In the world today, it is a generally held belief that education plays an important role in the level of development achievable by any society. While in some quarters some might still disagree with this notion, it is important to note that an educated group of people might have little or nothing to contribute to the growth of whatever community in which they are members. Now when I say Education, I don't necessarily mean being "highly learned" or possessing various qualifications from the best institutions of learning; I simply mean having a
basic idea of what should be done and what shouldn't. As a serving corp member teaching in a rather rural area, I have come to realize that there should be more to the style of education in Nigeria than there is at the moment. In the remainder of this text, I would try to explain the reasons for my submission, as well as profer solutions which I think would be of an impact if adopted.
It has been stated above that education is an important part of development in any society, in Nigeria, this is no different. A lot of what Nigerians can boast of today in terms of development was achieved by people who had been educated in different capacities. I have always heard people joke and say "our fathers and mothers had it hard, while we had it easy with the advent of technology" and things like that; I'd say our generation has it tough even with the influx of various teaching and learning aids in our time. This might sound funny, or unbelievable, but let us analyse this critically.
In the 60's and 70's the standard of education in Nigeria was one to be proud of. As a child, I was interested in understanding how my parents and many other older people learnt in school, and how it was during their time. The experiences shared by these people were almost similar. There was a very high standard set by teachers of their time. They had the best teachers, most of whom were seasoned educationists, who had dedicated their lives to imparting knowledge to the younger generation of their time. These teachers were "full time" teachers, with remarkable teaching skills, to the extent that if you ask an old man who indeed went to school about a teacher of his, or a particular subject in high school, he would marvel you with detailed descriptions of what it was like to study during his time.
Now, the question is, can this be said of education in our time? Even with the advent of "google" and the unflinching growth in technology, can we the people of this generation boast of having had the best education? Some of us would rather forget some courses or subjects we took in school because we probably were only in it to "pass". There was no real interest in the true importance of education for most of us.
One of the reasons for which I would be ever grateful for the new NYSC posting policy is the exposure I have had as a teacher. Before my service year, I had been shielded from the reality that is the educational system in Nigeria. As a student in the tertiary institution, I knew for a fact that there were some students who at 400 Level could not write proper English; however, nothing prepared me for what I was going to experience as a corp teacher.
|my students :)|
The first is the language barrier. A good number of the students that attend schools (mostly outside Lagos) have a problem with English Language. Apparently, most of them have been shielded from the fact that English is indeed the official language of Nigeria, and as such is the language to be used when teaching or learning. I know some people might believe that it is good for one to speak and understand their local dialects or "mother tongue" as it is generally called; but the truth is that it is important to learn the generally accepted lingua. Most of the trained teachers in these schools are to blame for this. It is really sad that some teachers teach their students in their local dialect, most times chiding even the "corper" for speaking too much "grammar"! This should be looked into in National Colleges of Education where teachers are trained; after all most students take their cue(s) from their teachers.
Another problem is the mentality of most of these teachers. Like I mentioned earlier, in the days of our fathers, they had the luxury of dedicated and seasoned educationists whose primary aim was to impart knowledge. The same cannot be said of the teachers of our time. Owing to a lot of factors which I would state, most teachers these days are not teachers by choice. Most of them teach because it is probably the only job their qualifications can get them. In many cases, they loathe the job, and consequently take it out on the students they teach. Most times, teachers leave their work undone. For example, here where I serve, we have only a few teachers who "show up" for duty. The Biology teachers only comes in once a week, there is no physics teacher, and we have only one teacher taking English language at all levels!. In a situation such as this, how would one expect the students to learn anything?
In some states in Nigeria, as part of their manifestoes, most governments promised "free education". In the sense of the word, free education would mean that students would go to school and not pay tuition, creating the impression that the government has all it needs to cover the payment of teachers wages. However, in most cases, especially in Kwara State, teachers are treated poorly. Since students don't pay any fees, teachers are left with the burden of teaching practically pro bono! Now how do you expect someone to teach students without incentives? How do you expect a laborer to keep working without their wages? A lot of these problems in the education sector in Nigeria is the sole fault of the government. It is already known that Nigeria is not "matured" enough to handle tuition free schools, yet because of the shoddy promises made to curry the favor of the electorate during elections, government creates heavy problems for its people. Problems they are meant to alleviate!.
A lot needs to be done to revive the education sector in Nigeria. The government(s) in various states need to be more attentive to the plights of their teachers. Whether one admits it or not, the teacher plays an important role in the lives of the students. If teachers are not properly taken care of, the decline in the education sector would continue. It is important that government makes teaching a "lucrative" job, and not continue to say "a teacher's reward is in heaven" when we have government officials who work less earning more!
Yet another important issue to be looked into in the educational sector is the mode of learning. I have always believed that not everyone in life was called to be "learned". Some were born with various skills, that if worked on and honed could be valuable to the growth of this country. I would want to use the model on which the Tuskegee Institute was designed by Booker T. Washington as an example. People have different skills. Not everyone has the ability to be a lawyer, doctor, or accountant. Using the students I teach for instance, I discovered that most of them love to farm, others love to fix cars and bikes and what have you. In my opinion such people should not be forced to go to a school where all that is done is reading and writing. I believe if institutions are established right from the primary level, that specialize in discovering and honing such skills in students, the education sector in Nigeria would have the boost its in dire need of. These institutions should have skilled instructors who would teach their students how to do what they love. In doing so, the economy would not only grow, the educational system in Nigeria would be less boring, and would be able to carry everyone along.
One can only hope that someday someone would see the light, and bring about the change necessary for the revival of the educational system in Nigeria. Till then, the burden is yours and I to bear. If you have children do not leave the burden of educating them to only their teachers, you should play a role in the education of your children and indeed all around you. I do hope the government would come alive to the reality that the education sector is the backbone of the Nigerian economy.
2012 9JEducation.org work-study