It is not news that a lot of things have fallen apart in Nigeria but this has been the situation for a long time. Worse is the nonchalance, blind eye and indifference given to the problems we have or might I say the attitude of “resilience” which is a common word used to describe the Nigerian spirit. As much as this has been used as a compliment, in actual sense, it is not. We have been taught to tolerate and accept things the way they are irrespective of how pitiful and destructive a situation is.
For the next month or so I will be writing weekly on the glaring problems in the Nigerian education sector focusing on public schools drawing from my yearlong research in a public secondary school and my personal experience attending a federal government college. Why I am doing this? My motivation is simple- I am Nigerian and because of this I just cannot remain silent. I tried to be silent for a few months but I cannot any longer. I should also add that what I will be sharing will not be “new news” to many Nigerians who must have had similar school or work experience in the Nigerian educational sector and this essentially is the problem. Thus, what I intend to do with this series is to raise the awareness that it is time to stop actively or passively normalising unacceptable circumstances and a faulty system -accepting things the way they are. This attitude of “it’s not my business and I won’t do anything about it unless it personally affects me” is what has helped to keep Nigeria where she is today. Therefore, the first thing to do is to recognise and admit that a problem is indeed a problem before it spirals out of control.
School enrollment at all levels in Nigeria has tremendously increased in the wake of global education explosion despite the fact that statistics still show that a lot of children in the country are out of school coupled with unequal education expansion recorded across the regions in Nigeria. But as I have stated elsewhere, you can read here and here, I am not too excited about policies or programmes geared towards putting children in school as much as I am concerned about what actually goes on inside the schools-is education in Nigeria even relevant to the populace to begin with? Do we have qualified teachers and are they even motivated enough to teach based on the fact that they are paid so little and irregularly? Have we taken a look at classrooms and dilapidated structures in many public schools? Or hostels where students sleep on bare sandy floors? Or toilets filled to the brim with faeces? Or tasteless and unsafe food served in school dining halls Or senior secondary school students who cannot spell simple English words or think critically? What kind of education are we then talking about?
The focus on public secondary schools in this series is very deliberate as it reflects the true state of the education system and is more accessible to a larger percentage of the Nigerian population. Clearly, things are very different in private schools with world-class facilities but certainly out of reach to the average Nigerian who cannot afford to attend such schools.
I strongly believe that we do not need another national education conference or need to formulate elaborate education policies. This is because the problems in the sector although in need of critical analysis and sustainable solutions, are not far-fetched and have remained constant for decades. In fact, several papers and books on the state of the Nigerian education system since the 1970s have recycled and reiterated the exact same problems the sector is currently faced with today. A walk into any public school in the country will provide enough information on the problems that need urgent attention.
On this note, if you have any suggestions on what can be done about some of the issues raised above, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so this does not become yet another problem identification series without any tangible recommendations on how these problems can be effectively addressed. I know that with the way things work in the country and numerous policy documents that are never implemented, it is easy to wonder if this is a productive exercise and if your suggestions will make any difference. My answer lies in this quote by Elie Wiesel:
The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, its indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, its indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, its indifference.