Teachers, Custodians of Archetypes

(By Simon Abah) 

To say that Nigeria’s education is in a comatose state is not contestable, especially in the public sector and this is made worse today by the attitude of teachers. Due to the deficit in the public educational sector, other alternatives have sprung up, notably the private sector. Unlike some of the public schools that lack proper ventilation and other basics, these new schools provide a convivial aesthetic environment but again the private schools have their own challenges.

IT MIGHT have been absolutely impossible to graduate with honours if I were an undergraduate today faced with the same circumstances I encountered whilst a student of no-less a school than the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. If my recollection obliges me in the approved manner, I studied hard to pass over 61 courses in that ivory tower; this was no chance occurrence because the university runs the arduous 7 points CGPA system.

What did the university lecturers in that great school do right that other lecturers in other schools today are openly exploiting in the wrong? The professors, many of whom I was fortunate enough to pass under their expert hand, never asked me and my contemporaries to pay for hand-outs. They were proud people with dignity, who couldn’t have condescended so low as to ask students for money for teaching materials so they can be trained.

 A lot of these lecturers, some of whom have passed on to the other world, took pride in describing the respectable old days, as students, when they trained in the best of environments, under good teachers. Their minds were kept busy by those sages who saw things from a positive perspective and always showed acts of kindness which they opined. The same may perhaps teach more about the love of God than many sermons.

 If these lecturers had asked me to pay N5, 000 or N3, 000 per hand-out in most cases (today’s rate), I may have ended up paying either N305, 000 for the 61 courses I studied for at N5, 000 per hand-out, orN183,000 for the same number of courses at N3,000. This is outside of the needed school levies and self-maintenance allowance that students would have to carry throughout the period of their course of study.

 In lieu of the above, I may well have been unschooled at the university level because I lost my forebear shortly before I gained admission into that renowned institution. Not many students today are as lucky as I was. Lecturers in most schools today at undergraduate and up-to graduate schools brandish the sale of hand-outs without embarrassment.

They need to copy the ideal model from the University of Ibadan and other great schools that value education and where they see it as a not-for-profit venture. These great men came to classes prepared and lectured without reading habitually from a prepared script. They went out of their way also to collect materials from books they authored and others elsewhere, (with the goal to enrich the mental power of students) which they gave to the class monitor without charge, with a strict instruction to make copies at the photocopying centres for all students. All we did was that, we went to the photocopying centres and paid to get copies of the recommended text. Not one person ever paid monies to any lecturer as a compulsory fee for hand-outs.

 How do we hope to groom leaders for tomorrow if ‘groomers’ for the future are busy engaging in disrobing acts? An independent survey by educational enthusiasts in the Southern geographical region in Nigeria, discloses that most teachers allocated to teach in rural areas do not go to their duty post but are paid salaries. Some resume, only come to clock-in, and leave for other personal engagements, they do not clock-out. Again some educators come to school when they hear that superintendents from the ministry of education are near to pay a scheduled visit, announced well ahead of time, instead of on the spur-of-the-moment. And even though principals are aware of this, they either become pliable for gratification or are arm-twisted by some higher-up in the ministry of education who are co-travellers with some of the truant teachers.

 It is easy therefore to perceive why students these days join bad criminal gangs early in life, because of the overweight abandonments by class teachers leading them to be incredible geniuses in the art of crime as adults. It is easy also to grasp why the failure rates at external examinations are always extremely bad nowadays, because teachers neglect to hone their craft for the common good. How else can you interpret absences from work?

 To say that Nigeria’s education is in a comatose state is not contestable, especially in the public sector and this is made worse today by the attitude of teachers. Due to the deficit in the public educational sector, other alternatives have sprung up, notably the private sector. Unlike some of the public schools that lack proper ventilation and other basics, these new schools provide a convivial aesthetic environment but again the private schools have their own challenges.

 They compete fiercely to outstrip each other in the provision of a basic service. Schooling is now degraded to a level where the number of enrolments is now more important than the provision of quality teaching. The nice surroundings, all the same, shouldn’t distract from the shortfalls. And the shortfalls are many; notably that these schools over-indulge students and parents to obtain goodwill and too much indulgence of students makes them see leaders (in this case teachers and administrators) as peers, a dangerous trend for nationhood.

 I recall being whipped ‘with love’ by my head teacher in primary school right in front of other pupils and on the assembly ground because I came (to the assembly ground) late and also because I left two of my shirt’s button unsecured. I can’t forget that experience even as an Adult. And thanks to it, today I am well groomed socially. Those were the days when tardiness was not tolerated. Today, in most public schools, students and pupils stroll to school sluggishly after 9am on a typical day and the gates are still opened for them.

I have a soft spot for public education because of its significance to larger society. It is not a sector where only the rich can afford school fees but a sector that ensures that children who are not of noble births have the opportunity to be educated. Teachers, by design, are leaders that students, pupils, community and the general public look up to for guidance. They enforce discipline, engage in community relationships, evaluate programs and so much more.

 The quality of education many years ago was first-rate. The public works of intellectuals like Chinua Achebe, Kenule Saro-Wiwa (RIP), Wole Soyinka, and many others is a proof of this. The type of education they had, transformed them into true leaders, not only in learning, but in character.

 Teachers are the principal overseers of values for the development of society and it is up to them to save our country and the future of our children. If it is not teachers who achieve this, then who? And if not now, when?

 SIMON ABAH Writes From Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

“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.”

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