Nigeria’s Falling Standard Of Education And The Way Forward, By Abdulyassar Abdulhamid
The standard of education, which is arguably the bedrock of every country’s development and which is measured by the knowledge and the skills students acquired at a particular period of time mostly at primary and secondary levels from which other levels develop, is gradually experiencing slow death in Nigeria.
I wonder if education will today recognize itself in “the magic mirror” (from Stories to Grow). This may not be unrelated to the lack of commitment by the entire stakeholders toward this power house.
There are many arguments of who is responsible for this dwindling standard of education that is threatening almost every sector in the country. I have the opportunity of interviewing many educationists, teachers and government officials respectively.
While some educationists are accusing the government of being insincere towards the educational sector considering the sickly unreasonable amount government injects into the sector every year and inadequate qualified teachers it employed to man the schools, some government officials claim that the government has taken great strides in educational development over the past few years and blame teachers’ lack of commitment in the discharge of their duties. To them teachers lack the right attitude to work and for this most of them cannot work with love.
Many teachers have argued that in most cases their ambitions of discharging their duties sufficiently is hampered by poor working condition, low salary and insufficient teaching as well as learning materials that always greet them. Others talk of students’ minds being carried away by games and social media.
However, many people from the lower rug of the social ladder have been pointing accusing fingers at the crude capitalist system that has created yawning gap between the rich and the poor as the main reason behind the demise of the standard of education in the country. To them when the sons and daughters of the affluent have access to education, their children have but limited educational opportunity because they cannot afford the exorbitant fees private schools demand and the government has refused to adequately fun the sector.
I was so surprised when I first read about an unusual comparison between Grade II and B.A in Achebe’s second novel, Man of the People. What is the basis? Although the book was written some fifty-eight years back. Since my first reading I had been searching for an answer to this so bizarre a likening whose answer should be found much later: why should B.A which I am so much proud of be compared with grade II? Has failure of standard of education reached up to this level? Is it true that a grade ll holder of those days can give a graduate of B.A bloody nose in educational arena? Have mercy on us, Oh Lord!
Sometime last year during my NYSC days, I met an elderly woman in glasses hurrying back home perhaps from work. Then I was sitting on a boulder some inches from the ground and I was reading Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom as part of an NCE syllabus, being a course tutor. Seeing what was in my hand, the woman flashed her captivating smile and I smiled back. She drew nearer and asked from where I got the copy. I told her that was my third reading and I was teaching NCE students. She later told me of how their teachers would prevent anyone who failed to read a prescribed text from getting into class in 1973. I looked at her with awe. We later discussed many literary works. Although I was bewildered at how secondary school students would read what I struggled with in my undergraduate days, I later concluded that Achebe was absolutely right.
This was proved right much later when I came to mark NCE one students’ scripts. Although I had pre-knowledge of their inability to read let alone understand or excavate the text, the sight was extremely filthy. This failure of the standard of education comes with the students and/or teachers’ refusal to read or make further researches.
Most of the schools we know have become business centers where huge amount of money is made. Perhaps parents send their children to schools to ease the tensions and the noises their children cause and make while around; and some teachers are teaching because they could not find better jobs.
A critical look at the arguments above will surely lead one to a major cause these days. As it is true that the government and the teachers should share the blame, so also social media; the hours the lucky generation spent perusing their books, doing assignments or winding their brains are replaced by cyber space these days. A larger percentage of students has no taste for reading at nearly every level.
The dwindling interest in reading culture or reading habit among the youth is deplorable. Social media has taken over the hours students are expected to spend studying, doing assignment or reading story books that can boost their academic status. Due to excessive chatting on Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, etc, by the students, many teachers especially of English complain that the students’ ability to spell words correctly is no longer there.
To sum it up, government should declare a state of emergency on education; it should hire educationists to prescribe cure to this dying sector. Congestion of all the levels of education in the ministry of education should be decentralized. Government should re-establish teachers colleges all over the country for the production of competent not half-baked teachers. Teachers’ welfare should be improved at least to be at par with that of other government officials’ remuneration.
Facilities for learning should be provided and thereafter adequate teaching and learning materials should be supplied. Communities should imbibe the do-it-yourself mentality that will give way to community schools. And lastly parents should closely monitor their children’s relationship with their books and social media.