The concept of free education in Nigeria in most cases is indeed free and equally free of knowledge and methodical applications towards human and business advancement. At different fora, I have always maintained that the only free education regime that had worked in Nigeria was only that of Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo that helped the nation to raise great men and woman but unfortunately today, those men and women that hugely benefited from Baba Awolowo now have their own regime of free education regime to be lacklustre, ineffectual and lack of purpose. That of Awolowo was distinctive in design, purpose and implementation.
It is better to pay for the cost of educating the young generation than to allow professional politicians that are paying lip service to free education to destroy and becloud the future of the children and young people from poor families thereby positioning only their own children to take over the future by sending them abroad for the finest education at its peak.
But when a government like we currently have in Ondo see education as source revenue to fuel government activities rather than a social service rendered by the government to prepare young minds for tomorrow’s development, then something is wrong strategically. The first war declared against education by Akeredolu was the removal of the educational support fund for senior secondary schools students where government usually help students and their parents to pay for either WAEC or NECO examinations fee.
This was a gesture that started across the federation after the return of democracy in 1999 after which Ondo had had three elected governors of late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, late Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr Olusegun Mimiko respectively. None of the three great men deemed it fit to remove government support for education in our dear state. Millions of Ondo State indigenes and Nigerians have benefited from this educational supportive policy including myself. The state government paid for my National Examination Council fees.
We cannot keep quiet about the destructive educational policies being developed and promoted by the administration of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in Ondo State. After the same government had successfully removed government support for WAEC and NECO examinations, and nobody queried the government. Now, it is time to increase tuition fees in all Ondo State higher institutions, especially at Adekunle Ajasin University to two hundred thousand naira (N200, 000.00) as the rumour flies around like electromagnetic waves and radiation. This is negatively unprecedented in the era of learned Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, as the governor of Ondo State. No government or governor has ever dared and implemented anti-people’s policy like this in our state.
This government at the inception, promised to take education to the greatest level under its robust and development focused policies to unfold. Taking education to the next level is not the same as the increment in tuition and removal of all government supports for education. With these approaches and policies, one would ask: is this the same government and governor that promised educational development? Has the government forgotten so soon of its promise to increase the level of enrolment of pupils and students in our schools and colleges? Is this not the same government that promised improved infrastructures in our schools? Is the government not on collision cause against its initial promises with these new poor feeding the rich educational policies?
We must and cannot keep quiet at this time of ugly and trending war against affordable education in the sunshine state. The claim by the government of Ondo State that the state has lost the financial capacity to support education because of the drop in federal allocation from Abuja is not only irresponsible but lack credibility. In 2006 and 2010 respectively, when the whole world was under economic global economic melt-down, late Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko made no step to inflict hardship on the people of the state by increasing tuition fees across the state-owned tertiary institutions. These two great men still made their efforts and their paths are still traceable in our schools and colleges till today in terms of infrastructural development. In my humble opinion, governor Akeredolu should create a new level of friendship with his predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko in order to ask him how he did it without increasing tuition fees in our universities for eight years instead of creating unnecessary hardship for the people and making huge enemies for his government in just one year in office.
The government should understand that increase in tuition fee is not equal to quality education as being claimed by its officials. Increasing the tuition of our higher institutions in Ondo state will do more harm than good to the ordinary citizens’ most especially young people and the poor families. We have thousands of students in these schools that are self-sponsored and thousands from poor families managing to educate their children even with the current tuition fees.
The government should have a rethink of what will be the fate of people in these categories before embarking on this so-called journey of increment and infliction of pains and suffering on the people. The end I foresee if this scale through and our people keep quiet is an immediate future where Ondo State will record high level of school dropouts, reduced enrolment in our schools and universities and a sharp decline in educational and literacy ranking. This speaks volume about what is/are to come. Then, what kind of future are we working as a people and government?
The above question is left for us all and the cabinet members of Arakunrin Akeredolu led admindistration to answer. For us as a people, if we don’t want my prediction to emerge, we must all rise now and say No to the destructive educational policies of this government. Our institutions and educational development should be anchored and managed under a new vision of intellectually robust educational policy thinking and implementation not by any unjust and ridiculous increment in tuition fees. And to the government, I appeal to the people in charge not to see me as their antagonist but a friend who reside with the people, and in the office of the citizen but want this government to succeed. “A word is enough for the wise”.
Oludaisi Omokungbe, a media and management entrepreneur writes from Akure, Ondo State. (firstname.lastname@example.org)