Concerned about the downturn in the quality of basic education available to Nigeria’s children, which has resulted in our having about 13.2 million out-of-school children, a UK-based not-for-profit organization, Raising Champion Children Initiative (RCCI), under the leadership of its erudite Educationist and Executive Director, Mrs. Bose Agbesanwa, recently engaged stakeholders in the education sector at a roundtable conference with a view to finding solutions to the multiple problems confronting the sector. This has become imperative in order to lay the right foundation for our children and also meet up with international standard, especially now that the world has gone global.
The roundtable dialogue was put together by Raising Champion Children Initiative (RCCI) in conjunction with Women Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) and Out- of-School-Children Empowerment Foundation (OSCEF). Held at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry building (LCCI), Alausa, Ikeja, the conference brought together actors/players in the Education sector such as SUBEB; head teachers of private primary as well as public primary schools, politicians, policy-makers, educators, parents and other stakeholders to examine the topic- “Grading Nigeria’s Progress in Basic Education.”
Speaking from her twenty-five years wealth of experience as an educationist in the United Kingdom, the Convener, Mrs. Agbesanwa berated the fact that “basic education is lost in Nigeria’s plot and warned that until we commit to setting things right and laying a good foundation in this area, there is no way we can progress.”
“The purpose of the dialogue is to identify the problems that led us to where we are at the moment as far as primary education is concerned and to discuss how the quality of education can be improved in Nigeria”, she said.
In her welcome address, Agbesanwa noted that “Raising Champion Children Initiative (RCCI) is a non-profit organisation committed to supporting and improving lives of less privileged children, their families and communities by empowering them through quality relevant education, innovative healthcare and entrepreneurial skills.”
She assured that “RCCI Nigeria, which is an affiliate of RCCI UK, will work with government, private sector, voluntary organizations and most importantly NGO partners to raise the standard of teaching and learning in public schools. The initiative will train teachers to provide high quality education targeted at developing the potentials and talents of learners, improving the learning environment by providing basic amenities and empowering families to become employable and independent earners.
Keynote speaker at the event, Mrs. Shade Adefisayo, a renowned education expert, who was ably represented by Mr. Johnson Abbaly stressed the need to raise children for a functional future, adding that “Education is the strategic tool to empower our children for that kind of future.”
Speaking on the topic- “Basic Education in Nigeria: Where We Are at the Moment”, Adefisayo identified ten thematic pillars that must be given utmost attention in order to nurture our children for a viable future. These include: “1.Access/Equity 2. Enrollment and Transition 3. Learning Outcomes and Transition 4. Teacher Capacity and Quality 5. Infrastructure Adequacy 6. Technology in Education 7. Health, Well-being and Quality of Care 8. Societal Support Environment 9. Funding Adequacy 10. School Security and Safety.”
Participants at the roundtable dialogue also identified some of the thorny issues that have contributed to the deplorable state of our basic education in Nigeria.
According to Hon. Bakare Amos, “Parents today believe it is the responsibility of teachers to train their children. Meanwhile our teachers have also lost it as many of today’s teachers are products of necessity because they are not trained as professional teachers. Many of those that are in the field of teaching today stumbled into teaching out of joblessness and frustration.”
Corroborating this, Hon. Coker explained that many teachers today are not committed to their job because the salary scale is poor and hardly sufficient to meet their numerous needs.
“Even Inspectors that should monitor and regulate things are corrupt. They cover up for illegal operations in private schools. They are not concerned about the development of the children but after making money”, he said, adding that “those in government do not also help matters as they send their children to schools abroad but fail to commit to good quality education back home.”
Another problem brought to the table by one of the head-teachers, Mrs. Funlola Babalola-Lawore is the inability of policy makers to adhere to policies that they make. She argued that “oftentimes when they come for monitoring and evaluation, they always want monetary gratification; hence they close their eyes to holistic inspection to set things straight. And once they know you are forthright and willing to do what is right, they blacklist you.”
Lawore further blamed school owners for the lack of commitment of teachers. She explained; “The reason many teachers are not passionate is because school owners are looking for cheap labour; hence they employ teachers that are not qualified or trained to teach.”
She chided parents for leaving parenting to schools; arguing that they take a lot of things for granted in their bid to make money.
“The strong support system that we used to have in time past is no longer available. Grandma that used to be readily available to help mothers nurture and train the children are no longer there. Everybody is now running after money and the good things of life”, said Lawore.
In charting the way forward and proffering solution, Hon. Bakare Amos, who also doubled as representative of Hon. Dr. Bashiru Dawodu, Hon. Member of House of Representative, Oshodi-Isolo Constituency 1 and SUBEB Representative – Member of Parents/Teachers’ Association (PTA), drew attention to the fundamental goals established by the late Minister of Education, Professor Babatunde Fafunwa, who stressed that a holistic education should focus on “Physical training of our pupils, Respect for elders and peers, Vocational training – agriculture, trade, craft, Community participation, Promotion of cultural heritage.”
Director, Technical and Vocational Services, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board, Engineer Olaolu Ogunniyi urged parents to go back to the drawing board and help their children change the wrong practices that they have been imbibed over time.
“Our children have imbibed lots of negative orientation, which must be changed. Attitude is everything. We must guide them to embrace good moral values. We must help them through both formal and informal education”, said Ogunniyi.
In the words of Mrs. Lara Erogbogbo, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board, “Our challenge in the education sector today is that seasoned teachers are leaving the schools for lack of incentives and capacity building”. She therefore urged government and other stakeholders to invest in capacity building and better remuneration, even as she charged parents to think outside the box and encourage their wards to give quality attention to acquiring technical and vocational skills.
“We need to think outside the box, be innovative and creative. Parents should have a paradigm shift about vocational training; it is not meant for failures and drop outs. We should encourage our youth to engage in vocational training”.
In addition, Hon. Bakare Amos said, “We should orientate our parents on the blueprints for proper parenting. It all starts from the home. PTA meeting should not be focused on payment of school fees; it should be more about nurturing the pupils in the right path”.
“Government should also invest in technical schools while parents and teachers should encourage proper discipline in schools and in the homes. We need a lot of advocacy program to sanitize stakeholders on this and other matters that affect child training and education, both at home and school”, urged Amos.