‘Government must formulate sound policies to tackle sector challenges’
Mrs. Lai Koiki is the Executive Director, Greensprings Schools, Lagos. In this interview with Ujunwa Atueyi, she deplored the present teaching and learning methodology in most schools, calling on government to create sound policies that will transform the sector, as well as bring back population control programmes and campaigns to reduce the increasing number of out-of-school children.
As a renowned educationist, what really is the problem of this country and its learning system?
The present situation in the country is very worrisome. We can talk about insecurity, corruption and other problems, but the major problem of this country is education.
Without good and quality education, not just the private education that only about one per cent of the people are enjoying, I mean a broad-based education, without it Nigeria will not make any headway.
We are all lamenting about economy, if we don’t fix education, then the country is really going into deep waters.
I am not sure the political class has paid enough attention to education. It is sad that when government talks about education, they are mostly talking about building schools but it goes beyond that.
What we need is to ensure that we have enough teachers on ground, as well as sound policies that will ensure that all these children are in school and are also learning.
The only way you can ensure that they are learning is to ensure adequate training of teachers and be ready to take up the challenges. If government did not fix that, then we are preparing for another 20 years of chaos.
What are the major drawbacks in the sector?
The first drawback is funding. It entails investment in training teachers.
Training is very important, if you don’t have building it doesn’t matter, they can learn under the tree. So the teachers are fundamental.
Again our government needs to get to a point where it becomes an offence for parents not to send their children to school. If we don’t, it will hurt all of us going forward.
We need to ensure that children are in school and are actually learning.
It is going to be a complete overhaul… we have the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), that is an army of university graduates that can be trained to go into schools, it has been done successfully, Teach for Nigeria is doing something like that and it is successful, pulling out graduates from all over the world and these guys are sacrificing their lives to be in teaching in the public schools. This methodology will help a great deal in teacher training agenda.
What is your take on the 13.2 million out-of-school children, and how best do you think it can be reduced?
When we were younger, we had all these family planning organisations and centres advocating and teaching people the need to space and have few children because if you have many, you cannot look after them very well; you will not progress and the children will not progress.
There is need to bring back population control. Parents need to be educated on the need for family planning.
So the increasing number of out-of-school children in Nigeria is the greatest threat to national security.
Apart from poverty, cultural practices and ignorance, the recent cases of insurgence and violence, which displaced many children from their homes contributed to the menace.
When I look at all these political rallies and I see a sea of heads, I get worried. Where are these people from? Are we really that much?
So there is need for population control. Population control is a global phenomenon. However some countries are doing better in their childbirth population control like China.
There was a suggestion that since government cannot adequately fund education, it should focus on primary and secondary schools and allow tertiary institutions to charge tuition, do you agree?
I don’t agree with that. But then universities too have to be a bit more creative in generating funds. Even abroad, universities at times run on foreign students. And so we need to get our universities to that point where we are attracting foreign students so that they will pay more while our children will pay home fees.
But beyond that, we also need to get to a point where the students can get loans to see them through school.
There are some that can’t even afford it as meagre as university fees may seem, so if they are able to get a loan, the money doesn’t need to be paid to them, it can be paid to the university and when they graduate, they can start paying back.
In some schools, students read to only pass examination, and not to achieve learning, what is teaching and learning like in Greensprings?
In the past, when we discovered that students only read to pass examination, we adopted the British curriculum.
The British curriculum ensures that students apply what they have learnt. If you crammed it, you cannot apply it; but if you have learnt it, then you can apply it.
Also, during examination, there is a practical application of what you have learnt, and this helped our students a great deal.
Nigerian education has to change, students can’t keep learning only theories, now the content is rightly available; what you used to go to the library to do, it is now on your phone.
That is not education; that has to change that is one of the things keeping the continent back because even those that are in schools are not learning, they are not thinking, they are not applying the knowledge. Application of knowledge is key.
There are some questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer, all you need to do is just defend your position logically and get your marks.
What is the schools’ plan for 2019?
Our students are evolving and that is our ultimate goal, we are expecting many more awards from the students in both national and international competitions.
That is what education is all about and so our children are being prepared for life through developing all the skills that they have, thinking skills especially; our children are privileged children and so it is important that we stretch them so that they know that life is not a bed of roses.
We are also expecting a lot of innovations like integrating robotics into our mainstream learning as a subject for all students because with the way the world is developing, it is important to further prepare them for whatever they will come across in the future.