Let me acknowledge the amazing grace bestowed on us by the Almighty God who has made it possible for us to see the light of this day. I wish to thank members of this distinguished audience for electing to participate in this all-important Summit aimed at devising means to reposition the education sector. I must not forget to welcome our students, who may be privileged to be in this gathering. I congratulate them for the exceptional luck to drink from the inexhaustible fount of wisdom which our resource persons present in abundance.

This Summit is for them and posterity. It is designed to address the manifest gaps discernible in the system. It is expected that realistic solutions will be proffered at the end of the engaging interactions from the galaxy of intellectuals arrayed to deliberate on the current challenges. I welcome, most heartily, parents and guardians on behalf of our children, the veritable owners of the future. I charge them to be as frank as possible in their contributions to an engagement which promises to be exciting and rewarding.

I beseech other stakeholders who are participants in this festival of ideas to consider this event as an opportunity to ventilate their views as freely as time permits. Your presence at this event is enough indication of patriotism. Your zeal depicts the seriousness which you attach to this fundamental problem militating against development. Your realistic inputs will be of tremendous assistance to our Administration keenly desirous of charting a new course with regard to its avowed determination to introduce a purposeful and functional system of training.

The main thrust of this discourse is basic to the survival of any society. History, pre-historic, ancient and modern, is replete with the activities of human beings in their quest to tame nature with a view to improving their living standard. The ability to speculate concerning observable natural phenomena prodded them to settle for a consistent pattern of observation. They proceeded from general standpoint to exactitude. Empiricism provided a platform from which man achieved a phenomenal leap in advancement.

Myths and superstitions, products of imagined transcendental realities in a traditional society, yielded space, progressively, to a systemic process of cognition while maintaining a respectable role as constant feeders to rational enquiries. Our ancestors explored and exploited their natural ambience for survival. The flora and fauna, in their bountiful and aesthetic essence, afforded them ample and limitless opportunities to understand nature in its resplendent beauty. They encountered numerous challenges of existence. They appreciated the symbiosis and the excitement it offered.

The logic of expansion compelled migrations to terrae incognitae, “unexplored lands”. They studied the climatic conditions and were able to predict, with precision, moments of inclemency. The acquisition of natural wisdom was experiential. Inundations of rivers, with the attendant destructive consequences, impelled the invention of the science of geometry. The belief in life after life has been of vital significance to mankind. The early species of human beings were natural biologists. The environment was a huge laboratory. Neurology, surgery, medicine, mathematics, physics, chemistry, structural engineering, civil engineering, architecture, technology, sociology, geography, arts and law, among other established disciplines, evolved as cultural expressions of identifiable societies in their quest not only to survive, but also, and instructively, to understand, tame and avail themselves of nature’s bounties in their pursuit of happiness.

The aggregate of the practical contributions of all discerning human communities to combat challenges coalesced to form the body of knowledge known as Philosophy. The society existed as an organic whole. The totality of the experiences garnered over time informed the nature and character of the curricula of training. No aspect of existence was reduced to a system of unproductive and useless abstraction culminating in certification, the end of which served no utilitarian purpose. Every member of the society was trained to be an active participant in the development of the society. Every project was conceived, designed and executed to serve specific purposes in the interest of the people.

The system of training was functional; no aspects of the designed curricula were unrelated to issues of existence in the communities concerned. These observances depict education at its defined best. Education, etymologically, refers to the process of nurturing a person from cradle through adolescence to adulthood till death for the purpose of the society. The curriculum of a functional educational system should be able to address specific areas of challenges faced by the society concerned. Citizens of that environment must be trained to find solutions to the problems of society. The extent to which these problems are tackled and solved is an index of development in real terms.

The regrettable, ritualistic approximation and reduction of the essence of cognition for objectives, other than those which serve collective good, is the bane of modern societies. Real development can only be measured in terms of the extent to which interactions with our natural environment has improved the standard of living of those who exist in geographical space. A system which sustains its relevance only through periodic carnival-like processions, marking enrolment and graduation, with no direct nexus with societal aspirations for advancement, is useless. Any resources expended on such veritable aridity amounts to a monumental waste.

It is my fervent hope, therefore, that this gathering will consider the whole gamut of the current conundrum which incapacitates our youths rather than empower them. We must be frank in our deliberations to proffer workable solutions to the parasitic system which exacts so much from the society with progressively vanishing hope of recompense.

It is heart-corroding to note that our State, which was the envy of all other states in the field of education, now parades vestigial relics of that glorious past. Virtually all public schools are in a sorry state. No serious society allows such pervasive decadence in its system and expects progress. The fact that the Government is seen as the main provider of employment for the citizens confirms the state of monumental failure of the current system. The practices associated with the sector cannot lead to real development.

Of what use is a system which gives provenance to redundancy? How beneficial is the process which is consistent only in proliferating mediocrity? Can there be any justification for an order which perpetuates dependency? How ready are we to join the rest of modernity if we feel comfortable with the embarrassing situation which sees millions of our youths pine away hopelessly and helplessly while we pontificate on best practices? Why is our society not deriving direct benefit from the vaunted certification hypocrisy misconstrued as education, in spite of the humongous investment in the sector? Why do we depend, almost irretrievably, on foreign experts to drive our quest for technological growth? Why are we this helpless and confused amidst the plenitude of certificated personalities with varying shades of accolades?

Who bears the cost of educating our citizens in the face of dwindling fortunes? Can the resources of State sustain the current ostentatious practices such as payment of WAEC fees, free bus shuttle programme, maintenance of over-bloated workforce with no discernible schedules of responsibilities, duplication of disciplines in our tertiary institutions, among others? Should we continue to pretend that education is free at all levels while sundry fees are charged by operators and nothing enters the coffers of the State for maintenance? Should we maintain our Mega Schools and allow the progressive degeneration of existing structures in our public primary and secondary schools? What should be the correct attitude of all stakeholders in the face of these challenges?

Should the Government return schools to faith- based organizations? In what specific ways should interventions come from civil society organizations? What should be the appropriate structure which will culminate in the desired end? What should be the role of government in all these? Should it be content with its regulatory role while providing all the resources? What programmes of training will assist in arresting the free fall into the abyss of infamy?

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished audience, I leave us to ruminate on these posers as we proceed in our deliberations. I should be most delighted and this Administration would be eternally grateful to every participant present if this Summit can resolve sundry posers, such as funding, roles of parents and guardians, curriculum, recruitment, training and deployment of teachers, the school environment, right of the child to be educated, responsibility of government at state and local levels, the expectations of the State and the people of Ondo State on institutions which gulp considerable chunk of their resources without any discernible dividends and other matters ancillary to the issue.

Once again, let me, on behalf of the Government and the people of Ondo State, thank all participants in this historic event.
I wish you a fruitful deliberation.
I thank you for your patience.