FIC Report (Edo State) – To most readers, the phrase, It’s School O’clock, may look ordinary and funny, but to the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the phrase is a serious and people oriented policy of government. It is the slogan of the new reform in education by the Obaseki led administration, aimed at deepening quality education in the state. It is an Edo state government’s policy that states that it is not going to be business as usual for parents and guardians in the state who encourage children or wards of school age to stay away from school for the purpose of hawking or any other form of child labour. It is a government policy that admonishes parents, guardians and other stakeholders to support the state government in its intervention in the education sector.
Recently, Mr. Obaseki read the riot act for parents and guardians in the state when he said, “As from September 12th, when schools resume any school age child who is found loitering , hawking during school hours will be arrested and their parents will be prosecuted.”
The Governor did not end at the above threat . According to the Edo state Commissioner for Education, Dr. Joan Osa – Oviawe, the state government in partnership with the Judiciary set up special courts to prosecute any parent whose child or ward is found on the streets within school hours. A telephone line has even been dedicated to this campaign, for members of the public to contact the state government agency in charge, whenever a child of school age is found outside the school premises during school hours (between 7.40 am and 2. 45 pm). The dedicated telephone line is 08182737088. Members of the enforcement team are also to patrol streets and some other strategic areas to hunt for the out-of-school children, on a daily basis.
The Commissioner also said, “While we intensify efforts to deepen quality education, especially in the basic education system, we call for the support of parents, guardians and other stakeholders in this regard”.
Some people must have thought that the directive from the state government was a mere threat. However, the enforcement team on, It’s school O’clock campaign led by Dr. Oviawe appeared on the streets of Benin City on Monday, the 12th of September, 2022, the day schools reopened statewide. The enforcement team actually recorded success as some children of school age who were found on the streets during school hours were apprehended and taken to their parents for questioning.
The increase in the number of out-of-school children was becoming worrisome. The case is not peculiar to Edo state. In the 36 states of Nigeria, the number of out-of-school children is on the rise. Some people have adduced poverty induced by the present day economic hardship as the main reason for the increase in the number of out of school children found on the streets. However, this excuse does not seem to hold water as virtually all state governments in Nigeria operate free education system at the Primary and Secondary School levels.
The above reform introduced by the Edo state government is apt and it is a novel initiative that will indeed boost the education sector in the state. For it to yield the expected benefits, the momentum with which it has begun should be maintained or sustained. The campaign should be sustained by the present government and its successor.
The enforcement team is hereby advised to extend its operations to motor parks where there are lots of kid-conductors. The kid-conductors have no business being at the parks, they should be encouraged to go back to school.
The enforcement team should not limit its operations to urban areas alone. The operation should extend to all parts of the state. In fact the rural areas need the services of the enforcement team more than the urban areas.
It is hoped that the enforcement team does not compromise on its mandate. The right or stipulated punishment should be visited on offenders of this policy.
In all, the above reform is hereby recommended for other states for adoption, especially the so-called educationally backward states.
By STELLA DAVID ADU,