Published on February 17th, 2011 | by Olumide1
Is the Future in Trouble?
“What subject are you supposed to have now?”
The student looked at me with a blank and irritating expression and then sat down. As you would expect, I was livid.
“I said; what subject are you supposed to have now?” I repeated with some vehemence. I felt like punching this boy who seemed determined not to answer me. Again, he regarded me with that blank expression and then lowerd his head. Finally, he replied. In two words. His name!
Finally it clicked (and made me feel like crying). This SS2 student did not understand English! He was not a transfer student, had been attending school all his life in an atmosphere where the language of instruction was supposedly English and would now be about 18 years old and yet he did not understand English! Guess what? As I later realized, very few people in that SS2 class (and by extension, the whole school) could actually communicate in English. Till now, I’ve not met any student who speaks it flawlessly.
If you are not in Nigeria, you may not understand the gravity of the problem. I was posted to this school to teach Agricultural Science under the National Youth Service Corp Scheme. I had such big dreams… But now I was facing reality: I was to teach a class that did not understand me! I speak Yoruba fluently, so it’s not that I can’t communicate with them. But how can they pass any exam when they don’t understand the official language of instruction? Besides the things they crammed, do they actually know anything of educational value? Most of them can’t even introduce themselves! So imagine teaching Agricultural Science for 40 minutes per period and knowing that just about 5 percent of the class actually understood you! And we blame WAEC for mass failures? From what I’ve seen, the SS3 students (the graduating set) are probably even worse.
Is it the fault of the students? Absolutely not! Did they ask to be born into a world that has no plans for them? Did they pray that their parents would not be able to afford private schools? Did they ask to be in a semi-rural area? Did they ask to be recipients of lip-service government policies that are borne out of wickedness and selfishness in the name of ‘free education’ but more like ‘mass illiteracy’? Did this students ask for that wicked governor who sacked many of their teachers and left them at the mercy of students on Teaching Practice or Youth Corpers who are there today and gone tomorrow? Did these students ask to be victims of the Nigerian Civil Service- which is synomymous with laziness, idleness and gross irresponsiblity?
Those who are destroying Nigeria’s today are also doing untold damage to her tomorrow. Let me tell you what will happen. As Pastor Sam Adeyemi once said (and I’m parapharsing), those of us who have been priviledged to attend private schools (or send our children to such) will end up as well employed, useful citizens. We will have big houses and ride nice cars. Those who are the victims of our dead and decayed public schools (such as my current students) would need a miracle not to end up as armed robbers and assassins- because they would have neither the education nor the skills to get jobs. Now, because we are neglecting them today, we will have so many of such societal miscreants in the future. The crime rate will be very high. Perhaps, the lucky few would be needing fences that are 3 times as tall as the ones in existence today just to be able to feel safe at home…
It’s no laughing matter. I have had to use up about two periods to explain to my students (in Yoruba) that they are not experiencing true education. I’ve tried to convince them (and I hope they are) that they need to re-learn everything. I intend to start free Saturday classes just to teach them basics- starting from the letters of the alphabet. Don’t laugh- I’m serious! If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Someone please tell our politicians to stop making empty promises when The Future is slowly dying. Please tell parents- at least those who can afford it- to take their children to fee-paying schools because the ‘free education’we have today is nothing but a waste of time and intellectual space. Please beg our teachers to realize that they are dealing with lives and neglect today will haunt their own children later. Please tell corporate organizations that an investment into our future in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility will eventually save their businesses from trouble. Please tell our churches that one of the key trademarks of Christianity is education. Missionaries built free schools and thus ‘caught’ their target audience young. Those Missionary schools produced many of our great people today. Yet, we’ve modified that culture. Now, churches own the most expensive schools and attract only the children of the super rich…
Finally, what are you doing about the situation? Do you contribute to the problem or are you solving it? Send a child (besides yours) to a good school. Inspire street kids by being a good model. Give awards and schorlarships. Don’t just complain. Do something!
The future we will have is being created today. Scatter your bread over the waters. In due season, you will reap- if you do not give up.
NB: I’m sure there would be some students who would be quite exceptional within the same school. Also, I must point out that I’ve met some very dedicated members of staff there. The level of discipline also seems to be very high. It’s just that when you don’t correct some problems at the foundation stage, the whole house would be weak.
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