Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Tuesday attended the public unveiling of a book titled the “Lagos Eko Project (2009-2013): A Legacy of Excellence”, expressing delight at the marked improvement recorded by pupils in the state public examinations in the past couple of years but tasked the teaching staff to aim at a 60 percent performance this year.
The Governor who spoke at the Vetland Senior Grammar School, Old Abeokuta Motor Road, Agege said though he is delighted at the progress that the state has made in performance at public examinations, stressing that from a seven percent score in 5 subjects, the State has moved up to 41 percent performance and he has extracted a commitment from the teachers that the performance would be ramped up to 60 percent this year.
“This is the most important level of education, where we have stabilised. There are other levels that we need to pay attention to but let us stabilise first and that’s why we say you take more responsibility and that is why we are saying for a certain period in the development of the school you teachers who train them will now take responsibility for assessing and marking and setting their scores, from School test, they would move to a District test to a State test. We spend money but money alone would not have done the job but committed teachers, principal and retired teaching staff as well”, he explained.
Noting that the World Bank loan model for the project has been internalised and will remain firmly applicable in the State, Governor Fashola said though the World Bank project will end because it is only a loan that was borrowed by the state and will be paid back, but the experience would remain useful.
“The model that made it work is more important for me than the money .Now that the model has been internalised, I assure you that the idea of direct grants into the schools and classrooms is one that will remain firmly with us in Lagos State even after the World Bank project has gone”.
“Even after I stop being your Governor, it would continue because we have told the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget that this must now be incorporated into our annual budgeting system. We will sustain the same model and its disbursement would be retained”.
“Although there is no perfection in any system there may be need to refine, renew and retool the system like every policy. You can always go back and review the system, if we get it wrong, If we want to teach people, we must be ready to unlearn things that we have badly learnt”, he explained.
The Governor who also used the occasion to respond to insinuations about the alleged mismanagement of the World Bank loan on EKO Project said from the beginning of the present administration, its collateral has been its collective integrity.
“We have nothing to hide and when our teachers, principals and public officers who elect to serve are vilified without cause, I would stand up to defend them. And as we have done every 100 days, we give an account of our stewardship in public because we have nothing to hide”, he noted.
He added that the results of the application of the EKO Project funds is now open for everyone to see, adding that his inspection of the projects in the premises of Vetland School speaks volume about the success of the model.
According to the Governor, those who seek to comment about public schools should also have a clear understanding of what they are commenting about and the concept behind its application, revealing that in Lagos out of the 14,000 schools available, only 2,000 are government owned.
“So when you are worried about overcrowding, we run a free education system here from cradle to senior secondary school three, we also pay West African Examination Council (WAEC). We have the largest number of people who are poor and indigent and who want to put their children through a reliable education system”, he added.
He added that when such people see overcrowding in the public schools, they should understand the context in which the State operate, adding that what is uppermost is that if pupils learn under unfavourable conditions, they are being taught by qualified teachers.
“This must be clear to those who want to engage in a discussion or criticise us. As difficult as that may be even if the child was to learn under a tree, I can say that the teacher instructing the kid is a qualified teacher. Part of our regulatory work is to manage our own schools and regulate the private schools and ensure that those that exceed the standard that we offer become benchmark for us”, he said.
The Governor who spoke on what informed the introduction of the Lagos EKO Project said a situation where any request from a school teacher still has to go through the school principal who also has to route such request through a Permanent Secretary and then to a Commissioner before it eventually goes to the Governor if the need be, such a process would take a long time to be actualised and for 667 schools.
He added that considering the fact that the State had to intervene in classroom management, broken windows, louvers, no chalks, the State decided that the schools should take over and with funds made available directly to such schools.
The Governor, however, explained that the Principals and the Schools do not act alone under the EKO Project as the Principals cannot spend money without the concurrence of the management committee adding that the EKO Project is just about putting money in the classroom and has nothing to do with replacing schools which roof has been removed or with building schools, or supplying solar energy, or large component of training of teachers as well as water supply to the schools.
According to the Governor, while it is fashionable for people without adequate information to analyse budgetary expenditure on the education sector in terms of the Ministry of Education’s budget alone, such people omit to factor in critical inputs into the Schools from the Health, Environment and Energy Sectors among others.
While commending the passion and enthusiasm with which the Principal of Vetland Senior Grammar School, Mrs. Abiodun A. Aiyerin took him round the things which Eko Project had enabled her accomplish, Governor Fashola said the general commitment of the teachers had been essential to the overall success of the project.
“I know many of you love this job and it is our intention to reignite the passion back to make you do it because it is a calling not a job. That really is the next goal and that is embedded in all the training and competency development that we are promoting and developing”, he added.
Speaking earlier, the Special Adviser to the Governor on EKO Project, Ms Ronke Azeez expressed the gratitude of the EKO Project team to the Governor for his commitment in the education sector and that this has motivated the team into putting on record the strong foundation that has been laid for the sector.
She explained that the EKO Project has improved learning outcomes over a given period of time in the public secondary schools through the meticulous disbursement of the loan from the World Bank.
He added that it is not surprising that the World Bank has classified and rated the performance of the EKO Project in Lagos as being highly satisfactory when compared to similar loans given to other nations that have recorded just satisfactory status.
The book was later unveiled by the Governor in company of other dignitaries like the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Oladunjoye Oladunjoye, Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, Mrs Gbolahan Daodu and Permanent Secretary Tutor General for District One, Mrs Florence Adebola Ogunfidodo.
SPECIAL ADVISER TO H.E ON MEDIA
JUNE 24, 2014