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Rebranding Nigeria’s Public School System

Behind dilapidated school buildings, gathered with my peers during leisure period, we ransacked heaps of broken chairs and desks like scavengers. In a school of over 1800 students, each student is responsible for his chair and table as the available ones are insufficient for the huge number of students. Like cavemen, we apply stone to rotten nails on damage school furniture, crafting chairs and tables on which to sit. The unlucky one would have to place placards and cartons on the floor when there are no more seats in a classroom where we sit jam-packed like sardines.

Under these terrible conditions, we acquired knowledge that scarcely managed to take root. No wonder mass failure appears inevitable in public schools. At the ring of the bell for close of school, we burst out of our various classes like convicts on prison break, excited that another day’s sentence is over.

Almost every child in public school in Nigeria faces these conditions. During the ‘’hands across the ears’’ days of education, passion burned in the eyes of the students. Seeing the benevolent red chalk mark on a child’s wooden slate brought immense joy to the hearts of their parents. The biggest accomplishment of every child then was to return home from school with that precious pass mark; knowing pretty well his good grade earns him or her praise from a father and a jolly plate of food from the mother. This past standard of Nigeria’s public school reflects the impact of the missionaries and the schools they established across the country. But the value and prestige of public schools has drastically declined; from the decrease in the quality of learning to the dwindling education budget.

One factor responsible for the deterioration of the country’s education sector is the inability of government at various levels to take responsibility for public schools. For instance, primary schools are rarely established by the Federal Government. The state government on the other hand, places more importance on accrediting private schools which they consider one of their major sources of revenue. Thus, the burden of public schools falls on the local government, who also offload this burden to host communities where these schools are situated.

Sadly, the Universal Basic Education suffers most from this negligence because primary education is in practice not fully controlled by Federal, State, or local government. Another factor hindering the efficacy of public schools is overpopulation. In a country where birth rate is higher than death rate, where majority live below poverty line, educating an average Nigerian child becomes a heavy task to his or her parents.

Despite an increase in the establishment of private schools across the country, due to their humongous fees, their addition cannot relieve public schools of over population. Subsequently, over-population, results to overuse of academic infrastructures and facilities. With resources scarcely given to public schools, learning become a matter of survival of the fittest. Students compete for facilities, compete for teachers’ attention, and compete for the usage of academic materials.

Only few can navigate this jungle for knowledge acquisition. The unfortunate students must repeat classes over and over again. After repeating a class for three consecutive years, they will be flushed out into the stream of out-of-school kids; resulting in more half-baked literates that constitute nuisance and tarnish the image of the country.

Under the recommendation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at least 15% to 20% of the nation’s budget should be allocated to the education sector which, positively impacts national development. However, our education sector has languished below 10% of the national budget for several years. We treat education like a stray dog waiting patiently for bones to drop from the rich man’s table. Thus, the poor budgeting gives birth to poor funding which educates poor citizens in poorly equipped schools across our poverty stricken communities.

Lack of dedicated teachers adds to the woes of public schools in Nigeria. As the saying goes, “a hungry man is an angry man.” You can’t expect productivity and good performance from a teacher who uses a belt to suppress his starvation. Teachers are poorly motivated; salaries are poor and so untimely that it is unsurprising for teachers to rally and wail into the ears of the government before getting paid.

According to research, in 2015, of the more than 1.7 million applications for university admission, less than 5% applied for courses in education. The teaching profession has become one of the most “rebuked” jobs in the country. Sadly, some of these teachers, who deserve favor, value, and respect, must do secondary menial jobs to make ends meet. So staff rooms are mini-markets where wares are paraded from desk to desk in what is best described as ‘’staff room hawking’’.

However, teachers should not be held responsible for the decadence among public school students. Charity begins at home. Thus, the first set of people to influence a child’s personality is the parents. Unfortunately, many children are victims of poor parenting. Some parents fail to engage their children to ensure they are raised morally and psychologically and they unleash their untrained wards to the school.

Truth is everyone, students, teachers, parents, and government, see education as a burden imposed on them rather than as the path towards a brighter future. Nothing keeps them motivated. Nothing fuels their synergy and nothing boosts their morale. They see no reason to embrace anymore. This is a great risk that must be addressed with urgency.

Government and other stakeholders must take responsibility and change the poor state of the educational sector. It should be noted that well- educated citizens foster national growth while the poorly educated will bring about national disaster. The effort should go beyond the current policy of registering professional teachers. Good as it is, what is required is total rebranding to make education worth the while from the primary to tertiary level and provide jobs thereafter.

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