1st October, 2013
The ongoing education reforms in the State of Osun are already yielding stupendous dividends
It was midday. Pupils at Union Baptist Primary School, Odi-Olowo in Osogbo, had just taken a meal of yam and stew. Their eyes gleamed, as they chirped happily like birds on a tree. Along with the meal came fresh citrus fruits. On the day this magazine visited, the fruit of choice–the government’s choice– was tangerine.
Cost of the meals to the pupils’ parents and guardians? None. The government pays for the meal and accompaniment every school day. It is part of the reforms the government has launched to attract children from the vulnerable segments of the population to school, keep them there and ensure that their physical and mental development do not suffer. The free meal programme, known as O’Meal, is now a fixture in primary schools across the State of Osun.
Aside from the free meals, another big draw is the ambience of the schools in the state. Gradually, the decrepit school infrastructure bequeathed to the Rauf Aregbesola administration is giving way to sumptuous school buildings across the state. This is the product of the Osun Schools Infrastructure Revamp, otherwise known as O’ SCHOOLS. The programme was conceived to deliver three categories of model schools: elementary, middle and high schools. At the Salvation Army Middle School, along Alekuwodo in Osogbo, the state capital, stands one of 50 currently under construction by the administration at a cost of about N160 million each. The school is for children between the ages of 10 and 14. These are children in the last two years of primary education and first three years of secondary school. The 1,000-capacity C-shaped storey building is divided into classrooms, which have a maximum of 37 students and two teachers per class. Each of the classrooms has fans, marker boards and decent furniture. There are also modern toilets, lush lawns and water-tight security.
At the Ejigbo Middle School, still under construction, similar facilities are being replicated. Also in Ejigbo Local Government Area, the government is building a 3,000-capacity high school, which has been reclassified into Grades 10 to 12. The school, located along Inisa Road, will have modern laboratories, library, auditorium, recreation facilities and boarding facilities.
Other places where such structures are springing up include Iwo, Osogbo, Ede, Ode Omu, Modakeke as well as in towns in Ilesa East and Irewole local councils.
A similar structure is expected to be sited along Dada Estate Road in Okefia, Osogbo. The structure will replace the one currently being used by students of Osogbo Grammar School. Upon completion, the structure will feature an ICT building, laboratories, library, food court, examination hall for a minimum of 1,000 students, standard football pitch, auditorium, hostels, staff quarters and other recreational facilities. Schools are also being provided with collapsible plastic chairs.
The high schools are being built on the premises of the existing schools, each with a land mass of about 10 hectares. Under the first phase of the programme, the government will build 20 high schools.
Aside the middle and high schools, the government is building 100 elementary schools for children between the ages of six and nine who, under the policy, are categorised as being in Grades one to four. Each of the schools is expected to house 900 pupils.
The school buildings are of three types. The elementary schools are bungalows, while the middle schools are one-storey buildings. The high school structures have two tiers. Some of the elementary school buildings are made of bricks, while others are made of galvanised steel and synthetic fibre cement board. The latter is a new building method, which the government said was demonstrated by experts to be cost-effective.