15 Oct 2014

NIGERIA's SPIRALLING EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM



In the Nigerian educational system today, it is a sad but true fact that there are double standards. It is like a hydra, humbly beginning in our innocent kindergarten classes and slowly but surely spreading its arms all the way up to the prestigious offices of our tertiary institutions. This double standard is not just academic but also moral and disciplinary.

To understand this seemingly unimportant problem, take a scrutinized look at our secondary schools. In recent years, most of the schools with the highest number of students who graduate with distinctions are 'mushroom' private schools. This is hard to explain as these schools have no previous pedigree for outstanding performance among students. These schools born out of a need to make profit live solely for profit. They usually start small, until the pressure of the competition from cheaper pre-established public schools and the indifference of our ministry of education push them to go the extra mile and cross the line into illegitimacy to get the best results. They streamline their curriculum to include only core subjects and the easiest electives, dropping vocational subjects such as Public health education, home economics, metal work, French, computer studies, e.t.c. Some schools have even gone to the extent of limiting the choice in Nigerian languages to the most relevant, for instance in the North, Hausa. After all, in Nigeria; all that really matters is the quality of your results not the quality of your education. Nigeria’s students no longer have the ‘luxury’ of choosing the subjects they’re interested in.


Public schools have become places where drudgery and slothfulness abide. The teachers are underpaid and sometimes overworked so there is only so much they can give. Apart from a few devoted and dedicated government employed teachers, most have turned their cars into makeshift offices where they transact business and entertain clients. They see no need to give their students their all. A product of the public system myself, I saw teachers who preferred to chat up female teachers on the corridors rather than educate minds; I even experienced a teacher who saw us her students as a vent for her problems. When ever she had an argument with her husband the night before, our lesson with her would be full of misplaced frustration. The slightest mistake would result in a hiding. What ever happened to the days when teachers gave students their full and undivided attention, cared about their student’s extra curricular lives and bothered to commend students for good behaviour? What happened to dedication to service and trustworthiness?

Then there is the issue of discipline and morality. The new unspoken taboo in our secondary school system today is for a teacher to dare try to discipline a student without the parents consent. Parents have gone as far as getting police officers to arrest a teacher for punishing a student’s misdemeanor. The teacher seems to have lost all rights to correct and discipline a child put under his/her care. It is ironic that parents are willing to commit their child’s academic future into a teacher’s hand but they aren’t willing to let the teacher become a part of that student’s life. Parents become so self conscious and self righteous that they believe that only they can and should handle their children yet when a child goes bad they are so quick to blame the teacher. This is sad because eight of the sixteen hours of a child’s weekday is spent with the teacher. Parents who work may eventually spend only four hours a day with their wards and at the end of the six years at secondary school; a teacher will spend a minimum of 9360 hours with the child while the parent would have a minimum of only 4680 hours. Thus with the attitude of the parents, the teacher is made out to be the enemy and rendered powerless to effect any real change to the student’s life. The battle for the student’s heart is already lost even before it is begun.

Morally bankrupt and corrupt, our tertiary institutions have been transformed into multi-million naira businesses and every lecture hall is some lecturer’s empire. The average student has to transverse the landmine that our universities have become. Our hallways have become corridors of power. Waves and waves of badly written books full of typographical errors and misused words are published everyday by lecturers who then coerce their students into buying them by including them in the course curriculum for the sole purpose of making profits. Those who don’t have the patience to write whole books just fabricate ‘Handouts’ for their courses which are sold to the students. Students are expected to ‘block’ tests they have flunked and pay for re-sits they needn’t. There is absolutely no freedom of speech and expression in our public universities and polytechnics by our so called guardians of tradition. It is a common occurence in universities that anyone who gets into a lecturer’s bad books can be assured of failing his course. There are students who change courses just to escape a tyrannical lecturer’s grip and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the politics that define tertiary education. We have cultism which the ministry of education says has made an ‘encore’. Little do they know that cultism never left our schools, it just laid low until the strobe lights shifted to some other cause and the pattern resumed. Then there are the incessant public strikes which transform a four year course into a six year course which is why everyone with a little money is sending their children to the posh private schools.
With everything that is going wrong, it would be so easy to spend so much time pointing fingers that we forget to provide solutions. This article is not a finger pointing article; it is meant to be a solution providing one. We need to return to the negotiation table, use our P.T.A meetings for more than just public shows of which parent is more articulate than the other. We need to get both parents and teachers to define what the punishment for misdemeanours will be and implement these disciplinary measures together. We parents need to take a step back from our busy careers and actually get involved in our children’s lives instead of the distant one we have developed. Interactive opportunities such as open days and student/teacher workshops need to be encouraged. 

Our teachers need to undergo re-orientation as to the main purpose of education and they need salary increases as well as a robust and functional retirement package so they can focus on the children who need their attention so badly. Our university system needs to be restructured and the curriculum and syllabi clearly defined so students know exactly what to expect. A standard for literature and paraphernalia should be introduced to the tertiary system and all literature that doesn’t meet up should be discarded with immediacy. And hopefully, with a level of structure and discipline and integrity, our quickly decaying education system may still attain salvation.

Okolo Edwin
Alumnus.

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