Amid growing dissatisfaction with the quality of teaching in most Nigerian schools today, among other reasons, can parents explore the possibility of teaching their children at home? NAZA OKOLI writes.
Mrs Chinyere Okwu is a bead-maker who lives at Egbe (Ikotun) in Lagos. She holds a National Certificate in Education (NCE) from Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe, Anambra State. But since her graduation nearly 10 years ago, she has never done any teaching, nor used the certificate to seek any employment. Her bead-making business has been slow; her husband who trades in motor parts at Mushin is even worse off.
When, therefore, only two weeks into the recently concluded school term her three children were sent home from their school (a primary school just across their street) because they had not paid their fees, Mrs Okwu decided to keep them at home and teach them herself.
“My twins are seven years old; they are in Primary II,” Okwu who declined to be photographed, said. “Their younger sister is four years old; she is in nursery school.”
Showing some of the posters she had prepared and put on her wall, she said she had been able to teach them a lot more than she had imagined.
“They are my children; I know them more than their teachers. Even when they were in school, they would bring their assignments to me and we always did them together. In fact, sometimes it looked as if I did all the assignments myself. What they are asked to do is always too difficult for them to do by themselves, which means that they did not teach them those things. I have their textbooks here. So I know what they are supposed to be learning, and I teach them those things gradually, and they are learning fast.”
Okwu, however, said the homeschooling was not intended to continue indefinitely.
“I work from home,” she said. “I make my beads here. But because these children are here, I haven’t been doing a lot of work. There is a new school close to Hostel Bus Stop. I know the owner of the school, and their fees are very affordable. They will start there next term. God will provide.”
At one’s own pace
One of the most notable advantages of homeschooling, experts say, is its flexibility. Effectively, the student is able to control most of the factors surrounding the learning process, including timetable, vacation period, number of hours for each course, and, even more essentially, the choice of teacher.
The dean of the School of Education of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Ibrahim Salawu, who is a specialist in online and distance learning (ODL), however, said while homeschooling is a “good development,” it cannot adequately cater to all the educational needs of a child.
“Well, I think it is a good development,” he told Nigerian Tribune. “It is a means by which more access can be given to individuals who are interested in schooling.
“The only area of concern, of course, is that by the time we consider the total education of a child, we talk of three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. If a child is brought up only by his or her parents, the possibility of mixing the affective aspects of her training will not be there, because he won’t be able to mix with other children. A child cannot get all the training he needs in life from his home. He needs to interact.
“However, it cannot be ruled out that we have already started practising it. In most homes, especially those of the elite, you notice that they hire the services of home teachers who come to their various homes to teach their children. Some have even gone to the extent of hiring six or seven or eight teachers to take care of all the subjects.
“So, it is not something that is completely new. It may not be known to us by the nomenclature, but it is not completely strange. What is, however, common here is that pupils would go to school, come back in the evening, and be attended to by home teachers, or arrangements are made so that at weekends, home teachers would come, one after the other, to teach the children; and that is an opportunity given to the children to either complement, supplement or augment whatever their teachers must have taught them in school.”
If a major purpose of education is to obtain a certificate which would enable the holder to secure profitable employment, what are the chances that a child who did not attend any school would be eligible to sit the necessary qualifying public examinations?
The Acting Public Affairs Officer of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Nigeria, Mr Demianus Ojijeogu, told Nigerian Tribune that the November/December West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) is designed for “private candidates”.
“Yes, WAEC can issue a certificate to a person who hasn’t gone to any school provided the person registered for the WASSCE for Private Candidates,” he said.
Also speaking, the National Secretary of All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPPS), Mr Amos Adekunle Aladeseye, said while there may be no problem at the SSCE level (because of the private-candidate alternative), many public secondary schools would not admit pupils without primary school certificates.
“For the primary school, it would be difficult. If a child is studying at home, how would he register for these public examinations? You know Primary VI entrance exam is a public examination. So also are SSCE exams by WAEC, NECO, NABTEB (National Board for Technical Education), and so on. It is just the secondary school that there is an opportunity, with the private candidates’ examinations.
“Well, nobody is preventing anybody from learning entirely at home. You can have your private teachers. You can work in the morning and afternoon, and receive lessons in the evening. It is done outside the country, and so it can be done here. I am a product of that kind of learning, in fact. I received examination by correspondence and I went to Form IV after then, and finished at Form V. that means I spent only two years.
“Today, I am the National Secretary of ANCOPPS, and I have a Master’s degree. So, I think it should be encouraged. Not everybody would have the opportunity to attend conventional schools.”
According to a survey, “about 3 per cent of all children in the US were homeschooled in the 2011 and 2012 school year”, up from about 1.7 recorded in 1999.
Even though it is unclear whether any such surveys have been conducted in Nigeria, many say there is a growing interest in this form of learning among Nigerian parents.
Some might argue that if more and more people should opt to learn at home, teachers in conventional schools would begin to lose their jobs.
Aladeseye disagrees. “No; even right now, how many teachers do we have in school? The government is not employing. The labour market is saturated right now. So, if anything, it would even help to create more job opportunities for qualified teachers who are unemployed,” he said.
A major drawback, it would seem, is the financial burden; for, even where a parent possesses both the qualification and the willingness to teach their child on a full-time basis, their own work and source of income would suffer significantly in the process.
Considered in this manner, it is likely that it would continue to be seen as a preserve of the rich for yet a longer time, particularly in Nigeria. As it happens, such influential parents are also able to provide an environment that would also help their children develop socially – with participation in sporting activities, local clubs, music training, and travels.