Un­mask­ing free ed­u­ca­tion in Nige­ria

The Punch - - EDITORIAL -

CHief Obafemi Awolowo, the late Pre­mier of the Western Re­gion, be­tween 1954 and 1959, scored sev­eral firsts dur­ing his colour­ful pre­mier­ship that is still a case study among po­lit­i­cal pun­dits and his­to­ri­ans. He brought the first tele­vi­sion sta­tion to Africa — the Western Nige­ria Tele­vi­sion, built one of the first sta­di­ums — Lib­erty Sta­dium, Co­coa House — one of the tallest build­ings on the African con­ti­nent amongst other ground­break­ing deeds. But the one that en­deared him the most to his tribes­men was that of the free pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion which was in­tro­duced in 1955.

This pol­icy made pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion widely avail­able to all who were res­i­dent in the then Western Re­gion. The pol­icy was a wel­come balm for many in­di­gent res­i­dents who greatly en­cour­aged their chil­dren and wards to take ad­van­tage of the vi­sion­ary and laud­able scheme of the man whom Chief Chuk­wue­meka Odumegwu-ojukwu later de­scribed as the best Pres­i­dent Nige­ria never had. Many scions of stark il­lit­er­ates were able to re­ceive qual­ity pri­mary school ed­u­ca­tion which their par­ents could never have been able to af­ford de­spite their end­less toil for a bet­ter life.

it is in­struc­tive to note that many off­spring of the South­west politi­cians at­tended these pub­lic pri­mary schools whose stan­dards were ex­tremely high. The teach­ers who taught there were well-re­mu­ner­ated and highly mo­ti­vated to impart knowl­edge in the minds of the young ones. Some of these teach­ers even trained in the United King­dom and were com­mit­ted to their job.

The Unity Party of Nige­ria, which was the off­shoot of the Ac­tion Group which im­ple­mented the pol­icy, did the same in all the states it con­trolled in the de­funct Sec­ond Repub­lic.

The fourth Repub­lic which her­alded in 1999 saw its con­tin­ued im­ple­men­ta­tion through the then Al­liance for Democ­racy which was the party of the pro­gres­sives, many of whom bat­tled the mil­i­tary. They ex­panded the scope of it to in­clude that of the se­condary schools and they used it to win votes among the elec­torate who were ea­ger for a bet­ter deal af­ter 16 years of ru­inous mil­i­tary rule. The at­trac­tion of the pro­gramme, which is pop­ulist in na­ture, at­tracted the at­ten­tion of hith­erto con­ser­va­tive politi­cians of other po­lit­i­cal par­ties who smartly co-opted them as a part of their car­di­nal pro­grammes to the peo­ple.

The old say­ing that there is no free lunch in free­town, rings true when you do a cri­tique of the pro­gramme in the coun­try. The schools are grossly over­pop­u­lated as too many chil­dren are en­rolled in them with the fa­cil­i­ties be­ing grossly over­stretched. The par­ents sadly have an en­ti­tle­ment men­tal­ity as in La­gos State; and books are given to these stu­dents. The par­ents hardly at­tend the Par­ent-teacher As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ings as they wrongly at­tribute them to be­ing a gov­ern­men­tal af­fair.

The fa­cil­i­ties in the lab­o­ra­to­ries are in­ad­e­quate and the stu­dents can hardly per­form ex­per­i­ments in them. How can the coun­try com­pete with its peers glob­ally in STEM ed­u­ca­tion with this trend? Many of the teach­ers are ill­mo­ti­vated and equipped to teach the stu­dents well. A huge ma­jor­ity of them hate their job and trans­fer their ha­tred and anger to their hap­less stu­dents who bear the brunt of their teach­ers’ un­founded wrath. Many of the teach­ers sup­ple­ment their mea­gre in­comes with class­room trad­ing and use the stu­dents as part-time traders.

Many poor par­ents pre­fer to toil day and night in or­der to send their chil­dren and wards to pri­vate schools as the stan­dards in most of them are be­lieved to be much bet­ter than the pub­lic ones. ed­u­ca­tion is the great­est legacy a par­ent can leave for their off­spring and it makes a whole lot of sense to en­sure that the ed­u­ca­tion re­ceived is of high qual­ity.

in the good old days of Nige­ria, ed­u­ca­tion was a lev­eller as it brought the kids of the rich and the poor to­gether un­der one roof. it also guar­an­teed up­ward so­cial mo­bil­ity as the son of a pau­per could as­pire to the zenith of lead­er­ship in what­ever sphere of life sim­ply be­cause of it. it was that pow­er­ful a poverty alle­vi­a­tion tool. Now, sadly, this isn’t the case as the chil­dren of the politi­cians and top bu­reau­crats are en­sconced in highly ex­pen­sive pri­vate schools while their coun­ter­parts from plebian back­grounds are left to wal­low in the pub­lic schools which have lit­tle or noth­ing to of­fer.

i sug­gest humbly that the na­tion should re­turn to the Sec­ond Repub­lic model where the chil­dren of politi­cians and pub­lic of­fi­cials at­tended pub­lic schools. This will en­sure that the qual­ity will as­tro­nom­i­cally go up as the par­ents would want the best for their chil­dren and so will fight for an im­prove­ment in the pub­lic schools. The school sys­tem should re­vert to what it used to be as a lev­eller so that the chil­dren of the rich and the poor can be life­long friends which will au­gur well for so­ci­ety. ed­u­ca­tion shouldn’t cre­ate more di­vides in the al­ready largely di­vided so­ci­ety. ed­u­ca­tion is the most po­tent weapon for greater so­ci­etal good and it should be de­ployed with ef­fi­ciency in the pub­lic sec­tor.

•Tony Ade­miluyi, La­gos

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.