A consultative forum held by the Oyo State Government to interact with citizens on a proposed policy of involving non-governmental organisations in the administration of public secondary schools, was disrupted on Wednesday by civil society groups led Nigerian Labour Congress.
The policy has faced stiff opposition since May 25 when it was announced.
The government had called for expression of interest in the “public/private partnership and ownership of schools in its bid to develop human capital founded on quality education in the state”.
Notably, Oyo Global Forum, Oyo Progressive Assembly, Muslim Community of Oyo State and an opposition party, Accord, have condemned what they termed “privatisation” of government schools.
The government had scheduled a forum to discuss the plan on Wednesday.
However, civil society groups including Nigerian Labour Congress, Joint Action Front and Academic Staff Union of Universities protested to the Western Hall, State Secretariat, venue of the meeting, and disrupted the event.
According to multiple witnesses present at the meeting, the venue had been occupied by “stakeholders”, including representatives of Churches, when the protesters led by NLC Chairman, Waheed Olojede, arrived.
“They disrupted the event, disarranged the seats meant for the participants and government officials, and sent everybody out of the hall,” said a civil servant, who requested be protected for fear of victimisation.
Another witness said the protesters were chanting: “a se bi n tin ni ogbon ori e, iwo ti a ro pe ogbon (so you are not wise; you that we assumed to be wise).”
A lawmaker said the protesters were also singing “awon asofin na ole (lawmakers too are thieves)” at the hall close to the House of Assembly complex.
Hours after the disruption, the Secretary to the State Government, Olalekan Ali, led government officials to return to the hall for a press briefing.
In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, the government “unequivocally emphasize that Government neither intends to sell nor privatize its educational institutions”.
It continued, “Government will never abdicate its responsibility of ensuring improved quality of education, maintaining religious diversity, neither shall we negotiate our free education policy among others.
“We are not returning schools on the basis of religion but on the basis of the set criteria for all interested stakeholders that will be further pre-qualified.
“It is intended that less than 10 per cent of the 631 secondary schools in the State may be involved in the participatory venture, rather than erroneous impression that education in the State is being privatized wholesale.”
The statement expressed “dismay” that “some misguided people invaded the venue as the stage was set for the discourse thereby averting the intended interaction between Government and the stakeholders.”