Barrister Olasunkanmi Olaleye is the current Commissioner for Education, Science, and Technology in Oyo State. In this interactive session with OYEDAPO OYEWOLE, FLORENCE OLUGBODI, ALFRED ADENIYI, and NEWTON ANTHONY, he speaks on free education policy of Governor Seyi Makinde administration, and other burning issues.
You were the Commissioner for Establishment and Training before you were moved to the present Ministry (Education, Science, and Technology). Kindly tell us the state the Ministry was in when you came on board.
Well, a good foundation was laid by the former Commissioner for Education; and don’t forget (that) I came in about seven months after this administration came on board. So, the policies of the government on Education have already taken off and a lot has been implemented at that time. My coming in at that point was to follow up and ensuring that all policies of Governor Seyi Makinde, with regard to education in Oyo State, are properly executed.
In what specific area(s) have you contributed to the present administration as the helmsman in charge of education in the state?
You know that government is teamwork and the leader of the team in this instance is HE, Engineer Seyi Makinde, all the members of the cabinet, and the entire team at the Ministry of Education. We have been able to carry out quite a lot. We have distributed textbooks to secondary school students in Oyo State. In 2019, before my arrival here, the government distributed notebooks to students in secondary schools. Recently, the government also distributed about 2.6 million notebooks for the 2020/2021 session to students in Oyo State. Those are part of my own contribution as well, as the leader of the team here. But, as I said earlier, the whole thing is all about the dream of His Excellency as contained in his vision and Four Point Agenda for this administration. You will also recall that the government has recruited 5,000 teachers for all our schools and that has been able to block the gap we have on the issue of manpower in our schools.
Early in the year, this government procured special education equipment for all our special schools, and that equipment was distributed in January this year. The last time such was carried out was in May 2011. So the government has really done a lot. In the last two weeks, we have been distributing science equipment to more than 180 secondary schools in Oyo State, procured by this administration. As I am speaking with you, we are distributing furniture to our schools in the last one month. As of today, we have given more than 60 schools and the process will continue. Don’t forget that more than 600 million naira was approved in December by this administration to procure furniture for our schools. So, a lot is been done in that area.
In the area of tertiary education, I am sure you are aware that tertiary institutions in Oyo State are enjoying 100 per cent subvention. That is why you’ve not been hearing about strikes and all that. Aside from this, this government is second in the entire country that has been faithful in the payment of the new minimum wage to workers including workers of tertiary institutions in Oyo State.
We have also secured sole ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso. In addition to that, the Executive Council of Oyo State has approved that the College of Agriculture of LAUTECH should be established in Iseyin, in the Oke-Ogun area of Oyo State. The Executive Council has equally approved that the Alayande College of Education in Oyo, be upgraded to a university of education. We have already started that process. We have reached out to the National Universities Commission (NUC) to get approval for that transformation. The Executive Council has also approved that we established Information Technology and Entrepreneurship Institute here in Ibadan, at Ajia. That process is also ongoing. In the area of tertiary education, we have done a lot and we are still doing a lot. The government has been supporting the schools in getting their courses accredited; we have done that with The Polytechnic, Ibadan, and the Technical University Ibadan, Adeseun Ogundoyin Polytechnic, Eruwa, and we are also working with other tertiary institutions across to ensure that all their courses are accredited. So, we’ve done a lot.
In terms of infrastructure, you must be aware that more than 22 model schools have been built by SUBEB. In fact, if you look at the ones we met on the ground, the ones we completed and the new ones built, we are talking about close to 50, and more than 157 classrooms have been renovated or constructed by SUBEB for basic education. At the Ministry level, we have done quite a lot, more than 80 classrooms have been renovated, and we have built 30 new ones as well. In the area of renovation of schools, we have done a lot, but we are not relenting.
You said there hasn’t been strike action in tertiary institutions across the state. But some of these institutions are complaining about the activities of Platinum Consultants, a company engaged by the government to look at the activities of these institutions in the state. What is your reaction to this?
I am sure all of them have a clear understanding of why we have a consultant. The previous administration was giving 25 per cent of the subvention to those institutions, but this government decided to be giving them 100 per cent. That money belongs to the public and we must know how that money is being spent because we are accountable to the public. We don’t want a situation whereby you claim to buy a particular thing at a particular amount. We will want to be able to ascertain that you actually bought at that amount, and that is what Platinum Consultants is all about, it is just about the efficiency of our financial system. We have Governing Councils all over, working with the management of the schools and seeing to the proper functioning and running of the tertiary institutions. What concerns Platinum Consultants is mainly about financial efficiency in our schools.
You are a lawyer by training (and by profession). You replaced a professor in this office. How does being a barrister impact your work as a Commissioner for Education, Science, and Technology?
(Smile) You know, am an administrator. My job is to administer any institution I find myself. And the best way an administrator work is to assemble good hands for maximum results. The question is as a lawyer, can I identify the policies of government on education, and am I educated myself. If I can identify the policies of government on education, am I equipped to implement those policies? So if the answers are positive, then I am good to go. If I have questions to ask, I can always talk to people including the person that I succeeded in office, I can always consult him. What is important is getting good results with the available resource and be able to move our education to the next level in Oyo State.
We have free education policies in Oyo State, but the SSS3 students are paying for WAEC. So where does this free education actually cover?
You’ve heard about some of them. For example, I have told you that we have been giving out free notebooks, textbooks and before we came in, the students were paying three thousand naira, but this government stopped that payment. When we stopped that payment, we decided to be giving grants to schools because we asked them what specifically they were using the money for, and they told us they used it to take care of the school, buy chairs, chalks, and the government said okay, we will be giving you that money, and I can assure you that since we came into an office close to N1.5 billion has been given to schools as grants to run the schools. That is how the free education policy is working.
As parents, we have roles to play, that bring out some responsibilities in us. So if the only thing that you do is to pay your children WAEC/NECO fee, I mean, that promotes the policy of omo yi, ma fowomijona (this child don’t waste my money). This is because if you as a parent pay for WAEC or NECO, whatever amount you are paying, and you see the child playing around rather than studying, you will certainly call such child to order. What I am trying to say is that there must be a way that the parents must be responsible for some things.
What are those things your government intends to achieve as you step into the third year of administration?
We intend to focus more on the renovation of infrastructure in our schools and the construction of new schools. If you look at everything I have told you, you will see that we focus more on contents, provision of notebooks, textbooks, recruitment of teachers, stoppage of payment of fees. Those are all about content. Also in the area of training, we’ve trained science teachers, in the last one year, we trained science teachers especially in the area of science practical and that has brought results in our science subjects in WAEC. Like I told people, in Biology, we improved to about 60-69 per cent, and in Physics, we improved to about 70 per cent and in Chemistry, we improved to about 80 per cent. And this is just because of the training.
So in the last two years, we focused largely on content that has brought us this result. This time around, we are going to focus on the issue of infrastructure. Another thing is that we are very much concerned about the curriculum. Presently, we have a committee working on basics technology and ICT curriculum for primary and secondary schools. The whole essence is to improve on practical aspects of ICT so that even secondary school students can be able to achieve certain things when it comes to ICT. So we are going to focus more on that aspect.
I am also looking forward to the Emmanuel Alayande University of Education and the College of Agriculture, Igboora, taking off. I am also looking forward to the ICT and Entrepreneurship Institute at Ajia taking off. We also want to train our teachers more because the more we train them, the more they will improve on their deliveries. Lastly, we want to achieve significantly in the area of vocational education. We have conducted a need assessment of our technical colleges, and very soon you will start hearing from us what we are doing with regards to technical colleges in the state.
In 2007, you served as Chairman, Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission where you conducted elections into the 33 local government areas. Having served in that capacity, how would you compare the conduct of election then, under your supervision to what we had in Oyo State in the just concluded local government election?
I think the atmosphere now is a bit more peaceful than the way things were at that time. So I can say that the election they did this time around was very peaceful and people participated. So, I give them very high marks for being able to conduct the election free and fair. We did similar things during our own time as well, and we have to give it to the PDP as a party in Oyo State. It has been the only party that has been able to conduct local government election when they were supposed to do it. So I give kudos to the party, because that has given people the opportunity to participate in the election except those who does not want to participate.
Let’s look at the bursary policy, is this policy still on? If yes, how have you been forthright with its distribution to students?
We have done a lot in that area. When we came in, there was no enough budgetary provision. But this administration, in this current budget, has earmarked a lot of money for bursary awards and scholarships. As I am speaking with you, the scholarship boards are drawing up their own criteria on how they want to get the category of people they want to give bursary to, and all that.
This government has made provision for bursary distribution in this year’s budget. However, we have done a lot in that area. In 2019/2020 session, this government gave five hundred thousand naira to each of 120 Oyo State indigenes in Nigeria Law School. And also in the year 2020 to this period, they have also given out five hundred thousand naira to each of 233 Oyo State indigenes in the Nigeria Law School. So, huge sum of money have been given. We have given bursary awards to physically challenged students, I know of about four of them that we gave here. So by the time the scholarship boards also come up with their programmes, I am sure a lot will be achieved.
What are your personal ideas that you brought into office that has impacted the Ministry positively?
You see, I have been in the system for a while, like you rightly observed, I have been the Chairman of Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, I have also been the Commissioner at the Ministry of Establishment and Trading. One thing I understand is that most times you have to provide the leadership; you must be able to identify people that can deliver; that can work with you to achieve results. This is very important. You also have to understand that we are politicians and therefore press for time to deliver. We are in a hurry and thirsty for results, and most time when I give out jobs, I give deadlines and I let them know how I want the results. Since I took up this job, I don’t do any other job; I give it all my 100 per cent attention for me to be able to achieve results. Don’t forget that education is a very large spectrum; we have primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions as well. So because of that, we have to give it 100 per cent attention.
So one thing I am giving is attention. Identify people I can work with, and also work in a way that amplifies leadership, I also try to learn from people that have been here who are experts in different areas of education.
The governor talked about increasing the education budget of the state. Has this been done? If yes, how has the increment been put to use?
Before we came in, the budget for education in Oyo State was between 4 and 5 per cent, but this current administration increased the budget to 22.3 per cent. For instance, I told you in December that we brought out a number of jobs. More than 400 million naira was used to procure notebooks for schools; more than 600 million naira was used to procure furniture, which we are still distributing; close to 180 million naira was used to procure science equipment for schools. A lot of money was used to procure special education equipment. Now imagine how much we expend in the payment of primary school teachers and their counterparts in secondary schools, close to 1.5 billion naira have been paid as grants to schools. Just imagine what 100 per cent subvention to pay salaries of tertiary institution workers are.
So, when you look at all that, you will realise that 22.3 per cent of budget, like what the governor said at Ogbomosho, that we have been implementing budget at about 70 per cent.
Can you tell us what actually happen to the School Governing Board?
The School Governing Boards gazette and guidelines that make provision for four years periods for them to work and that four years have elapsed. However, some of them are still active, and some of them have contributed more. Although we dissolved, we will do the inauguration of new boards pretty soon and majority are coming back as well. We have spoken to virtually all of them; we know those that have expressed the desire not to continue, we know those that have relocated; we know those that are layback; we know those that, as a matter of necessity we just have to change them. So we’ve all that. So we are going to carry out the inauguration of new ones very soon.
Oyo State is not among the top ten in the list of best performing in terms of education.
(Cut in) You mean not among the top ten?
Do you have the ranking with you?
Not here with me here.
Okay. When you get the ranking, you can ask the question.