Chiedu Uche Okoye
The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Fourth Edition, defines education as “the process of teaching or learning in a school, or the knowledge you got from this.” And, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Luxury Edition, defines it in this way: ‘The process of educating or being educated.’ Education, we all know, is very critical to the development of any country.
The technologically advanced and economically prosperous countries like America, Japan, Britain, Germany, and others have robust and functional educational systems. And, their schools offer students qualitative and practical education.
We should note that national leaders of developed countries are conscious of the fact that only people with knowledge and skills can drive the developmental initiatives in their countries. But, here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.
Our political leaders pay scant attention to our schools. And the matters regarding our education are treated in a cavalier way by them. That’s why there is rot in our educational system. Consequently, products of our tertiary institutions are semi-literate people, who are found wanting both in knowledge and character. They’re unemployable, too. However, the rot in our school system pervades all the strata of our education, starting from the primary school level.
In order to make basic education accessible to children of indigent parents, most states in the country have adopted free education policy. They adopted and started implementing free education policy for primary school pupils to reduce the number of out of school children in Nigeria. But is the free education policy for public primary and post- primary school students working effectively in Nigeria?
It took little Miss Success Adegor’s outburst in a video clip for us to know that headmasters and headmistress in some public primary schools have introduced illegal levies in their schools. Their introduction of those illegal levies has made nonsense of the free educational policy declared in those states. The seven-year old Success Adegor was sent away from school owing to her parents’ inability to pay examination fees for her.
In the video clip, which went viral, Success Adegor showed her preference for receiving corporal punishment over being denied the opportunity to stay in school. Her love for education cannot be mistaken, which attracted sympathy and attention to her. Some people have promised to foot her educational bills to the university level. And that is a piece of good news.
But the Success Adegor’s case has opened a can of worm. The head teacher of Okotie-Ebo Primary School where Success is a pupil has been suspended pending the conclusion of investigation into the issue of collection of examination fees from pupils. Not only do they pervert and corrupt the ordered way of doing things in schools, most teachers in public primary and post primary schools lack pedagogic skills and knowledge of the subjects which they teach pupils.
In some states in the country, primary school teachers flunked competence tests given to them. They couldn’t pass tests meant for primary four pupils. Sometime, in the recent past, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam el-Rufai, angrily sacked those illiterate teachers, who flunked the competence test. His action sparked off protests and attracted condemnation to him. A primary school teacher’s inability to pass a primary four quiz underlines the deep rot in our educational system.
It shows that the quality of education obtained in most public primary and post- primary schools in the country has nose-dived to an abysmally low-level. Shouldn’t the federal government declare emergency in the education sector?
But the precarious state of our school system is traceable to corruption, which is endemic and systemic in our country. Here, in Nigeria, merit is subsumed under nepotism, clannishness, and the factor of consanguinity when it comes to recruitment of teachers into schools. That’s why people who have no business being teachers are teaching our pupils and students in public schools. Not only are they destitute of knowledge, they also moonlight, abandoning the pupils and students placed under their care.
But a government that places high premium on education should ensure that those aspiring to become teachers are subjected to rigorous academic, mental, and intellectual tests to ascertain their suitability for the teaching jobs.
Again, a case should be made for the return of Teachers’ Training Colleges in the country. In the past, Teachers’ Training Colleges located in various places in Nigeria trained and groomed teachers in the methodologies of teaching. Those that attended the schools were equipped with pedagogic skills and adequate knowledge of primary school subjects, which they would deploy to effectively impart knowledge to pupils.
Now, it is obvious to us that our government’s neglect of educational issues is at the root of the problems bedeviling our schools. As our public schools are in bad state, so are many privately-owned schools. Since government bodies concerned with the establishment and monitoring of private schools are negligent and remiss in their duties, there is proliferation of privately-owned primary and post-primary schools in the country. Those schools are not worthy and fit to be called schools in the true sense of the word.
The collapse of the Ita Faaji School in Lagos has brought to the fore the issue of squalid and unsafe environment where pupils and students in most private primary and secondary schools are taught. Again, many private primary and post primary schools in the country recruit unqualified people as teachers whom they pay paltry sum of money at the end of each month. And good schools that offer quality education to students have priced their school fees above the financial capacities of millions of parents in Nigeria. So, children from poor homes are stuck with private schools where little or no education of pupils and students take place.
Government at different levels should re-think our educational policies, and map out strategies to tackle the rot in our schools and educational system. And the issue of incessant industrial action which cripples learning in our tertiary institutions and alters their school calendars should be addressed.
More so, it is imperative for the government to put a stop to its rash establishment of universities, which it cannot fund adequately. Rather, it should monitor the educational programmes and activities of private universities to ensure that they meet the minimum globally accepted standards.
Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi Anambra State