Osun State has been in the news for some weeks now over strident protests by some stakeholders against its School Reform and Reclassification programme.

At the heart of the crisis is the resistance to the decision of the Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led government to merge some of the public schools  taken over from Christian and Muslim missions in 1975, but which are still bearing the names of their original founders and former owners.

The merger, in some instances, involved the transfer of students in schools taken over from Islamic Missions where a number of students use the Muslim veil, hijab, on their uniforms, to the schools taken over from Christian missions such as the Baptist Church, which still bear the names of those missions.

Some Christians, under the aegis of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), took strong exception to the transfer of children wearing the hijab into schools bearing the names of Christian churches. Some Muslims and other Christians also stridently opposed the transfer because it involved their children walking much longer distances to school. It was also alleged by some Christian missions  that the merger exercise was an attempt to obliterate the Christian background of their former schools.

The merger exercise reportedly also transmuted existing single-sex schools into mixed schools, as it took no cognizance of the fact some of the schools had been single-sex schools since inception, several decades ago.

Also, schools with population as low as 50 in the state’s less populated areas were merged, for ease of management, with the result that some pupils would now have to walk between two to three kilometres to schools in surrounding villages.

However, the Osun State Government has not only made a strong defence of its school reform exercise, it averred that the schools over which some stakeholders are protesting in the state belong fully to the state government, which has been running them in the last 38 years without any contribution from the protesting missions.

The government explained that the schools only bear the names of their Christian and Muslim founders because the state government, over the years, did not change their names out of respect for their founders.

The state authorities traced the genesis of its reform initiative to the rot in the education sector of the state at the inception of the Aregbesola administration. The government explained that the governor called an education summit in February 2011, which produced the blueprint for the education reform that the government is now implementing.