With dismal results in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations, WASSCE, and the National Examinations Council, NECO, exams every year, the time to start a revamp of our educational system is now. There is no point complaining about our dismal educational system, as we all must work together so that our children get the education they need. It is also pointless comparing the state of education in 2012 to how it was in the ’80s and ’90s. In those good old days, schools were schools. Now, we know only the poorest of the poor send their kids to state schools.
In the United Kingdom, every child is entitled to education. This generally means that from the age of seven or one year, all through to year 13 (A levels), parents do not have to pay for their children’s education unless they opt for private education. Universal education in the UK translates to saying parents will buy school uniform, educational tools (like pencils, biros, erasers, etc), pay for trips (if any), and ensure that their child attends school. The system is not perfect. Schools have to deal with children who do not value education. Many children do not want to be in school and there are those parents who think that teachers are professional babysitters. Classroom management plays a key role in the success of every teacher. The school’s responsibility is to make sure that the child is educated. In many schools across the nation, notebooks, textbooks, writing utensils and all other educational gear are provided for all students. Poorer students are issued with laptops and instruments for the duration of their career at school.
In addition, all schools across England are obliged to provide for the feeding of poorer students. This is possible with the provision of free school meals. A child can have his dinner (what we call lunch) if either of his parent collects housing benefits, income-related benefits or any other type of benefits. The truth is that for kids from tough backgrounds, eating their dinner at school is the only meal they eat for the day. Most schools also offer a breakfast club from 7 am till when the school day starts. This means that parents can drop their children off at school and have the peace of mind that the child would get continental or full English breakfast. The breakfast club helps professional parents cope with the demands of their jobs whilst aware that their children are safe at school. Parents who cannot access breakfast clubs would generally make arrangements for friends and family members to get their children to school on time. In primary schools, social services department is notified when a parent consistently fails to bring their ward to school early enough or when that child is not picked up after school soon enough.
In secondary schools, all students are exposed to a wide range of subjects, including drama, where they learn from well-equipped drama studios. For kids who are musically inclined, they can choose to learn any musical instrument, such as piano, guitar, saxophone, flute, etc, at heavily subsidised rates during or after school time. Their parents would normally pay for this. This is usually in addition to weekly music lessons in well-furnished music studios/classrooms.
The provision in science laboratories in most schools is second to none. Most schools would have science laboratory technicians who work with science teachers to ensure that each class taught by the teacher is well stocked for his science lessons. In state comprehensive schools, the success or failure of students depends on how good a teacher is. A teacher is regarded as failing if he consistently gets dismal GCSE results in his subject. The system insists that it is the teacher who takes the blame. Most teachers who progress through the various channels at schools are usually those who work very hard and consistently meet their teaching targets. For example, at the beginning of the school year, a teacher is given a target (in percentages). Schools nowadays only increase the teachers’ salaries yearly if they meet their targets. Those targets are primarily tied to success in GCSE and A level exams, as the case may be. This approach to education perpetually ensures that the teacher is under enormous pressure to perform and this can be quite stressful for work/life balance of the teacher.
In Nigeria, on the other hand, and Oyo State in particular, state-provided secondary education is a nightmare. After 08:30 am or the start of school day, students are still seen roaming around the neighbourhood, an indication that the school in particular has no clear truancy policy in place. Furthermore, when you look at most schools in Ibadan, there is a need for new buildings, roofs, new teaching technology, more training for teachers, quality laboratories, well-furnished libraries, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, equipped music studios and so on. We all know that learning cannot take place in unsafe and uninspiring environment.
A lot of these schools still use pieces of chalk and the black board. Many of the teachers in our state secondary schools need continuous professional development in literacy and numeracy themselves. Students are not motivated to read and work by absentee teachers and teachers that are not motivated to teach. Many of these teachers themselves are bored and tired of what they do. Many have their side businesses run concurrently with their school responsibilities and during school hours. The bottom line is that our state schools in Nigeria are poorly funded and that is one reason why learning no longer takes place in schools. Children are learning in sheds and dilapidated buildings. Schools no longer have the funds to start geographical gardens and run clubs like Z club, Press, Literary and Debating Society clubs. Even if there were funds, these schools have ceased being places of learning but institutions of hopelessness.
The private sector in the past decade has risen up to the challenge to provide education, which ought to be the priority of local and state governments, but they too are limited. A lot of private schools run on limited budgets. They are unable to employ university-trained teachers in their classrooms. We find youths who are not fit and knowledgeable themselves imparting knowledge to bright and young minds. Secondly, these schools cater for needs, which range from the poorest to the richest. The richest private schools provide education which can be compared with what obtains in the West, but they are unaffordable and out of reach of average Nigerians. If we agree that all children deserve the right to be educated, then we need our governments to make education free and at least decent. There ought to be a minimum, which government would provide.
It is an enormous challenge providing education for Nigerian children. They face perils and with the lack of adequate insurance, they bear all the costs. When children don’t pay their school fees on time, they run their schools on credit The bottom line is, if we want better WASSCE and NECO results, we need to return to the basics. We need to sort out our state primary and secondary education. It is rotten and that is an understatement.