#Editorial

Ondo School Census

ON June 10 this year, the Ondo State Government initiated the training of enumerators for the 2024 Annual School Census. This initiative aims to gather data on students, classrooms, teachers, facilities, and other relevant information from both private and public primary and secondary schools across the Sunshine State. An electronic data collection process was to be adopted for this exercise. The State Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology is collaborating with various agencies, such as the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), the Board for Adult, Technical and Vocational Education (BATVE), the Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM), the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, and the Ondo State Bureau of Statistics, to ensure the success of this exercise.

THE census aims to provide accurate and realistic data that will enable the government to make adequate provisions for the infrastructure needs of its citizenry. Specifically, this exercise will help the state generate accurate, timely, and reliable data for effective educational planning and development. It will also attract funding from donors and development partners within and outside Nigeria, as the government alone cannot shoulder all education responsibilities for sustainable development.

AS Victor Olabimtan, Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (ODSUBEB), emphasised, it is important to have detailed information about every school in the state, including infrastructure, number of learners, teachers, and locations as the lack of accurate information often leads to misinformation, which causes embarrassment and inefficiency when schools need to be sited, renovated, or supplied with materials.

WE commend the Ondo State Government for this initiative to promote data-driven educational planning and the implementation of programmes to develop this critical sector. It is appalling that in the 21st Century, when data drives critical decisions across countries and organizations, Nigeria still lacks a reliable database. Thus, the need for the Ondo State Government to develop the School Census to ensure informed and accelerated development of its educational sector cannot be overstated.

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WE appeal to public school heads and teachers to fully support the enumerators and the government in achieving the objectives of this project. The exercise should not be treated as an opportunity to falsify information for perceived benefits, as sometimes happens during national population censuses. Instead, it should be viewed as a pivotal move to develop education across the state using proper and reliable data. School administrators should be available to provide statutory, administrative, and teaching-learning records for collation.

WE join the government in appealing to private institutions in the state not to view the data collection exercise as a prelude to increased taxation. The private sector of the education system is critical, with many students attending these schools. Their contributions in terms of knowledge acquisition, literacy development, employment opportunities, and general societal development cannot be overlooked.

HOWEVER, this is also an opportunity for private school owners to redeem the perceived image of their institutions as centers for examination malpractices.  Several reports indicate that some schools have become “miracle centers” for students seeking admission into tertiary institutions, particularly for external examinations like the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination and the joint examination for Senior Secondary School  II . There are also reports of underaged admissions, result falsifications, bribery of government officials for undue approval, and alteration of school records to evade taxes. We, therefore, appeal to school owners to ensure full cooperation with the government and provide accurate data to enumerators. Associations in the sector, such as the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and the Nigerian Society of Professional School Proprietors (NSPSP), should ensure their members comply with the government’s directives.

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WE also appeal to the enumerators trained to collect the necessary data not to compromise their integrity. There have been instances where government officials colluded with school owners to falsify or alter school information or engage in malpractices during examinations. Enumerators should view this assignment not just as a government venture but as a personal contribution to promoting educational development in the Sunshine State. Furthermore, we call on the government and supervising agencies to ensure efficiency in the process and the systems deployed for this exercise. While providing the necessary materials, equipment, and motivation for the enumerators, there should be proper monitoring and evaluation to prevent data manipulation and ensure the process’s overall efficiency.

We make bold to say that the 2024 School Census is a crucial step towards improving the educational landscape in Ondo State. Accurate data collection and proper planning will ultimately lead to better infrastructure, enhanced learning environment, and overall educational development for the state. We must all work together to ensure the success of this initiative for the benefit of current and future generations.

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Ondo School Census

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