The public school system in Nigeria is the most affordable for the citizens. After much sensitisation on the need for children to be educated, more children are flocking into schools and parents are supporting them. Economic constraints mean that a large population of primary and secondary school students have to attend public schools. Affordability is the reason for the choice, 99.9% of the time.
The influx of students notwithstanding, public schools in almost all parts of the country share common qualities. Top on the list is the monumental failure in infrastructure development. Public schools lack basic facilities to aid learning. The dwindling academic standard is not untraceable to the fact that public schools are plainly uninspiring and unattractive, both to teachers and students. Learning and teaching suffer because the environment is physically distasteful.
Teachers have to resort to primitive teaching methods most times, a disadvantage in the 21st Century, because existing infrastructure do not support the extensive deployment of teaching aids. Students are all the worse for this. They are left drained, and usually below-par. Little wonder that the average public school student ranks below his private school counterpart on major fronts. Many unable to process information intelligently, or even speak properly.
There is a lot wrong with the continuous neglect of infrastructural development. It goes beyond erecting new buildings, and new coats of paint. It is about the availability of resources that make teaching and learning easier. There is a link between the arrangement and population of a classroom, and the cognitive ability of students, particularly at primary level. When children have to learn in packed classrooms with leaking roofs, many of them will fail to learn.
The experience can be harrowing and exasperating for teachers who may find it difficult to use teaching aids. The impact of this is most often very negative on the learning process. This cannot be the outcome from public schools. For the principal provider of education to majority of the country's student population, the narrative needs to change. First, government at all levels need to invest heavily in developing infrastructure, and the use of Information Technology in schools.
This investment must not be restricted to schools in the city centre, but must extend compulsorily to rural settlements, with a supplementary supply of manpower where necessary. Some rural settlements don't even have teachers! Social entrepreneurs, NGOs, and other donors interested in better education will become more motivated to invest in public schools. The action will be more innovative than the regular "build new classrooms" projects they presently deal with.
Substantial development of public schools will not be possible without substantial increase in the budgetary allocation for education at the Federal and State Government levels. And we must make sure education funds are not misappropriated.
Communities are also encouraged to develop an affinity with schools in their vicinity. Often, our children suffer because of a general apathy towards symbols of failure, like schools falling apart.
When the society remains passive and seemingly unconcerned, we invariably nurse the feelings of rejection and unworthiness in the next generation. This will perpetuate animosity towards our country.
The actions we take today, as individuals, associations, government, to fix the rot, and give our children better learning experiences will be invaluable in the long run as we pursue a better society.
Let's fix up our schools.