I love my country, I really do but sometimes the things you love, hurts you and Nigeria hurts me. When I think of our challenges in our country, my heart aches. One challenge that I witnessed firsthand is the irregularities in the education system.
In Nigeria, we use the system called 6–3–3–4 which means 6 years of primary education, 3 years of junior secondary school, 3 years of senior secondary school and 4 years of tertiary education. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this system, but the problem lies everywhere else. I feel that the major reason, our system is so flawed is that we don’t value education as much as we are supposed to because if we did we wouldn’t let our system be in such a mess.
One of the major problems would be the lack of good teachers and the neglect of the good ones. This is such a huge problem that it has become a nationally known fact that you can never predict the year you will graduate from a federal university because the teaching staff might go on strike at any moment and nobody knows how long the strikes will last. I’m writing this article at home because there is a strike going on, it has been on for nearly two months. The reasons for these strikes are pretty basic, the government is not treating the staff the way they should be and the funds provided to the universities are not nearly enough. Although, some people say that the union is asking for too much, I believe that if they were being paid enough at the right time they wouldn’t have room for complaints. People in the government are quite corrupt so it never really comes as a surprise when these strikes do happen. In 2017, the teaching staff went on a 5 month strike after which their demands were said to be handled by the government but the strike going on now proves they didn’t. These are the challenges of being a university lecturer, let’s move lower.
Although not as common anymore, there was a period when teachers of public secondary and primary schools had frequent strikes because there weren’t getting paid regularly, enough and sometimes they didn’t get paid at all. During this period you will see children wandering the streets at 11 am because they know their teachers would not be at school, it was a period when crime rates went up as they was nothing to do but be mischievous. This may not be the case for a lot of states now but it is still ongoing in some.
Putting the problem of neglect and under appreciation of the staff aside, there is still the problem of unqualified people in the classrooms claiming to be teachers. In 2013, a video of the governor of Edo state meeting a teacher who couldn’t read her age from an affidavit, went viral. This came as a shock to many that a person who had been teaching for twenty years couldn’t read. It made us wonder what the lady had been teaching her students for all that time. 2013 was a quite long time ago but the problem still very much exists as you can easily find teachers with lack of basic knowledge about the subject they teach.
The problems in the education sector is not caused by the adults alone but also the students. My aunt who teaches geography in a public school talks about unserious some of her students can be. You could once in a while see her shed a tear while marking exam scripts because how badly some people failed. This could be as a result of a lot of things, maybe their parents don’t make the importance and value of a good education clear, or they are trying to get attention of someone or maybe they really just don’t care. Whichever one it is this is not really encouraging to the teacher and to the other students as the entire class may have to revisit an old topic.
Then there’s the problem of cultism which has been making schools unsafe for students and teachers. This is a problem that we have been struggling with for years and mainly occurred in universities. Although many schools do try to resolve this; by severely punishing those caught, organizing groups and clubs aimed at promoting moral development of students, we still hear stories once in a while that reminds us the problem of cultism isn’t behind us yet. In March 2018, a group of 7 secondary school students believed to be cultists were punished for having stabbed a fellow schoolmate. What made the story so shocking was the fact that the children were so young and this was a wake up call to the existence of cultism secondary schools. Laws have been put in place, awareness campaigns have been organized and security is being provided but the story once again reminded us that the fight against cultism in schools is far from over.
All these issues are pressing but I think the most pressing would have to be the poor facilities and structures the schools have. With the amount of money, although not that much, allocated to the ministry of education each year, one would at least expect that there would be good standing structures for schools. I visited some primary schools in Ijebu itele of Ogun state and I was appalled by the sight. The buildings were situated in such a grassy area that we almost missed it. The building was a sight for sore eyes; the roof had fallen in to a few classrooms, chairs and tables were broken in some others, in another classroom the children sat on the floor. In that same compound there was a building that had completely collapsed, it served as breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other animals.
Someone reading this article would say “these are the problems associated with public schools”, the private sector also have their challenges varying from the lack of qualified teachers, to the neglect of the Nigerian school curriculum, to lack of government monitoring. The private sector although better has its flaws and the truth remains at this point in time the Nigerian education system is nothing to be proud of.
I don’t write this article to depress anyone or to reprimand anybody but to open our eyes to the fact that our education system is flawed and really needs help. I believe that if we make efforts instead of waiting for help from the government, then we can correct some these flaws. We can do this by volunteering once in a while to provide things that we think the students or teachers might need, appreciating the teachers in our communities, encouraging the children by awarding those who do well and possibly providing after school lessons for those struggling. We could start campaigns aimed at making the government aware of the challenges faced in the educational sector and suggesting what it should do or provide.
It will not be an easy task neither will it be cheap but I choose to look at it like this, “I am investing in someone’s future, who knows what or who that person will be, he/she might even help me someday”