On that faithful  Monday the 8th day of January when I walked into Birch Freeman High School (BFHS), little did I know what my parents signed me up for; 39years later, I am still somewhat connected to the school.

The four and a half years journey was a roller coaster. When I look back, I remember things that I would have loved to continue forever, sometimes remembering things to which no human should ever be subjected; overall I thank God for giving me the opportunity to have the Birch Freeman experience.

The model I have in mind when thinking about the topic addressing the role of government in education crosses across the primary, secondary and tertiary educational system. It is based on my experience i.e how do we preserve the great ones and discard the shortcomings so that the next generation can have a better tomorrow?  How do we make the next fifty years better than the past fifty years? Going down the memory lane, let us consider the role of churches/mission in our educational system 4/5 decades ago.

These organisations worked closely with the government to provide us the foundation that we all stand on today. The breakdown in our infrastructures and the educational standard is a reflection that the government alone cannot run our educational system. However, can we really trust the education of our children to today’s religious organisations?

When I think about the government, I think about an institution that should only be involved in the laying of foundation and in the skeletal formation of a structure. When the government gets involved in the routine management and functioning of the structure, the structure becomes weakened by the bureaucracy which will eventually either slow down the functioning or even destroy the structure.

Going down memory lane, I remember our beautiful lawn, multipurpose hall, football (Soccer fi eld), kitchen and the laboratories that were still standing at the time of my graduation in June 1977.

Several years after, everything has crumbled until the swift intervention by some of our alumni

and the present governor – to these people I say, “Thank you”.

The destruction of our educational system, started when the highly bureaucratic government with good intention took over the total control of our schools, biting more than they can chew with everyone pointing fingers. My concern, at this time, is that the great work done by the present administration/alumni will be back to ground zero if we do not have an open and honest system in place for further development and at least it’s preservation. My paper will address the expected role of government and necessary support of the community in maintaining a viable educational environment.

First, I think the federal government should have a framework of what is expected of an institution at the primary, secondary and the tertiary level so that they can meet international standard. The implementation and monitoring of this framework should be left for the state. Public and private institutions should be held responsible for meeting set criteria. As we move from the secondary to the tertiary level, the role of government should be minimal. My recommendation will be for each institution to be supported by three pillars -  the State Government, the community, which include Parents/ Teachers Association, and the alumni organisation -

in order, to maintain a financially viable and academically strong institution that can stand the test of time.

(My recommendation will be for each institution to be supported by three pillars in order to maintain a financially viable and academically strong institution that can stand the test of time.)

Each school should be guided by a governing board of outstanding members from above three arms. Each member of the board should have a 2-3years term. The board should set a disciplinary standard and hold teachers responsible. Their duties and responsibilities should be clearly written out.  The government need to take responsibilities for capital projects which include salaries and major infrastructures while working closely with the other two pillars mentioned above. The parents/teachers’ association should support other smaller projects through fundraising, levies etc.  This could be as small as providing teachers with tools that will aid in teaching the students which could not be provided by the

government. The parents and teachers are the closest people to the students, and involving them in the affairs of the school beyond paying the fees and just teaching could encourage them to take ownership. Taking ownership will help in protecting infrastructures and school properties. The alumni association should not be a “Magna Carta” just for social and business interaction.

The organisation should serve as a resource for the maintenance of the school’s traditions based on their various experiences as students, now that they are in the outside world. The organisation should be instrumental in shaping the lives of these students through collaboration with the parents, teachers and government.

When these three arms work together, they will be able to provide a strong academic environment, assisting the government in carrying some of the loads thereby bringing down the overall cost while provision will be made to assist students from financially challenged homes.

Our present structure: The current structure is obviously not working. The committee on restructuring of federal government agencies headed by Mr. Oronsaye pointed out the failure of the nation’s tertiary institution. “No Nigerian university ranked among the top 1000 in the world irrespective of whatever matrix that was used”. Among other things, the committee recommended the introduction of fees.

To this I concur; however, introducing fees without adequate provision for funding for all students through need-based scholarships, subsidised loans etc. will be disastrous; leaving our future only in the hands of those that can write the check. Educational development of these children is a collective responsibility.  No one should be forced to go to school by the government or any institution (leave parenting for parents), however anyone that is willing to have an education should be given the opportunity. God bless you all.

Up Birch!!!

Dr. Olumide Aderoba. Class of “77

(The article was a contribution to the 2012 Alumni Magazine publication)

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