by Osita Duru
“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth” – Desiderius Erasmus
There is an ongoing revolution in Ondo State. A revolution that imparts everyone in Ondo State.
The South-West of Nigeria and indeed Ondo State has been known over the ages to be a region that values the dividends of Education. Ondo State is blessed with resourceful, industrious and hospitable people. Ondo State is also a State that boasts of seasoned crop of educated elite. A distinction which has led to its classification as one of the most educationally advanced states in Nigeria.
I was privileged over the weekend to pay a visit to Ondo state. A tour that availed me the opportunity to see firsthand the “Mimiko Revolution” as the Governor Of Ondo state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko tags his revolutionary drive in providing free and qualitative education for all Indigenes of Ondo State starting from their formative years- Primary Education.
In Education, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has carved out a niche for himself in the South-West of Nigeria and indeed Nigeria, which can only be overshadowed by Obafemi Awolowo’s Free Basic Education Policy. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has built 51 Caring Heart Mega primary Schools. From Akure the State’s Capital to Akoko North East, Akoko North West, Akoko South, Akure East and Akoko South West. From Akure North to Akure South, In Ese-Odo and also Idanre he has built these beautiful edifices of learning called Caring Heart Mega Primary Schools. Also Ifedore, Ilaje, Ile-Oluji, Okeigbo, Irele, Odigbo, Okitipupa, Ondo East, Ondo West, Ose and Owo are not left out of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s Educational Revolution.
I visited several of these Mega primary Schools. Aptly named “Caring Heart Mega Primary Schools” for they are indeed mega in size and caring in its ambiance. Not only are these Primary Schools built to accommodate a large number of Students, they are also designed to offer the best comfort while acquiring the highest standard in knowledge impartation. Each of these magnificent edifices are equipped with a fully functional library with books, well stocked ICT classes with a computer per table, well ventilated classrooms, An Administrative block that could be mistaken for the “Senate Building” of most Universities that dots the length and breadth of Nigeria. The schools also boast of a music room, Art-galleries, Demonstration farms, Sports-centers and are all equipped with the latest educational accouterments.
To ensure environmental cleanliness, ensure institutional maintenance of buildings, plants and machinery, the Mega Schools are outsourced to Facility Managers that ensures that the ambiance at these schools are not only made conducive to learning but, that the teaching tools and equipment are at their functional best.
These Mega Primary Schools are also equipped with multiple playgrounds (I counted two in one of them) where Pupils unwind during breaks. I had the opportunity to interact with members of the staff of three of these Mega Primary Schools and one thing was evident; they are well motivated and well enumerated. From the Headmaster to the Class teachers you could touch their zeal and enthusiasm. There is a desire for each one of them to be a part of the wheel of progress that drives the “Mimiko Revolution”.
The Mega Schools are also equipped Giant Generators that provides Electricity in the case of power failure.
But what appears to be the greatest phenomenon of the Olusegun Mimiko revolution in Education is the introduction of free school buses. In my interaction with the Governor of Ondo State, He opined that one impediment a Parent faces as in regards to “free” education is paying for the cost of transportation. This reality did not dawn on me until he explained.
“A father might have 5 children who school at the various schools across the State, Imagine if he has to pay an amount of N500 each day transporting them to school, and another N500 to bring them back home”
“That is N1000 spent every day transporting his wards to school, imagine the cost of this each month, and bear in mind that the minimum wage is N18,000, how do we expect these Parents to cope” he asked..
“Although Ondo State workers are paid a minimum wage of N22, 000” he added
“And sometimes, these children are transported on motorcycles popularly known as “Okada” to school.”
“What my administration has done, is to provide 90 school buses dedicated to transporting my children to School”
“Every student in a Uniform, Every one of them is transported to school daily in one of these buses”
“What about the Students in private schools, will they also be transported? I asked
“Yes, every student in Ondo State, whether in private school or the state schools, is transported in these buses, your bus pass is your uniform”, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko confirmed.
He further stated “Mega School and free shuttle bus concepts were all targeted at bridging the gap between the children of the rich and the poor so that the poor can have a sense of belonging in the society”.
Then I understood, I understood the depth of love that flows from the heart of this humanitarian who is the Governor of Ondo State. I noticed he called the students “my children”.
Dr. Olusegun Mimiko described the mega school project embarked upon by his administration as the best in the African continent. And I agree.
This noble gesture has increased the number of enrollment into the State owned Mega-Primary Schools. It has also gone a long way in alleviating the financial burden on Parents.
The Governor added that “State public schools, particularly of the primary education variety, face certain irrelevance, if not total extinction via dwindling pupils’ enrollment in the face of serious competition with private schools despite their commercial fees”.
“The resultant effect of this inherently discriminatory system is that qualitative, but free primary and secondary education in the state became only a mental construct and catchy political sloganeering because in practice, only the rich could afford it”.
“The Mega Schools are the state government’s way of providing the best of education obtainable in private schools in the state’s public schools system and to serve as models below which future public or private schools cannot fall”,
The Mega Schools are of two types. They can comfortably accommodate either 1050 pupils for the Type-1, or, 525 pupils for the Type-2. The Ondo State government also trains and retrains teachers to ensure good instructional quality through its Quality Assurance Agency, recalibrated from the Inspectorate Department of the Education Ministry.
Under Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo State has firmly established itself as a pacesetter in Educational development. The light of Education illuminates the atmosphere, In the Sunshine State this light shines brightest.
Osita Duru is a journalist and social media influencer who lives and works in Abuja. Connect with him on Twitter @radicalyouthman.