools. We are not selling our schools. In fact, we might end up returning not more than 20 out of our 631 secondary schools that were originally owned by missionaries and communities.
He stated that “In doing this, the interest of our pupils and parents are uppermost and that is why we will consider the spread of Government Secondary schools in the particular areas of interest and the total population of students in the area. If there are no alternative public schools, we will not return such school to interested partners.
“We need to allay the fears of labour that we will not retrench a single teacher as a result of this new policy. Teachers will be at liberty to determine whether to transfer their services to the new managements or to remain in the employ of the state government. Affected teachers will be subsequently distributed to other public schools.”
The Governor’s spokesman explained further that only JSS I students would be affected for now, while he emphasized that JSS II to SSS III students in any of the schools taken over by new managements would not pay school fees until the completion of their studies.
He said that the government’s decision to return mission and community schools to interested stakeholders had not negated its policy of giving quality education to its pupils, but would only enhance it.
Layinka said this informed the conditions set for such stakeholders before coming on board, part of which, he said, was proven commitment to education, evidence of previous experience in school administration, evidence of financial and management capability.
To further engage stakeholders on this new policy, he said that the government was organizing a forum which would provide a veritable platform for concerned parties to bare their minds, as well as the government to explain its position better on the matter.
The Governor’s aide used the opportunity to invite those opposed to the policy to attend the Wednesday’s forum in order to be better informed, saying that their current posture of shooting down the government’s genuine intention was unnecessarily heating up the polity.