Recently, the State Government announced its preparedness to return schools forcefully taken over from owners, to such owners.
These owners are mostly religious organizations, christian and moslem.
However, for the schools to be returned, government set conditions.
One of the criteria set was that such schools on being returned, would not discriminate against any admission seekers.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who made this known, enjoined such former owners interested in receiving their schools, to get in touch with the state Ministry of Justice. “Once the hurdles listed by government are cleared by the mission owners, we shall gladly hand them back to them”.
This is certainly a good move by government, as it would certainly lead to the return of quality education in the state.
These missionary schools were top quality as they had the best teachers, as they were well paid, education aids and materials to boost learning were available. The teachers were very comfortable and the teaching and learning environment conducive.
However, these institutions, as well as those owned by individuals lost focus and things degenerated to alarming levels that necessitated government taking over.
It should be noted that states like Lagos that returned the schools, did their homework properly, thus ensuring that the returned schools sustained the high standards they were noted for.
The criteria that there would be no discrimination in admission is very key and very well accepted, though this would be difficult to sustain.
Times are different from the 70’s when the schools were taken from these missionaries in particular. Then there was religious tolerance and not much emphasis was placed on religion as it is today.
Religion is now a form of power for politics and power bigots. One recalls the mess made of sharia during the Obasanjo regime.
The level of intolerance has grown in leaps and bounds, leading to burning of churches and killing of priests and the congregation.
One wonders how easy these missions would then be able to accommodate people of other faiths. It would be nice to see this successfully implemented.
It is also very heartwarming that government has taken this decision to return the schools because education has been a sore point of this present Akeredolu administration. It has been under severe pressure sustaining these schools, as it has struggled woefully to manage these public schools. It has equally witnessed backlash from all sectors, while students have had it rough. It has thus had to seek succour through increase in fees, especially of tertiary institutions and this has certainly not gone down well.
With the return of these schools, a very heavy burden would be lifted off the neck of government and it is hoped that it would be able to effectively manage remaining ones.
A note of caution to the government on this exercise. People must not be allowed to hijack the process. With the announcement, personalities of all sort will do everything to gain from the exercise.
Similarly, the exercise must not be influenced by the political class. The Governor in particular, would be placed on severe pressure by his political class on the matter.
He must resist these pressures, be principled and stand on reasons behind the decision to return the schools.
Again, effective monitoring must be put in place to ensure that the owners do not derail from the original reasons for the return. Effective monitoring must be put in place by the Ministry of Education, to ensure that the quality and expected standards are met.
The return process must be very transparent to give government credibility. If this is not well done, the credibility of the government would be dented.