It was a cool Thursday afternoon, the weather was good for a walk, a habit I learnt to keep my head clear on a busy day like today. I knew I would take the walk as soon as it was time for my lunch break from the office. It was lunch time and off I went like Little Red Riding Hood. As I paced down the road, I noticed a group of high school children like the Americans will call them at the corner of the street I entered into, it was one of the few streets around the area, which still had trees providing shade as you strolled along the pathway. They were secondary school students, warming up for a fight, passing by them, ignoring them but wondered why they were not in school by this time of the day. Their countenance reeked trouble, ignorant of the consequences of what their actions would be. I thought of approaching them to ask what could be the problem, but sighting the weapons they were brandishing at each other, I quickly walked away for fear of what could happen to me. I went away thinking to myself what has happened to our secondary school children, especially those in public schools who loiter around the streets beside their schools. Are they truly the future leaders or loiters? Why can’t the school authority do something about this? Are these students unmanageable? Where are their teachers? When not in uniforms, their violence or loitering become worse. The Ireti Secondary School saga is still fresh in our memories. You begin to wonder what went wrong with the family and educational system. As I walked back to my office, I realized I had not cleared my head but cluttered it with too many questions begging for answers.
Many of us are familiar with this scenario as it is a daily occurrence and we do nothing about it because it is the governments’ business as usual, just as I walked away from it too. We are safe as long as our children do not belong to these schools. What we tend to forget is that these loitering students would make up the workforce that our “safe children” would work with or become miscreants to the society. So we better wake up and face this situation before it becomes a compound problem.
By any standard of living in any community particularly in Nigeria, secondary school education was at the initial period an achievement that fetched one a lucrative job. Even when schools were few, students were in class and teachers were well respected and almost revered. The dilution of intakes into the teacher training colleges, especially during the education era, led to the production of unqualified teachers while the unattractive conditions for teachers made brilliant graduates prefer not to take teaching as a profession even when they have all it takes to be one. At times qualified teachers sought hotter paid employment outside the teaching profession. The necessary expansion of secondary schools, therefore, proceeded at all times the risk of using unqualified teachers.
It is, however, an indisputable fact that, the quality of a nation’s education depends to a large extent on the curriculum contents, teaching methodology, and interaction of theory and practice that are ultimately functions of the quality of teachers. The quality of the secondary school teaching could not be better than available teachers. The issue, therefore, remains that the availability of well qualified teaching-staff especially at the secondary school level is a pre-requisite to the development and acquisition of high technological skills needed to develop a nation. The predicament facing secondary school teachers all over Nigeria in the year 2017 needs urgent government attention.
One thing that needs to be remembered about the colonial policy on secondary education in Nigeria since its inception in 1959 is that whatever be the kind of defects inherent in the system, the opportunity provided lesson for future education development. Even years after independence, it still can be argued that, the Nigerian secondary education system largely remained British in practice, structure, organization and even in administration. The National Policy on Education, in its section on secondary education, attempts a laudable policy statement for which implementation largely remains bookish in nature, thus very weak in support of science teaching for engineering, medicine, agriculture and practical work. How else does one explain the fact that in year 2017, the ratio of entrants into Nigerian Universities still remains 70:30 in favor of Arts and Social Sciences as against science and technology? In fact, the policy statement in the policy on education shows little insight into the diverse nature of the Nigerian people and their culture, their wide range of physical conditions and economy as well as the needed working ideology.
The current rush for high education with the attendant evils such as cultism, university unrest, examination malpractices and hand-out crisis to mention but a few, seem to portray Nigerian youths as human beings endowed by their creator with all manner of ills. But with better planned secondary education in a good enabling environment, youths are indisputable inheritors of adults with all the gifts and talents with which other human beings are endowed. Our secondary education policy, therefore, should be set to solve the problems of the youths as a group of dynamic human beings to be accommodated like other human beings and not merely tolerated, but treated on the basis of equality and respect for human dignity.
In democratic governance, the secondary education system, should be geared towards social and personal needs to create awareness in the recipients, such awareness that promotes rational thinking. Thus, the philosophy of secondary education should be aimed at promoting habits of discipline, industry and truthfulness as means of improving standard of living in any environment.
Government needs to encourage the teaching profession and the education sector by increasing the budget to the sector because it is important to the development of any Nation. If a government comes into power and takes education as a priority, people will be happy with such development. A state of emergency should be declared in the education sector. Parents in rural and disadvantaged areas should be encouraged to send their children to school. Excesses by some teachers such as selling items to their students during classes should be curtailed so that some sense of discipline can be injected into the system.
The country’s educational system has to change in order for the Nigerian child to keep pace with his counterparts in other parts of the world. In other words, contemporary Nigerian children should not be taught the way we were taught, even though what we were taught was good enough for our own time. However, for a start, we need to ensure that teachers are able to teach in ways that would bring out the best in a child. Teachers should be able to teach and ask questions that would bring out what the children have in them. If the teacher is incapable of doing this, then there is a problem.
The inability of our educational administrators to regulate and supervise schools effectively is another problem. The private secondary schools combined are catering for just about 10 per cent of the school children in the country while the remaining 90 per cent that are in public schools are not getting an education that would prepare them for life, and these children in public schools are not dumb. They are not dumb because Private Secondary Schools who grant scholarships to pupils from public primary schools, sometimes these students out do their counterparts from private primary schools. All that they require is a bit of re-orientation and they will certainly do very well.
MySchoolArena would strongly advise that government and other stakeholders in the education sector should take seriously continuous professional development for Secondary School teachers, especially in Public schools in order to be equipped with the 21st Century teaching methodologies in and prepare these students for a brighter and better future.