Nigerians are quite aware that education system in the country is broken but do we all know the extent of its broken (ness)? How do we fix a broken system if we focus only on the symptoms? When I talk about school disappointment in Nigeria system, I meant government-funded schools. I had to make this clear because sometimes people get it all mixed up and I really do not want to talk about the private schools that are well run and quality, to some extent comparable globally – these are way beyond what most Nigeria parents could ever afford.
“But everyone complains their country has failed them on education.” My new friend says. I thought she was joking so I asked for specific countries whose education is at ground zero as Nigeria’s and with as much resources. She eagerly mentioned UK and the US. I felt like killing the conversation right there because it is heading downward slope especially when people think after Nigeria, the only other nations we can emulate must be UK and the US. Why these two countries alone? Why can’t we take realistic and persistent steps using the resources at our disposal and device realistic strategies. How about learning from Ghana, our neighbour? Why not South Africa or even many other African and Asian countries that have significantly better education system? They must be doing way better than us as we spent millions of dollars to send our children to their schools yearly.
A few minutes down the line, it was clear that Rebecca and I were talking about the same country that we were both passionate about but we have completely different knowledge of the profoundness of the problem. She was born and raised in the UK, all her education from primary to university were all in the UK, why was she so concerned about the state of education of Nigeria? Yes, Rebecca was, because that is what Nigeria does to everyone that has a hint of her blood in their veins. Both Rebecca’s parents are Nigerians meaning even though she did not travel once throughout her upbringing in the UK to Nigeria, she was blessed (or not) with parents who breathe Nigeria and its numerous headaches to her daily. Her passion was inspiring. What Rebecca didn’t realise though was the fact that although Londoners going to state schools might complain or moan about their failing school system and the fact that Education Secretary Michael Gove “failed to conduct his duties in a manner befitting the head of a national education system.” UK NUT. This is still by light years far away from Nigeria education system, way better.
Earlier on in the year, Ekiti State teachers were all in state of panic as they were hinted of possible competency test from their state governor. Although, Dr Fayemi did not conduct the test, he was still voted out in June because for some reason it appears people didn’t trust their governor enough not to pull the plug if he was re-elected. Their despair was valid because late last year incidence at Edo State whereby a school teacher was unable to read her school certificate was still very fresh in the mind of everyone particularly civil servants and teachers. Was Oshiomhole right to disgrace the teacher by asking her to read in public? No. Was Oshiomhole has the best intention at heart by being passionate about education reform in his state? A resounding yes. It has to be done systematically, our problem with education started over decades ago, so realistic and persistent approach is the only way out.
Sometimes, I wonder why especially our leaders react so surprised to just about anything in the country. Where have they been to not know that we have been in trouble for so long? I really admire Edo and Ekiti state governors for their bravery wanting to tackle Nigeria education system head-on. I have known for sometime now that you have to be at the edge of insanity to be able to make any meaningful progress in any sector in Nigeria.
Teachers training be it at the university or college of education is designed to fail both teachers and students. Here is my experience. Maybe if we all tell the truth about our experiences, it will help shape our policy makers’ decision-making process.
If studying Education in any Nigeria university, you will be required to do Teaching Practice twice during the four-year program, the same applies to those at College of Education. The program was fantastic as it gives you first hand experience of what to expect later when one graduates. When I went for my first teaching practice, it was for 7 weeks (usually six). Before this time I have never taught before however, I have learnt so much in theory. I had no idea what the system was like, I thought there would be some proper orientation, I was wrong, The micro teaching at college was not enough to prepare me. The teacher that I had to work with was very nice, I was at ease with her. As a student teacher, I had 3 classes daily and taught everyday, it was a great experience. I was thrown into teaching proper subject from the first day after a brief introduction from my mentor, she was one of the best teachers at this particular school because she showed up everyday and had other classes to teach, I was her only ST. A few other teachers who had two or more student teachers didn’t bother to show up at all for days and when they did, it’s only for a couple of hours and most of which were to sell their merchandise. This is no kidding and barely secret, everyone knows that our schools especially primary and secondary schools have turned to Oshodi Market. Is this right? Should we let it continue? If we are serious about education reform, then let’s make head teachers accountable by given them responsibilities of making sure all teachers show up daily and be there for these very important teachers training exercises so as to show good examples for the incoming generation.
So back to school, for decades now, both universities and colleges of education thesis that is mandatory at the end of the program is fraud. Not for everyone I haste to add, but significant number of lecturers were something else. If we want to solve problem, then let’s not be ashamed to reveal the truth. Plagiarism is like breathing. Apart from the fact that some people outsourced their thesis for others to write in exchange for cash, also there are some supervising lecturers who would insist that they are the one to print and bind thesis for their students at steep price, if you really want to pass, you just have to do as others are doing. This is not secret neither.
More disturbingly is this one case that I just could not swallow without cursing under my breath. There was this lecturer at Ila Orangun College of Education, Osun State who has lost it completely. A few years ago, he was my friend’s project supervisor, during the last semester that everyone is gearing up to either research for their papers or burn their candles both ends to copy other people’s work, Mr Ajanaku (not his real name – I hope there is no Ajanaku at the school otherwise I will be forced to strip the lecturer of anonymity if I am sued :)). Dr Ajanaku (you bet, they are all PhD’s holders – sincere apologies to those who had their degrees by studying real hard for it) told all his students to go to the library, pick a topic that they liked from the thesis that were lined up neatly on the shelves. He instructed them to bring their desired topic and a thesis sample to him. They all did this, at a price of ₦5k per students, he copied word for word, changed the names, inserted new dedication and acknowledgement pages. The students in that particular year group will pay for the act of selfishness on the part of the lecturer for a very long time. They were denied the opportunity that most college graduates had – being able to research, put into coherent sentences ones own idea. The same lecturer, is likely to be at the same college today and I am sure his price tag would have gone way up now. His work was no secret, other lecturers knew about it and just left him to his devices. I am glad to say that I had a decent lecturer who spent half of her time preaching than teaching – I guess both go hand in hand for a very good educator. I did not plagiarise nor cheat for my thesis however, it was very sad that there were not many books for references so I ended up reading load of other people’s theses, in order to write something that was semi-decent. Talking about school libraries being stocked with real books rather than junk newspapers is a whole ‘nother can of worms.
If the government really wanted to help, here is one way they can, visit our universities and colleges of education and stop those dream-killers lecturers from their selfish acts.
Now, on the teachers that can’t read – One of my best friends got her teaching job in Ogun State. She started working shortly after graduating years ago. Getting a teaching job in state schools was hot cake, still is, you need to know someone, who know someone, otherwise it’s a waste of time bothering to apply. Lola says that in the last few years, things have improved slightly because of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target and all other jargons that made perfect sense on papers but the implementation was really flawed. Lola now attended a week-long seminar that focuses on how teachers could better do their job, the program she thought has been really helpful in a lot of ways. Only that this happens every other year for her, the excuse she says was that the government have to rotate the seminar because there are too many teachers to cover, too many teachers in our schools.?
If we are really serious about improving our education system, the frequency of seminars and workshops for teachers should definitely be higher. Morale will go up for teachers and those who really wanted the job will make the extra effort to improve. It will cost a lot of money but as Derek Bok, an American educator said “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Have we tried ignorance? I leave that to my fine readers to decide.
According to the Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Dr. Wale Babalakin, he stated that Nigeria spent over ₦160 billion to send 75,000 students to study in Ghana, this was in 2012 alone! Large proportion of this funding came directly from both state and federal government in form of scholarships. We have similar program like that all around the globe, in May just gone 125 students were sent to Northeastern University, Boston on full scholarship, by the federal government. I am all for scholarship for bright students to study abroad but with the scale that our government is operating, they have lost complete hope in the education system and instead of finding systematic way of reviving the system, it seems that we only sort for ‘quick fix’ It is not helping by sending selected few out of the nation yearly with the limited resources at our disposal to study oversees while others were left at home to rot.