By Adebisi Adeyemi Lagos, Nigeria
Oyo State government has warned that herdsmen found shepherding cows into public schools or converting their playground to grazing fields will be arrested for prosecution, while the straying cattle will be seized as exhibits.
The Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Adeniyi Olowofela, gave the warning at a press conference, in Ibadan, on Friday, against the backdrop of reports that cows invaded some public schools in Ibadan and other areas recently.
Although the state had no designated grazing zones, he said that the herdsmen have been cautioned at different meetings from straying into unauthorized places to feed their cattle to avert conflict of interest with farmers and property owners.
Olowofela said, “What happened recently in Edo State has also happened in a school in Ibadan and few other areas where cows invaded public schools. We will no longer tolerate indiscriminate rearing of cows.
“Stakeholders, including law enforcement agents and farmers have held several meetings in the past on this matter. We don’t want any conflict in any part of Oyo State over cow grazing. Playgrounds in public schools are not grazing fields.
“Henceforth, any herdsman caught rearing cattle into schools and other unauthorized public places will be arrested and prosecuted. Such cows will also be confiscated and used as exhibits. We can live together in peace if we all don’t trespass.”
The commissioner used the occasion to fault a statement credited to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, in an online medium, where he was quoted to have scored the six years of the Governor Abiola Ajimobi-led administration very low in education attainments.
He explained that the state inherited a dysfunctional educational system in 2011, which encouraged automatic promotion of students irrespective of performance, which he attributed to the poor performance of students in external examinations.
The commissioner stressed that the state government had since carried out series of reforms, including stoppage of automatic promotion, introduction of school governing board, Oyo State Model Education System Interventions (OYOMESI), among others, which, he said, had begun to yield dividend.
For instance, in the last examination conducted by the National Examination Council (NECO), Olowofela said that the state placed second among the 36 states of the federation, which said was not a fluke.
He exuded confidence that the state would achieve similar feat by the time the results of the last West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) were released, stressing that the steps taken by the government had at a time moved Oyo to 13th position in the same examination.
In addition, he said that the state had invested heavily on the improvement of infrastructure in its public schools, adding that some models schools being built by the administration were nearing completion.
On the lingering crisis at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, the commissioner said that the matter would be laid to rest as soon as the ongoing forensic audit of the college’s finances, staff strength and students’ population records was completed.
Frowning on what he called the hostile and uncooperative attitude of some of the institution’s stakeholders, he used the opportunity to appeal to them to stop denying the auditors access into the offices to forestall further delay.
The commissioner sought the understanding of the stakeholders in the university system, arguing that LAUTECH crisis began when the owner states could no longer fund it like before when the economy was not in recession.
Between 2011 and 2016, he said that Oyo and Osun states committed about N14bn to funding of the institution, which he said was independent of the institution’s internally-generated revenue.
Olowofela said, “The governor will continue to do everything within his powers and reach to improve the quality of education in the state, because he values education and he believes firmly that quality education remains the bedrock of development.
“Various performance metrics and data support our claim that the quality of education in Oyo State has improved in the last six years. It will be malicious for anyone to suggest otherwise. Such sweeping statement should not come from a personality such as Mr. Falana.
“The rot in education system is a systemic failure that needs the full cooperation and support of parents, teachers, alumni associations, community leaders and the government to fix. Let all of us play our roles conscientiously and we will see the desired results.”
Olowofela scored the state high in the implementation of the homegrown school feeding programme among the seven pioneering states, adding that some of the complaints by the food vendors were teething challenges that would soon be surmounted.
Before the commencement of the programme, he said that accredited food vendors had been informed that each participating state would appoint aggregators/farmers that would be supplying foodstuffs and animal protein for standardization and quality feeding.
He said, “They were informed that the money for the items supplied by the aggregators would be deducted from each vendor’s N70 per menu to be paid by the Federal Government directly into the aggregator’s before remitting the balance to the food vendor’s account.
“The vendors were thereafter asked to sign an undertaken to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations of the feeding programme. Nobody has shortchanged the food vendors. Let me also state that those having issues with their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) are delaying the implementation of the programme in some local governments.”