Seating at the rear corner in my secondary school classroom was always my special spot, as it always allowed me the chance to think beyond the pupils in the class. There in my hideaway, away from all the noise the students made, I could get lost in a world of my own- remising on how my brother and I played the previous day. Sometimes, I remembered digressing into thinking how things worked in public schools. I wondered if they got the same preferential treatment private school students received. Over the years, my thoughts made manifest and I found out that most of them wasted tangible time going to public schools. Hence, acquiring less as much as we received. Due to the inefficiencies, most of the school pupils dropped out or went about their own personal interest such as playing football on opens fields while classes commenced and ended.
In the course of my enquiry, I learnt that it used to be a thing of pride to attend any of the country’s public schools many years ago. But over the years, that feeling had gradually worn off because “public schooling experience” was met by armed robbers and all sorts of evil on its way to the future. Government school facilitators had become its greatest enemies, eventually and evidently making it a thing of shame to attend the schools under its umbrella and hereby allowing many people to conclude with believe that “nothing good can come out of these schools.” A robbery which has taken an alarming toll on state and federal educational systems, a corruption which has robbed children of their future and the possibility to compete with emerging nations. Regrettably, a successful demise that has infiltrated the mind of an average Nigerian to see its attendance as a nightmare- if they for a minute think that their younger children could end up in a public school. What a complete shame! With the situation at present many average parents would do anything humanly possible to afford private schooling as a consequence of government inability to restructure the primary, secondary, and tertiary education, even if one of the major benefits of attending a public school is the opportunity to save money.
This has over the years surprisingly created an enormous educational vacuum, a significant gap between public and private schools, which appears to be untraceable and unreachable. In view of its unique offerings, the majority of the population for-a-fact are aware that private schools are hands-down better than public schools. The one-time similar comparison on the physical facilities, organisational structure, marginal value and school curriculum between these schools have long disappeared. A complete opposite in the developing world. Government schools are now labelled as educational institutes which lack qualified teachers, laboratories, libraries, learning equipments, relevant curricular and conducive classrooms. The absence and inability to provide suitable environment for learning has led to an overcrowded condition experienced mostly in tertiary institutes, which pressurise students to seat on the bare floor.
Nigeria’s educational challenges are numerous and diverse and with a high average in annual relative growth rate, which comprises of a rapidly growing population under the age of 24 years, how are these children expected to compete with the minds and skills emerging from the likes of India, China and America or how can they be confident enough to participate with children who have been adequately prepared with the appropriate education for the future, in important economic matters and craftsmanship. The unsuitable environment, unskilled teachers, poor or lack of educational tools and inappropriate curriculum have produced unqualified and unbefitting scholars, and has also worsened the enrolment rate of children in primary school- a key foundation for every growing child towards a higher education and the possibility of a considerable importance of worth. The failing numbers of in-school children are also attributed to the permanent or temporary shut down of some primary and secondary schools in few states, while other states are in the habit of owing majority of their teachers. According to the global monitoring report from the UN, UNESCO to be precise, one in five children in the most populous country in Africa- Nigeria, are out of school.
Without a complete reform in the educational sector, especially a change in curriculum, the agenda of positioning Nigeria as one of the world’s 20 leading economies is highly unlikely and therefore not realisable if substantial investment is not thrown into schooling with immediate effect. Considering the advantages tied to a growing population also, if four in every five children are properly educated, with emphasis on artisanship, education will be the “hope” in attaining a prosperous and sustainable economic evolution. Education which is the bedrock of civilisation must be overly emphasised in a country like Nigeria, where public schools would attain a proper and better recognition as compared to private schooling, since it is expected to cater to the masses.
The fact that our school system is failing to adequately educate a large percentage of its youth would cause an upsurge of illiterates and ignorance instead of intellectual minds, as our youngsters are still learning monotonous subjects with extra curriculums that has less importance in our economic growth. Is this where the society is hoping on future geniuses and business men and women that can compete in the global world? Relevant and suitable tutoring is the fundamental principles on which human development and favourable outcome of any growing economy is based. However, if it is not implemented properly, it could have less effect on the minds intended for nurturing and empowering. The time spent participating in these unproductive exercises should be focused on labour oriented activities. There should be physical activities channeled into tailoring, cooking, farming, hairdressing, music, electrical, technology etc. Therefore, acquiring manual labour oriented skills should be compulsory in local schools.
In a country where there is no feasible successful future for basketball or tennis, as sportsmanship does not add any significant amount to Nigeria’s GDP or receive foreign recognition, then why do we waste our children’s time on irrelevant participation that they will not consider as a profession in the future. At the moment, our government even find it difficult to afford the essentials or sponsor our number one sport, football. I think the time spent on these sports are a waste of time and should be either reduced or scrapped from the educational curriculum. Craftsmanship should be encouraged in other for children to master different skills. For a better tomorrow, public schools must employ qualified teachers and thoroughly reform the curriculum with great emphasis on practical based subjects, teaching methods which fosters hands-on experiences. Also, the Federal Ministry of Education must properly plan for and place a close watch on state schools. There should an open communication between these two government departments on progress and growth of targeted goals.
We need to really understand that Nigeria is a poor developing country which needs a shift towards industrialisation. We must start to export scare raw materials, top quality finished products in large quantities and high artisanship, if we are to expect a better future for our country. It is high time we drop some of the acclaimed cultures of the west that have been inculcated in the educational system, which are of less to no use to our society. If Nigeria had a progressive blueprint I wont be here seating and typing the obvious. For example, if one of the goals was to become the highest exporter of coffee, have the most imported skilful electricians from Africa or be the top five african tourist destination, then it must start from the schools, where framing the young child’s mind would begin and then sent abroad if necessary to acquire the knowledge of the west in other to redeposit their expertise on other local students in tertiary education. The Chinese government is very fond of this practice and fully aware of its benefits. While shielding the Chinese culture and values, they replicate and modernise western services and products through imported western knowledge from their government sponsored foreign schooled students initiative. That is just one of the accelerating strategies used in acquiring the “China vision”.
The public schools in Nigeria where the majority attend must be reformed into a skilled institute. This improvement if passed by the senate and put in place accordingly, the local schools would immediately outshine the private schools regardless of their fancy buildings. Nigeria is far from fancy, it is a rugged society and should be treated as one. In general, the gap between the rich and the poor is alarming and poor parents which is the larger part, hardly send their children to school, as they do not see the use, instead they divert them to selling and hawking. These school alterations will generate hope to many and despite the prevailing circumstance affecting the management of public schools, children will attend schools knowing fully well of the benefits of acquiring skilful knowledge. After school, they are more confident when choosing a preferred or similar course in the university or can even opt out to start a small business from the knowledge acquired from their secondary or primary school. This opens a bigger poodle of professionals of all works of life, irrespective of their educational background. As we all know that education is not the only gate to success, although very crucial, must be thought in accordance to what would benefit our geographical location, citizens and economy.
In a nut shell, education in public schools should be practical based. Teachers have to propel and enhance learning skills from theory to practical knowledge. We are now in an era where practicality has become more essential in attaining desired livelihood, as the knowledge of executing these expertise themselves has a more effect on achieving individual success. For example, teaching students how to farm, the process of cultivating crops and edible animals in our nation is an evident reward in acquiring a sustainable income, no matter how little. Also, starting a farming business is more feasible in a nation were the financial sectors lack the ability to offer loans to the larger part of the people to start a more financially engaging business.
Even though finances have been invested in the past and probably still at this moment to reform the educational sector, especially in primary schools, I think that the major reason why there are no substantial development is that the methods of funding and rehabilitation are flawed with problems and distorted by corrupt leaders. Having said that, the Ministries of Education and all other entities designated to push for a more acceptable education for Nigerian children must be thoroughly looked into, if possible probed and removed from office, and replaced with a much better group of people who are sensitive about moving Nigeria further through adequate public schooling. Our government has to start producing competent and skilful youths, if our nation intends on having great servicemen/women to secure future revenues and implement uplifting economic decisions.