The sharp decline in standard and quality of education has continued to be a topic of national discuss since a couple of years, with academicians, educationists and other stakeholders proffering several different solutions to this issue which has caused a great deal of embarrassment and sleeplessness to administrators of education both at the states and national levels, even with little or nothing being done to take a look at the very foundation which is the primary schools. The near comatose in the education sector, especially in public schools, due to lack of adequate funding and the neglect of the welfare of teachers by government at various levels resulted in the preference for privately owned schools across the nation. Parents and guardians were left with no other choice than to withdraw their children and wards from the “ailing” public primary schools into private nursery/primary schools.
Not even the exorbitant fees charged by the private schools have been able to deter parents and guardians from enlisting their children and wards, as they seem to be fully prepared to bear the huge costs just to ensure sound and quality education for their young ones. The rich in the society goes as far as sending their kids to schools outside the country because they had lost confidence in the Nigerian educational system. The rush and crave by parents to get their kids enrolled into privately owned schools which they believe is much better than the government owned eventually led to an overstretching of the few available private schools at the time. Establishment of more private schools became inevitable and necessary, this led to more business owners and individuals setting up schools, whether they knew or have what it really takes to establish and operate such schools or not.
A carefully conducted survey and inquiries within Ilorin metropolis has revealed the pathetic state and unfortunate conditions that pupils are exposed to daily, all because some persons who shouldn't have a business owning private schools were being licensed to operate nursery/primary schools, probably because some people at the ministry of education has refused to do their job or have been bribed to acquire such license. There are laid down rules, criterion and conditions that prospective school owners are supposed to meet before they can be licensed to operate. These includes; availability of play facilities for pupils, safety of the proposed school building and its environs, adequate space and classrooms in order to present overcrowding, first aid health facilities, capacity to employ rightly qualified teachers, availability of adequate teaching aides among others.
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More than 70 percent of nursery/primary schools visited was housed by rented uncompleted-building whose surroundings cannot be described as healthy enough for the young ones. Apart from the fact that some of these schools were either located close to a refuse-dump site, beer parlor, public toilet or market place, majority of them do not have a play facilities for pupils. Hence, pupils are left to roam the street and play around during break periods without supervision. Of the 16 private nursery/primary schools visited within Ilorin, only two of them had a first-aid kit, which is needed to tend to pupils in case of minor injury. Transportation arrangements of many of the private nursery/primary schools are an absolute display of insanity and an abuse of human dignity, as pupils are often crated and packed in such poorly ventilated and tattered school buses as if they are stocked fishes.
The quality and qualification of teachers in many of the private schools calls for worry and concern, as majority of teachers employed by school owners are usually far less qualified for the job. Even though the minimum qualification for teachers in primary school level is holders of National Certificate of Education (NCE), school owners usually cut corners, by employing NCE holders as the Head teacher while the rest of the teaching staff are always holders of SSCE/WAEC, whom they can easily pay a token of between N5000 and N7000, in their desperate bid to maximize profit. Some of these teachers can’t even express themselves in simple English language. Head teachers of majority of the so called “international” nursery/primary schools visited do not even know what teaching-aide is all about; the funny part is that all of these schools were actually government approved and licensed by the department of education!
If the basis and supposed foundation of education can be so bastardized, neglected and handled with utmost levity, then the whole efforts at restoring the lost glory of education in Kwara state and Nigeria in general would be an exercise in futility and “dead-on-arrival”. The universal basic education programs at the states have been reduced to conduit-pipes through which the resources of government is being looted and siphoned by political and administrative officials. We keep lamenting about the low and abysmal performance of our students in NECO, WAEC and UTME, yet the foundation of basic education have been allowed to rot due to corruption, indiscipline and administrative recklessness.
As is the case presently, majority of private nursery/primary schools aren't any better than the public ones, this is because some persons seats in their offices at the ministries of education and approve license to individuals to operate schools without making sure that standard conditions are adequately adhered to. There is need for officials of the ministries of education to put measures in place to continually send out inspection teams to access and evaluate the conditions and viability of private nursery/primary schools with the aim of ensuring that rules and regulations, best practice and quality is maintained, if Nigeria’s crave to restore the glory days of education is to come to fruition.
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