In the dead of the night on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, Governor Seyi Makinde was on the streets of Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State, to have first-hand information about the state of readiness of public schools ahead of resumption of students for the new academic session.
The Governor, who was accompanied by some commissioners and aides, was miffed by some of his findings and did not mince words in expressing his discontent. In some of the schools inspected, shops and stalls were erected into the perimeter fences. It was obvious that the situation in those schools would vitiate the teaching-learning process, thus leaving the pupils shortchanged and the state robbed of optimal value for its investment in education.
Speaking during the inspection, Governor Makinde said, “In some of the schools, the entrance is almost blocked by people who have their shops very close to the entrance of the school, which is not conducive to learning. So, we have gone round and what we are saying is that if you have anything attached to the fence of a school, you must remove it.
“We are going to give them about a week to remove those things. They should clear them so that when our children come back to school, we will know they are coming into an environment conducive to learning.”
The Governor then charged those in charge of managing the schools to ensure the removal of every obstacle to learning. He continued, “We have a responsibility to provide a conducive environment for our pupils. We cannot afford to fail in the discharge of this responsibility, because it is about the future of these children, the future of our state and the future of the country at large. The key to a better future for our society is sound education for our children.”
When some of the affected shop owners failed to remove their shops after the expiration of the deadline, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources moved in to pull down the shops and stalls ahead of school resumption last Monday to ensure that the school environment was such that it would facilitate learning.
Makinde is passionate about education, because he knows that it is the superstructure on which the whole of the society rests. The Governor sees education as the light that dispels ignorance and enables the people to take charge of their lives. He believes that education gives people the power to make informed decisions, which is pivotal to leading a meaningful life.
Makinde sees education as the force that unleashes the potential of individuals and positions them to take advantage of opportunities around them. He is of the persuasion that education spurs creativity and promotes innovation, both of which improve the quality of life. He considers education as the force with the capability to transform a person’s attitude, broaden his horizon and help him to appreciate the value in others.
Therefore, for Makinde, one of the best things a leader can do for his people, especially the young ones, is to provide them with unfettered access to education. Consequently, he is determined to go the extra mile, sparing no cost, to ensure that no child in Oyo State is denied access to quality education irrespective of the status or station of the parents. He demonstrated this right from his first day in office as governor.
In his first pronouncement shortly after taking the oath of office on May 29, 2019, Governor Makinde abrogated the payment of N3,000 fee per child, thus making education at both the primary and secondary levels free in the state. That pronouncement has seen over 60,000 out-of-school children in the state return to school. He followed this up with an upward review of the 2019 budgetary allocation to education from 3 per cent to 10 per cent even when the whole budget, which he had inherited from the previous administration, was reviewed downwards.
The Governor then made a promise that he would endeavour to meet the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation of voting between 15 and 20 per cent of budget to education. Makinde has lived up to this promise by raising the budgetary provision for education to N47billion (22.3 per cent) in 2020, N56.3billion (21 per cent) in 2021, N54.1billion (18.37 per cent) in 2022 and N58.2billion (18.78 per cent) in 2023.
To improve education delivery at both the primary and secondary school levels in the state, the Seyi Makinde administration has completed over 200 projects, including the construction of eight model schools, the construction of 51 classrooms with toilets, the renovation of 88 classroom blocks, the installation of 36 boreholes and the construction of perimeter fences in seven schools. The administration employed 5,000 teachers in one fell swoop; recruited 692 Education Officers who were deployed in the 33 local government areas of the state and supplied both textbooks and notebooks to schools.
But despite the huge investment in primary and secondary education, the Governor does not believe that what has been accomplished is the ultimate. Recently at the Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on the 2024 Budget, Makinde noted that over the past four years the state had expended about N10billion on SUBEB. He added that an audit exercise carried out by the government revealed that the state would require close to N46 billion to fix its schools.
The Governor said, “We are looking at solutions, but one thing that I will ask the Commissioner for Education to push for in the 2024 budget is extra money over and above what we can get from the SUBEB/UBEC effort. To bridge this gap, we need to spend at least N12bn every year, and let us see how far we can go so that we can start fixing those schools.”
Makinde never stops pushing the envelope to make a good situation better.
However, the Governor’s focus has not been only on primary and secondary schools, as he has also improved the lot of all the tertiary institutions in the state. One of the major things that Governor Makinde did to steady the shaky state-owned institutions was the payment of the bulk of inherited salary arrears. The Seyi Makinde administration has paid N6.8billion out of the inherited N8.6billion salary arrears for the tertiary institutions.
Governor Makinde has also been supportive of Oyo State students in the Law School by providing them with N500,000 bursary awards since 2019. Similarly, the government has been awarding full scholarships to students from each of the 33 local government areas in the state to study at the Abiola Ajimobi Technical University, Ibadan. In the same vein, 136 students across the 33 LGAs and 35 LCDAs were awarded scholarships at the School of Nursing and Midwifery Eleyele, Ibadan, in January 2022.
The Governor has also demonstrated commitment to the improvement of facilities in state-owned tertiary institutions. In 2020, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, received N100 million for capital projects. This was followed up with the construction of a N458 million office complex for lecturers in 2021. The Oke Ogun Polytechnic was provided with a central laboratory complex, while the Adeseun Ogundoyin Polytechnic, Eruwa got a 250-capacity lecture theatre.
In November 2020, the National Universities Commission (NUC) ceded the sole ownership of Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, to Oyo State Government. This followed a Memorandum of Understanding by Oyo and Osun State Governments to dissolve the joint ownership of the university, which was founded in 1991. That decision marked a turning point in the history of the university because after years of retarded growth, LAUTECH has come into its own and recently emerged as the best state university in the country.
Propelled by the vision to keep pushing the envelope, Governor Makinde decided to turn the university into a multi-campus institution and built from the scratch a College of Agricultural Sciences and Renewable Natural Resources in Iseyin, Oke Ogun axis of the state. The Governor said siting the campus in Oke Ogun, which is the food basket of the state, was borne out of the desire to avail the farmers of the research findings of the college so that their output can be better. The College, which was inaugurated recently, is benchmarked against the best universities of agriculture in the world.
Rather than engage in chest thumping after the feat of securing LAUTECH for Oyo State, Governor Makinde again pushed the envelope. In December 2022, he got the approval of the NUC for the conversion of Emmanuel Alayande College of Education to a university. So, within just four years, Governor Makinde increased the number of Oyo State-owned universities, as he usually puts it, “from one and a half to three.”
Already, going by what he has done to improve the state of education in the state, Governor Makinde has etched himself in the hearts of the people of Oyo State and has earned himself a very conspicuous place in the annals of the state. But he is neither letting up nor slowing down. For him, there are still heights to scale and records to break. So, for this Governor with uncommon passion for education, pushing the envelope is a continuous exercise.
Olanrewaju is the Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor.