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Repositioning public secondary schools III

Repositioning public secondary schools III

By Bayo Fasunwon

Research has shown that the environment of learning has tremendous impact in the dissemination and assimilation of knowledge. A clean environment, serene and beautiful encourages the students to attend school, and learn. It also gives the students a sense of pride to be identified with such enthralling scenery and thus enhances their commitment to the activities that would encourage their continual presence.

In addition, an environment that promotes social interactions, void of large scale bullying, teachers’ brutality, and disrespect for human dignity is also a booster to learning and productivity. Many private schools invest in the attainment of these environments of learning in order to attract parents and students to their citadels of learning. This environmental packaging, when achieved becomes a crowd puller to the schools, and can I hear you say, cash puller?

Have you seen the school uniforms of many public schools recently?  The students of each school are the ambassadors of such a school. However, the school uniforms donned by the students in the government owned secondary schools are anything but appealing, in design and attire. Seeing these students on the streets, to and from school does not encourage anyone to sew such uniforms on their beloved children. However, I think there is a significant relationship between the uniforms, the manner in which they are worn and the environment to which it is being worn. When the environment is reptile friendly, and the stones compete with student’s feet in a reckless manner, students would be dressed in such a manner that reduces the cost of acquiring knowledge in a tortuous environment. When the canes can descend at any time, and a bully can provoke you to an unscheduled brawl, your clothes must be ready for battle. In most public secondary schools, gully erosion makes you to apply the mathematical rules of bearing in order for a smooth navigation of your feet to and from classes. Flowers have become a luxury, and the trees are such that were planted during the times of Lord Lugard, and as such, have become old, ugly, mystified, and dangerous to approach. In short, the social and physical environment of most public secondary schools are scary, and anti knowledge.

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In the early days, when most buildings of public secondary schools were constructed, the building philosophy was durability and accommodation. However, private secondary schools have added aesthetics and human psychology to their building structure. The building structures in capable private institutions of learning are beautiful and inviting. Beyond the lack of beauty of buildings, in most public secondary schools, majority of the buildings are also dilapidated, cracked, sinking, and or collapsing. For many of the buildings, they are just disasters waiting to happen. The ceilings have no asbestos, thereby making learning a visit to hell in the afternoons. The blackboards have become white and faded, while the furniture are inadequate, rusty and dangerous. There are no windows to keep bay, the breeze when it rains, external noises from the corridor and diversions from outside. The grounds can only tell stories of those years when cement and concrete covered their nakedness. Now, not only are the floors bare. They are also jagged, with contours and potholes aiding avoidable accidents of both staff and students. The human dignity of students are abused as they have to kneel, sit on stones or on these unwholesome floors in order to glean information from the faded boards, due to the absence of furniture. I almost wept when I noticed a female student who carries her chair and table on her head daily to school. If she leaves it behind, it will be stolen. When students have to steal to learn, then robbers and not learners is the product of the learning institutions.

Recently, some State Governments through the State House of Assembly enacted the anti-open defecation bill that rather criminalises open defecation. However, I wonder if this bill would be executed in many public secondary schools. In many of these secondary schools, there are no public toilets for staff and students. The call of nature is always answered in abandoned building, bushes in and around the school, and sometimes in the classrooms. Male and female gender meet along bush paths, and curiosity is increased towards the occurrences of rape. Beyond that how would a teacher whose nakedness has been seen by his student in the bush work effectively in class? Beyond the shame and fear of ‘shot putting’, also lie the possibilities of epidemics.

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In addition to these structural deficiencies in the public secondary schools, the available staffs are also neglected and hence prevented from developing and giving their best to the students. Knowledge apart from being basic is also dynamic. In addition, the dissemination of knowledge is an art, a skill and a learned behaviour. Given the new research discoveries in education, the need for special education by some students and evolution of better study and teaching techniques, there arises the need for training and re-training of teachers. State governments are often quick to interject and beat their chests that their teachers are being trained. The question is what type of training. Most teachers are exposed to trainings that are general in nature and of little use to the trainees and students.

In many private schools, teachers are specifically trained and re-trained in their subject areas for effective teaching. For example in mathematics, new methods that are quicker and easier to use are taught during training. New rules and words are also introduced in English language while other subjects have their unique innovations. Therefore, the advantage of training and re-training cannot be over emphasized. Experts are invited to train the teachers in the school premises using the available resources in the school. Most training for public secondary schools is only avenues to make money for the organizers of the trainings and resource persons, and usually take place in the capital city thereby reducing the number of participants for such trainings. On a visit to a private school, all the teachers of students in the Senior Secondary categories were compulsorily made to attend the marking coordination of both NECO and WAEC. The attendance was to give them insights into the marking systems of external examinations, and thus prepare them to teach students in line with the knowledge gained. In addition to this, they were encouraged to apply and seek for the opportunity to mark this examination, so that they can know how to mark students’ scripts in accordance with external expectations. This in itself is a form of training to the teachers and the students stands to benefit a lot from such knowledge. Aside this, the confidence of teachers would be enhanced and the motivation to produce excelling students would be increased.

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Added to training is the need to place priority on the welfare of staffs in the public secondary schools. Unlike other societies where teachers are highly remunerated, teachers are amongst the least paid in Nigeria. There seemed to be unspoken agreement that teachers do not need money. In those days when teachers were poorly remunerated, they were given accommodation and meager furniture to cushion the effects of poverty attracting salaries. In addition to these, they had access to government scholarships, study leaves, and food (called essential commodities). Furthermore, they also had access to car loans and other loans. Teaching then was a profession of contentment, respect, passion, and joy. However, in the present dispensation, such alleviates are absent thereby forcing teachers to seek for other means of meeting their needs. It is therefore not uncommon to see teachers involved in moonlighting, while their students glory in their partial ignorance.

The challenges affecting public secondary schools in Nigeria are numerous but surmountable. The government and parents need a paradigm shift in their thinking. Concerted and dedicated efforts are needed by all stakeholders in the education sector in order to achieve the standard expected of the United Nations. When there is a will, a way would certainly emerge.

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