I write this article with no bias for any ethnic or religious sentiment. This article is meant to purely state the facts as seen on a daily basis in the course of discharging my duties as a corps member posted to serve in Funtual local government area of Katsina state.
This article is therefore meant to be an eye-opener and solution provider to the myriads of problems the state currently experiences in the delivery of qualitative education to its citizenry.
Education (as we all know) plays a vital role in the development and progress of any nation. The level of growth of any nation therefore can be linked to the quality of education it provides its citizenry. It is no longer news that the northern part of Nigeria lags behind in education when compared to the southern part. There’s apathy for western education in the north as the preference for Islamic education is greater and seen as supreme – I have no problem with this neither do I voice any opposition to this fact. However, my major concern is the poor (very poor) quality/standard of education that is being delivered to the students that attend the public schools established by the government.
Yes, the government is trying to ensure children are enrolled in school by providing free education to them to stimulate their interest in western education. The government has also been working, building classrooms to accommodate students who come to these schools. However, the government still has a lot to do in ensuring the quality of education being delivered is standardized and not mediocre. From my own personal observations coupled with observations by other corps members serving within the local government (and within the state), the following are some of the major problems hindering qualitative education service delivery.
In the school where I currently teach, the average number of students in a class is 110. Some classes even have about 130 students in the class. This population is just too much for one single teacher to handle and also ensure proper delivery and coordination. I have no background in the education sector but with what I have seen down in the south, the number of students in a class should be between 35-50 in order to ensure proper coordination and monitoring.
In most of these classes, four students seat on a single chair with one or two of them having to write with his book placed on his lap. This is very worrisome as these students do not find it comfortable writing at all.
Poor attitude by teachers
Without teachers, there would be no school as they are the ones who transfer knowledge. One thing I have personally noticed and confirmed from other serving corps members is that most of the teachers in these schools are very lazy. They don’t come to school to time, have a lackadaisical attitude to their work, sometimes don’t go to classes when they have classes, sometimes leave school before official closing hours, etc.
This attitude is so appalling that they see nothing wrong in it. Some corps members because of the attitude of most of these teachers (though not justified) don’t put in their best because according to them, ‘if the full time teachers are not committed to their job, why should they who are just corps members commit themselves to teaching?’ Some of the teachers just believe since they will eventually be paid at the end of the month, they can behave anyhow without anyone calling their bluff.
I have personally observed that some students don’t do more that 3-5 subjects in day when they are supposed to have 8 subjects as some of the teachers don’t go to their classes or are completely absent from school. Most of these students therefore just come to school and go back home without with little or nothing added to their knowledge. Do you therefore expect these children to be enthusiastic about acquiring education? NO!
This lazy attitude has to change or else qualitative education service delivery will never be witnessed. Some of these teachers have their wards enrolled in private schools because they know that the public schools are nothing to write home about – a rot they also constantly contribute to.
Some of the teachers are incompetent as they cannot transfer knowledge to these students. Some of them don’t even know the subject they teach as they just go to the classes, write notes and explain the little they can. When you see a teacher who really knows what he teaches, you will know from the way he teaches the class and also carries his students along. It is not surprising that some students in JSS 3 don’t know how to solve a simple equation in mathematics (and these were students that were preparing for their Junior Secondary Certificate Examination). Yes, some of the students might have individual challenges but in a case where you have about 95% of the class not being able to provide answer to a simple mathematical equation, it means something is definitely wrong. Some students cannot even write one simple sentence in English. No wonder there was cheating during the last Junior Secondary Certificate Examination in my school. One of the invigilators (who is a teacher in the school) brought the ICT/Computer Studies question to me and asked that I help them to answer the questions – I simply told him I don’t do things like that and would not answer the questions. He left when he saw I was not going to do what he requested of me.
I am not saying this to witch-hunt anyone or jeopardize someone else’s future – No! I am simply stating the facts as I have personally seen them and to let the appropriate authorities know that there is a great rot in education service delivery here in the north.
For us teaching in secondary schools, it is very easy to differentiate students who attended private primary schools from their colleagues who attended public primary schools. These students who had their background in the private primary schools can speak better, comprehend better, have the desire to learn and are generally more morally grounded than their public primary school counterparts. It therefore means that the students who attended public primary schools before coming to the secondary schools were taught little or nothing as majority of them can barely string correct sentences together or even speak correctly. To make matters worse, some of them are made prefects yet they cannot speak a single sentence of English. They will tell you, ‘ba turenci’ meaning ‘no English’ i.e. they cannot speak English.
The number of permanent teachers we presently have in our school is few compared to the number of students. Anytime a particular batch of corps members pass out, there will definitely be a shortfall as there will inadequate manpower to teach the students. For example, during the last concluded third term, a fellow corps member had to mark the scripts of about 13-14 classes – take into account also the number of students in these classes and you will discover the enormous volume of work he had to cope with.
If there was nothing like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), I wonder how these schools would run. I can say boldly that it is the corps members that make most of these government owned schools run properly. More qualified teachers are needed to beef up the manpower already on ground to ensure qualitative education service delivery. Some subjects don’t even have teachers at all therefore students that are supposed to learn these subjects are denied the opportunity of learning them. This is another source of grave concern.
Below are some of the solutions I proffer in order to curb the degrading menace and rot in the delivery of qualitative education in Katsina state.
To ensure effective compliance with standardized education, the education authorities have to properly implement and coordinate checks and balances that will monitor and evaluate the performances of teachers in each school. The education authorities must ensure strict compliance with its directives by periodically visiting schools (both announced and unannounced) within their jurisdiction to supervise teachers and evaluate their performances. This will go a long way to help instill discipline, punctuality and improved attitude to work.
Punctuality should also be taken very serious, there should be a rule of no work, no pay or better still, deductions should be made from the salary of teachers if they come late to work. This will deter perennial/habitual late comers from this unwholesome attitude since they know their take home pay will be drastically reduced once they come late.
The education authorities should also devise a means that will help them ascertain if a teacher attended all the classes he was supposed to attend for that particular month. If such teacher errs, deductions should be made from his/her salary and a query letter issued to further instill discipline.
Massive recruitment of competent manpower
As earlier stated, the lack of competent teachers has remained a clog in the wheel of qualitative education service delivery here in Katsina state. The government has to embark on a massive recruitment drive that will ensure only competent teachers are employed – not certificate based alone but practical evidence of what the certificate holders claim to have should be tested via a demo class interview. This interview should be conducted by thorough professionals in the education sector and not by people who know next to nothing about qualitative education but just occupy sensitive positions in the sector due to political or religious affiliations. Sentiments should also not be attached to this recruitment drive – the cap should be worn by whoever it fits. Family ties, religious or ethnic considerations and political affiliations if factored into this massive recruitment drive will make it irrelevant and thus defeat the purpose for which it is set up for. Teachers should be appointed based on merit and nothing else. Teachers recommended by people in the upper echelon of power should be made to go through the same rigorous recruitment process like any other person and not be employed simply because they were recommended by one important person or the other.
Recruiting teachers based on merit alone and not by any other means will help to lay a solid and long lasting foundation that is important for qualitative education service delivery.
Construction of more schools
The government is trying hard to ensure children have access to basic education by constructing schools. However, more still needs to be built quickly. This is to combat the problem of over population in schools as a lot of these schools are simply overflowing with students.
The government should place a ceiling on the number of students that should be in a class and also ensure strict compliance. I personally suggest that the maximum number of students that should be in a class be 40. This will help in effective class coordination and monitoring.
Periodic teachers self-improvement trainings/workshops
Knowledge increases every day, therefore there is the urgent need to be in conformity with global trends as it concerns qualitative education service delivery. Periodic workshops, seminars and training courses should be organized and made compulsory for teachers to attend in order to make them current and also improve their capacity.
This will ensure improved performance in the discharge of their primary responsibilities as teachers. Periodic awards should also be given to teachers who excel in their duties.
Periodic Academic Inter School Competitions
Academic competitions should be organized between schools to stir up academic excellence as teachers will want to go the extra mile to ensure their students come out tops while the students will also put in extra effort to learning to be the best. These competitions should be done at the local government, zonal and state levels.
Doing this will help to foster academic excellence, promote knowledge sharing and healthy academic rivalry amongst schools. This will go a long way to improve the standard of education within the state.
Scholarship to outstanding students
In order to motivate parents to take education seriously, deserving students who excel academically should be awarded scholarships from secondary school level up to the tertiary level. This scholarship should be on a yearly basis and only renewed on the basis of performance thus keeping the students on their toes all the time.
This will ensure they perform optimally at all times and thus become good at whatever field they choose to major in.
Periodic school-parents workshop
In a bid to further drive home the importance of education and the need for parents to encourage their wards at all times, periodic school-parents seminar/workshop should be held. This will help to intimate the parents of the innumerable benefits of supporting and assisting their wards in acquiring qualitative education.
In these fora, the school should also make the parents know the various scholarships/awards that are available for deserving students. I believe this will spur so many parents into embracing education and also encouraging their wards likewise to put in their best to enable them become beneficiaries of scholarships or recipients of awards for academic excellence.
The way forward
As a youth who desires the best for his nation not minding the multitude problems she currently is experiencing, I believe that the apathy towards education by majority of Katsina state citizenry can be corrected if they begin to see improved education service delivery.
The north can compete with the south (though not immediately) education wise if the above proffered solutions are implemented with all sincerity, openness and truthfulness with no bias for religious, ethnic and person-know-person sentiments.
Let square pegs be put in square holes and round pegs in round holes.
This is my humble contribution as a presently serving corps member in Katsina State. I love the children/youths in this state and see them as potential stars that can industrialize the entire state and make it compete favourably in the nearest future with her southern counterparts in all ramifications.
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