They sat around in groups, their faces a palpable picture of downright disbelief, enthusing about the incredible transformation that had taken place in their school. Some others loitered here and there, idling about in ones and twos, conversing in soft, measured tones. They were students of Ola Oluwa Muslim Grammar School, one of the first generation secondary schools situated along Ilawe Road in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
On Monday, October 2, students of public primary and secondary schools resumed across Ekiti State for the 2012/2013 academic session. While a few of the students went about their normal duties, many were those that could not hide their excitement as they stared, with mouths agape, at the changes that their schools had undergone during the eight-week school break.
“When we came back from the long vacation, we were surprised that our school had been totally transformed,” Adebayo Ojo, a Form Two student of the school, informed the reporter last week. “Although we had been told that the government would renovate our school, we are still surprised at the way they have touched everything here. We are very, very happy. Even though somebody had told me during the break that our school was being renovated, I did not know that it was something of this nature. We are very happy with Governor Fayemi. We have been praying for him and we are also assuring him that we will not do anything to damage the new facilities here.”
Ojo is not alone; neither are the prayers and the excitement restricted to the Ado-Ekiti based school. In many towns and villages in the three senatorial districts in Ekiti State, not a few are those that daily go on bended knees to seek divine blessings for the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi over the renovations that his administration is carrying out in the state-owned schools.
In truth, hardly will you resist the urge to join the applauding crowd, unless you’re ignorant of the pitiable state of public schools in Ekiti before Fayemi’s intervention.
Along Ilawe Road in Ado-Ekiti, a new Ola Oluwa Grammar School smiles at you. The school wears a refreshing robe, with its new and renovated buildings radiating in yellow and red even as the red aluminium roofing sparkles in the afternoon sun.
Ten kilometres away, at the Corpus Christi College, Ilawe-Ekiti, a similar situation obtains. From the road, the school buildings look palatial, covered by a neat line of gangling trees, with the smiles on the pupils’ faces betraying the joy in their souls.
In Ijero, Ilejemeje, Moba, Ise, Ido-Osi and all the local government areas in Ekiti, many schools are wearing new looks, as the government concludes the first phase of the Operation Renovate All Schools in Ekiti (ORASE) scheme, an initiative of the Kayode Fayemi administration.
Right now in Ekiti, public schools are undergoing massive renovation. Of the 183 public secondary schools in the state, about 100 have just been renovated under the ORASE scheme. The remaining 83 have been scheduled to benefit from the programme during the first term holidays in December.
Yet, just a few weeks back, most schools in the state were in a sorry state. The buildings were dilapidated, while many of the roofs had already caved in. Many classrooms had neither doors nor windows, and water flooded the classrooms and staff rooms at the slightest drop of rain. Naturally, coming from such decayed environment, many students recorded abysmal grades in the local examinations as well as in the national SSCE and NECO examinations. A state that had always prided itself as one inhabited by a people of high intellect with a passion for scholarship suddenly metamorphosed into an abode of half-baked, barely literate men and women.
When Fayemi mounted the saddle as governor two years ago, the activist-politician wasted no time before convening an education summit in the state. Various experts and stakeholders converged on the state capital to ruminate over and propose solutions to the crisis that had enveloped the education sector in the state once celebrated for its knack for academic excellence. Over the years, education in the place nicknamed the Fountain of Knowledge had been buffeted by a surfeit of problems. Participants at the summit came up with a number of recommendations to upgrade the quality of basic, secondary and tertiary education in the state.
According to the experts, one of the major causes of the woes in the secondary education system in Ekiti was the dilapidated infrastructure in public schools. The summit noted that excellence had taken a flight from the public school system since the schools lacked good buildings, access roads, functional libraries and laboratories and other basic amenities. The summit recommended that the government should embark on a number of projects and processes, including the renovation of existing structures, perimeter fencing of schools, rehabilitation of access/intra-premises road network, employment of retired, seasoned teachers as neighbourhood inspectors and in-service training, seminars and conferences for school teachers.
No sooner was the summit concluded than Fayemi commenced implementing the recommendations with a view to permanently arresting the rot in the secondary education system. The renovation of schools could not commence immediately though, as the schools were in session. But as soon as students went on holidays in July, Fayemi flagged off the Operation Renovate All Schools in Ekiti (ORASE), and massive rehabilitation work started in 100 of the 183 schools.
“Yes, we are very educated, but we lack skills,” Fayemi said in an interview at the Government House in Ado-Ekiti. “The people we’re producing from our university system, yes, they carry the paper degree and the certificate, but they cannot function in the work environment competently. These are challenges that are long-term, that our people do not see in the immediate, but that we must address. For me, leadership is about that. Leadership is not just about physical projects that people can see now. It is what we make of those physical projects.”
At the flag-off of the programme, Fayemi had declared: “Our resolve to ensure that this impartation of functional educational is done under a conducive atmosphere informed the Operation Renovation All Schools in Ekiti (ORASE). We cannot afford to live on past glory or allow our education system to continue to produce half baked products neither good for higher education nor for job creation and wealth generation which are our focus.”
Under ORASE, government set aside the sum of N2.2 billion for the renovation of the schools even as contracts for their renovation were awarded to competent firms. The government also set up a Bureau of Special Projects in the Office of the Governor, headed by a Special Adviser, Mr. Bayo Kelekun. The contractors were directed to hand over the renovated schools before the commencement of the new academic calendar in September.
They were mandated to pull down the ramshackle school buildings and replace them with new ones. They were to also cover the buildings with new, state-of-the-art aluminium roofs. To ensure compliance with government specifications, Fayemi traversed the entire state, inspecting the handiwork of the contractors.
At Ola-Oluwa, the contractors were putting finishing touches to the buildings when The Sun team called. The project manager, Mr. Akeem Momodu, said his firm’s mandate was to deliver 24 totally renovated schools in Ekiti Central Senatorial District to the state government. The schools being renovated by his company were virtually ready, he said.
“As you can see, the job is 80 per cent completed. We are rounding off on the issue of aluminium roofing and the rest. We’re putting windows and doors and painting the rooms.”
Besides renovating schools, the governor also came up with the idea of putting a laptop on the desk of every child in the state. When he mooted the idea, not a few people were unconvinced. Many were even suspicious of the governor’s intentions. But Fayemi, a product of the esteemed Christ’s School located in the state capital, was determined. He said by 2014, no fewer than 100, 000 children would have benefitted from the computers. Already, 33, 000 laptops have been distributed free of charge to students. The governor said the importance of the distribution of the laptops could not be exaggerated, saying they would assist the students get introduced to the modern trends in information technology.
“The laptop initiative is not an end in itself,” the governor explained. “It’s a means to a better end in which our children would be competing in a world that they do not make, in a world in which the children that they are dealing with globally are also playing in that field or in a much more sophisticated field. And we started this before WAEC introduced ICT into the curriculum, which is now a compulsory subject. If you want to do some national exams now, you must do it online, via the computer. So, it’s like we anticipated this.”
By TOPE ADEBOBOYE
Last modified: October 17, 2012