Community In Focus: Is This Free or Cheap Education?
By David Lawal
Have you ever imagined a scenario where pupils of primary schools pay teachers’ salary? That is the situation in a yet-to-be-approved Government Primary School in Ijoko, Ogun State. It is usually interesting to hear government officials say that education is free in Nigeria, especially at the primary level.
For several reasons ranging from Community Development Association’s (CDA) inability to further maintain facilities (rented building and provision of Chairs and textbooks in some cases) and to manage both teachers’ and pupils’ needs, to their inability to erect a structure suitable for government approval, the school in question has changed locations for about four times.
What now poses as St. Saviour Primary School Olayemi Annex, Oluke Tuntun, Ijoko, Ogun State, used to be United Community Primary School, established in 2005 by the collective effort of the members of Olorundusin (Fadunsin) CDA, area of Ijoko. However, the farther the school goes the more or less accessible it became for some pupils, and some hopes to attend primary school were dashed. At Basic (Primary) 6, the pupils are merged with an approved school for placement into Basic 7 (Junior Secondary School 1) at the nearest Government Secondary School.
Government at all levels call it Free Education but Pupils of St. Saviour Primary School, Olayemi pay #600 while their colleagues in the yet-to-be approved annex pay #1600 per term. This is because at the yet-to-be approved annex, pupils pay #500 for teachers’ salary and #500 for school building. The other #600 supposedly paid to government, is #300 for maintenance and #300 for insurance from government. This is obviously not peculiar to St Saviour, it seems to be the culture in Ogun State. This sort should best be described as cheap and not free education.
For new intakes in an unapproved school like St. Saviour Annex, the story is slightly different. They pay #2200. This is the regular levy of #1600 plus #100 for chair and #500 for government approval of the school. Only God knows how long this payment for approval will last before providence comes their way. The said #600 supposedly paid to government was per session since its introduction until early this year (2014) when pupils now pay every term, which now amounts to #1800 per academic session in an approved school and #4800 for the yet-to-be approved school pupils. Maybe the cost of insuring and maintaining these pupils has increased.
Meanwhile, the curriculum at primary school level is expected to provide a permanent literacy for children from ages 3 and 5, including pre-primary. It also extends to the laying of a sound basis for scientific, critical and reflective thinking inclusive of equipping children with the core life skills to function effectively in the society. It could not have been otherwise, that is what makes it a primary education to human existence anyway. St. Saviour Oluke annex has tried to do just that for about 9 solid years now. This poor to-be-public primary school, in its unapproved form, has continued to produce primary school graduates, laying a questionable foundation.
After so much effort, the school now has a structure of four classrooms, which is one of government’s requirements to approve a school as fit to offer public primary education. Just as the Basic 6 pupils occupy a classroom that also doubles as office due to the inadequacy of classrooms, the pupils of Basic 1 also occupy a classroom out of the four classrooms available. On the contrary, Basic 2 and 3 share one classroom, while pupils of Basic 4 and 5 also share a classroom. All these are efforts of the children of the masses to acquire education by all means.
At this juncture, it seems pertinent for government to want to revive public primary education in Nigeria. If it would remain free as claimed, it does not have to be with bad structures and ill administrative system. Students of public schools also deserve some dignity and sense of satisfaction for attending government schools like most of those on the corridor of power. It is expected that whatever government does should be at its best. Many Nigerians, home and abroad have lost hope in government, yet there are few who believe that government can and would attend to the very needs of the citizenry.
Thus, schools should be often rehabilitated and equipped with up to date facilities including white board markers and library, as well as man-power to mention but few. In the light of that, fresh graduates could be employed into classrooms to both reduce unemployment and rescue government schools. Most of these graduates after National Youth Service often end teaching in private schools with a stipend in the name of salary. These, undoubtedly will help reposition primary education again in Nigeria.
As vital as it is to equip and manage schools, it is even more important for government to build enough schools across every settlement to overcome the risk of overpopulated few available schools and or the risks of pupils travelling more than 3 kilometres to school. More so, one of the supposed reasons why private schools seem to do much better is because teachers do not attend to too many students which may bring about a hostile teachers-students relationship. One teacher to 20-25 students is not bad. Also important is the need for reorientation of teachers about their relationships with students.
On the whole, rewards and certificates of recognitions or of honours often boost worker’s will-power to do more at work. Teachers should not be left out of such appropriate motivations and reward for extra efforts to improve the learning of pupils. Education is light as knowledge is power. In the voices of the children of Nigerian masses, government should do the needful to boost the ego and will-power of teachers to improve education. Well, not just the government, private organizations should also step up and adopt more schools for revamp. We need a strong collaboration to revive Nigeria’s education. This is a matter of urgency.