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Desperate parents want admission for wards at all cost – FGGC Principal

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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.

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Education

JUST IN: Student killed during protest at Plateau College of Education

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The Management of the College of Education Gindiri, Mangu Local Government of Plateau state has close down academic activities in the School indefinitely, following students protest, which claimed the life of a student and properties worth millions of naira also destroyed.

Investigation revealed that the students had embarked on a protest demanding for the released of the identification card and also cancellation of a National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS Policy which they claimed to have paid to the school, but whenever the approach the school clinic the management still as them to pay another money.

New Telegraph gathered that during the protest, the students on rampage burnt down the school Clinic and also damage several cars belonging to staffs as well as destroyed doors and windows of the Administrative buildings of the institution before the arrival of the security.

Public Relationship officer of the School Mrs Elizabeth Aboreng who spoke New Telegraph on a Telephone call disclose that the students from NCE Two class had protested the released of their ID card by the school management and later took laws into their hands by burning down properties in the institution including the school clinic and Ambulance.

“The Management of the institution has close down the school indefinitely, Because the students of NCE two had issues of Identification Card which was not released to them, but the made the Acting Provost Mr Cornelius Ka-ankuka and he resolved that the ID Card was to be made available today, but surprisingly today the students went on rampage without waiting to collect the ID cards and burn down two ambulances belonging to the school, burn down the clinic and also destroy staffs cars” she said.

However, New Telegraph gathered that in the midst of the protests, one student was alleged to have been hit by a stray bullet and died on the spot.

When contacted, the Plateau State Police command, Public Relations officer, DSP Mathias Tyopev, confirmed the incident and said he is expecting details from the Divisional Police officer of Gindiri, Mangu LGC of the state.

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2018 UTME: Candidates protest exam date, seek postponement

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Human and vehicular movements along Bariga-Akoka road, Lagos, were, this afternoon, impeded when hundreds of candidates, who have registered to sit the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) staged a protest over what they described as the inconsiderate stance of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) by fixing the examination for March.

The candidates carried placards with various inscriptions such as; “Admissions are yet to close, why conducting another UTME now?”; “JAMB isn’t for revenue generation, stop milking our parents,” “2017 UTME held in May, why March in 2018?” “2018 admissions not transparent,” among others.

They said many of them who had hoped to be admitted by various institutions during the 2017/2018 academic calendar year just found out this week that they were not admitted and that less than one month cannot be enough to prepare for another examination.

But JAMB has justified the decision to hold the examination between March 9 and 17, noting that it was a decision jointly taken by other examination bodies to avoid clash of timetables and to ensure that all admissions are concluded by August every year for smooth academic system.

The examination body, however, advised the 245,000 candidates billed to take part in its Monday Mock test to visit the website to reprint their slips and prepare adequately for the examination.

Addressing the press during the protest, the National President of the Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr. Dotun Sodunke, who led the candidates to the streets, said if allowed to hold as scheduled Nigeria would experience another round of mass failure.

He said if JAMB was not only concerned about generating revenue for the government it would consider the candidates in fixing the date for the examination, saying it is obvious that there was no way the candidates would complete the UTME syllabus under one month.

Sodunke added that institutions like the University of Benin, Yaba College of Technology, among others, still released admission list on Wednesday, and that the students who had applied to such institutions but are yet to be admitted would not concentrate on preparation for another examination.

He said; “The new head of JAMB needs to be called to order. He should not be carried away by the euphoria of revenue generation. The future of this country depends on these children. JAMB is sure that if you conduct the exam early, many candidates would fail, and they would come back to register again next year. This is so because their children don’t school here.

“Admissions are yet to be concluded, yet you are fixing date for another one. Who does that? The introduction of the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) is also a fraud. You would be admitted on JAMB portal and on CAPS page it would deny you admission. Everything is done in secrecy as we don’t even know which schools are organizing post-UTME and which ones are not. Every institution is doing what it wants. Things must not go on like this.”

However, the Head of the Press and Public Relations Unit of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, explained that there was yet no basis for the postponement being sought by the candidates, saying the date had been fixed as early as December, 2017, and that it was made public.

Benjamin said; “We need to place the interest of this country above selfish interest. The candidates are not the ones staging protest but the tutorial centres operators, and parents must intervene to rein them in. They are doing this because they want to keep the candidates at their centres till May so that they can get more money from them. Things are not done that way.

“JAMB is not alone in this business. All stakeholders in Nigeria’s education sector have realised that our calendar must be organised and firm as we experience abroad, and it must start somewhere. Even if heaven will fall, the new government wants to ensure that academic calendar starts every August, and that is why all admissions will be concluded by August this year. So if these candidates are affected, we apologise to them, it is for their good and the good of the nation.”

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Mixed reactions trail Lagos’ Yoruba preservation law

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NUC: Law against universities admission policy

•JAMB: NCE has exclusive right on admission

•ASUU, SSANU: Better to introducing language as general study

POLICY

Stakeholders are divided over the Lagos’ Yoruba preservation law, set to deny candidates without a Credit Pass in Yoruba language, admission into the state’s higher institutions

With the new Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion Law promulgated by the Lagos State Government, the state may have stirred up the hornet’s nest, particularly among stakeholders in the education sector, if the reaction trailing the policy is anything to go by.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had last week promulgated the law, which seeks to make Credit Pass in Yoruba language at the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) level, one of the prerequisites for admission into any of the state’s higher institutions.

While some of the stakeholders see the law as a welcome development, but with suggested modifications, others condemned the decision in its entirety, insisting that no state government is empowered to add such conditions to admission requirements.

The agencies of government that are concerned with admission processes such as the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) have described the law as misplaced priorities and illegal.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), whose members are involved in admission processes on various campuses, have also raised some fundamental issues about the new law, suggesting how best the governor’s intention could be achieved without ‘localising’ the institutions.

On Thursday, last week, Governor Ambode, flanked by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan and the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, among others, formally assented the bill into law “to provide for the preservation and promotion of the use of Yoruba Language and for connected purposes.”

By this step, Lagos became the first state to enact such law, seeking to preserve and promote its indigenous language.

There were other six bills assented by the governor on the same occasion and they included: the Amended Land Use Charge bill, School of Nursing bill, Cooperative College bill, Cancer Research Institute bill, Amended Customary Court bill and the State Electric Power Reform Bill.

On its part, the Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion law provides that all the laws in the state “will be translated into Yoruba Language and all state-owned tertiary institutions are to incorporate the use of Yoruba Language in the General Studies (GNS) courses.”

It added: “The use of Yoruba language shall be an acceptable means of communication between individuals, establishment, corporate entities and government in the state, if so desired by the concerned. It shall not be an offence for a person to speak Yoruba language by the state government.”

As a stern warning to those who may be willing to contravene the new law, the provision of Section 2 of the law states that any institution found guilty of flouting it commits an offence and is liable on first violation to issuance of warning and on subsequent violation be closed down and also pay a fine of N500,000.

According to the state government, the socio-cultural value of the Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion Law 2018, “has also made it mandatory for all candidates seeking admission into our tertiary institutions to secure Credit Pass in Yoruba at SCCE. Yoruba will now become a major requirement to engage in normal business communication in Lagos State.”

Adding, the state’s Commissioner for Information was quoted to have said: “This is a clear and conscious commitment to the position which Lagos State prides Yoruba language as the cultural vehicle for us to be able to articulate our position and it also shows that Lagos has further recognised the importance of language as a vehicle for development.”

With the law, Bamigbetan said anyone seeking admission into the Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos State School of Nursing and Lagos State College of Health Technology, among others, must have Credit Pass in Yoruba language.

However, in its response to the development, NUC has described the law as illegal, saying admissions and regulations of universities’ programmes are exclusive of the National Council on Education (NCC), which comprises the Federal Government and state governments’ representatives.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, NUC’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Mallam Ibrahim Yakassai, said NUC is not bothered on the matter, and that the ball is on the court of the candidates who may be denied admission based on the law. He said such candidates have the right to challenge such decisions in court.

Yakassai said: “Lagos State does not have such power as it concerns universities admission. All admissions to universities in this country must be through JAMB. I don’t know about other higher institutions, but as it concerns the universities, states do not have such powers.

“Education may be on concurrent list, but admission is central and exclusively for Federal Government. Universities admit but admission letters are issued by JAMB, and there are guidelines for admissions. That is why every year, the National Council on Education (NCE) meets, and this involves representatives of all the 36 states of the federation. That is where such policy decisions are made.”

Yakassai further explained that there is a window of opportunities for the universities to introduce such languages as general studies course on various campuses, and that they may compel their students to pass such course upon admission, but not as a condition for admission.

Similarly, to JAMB, such law is strange, and that rather than promoting the language, it would only end up reducing it to a local subject among its speakers.

An official of the examination body, who craved anonymity, said JAMB, would await the state or the Lagos State University (LASU) to write it before it takes any decision.

The source said: “JAMB will be waiting for communication from the state before taking any decision. But what is clear is that only National Council on Education has the exclusive mandate to determine admission requirements.”

The President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said such initiative aimed at protecting indigenous language is supported by the National Policy on Education and the constitutional provision that places education on concurrent list.

Ogunyemi, however, cautioned that it would be better if the language is introduced as a general study course in the institutions and not as requisite for admission.

He said: “It is not new for a people or country to seek to protect their languages. Some programmes in higher institutions in Finland, China, Germany and even France are taught in their languages and not English. Before you can be awarded their certificates, you would have been made to go through the languages.

“So, Yoruba Language can be brought in through that means. It is a welcome development because our languages are fast losing their pride of place.”

Also speaking, the National Public Relations Officer of SSANU, Mr. Abdulsobur Abdulsalaam, hailed the development, but also toed the line of ASUU President.

Abdulsalaam, who is on the admission team of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said by introducing the subject as a general studies course, it would help in promoting the language, even among its non-speakers.

“We cannot close the doors completely against those who had never studied the language by introducing it as a requirement for admission. Rather, if it is introduced as a general studies course, as it is done abroad, then non-speakers of the language would be made to experience it, and by that, it would further expose it to outside world,” he advised.

Meanwhile, efforts to seek further clarifications on the law from the Special Adviser on Education to Governor Ambode, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh did not yield result, as he neither picked his call nor replied text message sent to his phone.

However, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Bamigbetan promised to give detailed information about the law and respond to the questions on the legality of the position on Monday.

The short text message sent to New Telegraph by Bamigbetan reads in part: “Please expect a robust response on Monday morning. I need to quote sections of the law.”

On his part, former Rector of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Mr. Olawumi Gasper, an engineer, said the policy would ridicule the “universality of the university system.”

“With this bill it means a Brazilian, Briton or German, who intends to study at undergraduate level at the Lagos State University (LASU) and to further research on his ancestry has been deprived such opportunity going by the new policy for admission,” he added.

According to him, universities have common global standards and shared values, which the bill has already defeated.

On the effect of the policy on the system, Gasper said “wherein lies the autonomy of the university,” even as he further queried whether the policy received the concurrence of the university Senate, or not.

Also, a Professor of History and International Relations at Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Osogbo, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, described the bill as a welcome development and a right step in the right direction.

He, however, commended Lagos State Government for what he described as “a Yeoman Job,” saying the state deserves great commendation for its foresight in promoting Yoruba language.

“The Yoruba Language Bill is a right decision taken by the Lagos State Government at this crucial period when the language is almost going into extinction,” Oyeweso said, stressing that Yoruba language deserves its right place and recognition like other foreign languages in our school system.

The don, who noted that the passage of the bill epitomizes the revival of Yoruba language, recalled the important role scholars such as the late Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola and Adebayo Faleti had played in the growth and development of the language. He lamented that scholars of Yoruba Language are fast diminishing.

He, therefore, called on other states of Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Ogun to emulate Lagos State, even as Oyeweso said: “We don’t need America, Germany and Britain to develop our language for us.”

He praised the state lawmakers for doing “a wonderful work,” and sought the enforcement of the bill, saying any school that failed to comply with the policy should be sanctioned or have its operating licence withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Proprietor of Rholak Group of Schools, Meiran, Lagos, Dr. Olakunle Ologun, said since education is on the concurrent list, Lagos State has the right to formulate its education policies.

Ologun, who hinted that he wondered why such policy should be condemned, lamented that already Yoruba language is going into extinction and a bold step needed to be taken to restore it.

“There is the urgent need to propagate the studying of Yoruba Language in our school and so Lagos has done the right thing. The policy statement should be enforced in order to make it work,” he added.

While insisting that the state has done nothing wrong with the policy, Ologun, however, hinted that in the South-East, Igbo language is being used as medium of instruction in most of its schools.

“Any candidate could go to federal institutions or in their states. It is a right policy and Lagos has every right to legislate on its education. The action does not preclude other states from doing similar thing to move their language and culture forward,” he argued.

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