Friday the 3rd of June, 2016 was just another day and it had been a busy one at work for me. So here I was exhausted and on my way home. I carried my hand bag on one shoulder and my lap top bag with all my working tools heavily on the other shoulder. I matched down the stairs walking all the way from the third floor. Just when I stepped outside; I caught a glimpse of secondary school students marching towards my office building in a protest. This was a warning sign that something was seriously wrong…I mean I can’t remember the last time students in secondary school took to the streets in protest. So I had to wait a while to be sure it was even safe to step outside the gate even though their grievance was not targeted towards me or other people on the street.
Finally they gathered at the gate and angry chants about the new state government policy to have a public-private ownership of some of their schools (Public schools). These children felt that their parents would not be able to afford the fees when this policy goes through. In fact many of their parents who work in the public service have not been paid their salaries for months. And rightly so in my own opinion this new policy would definitely affect the number of children of low income earners who gets the privilege of been educated.
This protest was to be the first one, as on Monday the 6th June, 2016 more students joined the protest. This time some leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC), Oyo state chapter where in custody of the Police over an alleged disruption of a stakeholders meeting held with concerned government officials on the matter of the new policy. As far as a number of people were concerned it was simply an attempt by government to shelve their responsibility towards the people on education.
The protest became somewhat destructive as students were alleged to have attacked some government buildings. Right now Public Schools in the state have been closed down to prevent further escalation of the conflict.
It is worrisome that half the time the school year calendar timetable of public schools are disrupted and spent dealing with one crisis or the other between the state government and teachers or Labour Union. Pupils supposed to be in school are loafing around and getting engaged in truancy.
How did we even get here? The question is, do we want “our children” to really get an education? Our founding fathers left legacies that we are still all benefiting from, why can’t we consolidate on providing something much better.
I look at many institutions that had been established over many decades, structures of these buildings have endured the test of time over the years. Ask our generation and those that are behind to construct an institution that is meant to serve generations yet unborn and we come up with buildings that soon begin to crumble/crash.
Education is one non -negotiable legacy we must continue to give to generation after generation. It should be made affordable and accessible to all. Children should be in school and not on the streets protesting!
Which way Oyo State? Would our public schools become in-affordable to many children and their parents? It is not about what is convenient but about making the right sacrifice now so that we can have a better future.
All Children matter; no matter their level in the social strata