The recent waves of abuse on school children on recent is getting rather alarming in the country. This weekend, the death of Obinna in Asaba, a 19months old child allegedly flogged 31 strokes for not been able to recite the alphabet and that the severe abuse of a 3-year-old at a school in Mazamaza in Lagos reflects the rot within our society and what we harbour in the quest to be “valuable” and “create value”. Lest you think it’s all about that, the killing of 5-year-old girl in Kaduna by her school proprietor for ritual purposes is more than chilling, also the death of a pupil in a secondary school in Lagos and the list goes on and on of atrocities going on within our educational system especially with minors.
So, who is to blame?
People are quick to blame the government, the easiest culprit to blame and hold responsible in all issues that affect our society. But is the government the only one here? What about the parents? The Society as a whole? And the individual? A tree does not make a forest…why would the government stand alone in this forest of atrocities against our children? How are all these elements responsible?
The Individual – “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” – Ray Kroc
What kind of a person are you? What drives you? What is your value system? Most times I am shocked when the people who point accusing fingers at the government or others fail to take responsibility for their own inactions or own up to their short fallings. Are you as an individual, comfortably inured from the wrong you commit…even the most mundane of all wrongs, but all geared up and pumping to identify the wrong of others, especially the short coming of the government? Do you believe the end justifies the means? In the words of George Elliot, “Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
The Home – “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home” – Confucius
The home is the nucleus of any society. Without the home, there is no society. According to M.K. Soni, “Home sweet home. This is the place to find happiness. If one doesn’t find it here, one doesn’t find it anywhere.”
We can infer from the above, that home is the epicentre of both good and bad depending on the circumstances of the home. According to Catherine Pulsifer, “Home is where we should feel secure and comfortable”. How many people feel secure and comfortable in their home? How many people have made their home a safe haven for their family? The good book records that a house divided against itself cannot stand…what message do we preach in our homes, what virtues do we emulate? Are we too busy to build a home, but proactive enough to build or have a house? Let’s think about it.
The Society – “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a teamwork, a company work, a society work, a civilization work”. – Vince Lombardi
We are all members of the society. We know, see, recognise, and affirm what is good, bad, and ugly in the society. But the key question is, do we exercise a collective responsibility to make our society better? John Rawls captures it best when he said, “A society regulated by a public sense of justice is inherently stable.” This justice is not selective justice, neither is it mob justice as prevalent in our society, but a sense of right and wrong that is acceptable anywhere, anytime and at any point.
We must evolve away from a victimisation mindset in our society…a mindset of “we vs them” …”us vs they”. In the words of Marilyn Manson, “…a society of victimization, where people are much more comfortable being victimized than actually standing up for themselves.” We must live and stand for the truth and ensure that the safety of one is the safety of all, and injury to one is injury to all. And when it comes to our children, this is the smelting pot where they are moulded and prepared for the future. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” What is the soul of our society now? Look at our educational system…the child hawkers…the street urchins…the cultists…the wannabes…the desperate…just name it… Do we have a future for our children as a society and nation with the way things are currently?
What is our new normal in the society? The society I am now, is different from the society I was…10 years ago…it was different from the one I was…20 years ago and we can keep drilling it down…we are all witness to it. Look at the earnest, debilitating desire of our youths and underage for quick wealth and easy fame which has led to an upsurge in fraudulent acts popularly called ‘yahoo-yahoo’ and recent ugly trend of ritual killings.
Have we questioned our moral values as a society with the uptick in sudden unexplained wealth of certain individuals within the society? Who are we, as a society, positioning and accepting to be role models to our children? Who are we glorifying? The “only if mama could see me now”? “SM influencers?” “Wannabe artists?” “Trending artists”? “Questionable” businessmen and women? “Murky Politicians?” “Biased Religious Leaders” with sometimes questionable pedigree? The list goes on… you can make your pick.
The Government – “The government is us; we are the government, you and I.” – Theodore Roosevelt
This is the symbol of authority and governance in any society, nation, or abode. They adjudicate, execute, make, and regulate laws for the society and the people within its jurisdiction.
The government has the sole responsibility to be the watchdog in our educational system and it is also the responsibility of the government to provide an enabling atmosphere for quality education and a desirable economy to thrive in. My Uncle would always say and several others within his age range that, “if not for the government of Awolowo…I would not have gone to school…” (In 1955, the government of the then Western Region of Nigeria introduced a free primary education programme. That scheme, which featured prominently up till 1966, suffered a major blow, following the military take-over of government in that year.) Between 2015 and 2019, education took an average of 7.8% in the budget of Nigeria. Norway spent 7.6% of its budget in 2018 on education and it is regarded as number 1 in terms of quality education worldwide. In Nigeria’s 2022 budget, education gets 7.9% but what is the quality of education been received? How many graduates are churned out each year? What is the state of our educational facilities across the country? What is the minimum standard of education we have for our children as a nation?
We have schools springing up everywhere…. who certifies these schools fit to be learning centres? Who certifies and accredits the teachers and the system of education? Do we have a unified educational manual or curriculum across all schools, or each school is free to choose whatever manual and curriculum that they so desire? How effective is the National Policy on Education in Nigeria? How often is it reviewed and updated? Is this policy known to all the stakeholders and practitioners in the educational sector?
Take for instance, one of the objectives of the policy is, “Modern education techniques shall be increasingly used to improve all the levels of the educational system.” I am sure some of you will be thinking back to your days in the University when you were all jam-packed into the lecture theatre, and you could barely hear the lecturer not to talk of even understanding what he or she was teaching. I was once in an econometrics class for my MSc, late evening, no light, and he was writing on the board…trying to explain to the class. Everyone sat there gloomily looking at the man and he asked, “do you understand?” No one responded and he simply shrugged his shoulders and droned on. I failed that course (never liked econometrics) and resulted in putting on hold my MSc and switching to MBA later which I duly completed…for the records lol.
Why are our private educational systems better off than our public educational systems? Is that not an indictment on the National Policy on Education? How many children are enrolled in primary schools across the country? What are the steps to safeguard and secure the future of our children and effectively put an end to child labour? And how often do we assess and evaluate the practitioners and teachers across all educational institutions to stem the tide of abuse and gauge their performance and competence to be in classrooms?
My Uncle recalled a conversation he had with his colleagues to me many years ago. He was and still is a teacher of teachers…he said, “Let us pay close attention to these wards we are teaching…let us be firm and ensure they deliver on what is expected of them in the classroom and when they write their exams to be fair and impartial when scoring them. Because, in a matter of years, they would be the ones instructing our own children in schools…and should anything go wrong then, it would be too late as we had created the problem in the first instance…when we failed to do what was right at the right time…”
We need to have in our educational system, people who are committed to the task and devoted to it…not people who feel they missed their life opportunity and the only place they can be is in education. No. We must change our mindset to educational studies and not rate it as a last option when admitting students into our tertiary institutions. Educational management needs to be rated on a first option basis as law, medicine, economics, pharmacy etc. The most devoted teachers I have known are those, who didn’t read Education in their first degree, but took it as an added qualification because they wanted to teach. One of them has a blog where he writes about his experience here: https://penspeakers.com/author/leke/ and others, who specifically went into Education to Study…like my naughty brother, Achiedu Achinedu Okonji. Are there people who studied education and who found themselves in that space unwittingly and performing? Yes! What is paramount is we change the way we view and regard the practitioners in the educational sector. A teacher’s reward is not in heaven hence they should not be regarded as paupers. If you are a teacher, teach with pride and confidence. You are moulding the future of a child that will remember you for the impact you made in his or her life if it so happens. I remember my Mayflower School Alumni (EXMAYS), remembering our past teachers and honouring them for what they did for us in school. I remember fondly, my government teacher, Mrs. Sodeinde, my social studies teacher, Mr. Sopekan and so many others like that.
PREMIUM OFFERING AND FUNDING
Their reward is not in heaven, but on earth as I mentioned earlier. They are the ones who nurture the future…why not ensure they are better off at doing it? Government needs to pay closer attention to that sector and ensures it gets the funding it requires. Norway is not at the top spot for quality education by mere wish power…it was deliberate. India is not leading the technology vanguard by chance; it was a deliberately crafted policy. Sending your children outside to study in nations that placed premium on education while neglecting yours is a ticking time bomb of the future. Charity begins at home goes the popular saying, and in the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And that world, begins with your society, your country. Government needs to stop paying lip service to the welfare of teachers…if truly Nigeria wants to be the giant of Africa indeed and be a dominant force on the global stage, then we start with our educational sector…revamping our National Policy on Education and providing the requisite funding for that sector. In the words of Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”.
REINVENT – ADAPT – PROCEED: The Blockchain Solution to our Educational System
The world has gone fully digital and blockchain has gradually been adopted in different sectors aiding and creating efficiency and effectiveness.
A blockchain solution can be created for our educational system that tracks the performance of schools, students, teachers, and everyone involved in that sector in real time and monitors progress, growth, and deviation from nationally adopted course. I know this sounds wild, but this is possible and achievable even though it would require enormous resources. If all accredited schools are plugged into the blockchain and their activities tracked, it would go a long way to eliminate uncertified schools in the system and teachers as well. Schools can have a smart contract system wherein performance of their students and activities can be tracked and shared with parents within minutes of and there would be no need for report card and the likes, and such data can be transferred to the next school or level easily for continuous tracking and evaluation. Teachers, growth, and progress can also be tracked, assessed, and monitored for proper rewarding and recognition.
If all our universities are on blockchain…how easy would it be to get your transcripts, certificates, and the likes? Quite easy I assure you…that would be the beginning of a new dawn in our nation, right? (I would be doing more justice to this in the nearest future). 😎
I will close with these two quotes for thought.
“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth”John F. Kennedy
“The foundation of every State is the education of its youth”Diogenes