It was once a thing of pride and good repute to attend a public school in Nigeria; in fact, it was the norm right from independence up till the 1990s. Today, that which was once prestigious and reputable has only but become a pitiful ridicule.
The present status of most public schools across the nation today does not show that these institutions were once well-respected citadels of learning and sources of glory to the nation. This present state is the brain behind the rapid and unending drift from public to private schools.
A visit to a handful of some public schools in both rural and urban areas surely leaves many questions in your mind. One would ponder: Are these really schools or abandoned historical relics? The level of infrastructural dilapidation is so appalling, the quality of learning is pitiable and of course the standard of education offered is disgraceful.
Many class-rooms lack sufficient furniture for their students to sit or write, the window frames and door frames are completely naked thus student become scape goats to harsh weather conditions, holes in roofs are of various shapes and sizes, the laboratories have only become a mere shadow of them selves and toilets have become death traps as they conveniently house different pathogens for various classes of diseases. I really wonder the quality of education that could be passed on to students in this type of environment.
Constructively, some might argue: ‘but the Nigerian educational system is better than those of its West African counter-parts.’ Quite arguable as this might seem, the determining question is: Should Nigeria (the Proclaimed Giant of Africa) be competing with other African countries educationally or should she be aiming to beat the educational standards already set by the Western nations?
The Nigerian educational system has turned to an ugly monster, students dread learning today because of the unattractive nature of the system. Many more students have openly testified that they actually ‘endured school’ and not ‘enjoyed school.’ Public school teachers are now victims of circumstance. Greatly punished in the ‘endurance of poor salary structure and incentives,’ many have lost the strong appetite and joy to teach, nurture and effectively pass-on knowledge to students thus as a result, covering the stipulated syllabus is a much dreaded abomination.
It is a known fact that a competitive and incentive–filled environment is essential for learning and for fast mental development. The major interschool academic competitions such as the Bournvita Brain Match, Interschool Debate and Quiz, Cowbell Mathematics Competition, spelling B and a host of others are fast fading into history. How then do these students engage in external competitive exercises vital for sound development and progressive learning?
Like in the simple law of cause and effect, most of the students who attend these schools have lost the desire to learn and the will to read: they are at the verge of closing their eyes to the very value and process of education.
During school days, on the streets of Lagos, Nigeria between the hours of 9AM and 10AM, you can easily notice different primary and secondary school students walking comfortably and majestically to their respective schools which are scheduled to commence at 7:45AM. A careful look at their faces as they walk and chat late to school surprisingly unveils no urgency or sense of punctuality: it only shows that lateness has become their norm.
Little wonder the past 5 to 7 years saw different sets of worst results from students of public schools who sat for the West African Senior School certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
The porous nature of tertiary education in Nigeria has crippled many Universities and Polytechnics. They have become so comfortable hiding in ‘the shadow of Past Glories’. It is clear that indeed the standards are falling daily and no sector of the educational system is free from this fall.
As it is with the Capitalist and Mixed economies of the World where the poor constitute a greater fraction of the population, the Rich get richer and the Poor get poorer. In the end it is the poor, the average Nigerians who, not being able to afford exorbitant fees of private schools are left with the unavoidable option of painfully allowing their children to attend these fallen public schools.
There is absolutely no doubt that the standard of education in any country plays a vital role in determining the class of individuals that nation produces as its citizens who would represent them locally and internationally. Our country’s falling educational standard portends grave dangers for the supposed leaders of tomorrow.
Daily in good hopes, I lift my eyes and say a little prayer that soon this falling standard would be made aright and once again, as it was in time past, the Nigerian educational system would hold that enviable status which it once had. Till then, all we have now is the falling standard.