Education is the process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement and of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
A video trended on social media about a boy named Taju who doesn’t understand the basics of English. In the video he was asked for his age, but he could not respond because he was not enrolled in school and he did not understand the question.
The story of Taju shows how bad the educational system in Nigeria is at the moment. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 65 million Nigerians are illiterates. This is alarming because people who are illiterate are far more likely to live in poverty and face a lifetime marred by poor health and social vulnerability.
Illiteracy also has affected Nigeria’s economic growth. In many underdeveloped countries, it is a major problem as poor living standards are further accentuated by unemployment, high crime rates and deplorable socio-economic indices.
Living Hope Magazine (LHM) interviewed a principal from a state public school and she mentioned a few factors that hinder education in Nigeria.
LHM: Tell us about yourself?
My name is Mrs. Elizabeth Oyefunke Adepoju, I am the principal of Babs Fafunwa Millennium Senior secondary school and the first vice president of Lagos state NACOPSS, the body of principals.
LMH: Do you think lack of education is one of the major causes of poverty in Nigeria?
Yes, when people are not educated they don’t know their rights, they don’t know how to claim their rights. Under-development and poverty in Nigeria is largely due to the fact that many people are either totally uneducated or semi-literate, therefore you give them peanuts they jump at it, they sell their rights and that’s why we are taken for granted in Nigeria and nothing is moving.
LMH: Having worked as a principal in a public school for many years, what do you think from experience can improve Education in Nigeria?
Awareness is the first. Every home should know that basic education is mandatory. Even if you’re going to learn a trade or become an artisan, you should get secondary education first. That exposure will help you in the way you do your work and render your services. Apart from awareness, there should be commitment on the part of parents. In our public schools, many parents feel “okay I’ve sent my children to school.” The school serves as a dumping ground, they don’t check their children, they don’t come back for feedback to know how their child is performing, academically and morally or otherwise, if they come around we can work together to make sure these children get the best out of education and for the students, they should have set goals. Don’t just be in school, you must have your goals and desire, you must have a vision to achieve why you are in school.
LMH: Is the government doing enough to make education affordable and accessible for young people?
Lagos state government is trying its best and they are doing everything to make sure education is accessible and affordable. The students here don’t pay school fees, what they just need is to get the materials they need themselves and we expect parents to help with that but any other thing is provided by the Lagos state government
LHM: There are some children you see begging on the road, sometimes for their parents, is there any policy put in place by the Lagos state government to ensure these children are forced to go to school?
For some years now, we have this child right law. What does the child right law say? It says every child must be given basic education. Lagos state government sends the task force around to arrest children on the street who are begging during school hours and they prosecute their parents, they bring them to book and make sure they sign an undertaking to take their children to school but most of the parents think they are smart whereas whatever the government is doing is for their benefit. Education is free, let your children get it but they want them to beg instead because they are lazy.
LMH: So all states should adopt this policy?
Yes, we will have to come to a zero level of illiteracy if all states adopts policies like that.
LMH: In this digital era, will it be right to say that our teaching methods are not bringing out the best out of the students?
In this digital era, we are going digital in school, we use a lot of instructional materials that are computerized, we use our flexes, our boards as instructional materials, we have applications that teach the students mathematics, English and diction and we expect the students also to use their phones in a positive way but instead they use their phones on more on negative things.
LMH: Is the decline in the performance of students in external examinations a pointer to the poor state of education in Nigeria?
The major problem we have is what we call “expo,” examination malpractice. Students don’t read again because they believe even if you read, most people that are not reading will get “expo,” a few hours before the exam will start, “expo” will be sent to the students on their mobile phone. Some of them come late to the exam hall because they are trying to get the “expo” at business centers or special centers. Before they start the exam we try our best to screen them out and that is why we have a decline in the performance.
LMH: Some experts have suggested that children no longer have the requisite zeal for learning due to the various distractions available. Is this true?
I have spoken about that, a lot of distraction, the phone, the internet world, the digital world, instead of studying they want to go on the internet to chat with their friends, and when the exam comes they depend on the “expo,” some of them won’t even cram the answers they will try smuggling the phone in.
LMH: You said earlier that students should have goals and objectives, but some of these students don’t even know what goals and objectives are. What are the methods teachers use to identify those goals and objectives?
Today in a Lagos state school we have a lot of motivational speakers who come on a weekly basis, apart from teachers and principals educating them on setting goals, having a vision, ex-students also come to motivate them by sharing their experience. Parents also have a lot to do but most of the parents are not forthcoming, they don’t monitor their children and they support their children with assignments or projects.
From this interview, it is clear that there needs to be a coordinated, multifaceted approach to create a working, proactive, educational architecture. The roles played by the government, the teachers, the parents and the students themselves are vital and must be harnessed to give the Nigerian child the best education possible.
Interview by: Seyi Jeje