Our educational problems

(By Chiedu Uche Okoye)

As there are students who are not supposed to be in tertiary institutions, so are there teachers who do not know their onions as to teaching. In some states of the federation, the methods of recruiting teachers into secondary schools are not stringent, transparent or fair. People who boast relationship with political leaders are offered teaching jobs at the expense of better qualified ones. The factors of cronyism, nepotism and bribery and corruption determine those who will land teaching jobs.

THE Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines education as “the process by which your mind develops through learning at school, college or university; the knowledge and skills you gain from being taught. Education is critical to the development of countries. Most of the first world countries are technologically advanced, and they owe their breakthrough and successes in the field of science and technology to robust and functional educational systems.

Think about Japan and China, United States (U.S.) and Germany – these are developed economies. Their automobile and electrical products find markets in Nigeria and other African countries; they earn much revenue by exporting their products and goods to other countries, which boosts their economies. Their thriving economies are driven by both the implementation of prudent economic policies and technological innovations evolved by their citizens.

Nevertheless, students achieve technological breakthrough and inventions where the educational systems are virile and functional. Here in Nigeria, mechanical engineers can’t repair their cars, how much more manufacture simple tools. Consequently, our economy is solely based on crude oil revenues. Our inability to diversify our economy is intrinsically linked to our dysfunctional educational system.

Therefore, what are the problems bedeviling our educational system? Our government’s budgetary allocation for education falls short of the United Nations’ requirement. Paucity of fund militates against the growth of education, as lecturers can’t access fund to carry out researches. Educational problems can’t be addressed when there is little money for running the sector.

Now, some state-owned universities are utterly neglected and grossly under-funded. These schools are glorified secondary schools. Are their libraries well stocked with the most recent books in diverse areas or fields of study? Do they have enough lecture halls that can hold students during lecture periods? Do they have teaching facilities, instructional materials and equipment for running some science-based courses? These issues impede the smooth transmission of knowledge from lecturers to students. Acquisition of knowledge by students can’t take place in schools where there is dearth of facilities, equipment and others.

More so, teachers and lecturers often embark on industrial action to agitate for either increase in salary or the implementation of a new salary scale. Their industrial action leads to the stoppage of academic activities, consequently altering the school calendar and keeping the students in school longer than they‘re required to stay for their educational programmes. The issues that cause teachers to embrace industrial action instead of trying to use other alternatives to settle their problems with government should be addressed.

However, it is an open secret that the issue of teachers’ welfare is at the root of their industrial action. It is their means of expressing their dissatisfaction with government’s attitude towards them. So, government and private school owners should not treat the issue of teachers’ welfare with levity. Teachers groom our future leaders. A poorly remunerated teacher can’t perform optimally; therefore, this is not unconnected with the huge decline in the quality of education obtainable in Nigeria.

Today, some people who graduated from Nigerian universities exhibit unpardonable ignorance in their disciplines. Little wonder well-heeled parents send their children to Ghana and European countries to acquire quality education. Again, our government and private school owners’ inability to adequately take care of teachers’ welfare is linked to the unethical and corrupt deeds being perpetrated by teachers themselves.

In some universities, lecturers trade high grades for immoral acts or money. Is this not bastardisation and commercialisation of education? These unethical and corrupt deeds are the reason some unintelligent and mentally lazy students graduate with classes of degrees they do not deserve. Now, first class holders abound in Nigeria. They’re found everywhere. Yet, they rarely beat people with lower grades or classes of degrees in their fields of specialisation. Some of them have sunk into oblivion and irrelevance in their fields of specialisation.

More so, some parents offer school principals monetary inducement to close their eyes to their children’s perpetration of examination malpractice during the Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), National Examinations Council (NECO) and Universities Matriculation Examinations (UME). Surrogate and mercenary students are smuggled into examination halls to write for the students.

When school principals compromise their moral code and flout examination ethics for pecuniary gains, they pervert the educational system. This leads to the bastardisation of our educational system. The grades that show on our certificates do not mirror our abilities and level of knowledge. Therefore, people living outside Nigeria treat certificates obtained in Nigeria with disdain and derision.

In addition, ill-prepared students with fraudulently obtained certificates join cult groups upon entering university campuses to boost their egos. As they can’t cope with academic rigours in universities, they use their membership of cult groups to browbeat lecturers to award them grades they do not deserve. If government can curb the menace of examination malpractices during SSCE and NECO, then those who are not qualified for admission can’t enter our universities. This measure can reduce the population of cult members in our schools and make our campuses safe and conducive for learning.

As there are students who are not supposed to be in tertiary institutions, so are there teachers who do not know their onions as to teaching. In some states of the federation, the methods of recruiting teachers into secondary schools are not stringent, transparent or fair. People who boast relationship with political leaders are offered teaching jobs at the expense of better qualified ones. The factors of cronyism, nepotism and bribery and corruption determine those who will land teaching jobs.

Moreover, graduates who do not possess university degrees in educational courses are by-passed in the recruitment of teachers in some states. A man with a B.E. Education Economics is preferred to a B.Sc. Economics. So, is one’s knowledge of the methodology of teaching more important than one’s good grasp of the subject? Regarding this issue, I suggest that universities should revise their curricula and integrate methodology of teaching among the compulsory courses that students should study during their first and second years in the universities.

It has been discovered that some teachers in primary and secondary schools do not engage in private or further studies to upgrade or update their knowledge in their fields of specialisation. They give each set of new students the same notes they prepared six years ago. Therefore, teachers should be re-trained to give them more knowledge to enable them perform optimally, too.

Before now, schools were solely owned and run by government. Nevertheless, since the deregulation of the education sector, schools are mushrooming everywhere. Sadly, some of the schools, especially privately owned primary and post-primary schools, do not fit the bill of schools. Their owners run them solely for profit motive, careless about the quality of education the students in the schools receive.

These schools lack libraries, science and technology equipment and sports fields. Worse still, some teachers who teach in those schools are not well educated neither do they possess the requisite qualifications for teaching. Can a teacher who is deficient in mathematics teach students how to solve mathematical questions? When a blind man leads blind men, they all fall into a pit.

Government should step up its regulation of privately-owned schools. Do those schools meet the minimal standards required of schools? We should not leave our children in the care of those with questionable academic qualifications and perverted minds. We should be aware of this biblical saying: “Teach a child the way he should follow, and when he grows up he will not depart from it.”

•Chiedu Uche Okoye, a creative writer, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

RISE NETWORKS

"Nigeria's Leading Private Sector and Donor funded Social Enterprise with deliberate interest in Technology and its relevance to Youth and Education Development across Africa. Our Strategic focus is on vital human capital Development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation." Twitter: @risenetworks || Facebook - RISE GROUP || Google Plus - Rise Networks