The Director/Principal of Federal Government Girls’ College, Sagamu in Ogun State, Mrs. Agnes Owolabi speaks with KAYODE OLANREWAJU about her experience as a principal and the roles of federal unity schools in shaping secondary school education in the country.
In your view as a stakeholder, would you say federal unity schools have fulfilled the purpose of their establishment especially in the provision of qualitative education to Nigerian children?
Without mincing words, I want to state categorically that the Federal Government-owned secondary schools, otherwise referred to as Federal Unity Schools, which are established across all states of the federation are still delivering on their mandates.
Through the schools the government is investing immensely in the future of the children irrespective of their socio-economic status. Unity schools are serving as platforms to make available and accessible quality and affordable education to qualified children, regardless of the financial status of their parents.
Once a child attains the cut-off scores at the entrance examination, he or she stands a good chance of being enrolled into any of the schools and to receive qualitative academic instructions at the lowest affordable cost which their parents would have paid through their nose to give them in the private schools. What Nigerian children are getting in the Federal Government schools almost free of charge is what private schools charge prohibitive school fees. So, the Unity Schools are levelers that ensure that brilliant children are not denied their rights to education because their parents are indigent.
But, there are usually complaints by some parents that their wards are denied admission despite their performance at the entrance examinations. Well, I can say such complaints are inevitable, but they should be directed to the Federal Ministry of Education and not the schools. This is because it is the ministry that offers admission to candidates and sends the list of those offered admission to the schools.
The allocation of in-takes is based on the carrying capacity of each school.
So, as a result there is bound to be over flow and stiff competition for limited available space. Since selection is done strictly on merit, it is possible for a child to do well and not secure admission at the end of the day since many other equally brilliant candidates post higher performance. I want to state here that the perfor mance of this school has always been attracting scores of desperate parents who are ready to do anything to squeeze in their children into the school at all cost. And indeed, when they are politely turned down, you begin to hear unsavoury stories here and there that the school did not give their children admission.
How would you describe the quality of education in the college?
The school’s performance in external competitions and examinations has been wonderful and encouraging. This could be attributed to the quality and commitment as well as dedication of our teachers and programmes. Last year, the Federal Government Girl’s College, Sagamu scored 100 per cent in almost all the subjects in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). We recorded over 150 A1s in some subjects and we did not have even a Pass in English and Mathematics. Our result was the second best in the entire Ogun State as we were reliably informed. As I am talking to you, there are 75 of our students, who secured admission into the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) alone.
There are others, who are at various stages of their admission processes in various universities across the country. I suspect that these brilliant records have made the college number one and the preferred choice for parents, many of whom sometimes get too desperate about getting their children and wards into the school. Let me share one scenario with you. There is a parent who almost broke down our neck in order to get his child in to the school at all cost.
The man has twins, who are all girls and one of them had already been offered admission into the college, while the other one also secured admission into another Unity School. But the parent wanted me to admit the other one in the other school so that the two kids will be together in this school.
The man kept on saying that he is ready to do anything for the school, and I told him there is no need trying to induce the school with material gifts because there is no way we could admit the child who was not captured on our authentic list.
As the principal I receive VIP visitors on daily basis and their mission is to lobby for admission for the children. Of course, what we did was to politely turn down their requests because we cannot accommodate such. So, it is to be expected that many of them would be aggrieved and resort to black mail, at least to take their frustration out on us. There is standard for admission and we have to maintain this, and in a situation where we refused to bend the rules parents resort to criticism and blackmail. Like I mentioned earlier, the Federal Ministry of Education conducts admission and only sends the list of admitted candidates to the schools for the principals to carry out.
There are also allegations that the schools charge N5,000 per child for PTA and other sundry levies. How would you react to these allegations?
It is true that each student is made to pay Five Thousand Naira for the Par- ent Teachers Association (PTA) levies. That is the standard across all the 104 Federal Unity Schools across the country. The PTA gets this money which they use in augmenting their budgets for the various projects they execute in the schools.
The PTA operates as an independent body and it is democratically run. The parents elect the executive officers among themselves, which are independent of the school management, and each year the PTA executes projects that are of direct benefits to the students and the school at large. For instance, the PTA employs what we referred to as ‘PTA Teachers’ to support the workforce of the school. They willingly do this to boost teaching and learning process since they relaise it is their wards that would benefit from this intervention.
But, then I want to strongly believe that the parents, whose children made the admission list would not likely to bandy allegation over the PTA levy. Rather, it is those parents whose children couldn’t make the admission list that will naturally seek vengeful means of hitting back at the management with various frivolous and unfounded allegations and criticisms.
The college is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. What does this mean to you as the principal and to the entire school?
I want to thank God for the journey thus far. I am privileged and fulfilled that this landmark anniversary and celebration is going to take place during my tenure as the principal of the school.
What this anniversary means is that the school has come a long way, building future leaders and enhancing their socio-economic life of this country. It is going to give us the opportunity to rally hundreds of our alumni all over the world to come and give back to their alma mater. It is going to be a time to take stock, by looking back and seeing where we are coming from and also project into the future. Already, numerous sets of our old students have been coming to see how they can be relevant in the gamut of the various activities lined up to commemorate the anniversary. The 86 Set has come.
The United States of America chapter of the old students’ association has also contacted us and pledged their participation and support for the ceremony and school. It promises to be swell time for our students as they will have the opportunity to see and interact with many of the great products of the school who are all doing so well in their chosen careers at home and overseas. Obviously, these students would be greatly inspired by the exploits of these wonderful old students, who will be readily available to share their experiences with them.
Bello grants scholarship to Best Graduating student from Law School
Ms. Fatima Bombom Sani, the best graduating student at the 2015 Call to Bar examination of the Nigerian Law School, has been granted academic scholarship to the tune of $93,000 by the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
This was made known at the award ceremony at Government House Kogi State over the weekend when the governor received Ms. Fatima Sani, her relatives, alongside Bar. Natasha Akpoti. In his speech, the governor lamented a situation where academic excellence has not been given the requisite reward in Nigeria.
“The case of Fatima Sani reminds me of how academic excellence has not been adequately rewarded in Nigeria. Imagine someone that bagged nine separate awards including “Best Student of the Year and Council of Education Star Award, and nothing was done for her since 2015.”
The governor also thanked Barr. Natasha Hadiza Akpoti for taking up the case of Fatima Sani by starting an awareness campaign about her academic feat. “I thank Barr. Natasha Akpoti for this if not we won’t all be gathered here.
It was Bar. Natasha Akpoti, who sought the intervention of the Kogi State Governor who was not only surprised but disappointed that Fatima was left unsupported while no information was brought to his office concerning her case.
“I heard about your exceptional performance at the Nigerian Law School in 2015 and assumed you were recognized and sponsored by the administration of the day. It’s unacceptable that such brilliance is not celebrated and promoted. Nevertheless, now that your genuine self is before me, I shall grant you a personal scholarship to celebrate your exceptionality and help your career-defining goals.”
Governor Yahaya Bello stated that after some inquiries and validation of Fatima’s credentials, he in his capacity declared a full scholarship for Fatima to study Masters in Finance Law at the Colombian Law School, in the United States of America.
Gov. Bello thanked Natasha Akpoti for her humanitarian efforts in bringing Fatima’s issue while urging Fatima to uphold her academic excellence and make Nigeria proud and return home to serve her fatherland.
Barr. Natasha Akpoti in her remark thanked the Governor for his benevolence and penchant for promoting academic excellence. “We must celebrate heroes like Fatima in other to motivate young people especially girls towards exceptional educational performances.” She equally advised Fatima to go for her studies and come back to contribute her quota to the development of Kogi state and Nigeria while being a source of inspiration to others.
It would be recalled that Barr. Natasha Akpoti had on the 27th of April 2018 via her Facebook page, advocated for sponsorship to help Fatima further her academic dreams having emerged as the best graduating student at the 2015 Bar exam where she bagged nine separate awards including “Best Student of the Year and Council of Education Star Award.
AAUA: Mass withdrawal of students looms over fee hike
- Visitation panel report: Stakeholders chide govt over delay
- We’ve handed over report to councils – Commissioner
Some indigent students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) are said to be prepared to withdraw from the institution as they are yet to make headway in their efforts to raise their new school fees
These are challenging times for indigent students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) and their parents, as many of them are allegedly set to withdraw from the institution due to the astronomical hike in fees.
Following the hike in fees, which was jerked up from between N30,000 to N35,000, to between N80,000 to N150,000 by the management, some students have allegedly shunned the ongoing registration, which is billed to end on Saturday, May 26.
For instance, Richard Olaosebikan, a 300-Level undergraduate of the Department of Political Science, said he was yet to pay the new school fees, as he still struggling to meet up.
He said: “Paying new fees has been difficult for me because things are very hard. I have struggled to make part-payment and I hope I could meet up to pay the rest before the close of portal on Saturday. I am speaking to some people who could help me and I pray they respond before then. I am presently in school to see what I can do and I hope that I will meet up.”
Also, Olaosebikan’s friend, Success Ibitoye, a 400-Level student of the Faculty of Agriculture, New Telegraph gathered, might be forced to drop out of the university if he receives no assistance before Saturday.
According to his friend, Ibitoye is yet to pay a kobo from his school fees which is about N150,000 and to worsen his situation, he does not have any hope of doing so any moment from now simply because of his parents’ background and the harsh economy downturn in the country.
Expressing his predicament, a parent has revealed that contrary to the acclaimed N150,000 fees for the Faculty of Law students, he said he eventually paid N200,000 when departmental fees, and other sundry levies were added.
According to the parent, out of 35 fresh Law students admitted by the university, who are currently undergoing their registration, as at Friday, May 18, only about 15 students were yet to pay their fees, suggesting that they might lose their admission.
But, the spokesman for the university, Mr. Sola Imoru, who said he was not aware of such development, however, noted that the university had since inaugurated the Students’ Support Service to address the challenges of such students that are genuine.
Such students with genuine complaints are expected to visit the Students’ Support Service purposely established by the management for such complaints,” Imoru said, insisting that those alleged to have withdrawn did so out of sheer ignorance.
According to him, the university last week organized an orientation session for the fresh students, where the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun, addressed them on this issue, among others.
Again, the Chairman of the university’s Council, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who also claimed ignorance of the withdrawal of students, hinted that if such case would arise at all, it would be very low. He said the management would look into it with a view to assisting such students.
Also commenting, the Chairman of the institution’s chapter of the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Mr. Tope Famuti said there was yet to be any information to that effect, saying though the fees were increased based on faculty or department, it was not enough for students to withdraw.
According to him, the students were paying about N35,000 before it was increased to between N80,000 and N150,000, but they have the opportunity to pay more than once.
“To the best of my knowledge I don’t have such information as a stakeholder and I am a worker here,” he stressed.
However, his Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) counterpart, Dr. Sola Fayose said it was too hasty to draw such conclusion that some students of the university were withdrawing for their inability to pay the new fees regime.
“For now, we can’t say precisely as the students are still undergoing their registration. Such withdrawal could only be firmly established after their registration and during examination, when we will be able to discover whether some students are no longer in the class.
“Until after registration and examination we cannot determine whether some students have withdrawn or not,” Fayose said.
Meanwhile, major stakeholders in Ondo State education sector have condemned the state government-led by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for its perceived delay in releasing the reports of the Visitation Panel constituted for higher institutions in the state.
They expressed worry that the reports might have been swept under the carpet by the governor, almost four months after the Panel submitted it to the government
Governor Akeredolu, who is the Visitor to the institutions, had on November 21, 2017, inaugurated the Visitation Panel to all the four state-owned tertiary institutions, including the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa; the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED), Ondo; Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo (RUGIPO); and the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA).
The visitation panel to the Ondo State University of Science and Technology was chaired by Prof. Olumide Tewe, while the University of Medical Sciences panel was chaired Prof. Ayo Arowojolu and Rufus Giwa Polytechnic by Prof. Sunday Adewale; and Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, was chaired by Dr. Goke Adegoroye.
Meanwhile, several memoranda in form of reports, petitions and appeals were received from the public, student unions, members of the various university communities, as well as other stakeholders and workers’ unions including ASUU, SSANU, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technicians (NAAT).
The panel, among other terms of reference was to recommend measures and actions to reposition the institutions for optimal performance, examine the financial management of all the tertiary institutions and determine their compliance with appropriate regulations; examine the financial management of the university including subventions, grants, loans and internally generated revenue and determine their compliance with appropriate regulations; examine adequacy of staff and staff development programmes of the university.
The panel, which reports the governor said would reposition the institutions, was also to examine industrial relations among management, staff and students and recommend ways to achieving lasting peace and harmony; examine the state landed properties and other assets of the university; and recommend measures and actions to reposition the university for optimal performance.
It’s believed that issues ranging from repositioning of the various institutions, miss-governance, financial challenges, over-bloated employment, among others, will be considered by the panels.
Other expected recommendations are issues concerning cooperative societies’ deductions, school fees and student welfare; staff issues such as wrongful termination of appointments, withheld promotions, victimization, and administrative issues.
Other critical areas the panel was expected to cover include subventions to the university and their spending, award of contracts, inflation of contracts, financial recklessness, incompetency and moral ineptitude in the system.
With the submission of the report since Friday, January 26, this year, the stakeholders expressed regret over the delay in the release.
But, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, who exonerated the government from the delay in implementing the panel’s report, however, told New Telegraph that the governor, after presentation of the report to the State Executive Council, had immediately transmitted same to the Governing Council of the respective institutions on their inauguration.
“There is autonomy of the institutions and what the government did was to transmit the report to the council of the respective higher institutions on their inauguration for implementation. So, it will be wrong to blame the state government for the delay in implementing the report,” the Commissioner said.
But, contrary to the state government’s claim that the report had been handed over to the Governing Councils of the different institutions, Dr. Abayomi, in a phone call, denied ever receiving such report from the state government.
He, however said the document may have been handed over to the Vice-Chancellor, who he noted is yet brief him.
“I am not aware of such report. I still spoke with the Vice-Chancellor today (Sunday) and I don’t know if he had received such. But, it has not come to my notice. I will see him (Vice-Chancellor) on Thursday this week, maybe he is holding the report till then,” Abayomi said.
Also, the university’s spokesman denied any knowledge of such document, whether or not such had been handed over to the Council or the management.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Fayose, described the governor’s delay in making the panel’s report public as a disservice to the collective development of the institutions.
“Since the report was submitted in January 26, this year, we have been awaiting the White Paper, that will usher in its implementation but this has not been done,” he said, the government has not done things properly.
“If the inauguration of the panel and presentation of the report were made public, the state government should also make public the handing over as claimed by the same government to the councils so that we will know those to hold accountable. But, as it is now we find it is difficult to believe the government.”
Also, the Chairman of SSANU, Famuti, who echoed the position of ASUU, wondered while government had not released the report or made it public.
He said; “There is no gain-saying that public funds have been expended on the various panels which comprise of men and women of integrity, who not only sacrificed their time and energy, but also their experience from various fields to put the report that would give a better direction to our tertiary institutions in the state under the carpet.”
FCT students shine at Korea, FG art competition
No fewer than 30 primary schools across the six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja participated in the ninth Drawing competition, jointly organised by the Federal Government and South Korea.
The competition was instituted in 2010 to mark the diplomatic ties between South Korea and Nigerian governments.
This year’s edition of the competition, which had as theme: “Peace and Conflict Resolution,” showcased a total collection of 150 artworks from students in the FCT.
According to the Director, Korea Cultural Centre Nigeria (KCCN), Mr. Han Sungrae, the essence of the competition was to help children to benefit from the positive effects that arts, especially drawing, could have on children at the formative age, and also to further strengthen the existing relationship and mutual understanding between Nigeria and Korea.
“We recognise how important peace is and that is why we have encouraged these young ones to bear out their minds on what they envision peace to be. In doing so, they have expressed their imaginations, creativity, inventiveness, innovation and cultural awareness,” he said.
The Chairman of FCT Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Kabir Matazu, noted that the various competitions organised by the KCCN for students and teachers in the FCT in the last nine years, was a proof that exposing children to acquisition of skills was the right step to take.
Matazu, who was represented by a Director in the Board, Dr. Hassan Suleiman, assured the organisers of the Board’s continued support to enhance the competition in every possible way.
“It is a wonderful development because the pupils were able to pick in practical terms the theme of this competition, “Peace” by bringing out different artworks portraying peace.
“There are series of conflicts across the world; even in this country there is no day that would pass without conflict in one part or the other.
They are trying to preach that we need to imbibe peace instead of engaging in conflicts. If at their level the children are preaching to the people to embrace peace, I think it is a welcome development,” he said.
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