Towards building results-oriented public schools
Some urgent steps are necessary if things are ever going to work in our public schools. As things stand now, if the truth must be told, public schools are no more than training ground for thugs and touts as evidenced in the complete noisy arena that most public schools remain, coupled with general poor aptitude that typifies the existence of most public school students resulting in their constant poor performances in external examinations. This rot dates as far back as the era of free education in the Second Republic when the place of libraries, librarians and laboratories were jettisoned, and the nation has carried on since then as if education can make any meaningful impact on the learners without emphasis on books, reading and practical. Education is the bedrock of any nation, and allowing a complete nosedive as it has happened in the case of Nigeria is at the detriment of any nation.
At the moment, almost every sector of the Nigerian life is being taken over by highly incompetent people, quite sadly as the diligent ones are bowing out. The decades of massive decay which successive governments continue to ignore have since begun to yield its negative results and undoubtedly, Nigeria’s chickens are coming home to roost. Unless concerted efforts are made to stem the tide from now on, the nation may be heading towards a very bleak future. The nation must go back to re-enacting the necessities of functional libraries and laboratories either in each school, or in every school complex where such facilities can be made available for the use of some schools. Then all the other factors militating against progress in all public schools must be critically looked into and addressed.
The first woe bedevilling the education sector is the method of teachers’ recruitments, which has become so politicized that only those connected to politicians now stand the chance of gaining appointment into teaching. Such an ugly trend has given rise to the employment of so many poor teachers, and the preponderance of laxity and complete nonchalance in most public schools. The situation is so pathetic that within the crops of today’s teachers, there are many who themselves cannot sit and obtain a pass mark in the subject they purportedly teach unless allowed to cheat! Many cannot form their own notes and the common practice for many is to copy on the board directly from textbooks. All those applying for teaching ought to be allowed to go through the same process of ascertaining their proficiency, and only the best candidates should be considered. With such method in place, the quality of teachers in the government’s employ will be guaranteed, and getting the best out of learners would not be such a difficult task.
Again, it may not be proper to peg the age limit of those applying for teaching to under thirty as done in some states including Lagos. In most cases, such categories of candidates are neither experienced nor ready for the job. But this is not to suggest that candidates within that age bracket who are able to scale through the proficiency test should not be considered for appointment Once the quality of teachers being brought into the system has been perfected, the next task will be to put in place an effective monitoring unit and its operation should be a clear departure from what currently obtains. As at now, those put in that position are bereft of ideas on how to keep teachers on their toes. Days of routine visits to schools are announced and everyone comes around just to put up appearances of working. Besides, what the so-called inspectors do most of the time is to sit at the principals’ offices, call for statutory records which they hardly check properly before collecting whatever their host can offer and then dashing off to another school. Such archaic monitoring makes public school teachers very relax, almost to the point of never wishing to do anything. The recent separation of Quality Assurance from the Ministry of Education as a parastatal of its own has not made any significant impact. Perhaps because the body is still manned by same old personnel its operation still remains lacklustre.
To reverse this ugly trend, the monitoring unit must be compelled to change their style. They must stop announcing the dates of their visits so as to catch teachers unawares and instead of sending only two personnel who end up doing some shoddy work, there is need to employ more hands for the task. Inspectors must hit each school like storm troopers, shunning principals’ offices like a plague and getting to the classrooms right away to watch what teachers are doing. Indeed, if things are expected to work as envisaged, principals and vice principals must not only lead the teaching process in their schools but must also show evidence of doing such on demand. The noticeable lackadaisical attitude among public school teachers is owing largely to the fact that some categories of workers have stylishly exempted themselves from teaching and others, especially those in the senior cadres always want to follow suit Again, such on-the-spot inspection, rather than being limited to only once in a whole term, should be carried out twice or thrice a week.
In order to truly achieve the desired result, inspection must now include asking the learners questions on topics already taught by teachers to ascertain how far the learners are being carried along. Indeed it is such innovation that will compel teachers to be thorough in the discharge of their primary assignment. As at now, there are evidences of shoddy work on the part of teachers as seen in students’ continuous poor performance in external examinations. Ensuring that learners truly grasp what they are being taught will make all the difference and also serve as the ultimate solution to examination malpractices.
There may also be the need to monitor even the inspectors themselves to ensure they are not only firmly on the ground but doing what they are employed to do. Retired but not tired action principals can be engaged in such assignment and that will change the face of things completely. Indeed, apart from the normal inspectors, the governor, the deputy governor, and the commissioner of education should also have their own monitoring teams going round schools to monitor the performances of inspectors, teachers and schools. With all these measures in place, teachers will sit up and face their primary assignment squarely, and the noise level of all public schools will reduce drastically.
However, having put all these measures in place, the next step will be to weed out all hooligans and thugs from our public schools. Free education encourages a lot of nonsense and there are so many bad eggs within our school setting who must give way for things to move forward.
Whether we accept the fact or not, allowing those who have no interest whatsoever in education to remain within the system will always be counter-productive. Supposed learners who already show signs of drug addiction, and all those not ready to abide by rules and regulation must be taken to rehabilitation centres instead for peace to return to all our schools.
Oyewusi, a Director of Education, lives in Lagos
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