IT took the unfortunate killing of a pupil, Opeyemi Rasheed, by his classmate, Abiodun Oluwadare, in October 2010 for government's attention to be drawn to the unsavoury status of the All Saints Primary School at Oke-Ijebu area of Akure, Ondo State.
The two pupils had been playing with a pistol allegedly hidden in the school premises by hoodlums who had turned the school's compound to their operational base when Oluwadare unknowingly pulled the trigger thereby killing Rasheed instantly.
It was a tragic incident the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, felt could have been avoided if the compound of the All Saints School was not in a state of disrepair due to the poor infrastructure there. The bushy surroundings provided a hide-out for criminal elements and a place to keep their arms and ammunition.
The good news is that the school has since undergone massive renovation and fencing of its dilapidated buildings under the auspices of the state government's Caring Heart Mega School Project. It now boasts of standard facilities that can match those obtainable in the best private schools anywhere in the country.
Months after the renovations, the All Saints School and Saint Mark Primary School are today the cynosure of all eyes in the state capital. A visit to the school last week shows the pupils, resplendent in their new school uniform provided by the state government, learning in a green environment that has virtually wiped away the memory of the jungle they were some months ago.
The headmistress of the school, Mrs. Veronica Adeleye, was holding a meeting with some teachers in one of the offices which formed part of the seven blocks of the school complex. The new school has virtually every facility a modern school could boast of with the entire complex linked by well-laid concrete pathways, including the new 21 classrooms, sports complex, laboratories, computer section, dual-structured library, back-up power house, public convenience, and other state-of the art facilities such as electronic boards that gave the school its unique status.
Mrs. Adeleye revealed that the new standard of the school has changed the face of learning there as the pupils are now eager to come to school. She said: "This mega school project is a new innovation in bringing back the lost glory of education. This has changed the face of learning as people are more willing to come here."
The sentiment was shared by an aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Akin Osuntokun, on the model schools. He said of the model schools: "Mimiko is reinventing the concept of educational development all over again. What we have seen in this model school matches any standard in any part of the world: landscape, environment, infrastructure, equipment. Even in the glorious days of education in the country, we did not have these features. If the morning shows the day, what we have seen here is an indication of how far education development will go in Ondo State."
The popular feeling is that the governor is keeping faith with his promise to break the yoke of poverty through education, when he said: "Education is key to breaking the yoke of poverty and ignorance. We are creating a social integration to ensure that the children of the poor can rub shoulders with the children of the rich by choice in the society. Nothing but the best is good for us in Ondo. We, therefore, remain committed to free and qualitative education for all our children up to the senior secondary school level".
The Caring Heart Mega School Project was designed to make schools meet the taste of the moment to facilitate the return of the lost glory in the education sector to the state as each of the schools has the capacity to enroll 1,000 pupils with 42 classrooms. Each school has a laboratory for sciences, a modern library, a computer room, music room, an art gallery, a sick bay, a multi-purpose hall, boreholes, an administrative block, a demonstration farm and sports centre, among state-of-the-art equipment that a good school should boast of.
No wonder, the state government has been receiving commendation from far and near since the completion of the model schools. One of such commendations is from the Parents /Teachers Association, PTA, Chairman, Pastor Julius Aderibigbe, who said, he was among the beneficiaries of the free education policy of the defunct Western Region during the tenure of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Building of classrooms
Aderibigbe said: "I was a student then and I can only compare what Mimiko is doing to the Awolowo era, because of his spartan lifestyle, management of resources, commitment to the welfare of the people and education.
"He is building classrooms of the 21st century standard. It is a wonderful experience and I'm proud and glad to be part of it. Two years ago, there was a tragedy here and the Governor had promised to wipe away our tears and sorrow. Today marks his fulfillment of that promise."
In a similar vein, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, Professor A.G. Daramola, commended the governor for seeing education as the veritable catalyst for national development. Daramola said: "Mimiko has transformed our education. He has distinguished himself through this novel idea and concept and should be commended."