In appreciation of the great contributions of the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) to the improvement of education in the country, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in the South West Zone on Monday honoured him with a Certificate of Commendation with a call on his colleagues in other states across the country to emulate his passion for quality education.
The Governor who recently announced a reversal of the school fees in the State University (LASU) to its old structure got the students’ applause for giving them a listening ear and allowing them the chance to contribute their quota to the growth of education by getting proposals from them even when they were engaging the government during the recent students crisis.
The students, represented by their “Senators” from all the higher institutions in the South West Zone, said the Governor struck them as the right leader to turn the country around through the creative way he recognized the import of their arguments that education could be run in a way as to encourage both the children of the rich and the poor to fulfil their gifts for education without creating classes and division among them.
Receiving the recognition award at the Lagos House, Ikeja, the obviously surprised Governor thanked the students and charged them to always reflect on how the quality of education can be improved.
He gave a commitment that the State Government will solve the problem of the issue of quality of education but that the students also have a role to play in proffering solutions since they know where the shoes pinches.
“I am also inquiring from you that how can we improve the quality of education? So that we can begin to plan how to produce our next sets of graduates that would produce our cars, give us electricity, perform heart and kidney surgeries here. It may look so far away but we are so closer to getting out and you are so close to taking over. We need to quickly fill that gap”, he stated.
He added that the Students must also remember and develop the power of reflection and that in developing that power, the pertinent questions that should be asked include, the level of their reaction while protesting the decision of the state Government.
Explaining the genesis of the LASU issue, the Governor said it was the students who asked for intervention in their school. “All actions have consequences. When you sought the setting up visitation panels, you don’t know what the result would be. What you did not realize is that you were asking outsiders to come. I hope the right lessons have been learnt. For us it is about making things better. You must ask yourself is your method working and if they are not working, are you reflecting on changes?” he said.
According to the Governor, while everyone acknowledges and commends the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the free education policy today, that many do not reflect on the fact that when he started, it was free education at primary education level that he introduced basically to tackle the problem of high illiteracy that was prevalent in the South West then.
He added that then when the programme was introduced some people especially farmers protested the policy because it will take away their children from the farms, adding that today, the literacy level in Nigerian is above 60 percent which explains that the problem has been solved.
He said the students should reflect on the appropriateness of now using the same medicine of free education of over 50 years ago that was used to tackle high illiteracy to now solve a different problem of the quality of education.
Fashola expressed gladness that the school fees issue has ended in the way it has which exceeded the expectation of the students adding that it is important to remind everyone of how it all started and that the State Government did not just wake up one day and decided to increase fees in LASU.
In his words: “It was you the students who came to the Lagos State House of Assembly, complaining and in your own words, that your school ‘was no more than a glorified secondary school’, and that the House should exercise its prerogative in passing a resolution to inviting me to exercise my power as a Visitor and set up a Visitation Panel. The Visitation Panel was indeed set up and it made a lot of recommendations, some of which were accepted, one of which was that we should do everything to restore all the withdrawn accredited courses”.
“Part of the recommendation also was that there should be massive investment in infrastructure funding and part of it was that we should also increase school fees. It was not our initiative It was the consequence of the choice that you made”.
“All of those recommendations were implemented including asking the Vice Chancellor who was in the middle of his second term to resign because you did not want him. We also restored accreditation to almost all the courses remaining maybe just only one”.
“In the first two years, we spent not less than N11Billion on infrastructure in the school. Since then we have not left that school. Things that were not in that report we did it. We awarded contract for staff quarters and drainage channels and so on”, he explained.
Governor Fashola said there is no way people can live a life devoid of conflicts because interest will conflict against one another but that once reasons prevail there would be no conflict that will harm the people, maintaining that whenever the administration takes a decision, it always goes back to feel the impulse of the people and know whether it is achieving the desired goals.
While promising to speak to his Ogun State counterpart on the closure of the Ogun State University on behalf of the students as requested by their Spokesperson, Fashola reminded them that Nigeria is a federation of diverse opportunities and capacities.
He added that the decision on how to govern Ogun State rests on the table of Governor Amosun who is well versed with the state of affairs there and that what Ogun State can do Lagos may not be able to do and vice versa.
He reminded them that they cannot always get everything that they demand for and that it is only in the power of reflecting that they can also compromise to move forward, adding that there is a need to revisit the method of expressing grievances through breaking of glasses and blocking roads.
The Governor said he saw the recent dialogue process on the LASU school fees regime as an opportunity to allow the students participate in deciding on the affairs in their campuses as he never had such an opportunity while in the University.
Speaking earlier the NANS Zone D Coordinator, Mr Sunday Ashefon commended the Governor for surprising the students with his decision on the LASU fees because what the students were clamouring for was a reduction before the Governor announced a reversal to the old school fees.
He said the fees payable in LASU now is not obtainable in any tertiary institution in Nigeria today and described Governor Fashola as another Awolowo of his generation and the NANS Zone D had come to celebrate him.
Also speaking, another official of NANS, Mr Yakub Eleto commended Governor Fashola for his very swift intervention on the issue of Ebola Virus Disease in the State and preventing a major outbreak.