Education, the heart of a nations’ development
The development of a person or a nation is founded on education. Hence it will not be incorrect to say without good quality education, there can be no development. So many have been rendering various advices to the President to look into the energy sector, oil, corruption, etc, but very few have talked about improvement of the educational sector. It appears we are forgetting the role of education in a nation’s development. According to Edward Wilmot Blyden, “a man without common sense, without tact, as a mechanic or agriculturist or trader, can do far less harm to the public than the man without common sense who has had the opportunity of becoming, and has had the reputation of being, a scholar”. You will agree with me that there is a rise in the number of people who fall into the above category, and this can be seen from the number of avoidable and reckless death cases in the hospitals in recent times, caused by quack doctors who for all we know might not know the difference between a femur and a humerus, but who go around arrogantly with the appellation of ‘Dr’. We have also had a high number of deaths in the past as a result of collapsed buildings built by supposed renowned engineers, etc. All point to one thing; ‘poor quality education’.
The Nigerian system of education has made a caricature of the Nigerian university certificate. Nigerian graduates who go to other countries in search of greener pastures, almost have to undergo a general over-hauling and brush-up before they can be found fit to work in any establishment outside the country. One major problem area we need to look into is exam malpractice, which has reduced the Nigerian education to a matter of just acquiring certificates and brandishing it around. The dilemma of exam malpractice has sunk so deep, that I am afraid it has become deep rooted and will take a lot of stringent measures to pull out.
As a teacher, I am stunned to observe external examiners who instead of ensuring sanity and decorum in exam halls, actually make outright demands for kickbacks in order to allow teachers in the school to come into exam halls to teach the students. When I confronted one of the teachers about this amoral act, he said it was not against the exam rules, and that it’s just a little assistance/guidance to ensure the students are on the right path, and he spoke to me as if it must be very wicked not to render this supposed guidance. I later understood that the students had been asked to pay a compulsory ‘exam fee’ which is used to bribe the external examiners and pay off the teachers.
Why is this so troubling? It is troubling because that which in our time people actually get arrested for is now seen as the normal thing to do, and the school management justifies itself by saying all other schools do it to get good results, and so if we need more students enrolled in the school, we have to play along. And what’s more, parents eagerly pay this fee just because they want their children to pass their exams at whatever cost. What is the implication of this in the long run? The implication of this is that students no longer see the need to study because they have learnt from their predecessors that if they pay their ‘exam fee’, they are good to go. This is very disconcerting because one can see that these children are not unintelligent, neither are they mentally retarded. Students now see as no big deal, studying or in being absent from school because they feel in the end everyone will pass with the help of the school. Some months’ ago, the president was asking for more discipline in schools, and I very much agree with him because I think schools, (especially privately owned schools) need more close monitoring, especially as the number of private schools are increasing rapidly, in order to uphold the standard and goals of the educational sector. Impromptu visits have to be made to Government and privately owned schools during exams with the threat of closing down schools that are caught in the act of malpractice.
Moreover, to many, being a teacher in Nigeria is almost seen as a curse. When I asked my students, how many of you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, almost 99% of hands shot up into the air. But when I asked, how many of you will like to become teachers, the students start to say God forbid it will never be their portion. Why is this so one may ask, this is so because the teaching profession over the years has not been given due recognition. According to Henry Adams, A teacher affects eternity. We cannot talk about quality education, when teachers’ salaries are being owed for six or seven months as in many states. Hence many times, teachers feel embarrassed to introduce themselves as such. No educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers, nor can a nation rise above the quality of her educational system. Only a happy teacher can impact quality education.
• Omosefe Oseghale wrote from Benin City.