Going on holiday without report cards: What is happening under Makinde’s free education prog?

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Ben GEORGE
Gone are the days when students and parents alike look forward to the end of a term with a mixture of apprehension and excitement in anticipation of collection of students’ progress report cards. But bad times seem to have caught up with that aspect of secondary school education at least in Oyo state as students proceeded on second term holiday today without being given report cards ((those in public secondary and probably primary schools), this is according to findings. It was the same scenario in the first term. This is because state governments via Ministry of Education (MOE) has taken over the supply of report cards to schools and so schools are unable to do anything in this regard until the report cards are brought. Previously, it was done expeditiously with the report cards coming by first term.
This development is however against the outburst of happiness that greeted the assumption of office of Engineer Seyi Makinde as governor in 2019 as he announced the abolishment of the payment of educational development levies students paid in the past. Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo state governor between 2011 and 2019 introduced a levy of N1, 000 (one thousand naira) per student per term in secondary schools. The late governor started with his own version of free education too but “derailed” owing to the “reality” of the time and so made the payment of tuition mandatory with concurrent canceling of payment of running grants to schools. He also established School Governing Boards (SGBs) to oversee schools to ensure financial propriety. This policy no doubt was a turning point in educational advancement in the state as many schools experienced a new wave of development especially in terms of infrastructure. Blocks of classrooms, halls, perimeter fence, computer hardware etc were some of the things that sprang up especially in schools that had a virile SGB and progressive principals. It is though a fact that some school administrators mismanaged the money yet there were many who expended it judiciously and productively.
But with the cancellation of the school levy by the Makinde-led administration, developments seem to have taken leave as schools now writhe under a regime of shortage of funds as grant which the administration promised, come irregularly and is inadequate. Investigations in public schools across the state by ogbomosoinsightonline.com revealed that school administrators are not having the best of time currently. It was discovered that out of the seven terms spent since the advent of Engr. Seyi Makinde led-administration, only thrice had the grant been disbursed to schools. And curiously, the amount paid as grant has been dwindling. From 60% of what schools used to make when students paid the N1, 000 levy, the amount had reduced to some 30%. Thus, many principals now strain themselves to meet up with the demand of running their schools smoothly. It should however be noted that students have been beneficiaries of a number of textbooks and notebooks to support their academic pursuit even though payment of WAEC fees which previous administrations undertook on behalf of SSS 3 students had been discontinued.
Of more concern nonetheless is this non-issuance of report cards to students, for two consecutive terms now. Students were not given report cards in both first and second terms in the ongoing academic session which makes it difficult for parents and guardians to assess or track the performance of their wards. Over the years Oyo state government has taken up the responsibility of supply of report cards to schools thus robbing schools of autonomy in that regard. Prior the administration of Makinde, students paid for the report cards and schools purchased the items in bulk from the state’s Ministry of Education but as the present administration has outlawed payment of any form of levies by students it presupposes that government will make the items available free. Findings have however uncovered that students were not given report cards even as schools closed for the second term today in the state. It implies that in the first term students wrote exams but no result and this second term again, students sat for exams and no results, some schools it was learnt even failed to conduct standard exams for inadequate funds. What manner of free education is the state government unfolding that students do not know whether they performed optimally or not! It is indeed curious. The third term will soon resume, at the end of which students will be expected to gain promotion to another class or to repeat, based on their first and second term performances. Thus, failure to issue them cards in the previous two terms is grossly defective, a denial of students of the opportunity of gauging their performances in the previous two terms. This situation thus precludes students from determining the areas or subjects in which they need to improve or concentrate efforts on. As report cards are also a way of schools to convey information about students to their parents, unavailability of report cards is thus a great disservice. Teachers are also unnecessarily burdened in the third term when the report cards are eventually supplied to enter scores for three terms at a go, a situation that makes them vulnerable to avoidable flaws and unholy temptations to scheme ways of beating the system in order to meet up. Perhaps the governor is not aware that the report cards are not yet in schools!
It is discovered that a lot of things have changed for the worst in schools in recent times, all of which elicits a downward trend in the educational standard. Schools can no longer organize mock exams for SS 3 students on their own; the task has been hijacked by the Ministry of Education under the guise of organizing joint-mock exams, which is haphazardly done, bogged down by flawed timetable, inadequate question papers and answer sheets. Officials of the MOE are not on ground in schools and so can’t grasp fully the nitty-gritty of the system but they continuously make intrusion into the running of schools, hence the declining cohesion in schools which rubs off wrongly on standard. The MOE also now set questions for SS 1 and SS II students at the end of the session also under a curious name – Joint Promotion Exam – which is also unsystematically organized, and which further degrades the system. The several incursions into the school system by the MOE have many adverse effects, and so ought to restrict themselves to monitoring and inspection and not taking over day-to-day running of schools. When the officials should be pushing for prompt release of grants to schools, immediate readiness of report cards and such crucial functions, what preoccupies them is competing with schools’ administrators for the control of schools. Principals are now turning into MOE puppets, with no authorities to administer schools. “We are greatly hamstrung in managing the schools we head, leading to low output,” a principal laments.
In the days education standard was high, schools’ administrators had great autonomies. Even transfer of students from one school to another has become tedious under this regime of free education. There is a need to look into all these so that things can be done rightly. Now, students have gone on vacation today without knowing their performances in the exams they wrote. In which subjects do they have to concentrate on so as to improve? Governor Seyi Makinde should look into this.

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