Education in Ekiti State nosedived in the recent past due to the neglect of the sector by previous administrations. But things are looking up now courtesy of the massive investment witnessed in the area in the last three and half three years of Kayode Fayemi’s administration
At an event which held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, in October 2013 to mark the 80th anniversary of Christ School, Ado Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, and an old boy of the school, gave an insight to the state of education in the state prior to his assumption of office as Governor of the state in 2010. The governor told the gathering that public schools in the state, of which Christ School is one, were in a terrible shape at the time he assumed duties and that the neglect of the education sector in the state accounted for why students of public schools in Ekiti performed abysmally in the West African School Certificate Examinations and similar examinations. That piece of information, for a state that used to pride itself as Fountain of Knowledge, was depressing. But it wasn’t all gloom as the governor subsequently followed that up with a narration of how his administration went about revamping and repositioning the schools, such that students of Ekiti State were now beginning to excel in examinations, as was the case long ago.
That turnaround, according to Kehinde Ojo, Ekiti State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, in an interview with TELL in Ado Ekiti recently, was made possible by a number of factors, which included massive funding of the education sector leading to the provision of books and computers to the various schools, training programmes for teachers and infrastructural development in the sector. The situation is such that teachers, students, parents and concerned stakeholders are now happy, and have long regained faith in the school system. Indeed the pride that many indigenes of Ekiti feel today about the state’s education system is nowhere near the heartache of the past. The initial poor state of education, owing to scant regard accorded the sector by past administrations, was such that the expression, Fountain of Knowledge, which the state had adopted as its slogan shortly after its creation in 1996, became an embarrassment to many Ekiti indigenes.
The appellation, Fountain of Knowledge, was in fact an apt description for a people whose prowess in education is universally acknowledged judging by the highnumber of intellectuals and academics from the state scattered across universities and other institutions within and outside Nigeria. Oluwole Ariyo, Ekiti State Commissioner for Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development, said following the sudden slump in academic rating that the leadership of the state led by Fayemi felt that the tag no longer held true for them and so decided to change it to Land of Honour, which it currently bears.
Ojo blamed the abysmal state of education prior to the current administration on past leaders of the state that failed to accord education the seriousness it deserves. He said in 2012, “Christ School recorded about nine per cent credit pass in English, Mathematics and others but in2013, it recorded 98 per cent.” It is the same for many other schools in the state as the academic performance of students generally has improved significantly. The massive investment in the sector by the Fayemi administration has began to yield fruit.
Ojo revealed that the first thing the government did upon assumption of office was to set up a panel to assess the state of education and use the outcome to plot a road map for development. “When the administration came and met this rather parlous situation in our education system, it set up a committee to go round and look into the situation of our education system. It was the result of that visitation panel that informed the convocation of a two-day education summit. The communiqué of this education summit, which brought together the best brains within and outside Nigeria, informed the policy of government in education.” Based on the committee’s findings, the government “embarked on Operation Renovate All Schools in Ekiti,” which was code-named ORASE “and this took a giant step towards renovating almost all the buildings in all the secondary and primary schools in Ekiti and also supplying lockers, benches, tables and chairs for our teachers.”
Beyond that, Ojo said that the government provided books in the core subjects for students and teachers. “Government provided core-teaching textbooks for the teachers and also provided reading texts in the libraries so that the child can go to the library and read,” he said, adding that because the government recognises the importance of teachers to the overall development of students, it organised a “NEEDS test” for them aimed at improving their quality and productivity.
Ironically, many of the teachers didn’t like the idea of a NEEDS test at the time it was conceived, as they viewed the move with suspicion and felt it was demeaning for them to sit for an examination. But Ojo said the exercise was conceived with good intention. “The test is to assess the teacher. It is called a NEEDS assessment, which is what the teachers need to improve themselves, looking at the deficiencies; in what area does a teacher need assistance and so on.” That initial mistrust about the NEEDS exercise has since given way to fulfilment as not a few teachers in Ekiti have embraced the initiative as a necessary step for their own development and that of their students.
Apart from the NEEDS test, the Ekiti State government pays special incentive to tutors who teach subjects like English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Basic Science in the Junior Secondary School. Not only that, the government also givesspecial package to teachers, particularly those who teach in the villages. “Twenty per cent of the basic salary of any teacher who is working in ‘hard-to-stay (rural) areas’ will be paid to them every month” while “any teacher that teaches these six subjects anywhere in Ekiti State, we also give 20 per cent basic salary. Then all our registered teachers in Ekiti State, we are paying 16 per cent pecuniary allowance.” This means that a teacher that falls under these three categories earns an additional 56 per cent of his salary every month.
Ojo, who himself is a former teacher and principal of Christ School, said: “I want to say that we have never had it so good. I was here when Ekiti State was created. So I knew all the administrations that have passed through the state. Even the ones before Ekiti State was created, there has not been one that has been as committed to its word as this administration.”