By Kofoworola Bello-Osagie
From rehabilitating schools, and investing in digital education, to upgrading school and public libraries and enhancing internet access, Special Adviser on Education Mr. Adetokunbo Wahab says Lagos is deliberate in grooming its next generation of leaders.
THAT Lagos State has the highest number of classrooms in good condition is no fluke, says Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s Special Adviser on Education Mr. Adetokunbo Wahab.
He told The Nation in an interview that the upgrade of public primary and secondary school structures was a deliberate policy to improve the teaching and learning environment as part of the bigger goal of preparing those who will run the state’s economy in the 21st century.
According to the Lagos State government, the Sanwo-Olu-led administration has implemented over 1,097 school projects, including rehabilitating 322 public schools in the past two years
Though the Office of the Special Adviser on Education (OSAE) which Wahab coordinates oversees tertiary education, non-formal education and public libraries, Wahab said the office also got involved in the rehabilitation of schools through the education trust fund.
“There is a fund under OSAE called Education Trust Fund. The trust fund is an intervention such that where there are gaps in infrastructure in our public schools, you can intervene using the fund. So what we did last year was to see how we could help bridge that gap. It requires us to go to EXCO to seek their approval with respect to infrastructure in some of our schools. We also carry along with the Lagos State Infrastructure Asset Management Agency (LASIAMA). This is to augment what the ministry (of education) and Special Committee on Rehabilitation of Public Schools (SCRPS) are doing on their own.
“Interestingly, we also intervened in Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB), which means we touched technical colleges.
“For that of SCRPS, it is supposed to be 11 or 12 schools, while for LASIAMA, it is about nine. In total, it is about 25 that we covered. SCRPS is a special agency for the rehabilitation of public schools. LASIAMA is for upgrading and maintenance of schools. So we had to get the three involved through OSAE using the education trust fund to intervene,” he said.
Speaking on work done within OSAE’s core mandate, Wahab said his office was aggressively rehabilitating school libraries. He said by month end, the government should have upgraded about 250 school libraries. Already, 198 are ready and provided ICT facilities.
He said the rehabilitation of school libraries, as well as the Eko Digital skills-acquisition initiative, and the provision of internet access to schools, flowed from Governor Sanwo-Olu’s THEMES agenda to exploit the fusion of education and technology for societal good.
“We are very deliberate in our approach. The governor wants Lagos to be a 21st-century economy, and he is laying the fibre optic across the state. Fibre optic means there will be internet infrastructure. OSAE do have the mandate with respect to the library. We have done our study, and we found out that over time, the reading culture has dropped drastically, and if we don’t create an enabling environment, we will not have any moral justification to blame these children for not having a reading culture. So we decided on two options. The first one is to have 11 libraries which we have made 12 now across the state.
“Are they enough? No. We have over 700 public secondary schools, and we decided to go directly to the public secondary schools to revamp the library infrastructure by giving them new ones and equipping them with books and IT infrastructure to complement the books, as well as make it conducive for them. That is why you see us putting air conditioners and generators. The governor has increased the maintenance for each principal to N250,000 a month from the paltry N25,000 we met. We have not been able to cover all the schools. In two and half years, we have covered 198 schools across the state.”
Regarding Eko Digital, Wahab said Lagos recognises the need to equip young people with the technological know-how to run the knowledge-based economy.To this end, he said the initiative trains pupils and students in schools and other youths outside the school system to code and learn other digital courses that would enhance their employability.
He said: “Eko Digital Skills is to prepare students and pupils for the fourth revolution which is IT. COVID has shown us that it is here already. That will give you the skills you need for that revolution. The language of the revolution is cloud, coding, python and digital skills language. We were targeting a million youths.
“Under the Eko Digital, a total of 194,161 youths, students/ pupils have benefitted in the last two years, but it is still a far cry. As it were, we are ploughing back the space and preparing the students for that.”
Wahab said Eko Digital runs a stream for pupils in school twice yearly, and one for those out of school once. While the in-school stream is open to public and private secondary school pupils, the hybrid stream for those out of school can be accessed from public libraries.
“In the last two years, the Special Adviser said interest in Eko Digital has increased exponentially such that registration is over-subscribed.
“It is usually oversubscribed,” he said, adding: “This is why we have to increase it to three sessions in a year. When we started, it used to be one. We now realised that when we had the subscriptions, a lot of people were not happy because they could not be taken on board as there is a limit. So last year, we made it two. This year we made it three sessions to cover everybody. The level is that if you were not able to come in for the first one, you could come in for the second one after the hybrid. So the subscription and over-subscription give us the conviction that people waiting for it, and they are enjoying it.”