The epigraph to this piece by the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, speaks appositely to the significance of education in the development of a country. His view correctly implies that investment in education will always yield the highest dividends. If quality investment in education produces the highest dividends, it is incontestable that a country which invests hugely and consistently, and substantially and not symbolically in education cannot become bankrupt. In any case, human beings remain the surest agency of development. If their capacities are purposefully enriched, meaningfully enhanced, and consistently improved, they will creatively initiate workable ideas and contribute considerably in driving the multifarious engines of sustainable socioeconomic development.
Education, for any society which privileges and prioritises it, becomes the substratum of its development which will always set it apart from those that do not invest in education. This is the core lesson that the informative book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012), co-authored by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, persuasively teaches. According to the authors, consistent and hefty investments in education and the necessary infrastructure is one of the reasons that explain why some countries are developed and prosperous while many others come a sad cropper. Access to education facilities contributes greatly in enabling people to move forward and become useful for self and society. No nation whose political and economic institutions are unviable can invest in education and provide motivation for the people to be educated.
It is against this backdrop that the inspiring efforts of the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola Administration in reforming and investing in education in the State of Osun can be appreciated. The conviction of the Administration that education holds the key to the realisation of the all-encompassing transformation it envisions for the state informs the undistracted attention it accords educational development right from 2010 when it assumed office. The Administration makes education the bedrock of the various policies it has designed and been executing to improve the existential condition of the people of the state.
The priority the Administration gives to the development of education in Osun has inspired many initiatives that have brought marked differences to the grooming of minds there. The blueprint that emerged from the Education Summit the Administration organised in the first year of its assumption of office provides useful direction for its drive to reposition education in the state. From huge investments in instructional materials and teaching aids, crucial changes in curriculums, corrective restructuring of schools into Elementary, Middles, and High in conformity with international best practices in school management, to the construction of mega schools, the Administration manfully moves on to ensure that public schools in the state become virile emporiums of sustainable capacity building. In the last six years, remarkable successes have been recorded and rich lessons distilled from low points.
What stands out in the Administration’s unwavering pursuit of educational development in Osun is the humongous amounts it continues to invest in it. It does not consider any amount too prohibitive if the task is educational development. Like Aristotle, Governor Aregbesola understands that ‘[t[he roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet’. Accordingly, the princely price of investment in education has to be paid for the grand prize of enduring socioeconomic development. Nothing can be more important than creating the right environment and emplacing the needed infrastructure for the building of human capacity, the agency and gateway of societal development.
Clearly, this accounts for why Osun is still able to pluck new fruits of educational infrastructure development even in the face of the disruptive hurricane of cash crunch sweeping furiously across the Nigerian federation. The notable reduction and desultoriness in cash flow have not discouraged Osun from going with its school infrastructural development project. On the first day of this September, the state commissioned the Osogbo Government High School in a memorable ceremony witnessed by President Muhammadu Buhari and many other dignitaries.
Conceived and constructed in line with international standards, the building has the capacity to seat 3,000 students; it has 72 classrooms, each capable of sitting 49 students; and is capable of graduating 1,000 students annually. Its other facilities include six offices for study groups, six fully furnished laboratories, 60 toilets (30 apiece for boys and girls), one fully furnished science library, one fully furnished Art Library, one facility manager’s office, one bookshop, one sick bay, one bursar’s office, three furnished principals’ office, three general staff office, one furnished senior principal’s office, one record storage, one security shed/reception.
More, it has an Olympic-sized football field, a seven-lane sprinting tracks for 100 meters and 400 meters, a pavilion and an outdoor basketball court that doubles as tennis court. It has parking space for 75 cars, and examination hall to sit minimum of 1000 students. This hall has a stage, office space, storage for documents, and 10 toilets for males and females respectively.
Students of Grades 10-12 (SSS I-III), between ages 15 to 17 years, will be using this school sited on a-10-hectare land. The Aregbesola-led Administration has a tidied plan to build 20 mega High Schools across the state and in places where the old, dilapidated buildings that were not healthy for modern-day poultry once stood. The Osogbo Government HighSchool is one of the 11 that have been completed. Of the 100 school buildings planned for the Elementary level 14 have been completed, and 15 of the 50 for the Middle school have also been finished.
For the State Government of Osun, the functional education the children of the state must receive has to take place in befitting structures, which have advanced facilities, are conducive for learning, and enhance human dignity. By embarking on these projects, the State Government is simply saying the culture of excellence that guide the affairs of standard private schools cannot be impossible for it to attain. The quality, sound education vouchsafed for the children has to take place within modern facilities. What exists in Osun in terms of educational infrastructure development is not symbolism but substance.
About 12,000 teachers have been added to the already existing pool of teachers across the schools in the state. It is not just about physical infrastructure; the human infrastructural is also seriously taken into cognisance, for no educational system can rise above the quality of the teachers.
The idea of education for development motivates Osun to prioritise education. Governor Aregbesola underscores this in the address he delivered at the opening of the Osogbo Government High School last week. In his words, ‘Education for us, therefore, is the path to development. We are 25 years now, but we are looking at the next 25 years and we want to create and determine the next 25 years through education.’
That education, he adds, is the sort that sees to the full development of the personalities of the learners. ‘The overall aim’, he explains, ‘is to develop the new man intellectually, socially and morally. This new man is placed in the centre of society who views his own development as part of and for the development of society. This is a non-parasitic and non-oppressive man who views his existence in light of the growth of others; he views whatever is acquired to be subsumed in the overall interest of others. He is a man in himself and a man for society.’
In spite of the financial constraint it has, Osun refuses to give up its walk on the path of educational development. It continues to invest in it because it is persuaded that doing so has many invaluable benefits and not bankruptcy.
***Ademola is of the Features Unit, Bureau of Communication & Strategy, Osun.