Nigeria/October 11, 2021/https://thenationonlineng.ne/Source:
Mrs. Ozavize E. Salami, Executive Chairman, Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (Edo SUBEB) interacting with pupils at Ozolua Model Primary School, Iguabazuwa during her maiden visit to schools recently.
Primary schools are the first stage of formal education usually for children between six and 12 years of age. They (primary schools) represent the foundations upon which the superstructure of education rests. Therefore, high-quality education at the technical colleges, mono-technics, polytechnics, and universities is anchored to robust primary schools. But unfortunately, this age-long reality is yet to be fully appreciated and appropriated by the government including its agencies. It is very disturbing that the government could rubbish Teachers’ Grade II Training Colleges without a healthy alternative. Good education does not emerge out of the blue. It is ontologically an outgrowth of well-conceived policies and programmes rooted in sophisticated philosophies. Today, the National Certificate of Education (NCE) is the approved minimum qualification for teaching at the primary school level. A 3-year programme in the Nigerian College of Education is pursued by an individual who has obtained a secondary school certificate. This enables him to teach in a primary school. It is also a stepping stone to a university. Not surprisingly, Nigeria with a human population estimate of 212 million has at least 150 colleges of education across the six geo-political zones. These colleges should be able to produce experts to teach in both public and private primary schools.
But if truth be told, some foundational issues have to be quickly addressed with respect to the modes of operation of these colleges. This is with regard to curricular reforms. Every primary school teacher should be able to effectively handle all subjects (with the exception of Computer Science, Fine Art, and French Language). In my opinion, NCE students do not need to specialise in Mathematics, English Language, Social Studies, Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa. Specialisation at this level is counterproductive in several senses. Indeed, it is an encumbrance to effective teaching in our primary schools.
Every Nigerian becomes a victim in one way or the other in the future. The current arrangement threatens the foundations of the Nigerian society. Every student of the Teachers’ Grade II before it was scraped, took all subjects and was capable of teaching them after training. Each teacher could manage his class. Now the narrative is different. It seems to me, that our educational policy makers are more interested in glorifying mediocrity including confusion than working for sustainable development.
Conducting external examinations for primary school teachers after training, in our contemporary society defined and ruled by unspeakable mal-practices, even in some unexpected quarters, is an exercise in futility. The government would only succeed in turning some officials to multi-millionaires overnight. In today’s Nigeria, three human beings can be standing up in twos. What a country! Most Nigerian teachers are usually filled with dread when they hear mathematics. They end up mis-teaching the pupils whenever there are no options open to them. Thus, for example, about 60 per cent of teachers cannot effectively handle simple mathematics. In fact, addition and subtraction of fractions remain a Herculean task to accomplish. They often add numerators and denominators of fractions together instead of finding the Lowest Common Multiples (LCM) of the denominators.
Aside from good-quality training, motivation of staff is very important. This would enable teachers and other critical stakeholders to work much more efficiently than hitherto. The World Bank survey of 2018 had clearly shown that primary school pupils in this country, were getting about three hours of teaching instead of four hours and 45 minutes daily, due to a gross lack of motivation of staff. Research findings had also revealed that an average teacher was absent from his class for approximately 25 per cent of scheduled teaching periods. Again, some teachers had/have over 100 pupils in a class. It is on record, that the government policy stipulates that the number of pupils in a class should range between 25 and 30. Commonsensically, more qualified teachers have to be employed as quickly as possible.
The content and morphology of the grammar of education especially at the primary school level must change. It is a pity that most parents are no longer showing sufficient commitment to the education of their children. They (parents) are much more concerned about unbridled materialism than the academic depth and solidity of these children. No time to monitor the academic progress of their children. To them, primary schools are mere day care centres. Consequently, these parents feel that the burden of caring for their children has to fall on the state. This explains the reason why the termly Open Day programmes whereby parents and teachers discuss the progress of every child are now hardly attended unlike in the past. This is a reflection of poor parenting arising largely from the collapse of some of our indigenous values and value-systems. It is no longer news, that some parents buy examination questions for their children in order to gain admission to secondary schools and finally universities. This leads later to the production of weak graduates who are unable to contribute concretely to national economy.
School inspectors must be thoroughly monitored so as to ensure maximum seriousness in all its ramifications. In other words, there is need for several layers of monitoring and/or management in the primary school education. Close, multi-layered monitoring of officials has the capacity to reduce corrupt practices to the barest minimum. We should not forget that man is ontologically corrupt. The situation gets worse (especially among leaders across the board) when there are no effective checks and balances. Culprits have to be dealt with according to the law of our land. This serves as a deterrent to others. There should be no room for sentiment in order to begin to experience sustainable progress. But as noted earlier in this paper, motivation of staff is too important to be jettisoned by the government and other critical stakeholders. A desperately poor teacher or inspector is more prone to corruption and under performance than the well remunerated staff members. Good-quality primary education is the backbone of any modern society. Nigeria can only be an exception at its own peril.
- Prof. Ogundele is of Dept. of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan.