Repositioning public schools
By Bayo Fasunwon
S ome few weeks ago, there was a post on the social media that generated a lot of discussions, beefs, and insights. The discussion hinged on the conditions of the secondary school system in Nigeria, albeit from a different angle. The question was if any secondary school teacher could allow any of their children attend a public school in Nigeria. It was a great surprise when many public secondary school teachers vowed not to send any of their wards to a public secondary school.
Then the social media war and abuses began. The negative aspect of the discourse is not my focus. The various responses however pointed my attention to the nation’s secondary school system as it is today, and the need arose to take some physical and mental excursion into some of the private and public secondary around me. The results and inferences would be presented in this article.
The secondary school is the intermediate between literacy and profession. The secondary school was designed to prepare the members of the society for the vocation and profession that would enable them to contribute their quota to the development of the society. The secondary school predetermines in fact what the child would be in his professional future. Under the various systems of education in Nigeria, a student by ability and or intent would be boxed into either of the sciences, arts, commercial or technical classes, thereby sealing to a large extent, the student’s future. Unfortunately, any student misguided in making choices of the classes to belong to may have their future marred for life. The secondary school prepares a student for higher education. It is at that level that a child’s brain is directed and trained to think in a particular manner that would enhance productivity in higher levels of the classes chosen. Therefore, the secondary school is the foundation for learning at higher levels, and the foundation for productivity in life and industry. This makes the secondary vital to the development of any nation.
The way and manner secondary schools were run in the 50s to the early 90s in Nigeria were such that anyone who completes the secondary school education could be assured of getting a job even in the banking sector. Mostly, the confidence is there to appoint such in the teaching profession without entertaining the fear of low productivity. It is noteworthy to observe that at these times, private secondary schools were largely unheard of. Rather, there were healthy competitions amongst public schools in sports, quiz, debates, dressing, intellectual engagements, and social relations. It is good to note that the products of these public schools have risen to become the giants in present day Nigeria’s hall of fame in all sectors of the economy. This feat transcended all ethnic, tribal, religious, or social barriers. The children of the rich and poor mingled, interacted and competed healthily in public schools, all donning the school uniforms thus limiting the social class struggles in their quest for knowledge. The secondary then became an integrating factor to the unity of the nation, as well as level playing field to all comers. In fact the level of discipline in the secondary schools were so high that parents took their wards to school, not just to study but to imbibe good characters, and they were not disappointed. However, what is the state of secondary school education today?
An intentional visit to the public secondary schools leaves a bad taste in the mouth. In the first instance, the environment of learning is an antithesis for learning. The picture that hits your face includes dilapidated buildings, bushy environment that encourages cows, rodents and snakes to attend classes; cracked walls, broken ceilings, cracked floors, dangerous furniture, outdated equipment, white blackboards, open defecation due to absence of functional restrooms for staff and students; funny uniforms and jam-packed classrooms. This type of environment does not in any way encourage either the staff or students to seek or give learning. On interaction, one discovers also that most schools are understaffed; hence, the workload on the available staff is overwhelming. In some cases, Principals and Vice Principals are compelled by compassion to teach some classes because teachers are just not available to teach the subjects. This inadequacy of staff, apart from affecting the productivity, also affects the discipline of students. Waywardness has broken its bounds in most schools, and teachers turn their faces when a student is taking a jolly ride to hell. For some teachers, parents have physically attacked them for nurturing their wards, while others fear the reprisal of students who are members of deadly cults. All these affect the final products that are unleashed into the society and higher institutions in Nigeria. The results are there for all to see.
The public secondary schools in Nigeria are best positioned to produce the most enterprising, vibrant and successful Nigerians. In the first place, it is my candid opinion that the most qualified personnel, trained to deliver the goods of sound education are in the public secondary schools. On visits to private secondary schools some have young secondary school leavers as teachers (in order to cut costs); and many have teachers who are not trained to impart knowledge on the pupils, because they lack the skills of doing so. The public secondary schools do not need advertisements before getting pupils, neither do they need to engage in certain unwholesome activity as may be found in private secondary schools.
When a child in public secondary school brings home his report card (as it is called), the probability that it represents the actual intellectual competence of the child is very high. The public secondary schools are immune to the class struggles that affect a students’ psyche than in the private schools. In addition, unlike some parents of private secondary, public secondary school parents are not tempted to engage in corrupt practices in order to sustain their wards in the school.
Another important truth about public secondary schools is that the ideals of the school is protected and transferred from one generation of students to another. The template for the running of the school is provided by the government. A change in the person of the President does not necessarily produce a change in the schools creed and orientation. However, the sustenance and vision of much private school is imbedded in the visionary and Proprietor. An often time, when the Proprietor is affected by the vicissitudes of life, and or when such is called yonder, the school deteriorates, and or collapses. Aside form this, most private secondary schools only act as llaunch pads for many job seekers. The moment they get other jobs, they leave, even for teaching jobs in the government owned schools. This high turnover in private schools also affect the teaching and learning experiences of both staff and students.
In addition to these, the public secondary schools have the facilities that could enhance the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning of the students. Most public schools in Nigeria have enough land mass for developmental learning. A visit to most workshops in the schools would reveal many machines for technical education, unused with the potential of affecting knowledge. The argument here is not the state of the available facilities now, but their availability as compared to many private schools. An expensive, mostly advertised secondary in radio is housed on a fur plot land. The buildings are in storey, with little or no room for psychomotor development.
The students look well fed but their eyes are dull. They have been inundated with knowledge but with no space to exercise, they have become like Jack. Few have the green areas as the sport field, the teak trees shade, and other fruit trees, because they do not have the adequacy of land, which the public schools have. The public school provides affordable education to all and sundry within the specified government approved specifications for post primary studies. While the public secondary schools have a mandate to develop the humanity in the student, most private secondary schools have the preparation of students for a successful secondary school leaving certificate as their ultimate goal. Thus one realizes, sometimes when it is too late that the decline in the productivity of Nigeria could be traceable to the neglect of the public secondary schools in Nigeria.
To be Concluded.