On elementary education in Nigeria

THERE are different levels of education in Nigeria, but none has been able to deliver the goods. From pre-primary to primary school, and from secondary school to the tertiary level where we have monotechnics, polytechnics, colleges of education and universities, the story has been the same: Nigeria’s education sector needs serious overhauling. It is disturbing that many graduates of Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning have been described as unemployable given their consistently poor performance during interviews, including their poor English language skills. In this piece, though, I am concerned with the foundational level of education. To say the very least, I am lost, confounded by the many anomalies in Nigeria’s infant education in 21st century, our computer age. Our kids are still learning ‘A for Apple’ and ‘States and Capitals” in schools. They are still learning numbers with all seriousness. The teachers are still teaching them Roman figures. Our kids are still learning spellings and grammatical  correctness with all seriousness rather than societal values. What value will spellings and grammar exercises add to our society? Many kids are still memorizing Bible and Quranic verses in secular school in Nigeria. They still memorise poems of the 1st world war. In a typical Brazilian infant school, the kids are made to sit on a comfortable floor mat  where they are taught organisation, neatness, talent discovery, music, design and construction, among others. This, in my view, is far better than what obtains in Nigeria as it enables the kids to learn to relate better with their environment.

When I asked why they sat on floor mats, I was told that they were still very small; that they might fall down sitting on the chair or they might be wounded with wooden or plastic chairs. In the Brazilian set up, every sharp or hard object is kept away from the children. I remember that I used wood chalk slate and sat on a wooden chair when I was their age in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. These kids pick the sense of neatness and organisation from infancy. They read cartoon books. They are not made to memorise anything apart from making them to enjoy singing and dancing. They couldn’t read letters of the alphabets at the age neither could they write their own names until their post infant class.

Basically, all they learn is about their communities and country. Their teachers do not teach them fantasies. That is why an average Brazilian kid loves his or her country and their country’s flag more than anything else. Their country motto is ordem e progresso which means orderliness and progress. In Nigeria, we teach our kids about the fantasies in America and London, such that the dream of any Nigerian kid is to live and study in America and London. Do you know why our environment is so dirty? Visit our elementary, secondary and tertiary schools. Ordinary classroom neatness our students and teachers could not maintain.

We lack a sense of organisation. We only learn and teach to impress. We do not learn do develop ourselves and country. Nigeria’s educational curriculum does not have Nigeria and Nigerians in mind. It is a curriculum of fantasies, imitations and impressions. If we don’t change our elementary education, Nigeria can never develop. There is no waste bin in any Nigeria school. Even in our universities, you can hardly find waste bins or public open toilets. In the elementary schools, the teachers ask pupils to pick wastes with their hands and they set fire to the waste right on the school premises. First, picking waste with bare hands is dangerous for the innocent pupils. Second, setting waste on fire in the school premises could harm the pupils by polluting their lungs, thereby making them sick. Things have to change.

  • Omisakin, a cultural researcher and traditionalist, writes in from Ile-Ife, Osun State.

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