When it comes to primary education everyone has taken leave of his 9th sense. The parents are happy to ‘abandon’ their wards in public schools because they are essentially a nuisance when left at home. The pupils are happy to go to school because it is an ‘outing’ of some sort where they get to sing in class and play for long hours. The teachers are happy because the pupils are a large ‘market’ of some sort. Almost every teacher brings something for sale to school to be bought by the pupils or ‘exploit’ them or the system in another way.
The Education Administrators are happy because they have a chart that says they are meeting their enrollment target, especially for gender equity. The government is happy because it is ‘seen’ to be addressing the ‘problem’ in terms of school renovation, reconstruction and rehabilitation and, in the process, creating a ‘few good men’. So, everyone ‘wins’.
But what is the result of all these? A messy and muddy situation that is bad for all. Things must change – and radically too. One way to do this, in my view, is for the government to build new or convert an existing school into ‘model’ primary schools in all the 34 local government headquarters. These schools should charge moderate fees – possibly N3,500 per term. Parents whose pupils’ education is a PRIORITY could choose to send their wards to the model schools. A facility management committee, consisting of parents, NGOs and other stakeholders, should be set up to act as the school’s board. The parents should chair this committee.
The government should then create a grading system for schools with the model schools graded as ‘A’ and the rest graded B, C, D, E & F according to clear performance criteria including facilities. Each of these represent a choice for parents in terms of quality and affordability. Heads of schools and teachers should be rewarded according to the grade of their schools. Schools should compete in a ‘tough accreditation system’ to move up in grade. Schools could also be ‘demoted’ to a lower grade if they fail to meet the accreditation criteria. There should be a clear system of incentives for schools to ‘motivate’ them to move to the next grade. It then becomes a shared responsibility for and indeed up to the parents and teachers to move ‘their school’ to the next grade.
This may be a tough choice for many parents and for a government seeking votes. But there has to be a time to look at parents in the eye and ‘tell’ them “you cannot just deliver children and expect someone to educate them – it is your responsibility and you MUST take it” – even at the cost of losing an election. The pupil, if not the parents, will, someday, bless your soul.
A daina gudu ana susar….. 🙈