‘Immoral’ textbooks and battle for souls of schoolchildren
The furore over some recommended “immoral” textbooks for schoolchildren has thrown up the forgotten issue of pursuing academic excellence at the expense of moral values, writes Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal.
The teacher beckoned at the two of them – boy and a girl. “Yes, the two of you,” she said. As they got up from their seats, approaching the teacher who stood in front of the classroom, she added, “No, no. Come with your books. You’re going to read to the class.”
It appeared a quiet class would soon come alive with some excitement. “For our amusement, Evans will read an excerpt from the book, ‘The Precious Child’, by Queen Okweshine. Adama, you will read an excerpt from ..
The boy began reading, “’If only I can find a sweet 16 to cool me down. But these eaglets with their fronts and backs fully set. Wow, those tender breasts that gyrate in provocative rhythm which seem to say (pushes his chest forward) ‘I swear to God.’’”
The class was in rapture as the teacher giggled shamelessly. It was the turn of the girl. She took her reading from the book, ‘The Tears of a Bride’ authored by Oyekunle Oyedeji.
“Tell them also that the breast of a woman in a man’s mouth tastes better than the best of palm wine,” Adama read almost inaudibly, with her shy face buried in the book. “Read louder!” her excited classmates chorused.
For the rest of the day, Adama was distraught and she could not wait to get home and tell her mother what had happened in school. At home, the 12-year-old girl cried as she narrated to her parent what transpired earlier in the day. The shock on her mother’s face was palpable.
But Adama’s mother is not the only person alarmed by the lewd contents found in recommended textbooks for schoolchildren. On June 9, the Head of Crescent Schools, Mrs. Fatima Mahmud Oyekan and Chairman, Parents-Teachers Association ( PTA), Alhaji Aliyu Gudaji, petitioned the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, over what they called “immoral contents in our curricular.”
“We, the Parent-Teacher Association of Crescent College, Victoria Island, Lagos, are constrained to bring to your notice that we have observed that it has become the tradition of the National Examinations Council (NECO) to recommend junior secondary literature textbooks that fall short of moral standards that our nation’s educational system should be promoting. The books expose the vulnerable and unsuspecting minds of 10 to 12-year-olds to amorous and deviant practices that can in turn breed rapists, cultists, homosexuals and kidnappers in youngsters,” the petition had said.
It noted further that the prevalence of cases of rape among secondary school students cannot be unconnected with the urge to experiment with the experience they have from such books.
“For example, The Precious Child, by Queen O. Okweshine, gave a vivid description of a young lady’s body as follows: ‘If only I can find a sweet 16 to cool me down. But these eaglets with their fronts and backs fully set. Wow, those tender breasts that gyrate in provocative rhythm which seem to say (pushes his chest forward) ‘I swear to God.’’ (Page 56). In the same vein, another book, ‘The Tears of a Bride’ authored by Oyekunle Oyedeji, is another reason to make a responsive and responsible parent feel concerned about the kind of adults schools are grooming their children to be.
“The story is centred on two characters, Ajibike and Akofe, who are passionately in love with Araba, the staff bearer. The author throws caution to the wind as reflected in the following excerpts: ‘Lights open on Akofe and Ajibike lying criss-cross on the ground with Ajibike’s head on Akofe’s chest and his arms wrapped around her. Akofe’s eyes are closed as he savours the splendour of the moment. His index finger runs through her body, drawing imaginary lines with its tip. Ajibike curiously raises her head from his chest to look into his face, only to discover a wide smile is playing therein (Page 10).
“Tell them also that the breast of a woman in a man’s mouth tastes better than the best of palm wine. (Page 86) 3. Araba comes out of his house bare to the waist and readjusts his wrapper. Romoke cries weakly as she comes out from the house holding her wrapper to her chest to prevent it from falling off her body. Araba has just defiled her (Page 91).’”
Similar distasteful recommended texts, the school and the parents claimed, can also be found in the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination’s (UTME) Use of English exam, “Independence “and called on concerned authorities to remove the offensive publications from the national curriculum.
“Our requests, in view of the negative effects of books like these on the morals of our children and the family system are as follows: There should be objective content analysis of books meant for learners’ consumption, before they are certified fit for school use by the appropriate organ of the ministry; that such books (even as they affect other subjects) are withdrawn from use immediately considering the extent of the incalculable damage to youths now and in future; to forestall a recurrence, we demand that the process that led to the adoption of the books is investigated and whoever is found culpable sanctioned appropriately.”
They further urged the education minister to do everything possible within his power to put a stop to the use of the offensive books immediately. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has promised to look into the matter as it concerns it. The Board’s spokesperson, Fabian Benjamin said, “We always take moral standing into consideration before recommending textbooks. We are investigating the claim and if for any reason we find any section of the book against moral standard or below the expectations of Nigerians, we will withdraw it.
“One of our objectives is to build a nation where these candidates who are future leaders are brought up in good moral standards and we will never promote anything short of this.”
Also, in response to the allegation, the Executive Secretary of National Examination Council (NECO), Prof. Charles Uwakwe, stated, “We are investigating it and we will make our position known. We are dealing with it.’’
A month before the outcry of Crescent schools and its PTA, there was an outrageous news of some secondary school male pupils who assaulted and sexually molested their female colleagues.
Following the ugly incident, the Lagos State government came out tellingly, to say it did not approve the use of any ‘immoral’ textbook for secondary schools in the state that could have led to that sexual molestation that occurred in May this year.
According to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Adesina Odeyemi, there was no connection between a textbook, Religion and National Values – Social Studies for Universal Basic Education 7 (JSS I), and the conduct of a group of pupils from Falomo Senior School, who molested female students of Ireti Grammar School.
“There is no text book teaching or encouraging immoral activities in the curriculum of the state public and private schools. This book, without prejudice to the intention of the writer and the opinion of its publishers, has not been reviewed, recommended nor approved for use in any of the Lagos State public and private secondary schools.
“Therefore, any attempt to attribute the unruly behaviour of a few students of Ikoyi and Falomo Senior Schools to any book promoting immorality within the school system is the peak of disservice to government that has committed both human and material resources to raising the standard of education in the state,” he noted.
Parents and guardians are also worried about predatory teachers who sexually molest pupils. Recently, a private school teacher posted on his Facebook page that he was “in love” with one of his pupils – a 10-year-old boy – and that he did not know how to go about it to “woo the boy.”
While educationists are expressing concerns about the twist found in textbooks that should develop the academic and moral values of children, they are also bothered about how the larger society badly rubs off on schoolchildren.
They cited the example of a group of students who arranged a mass wedding ceremony among themselves right on the school premises under the nose of their teachers. That was in a school in Bauchi State.
In March this year, the Bauchi State Government ordered the closure of a secondary school in the state capital, because of sexual immorality.
The State Commissioner of Education, Nuhu Gidado, who is also the deputy governor, said the closure became necessary following the action of some students of Sa’adu Zungur Model Primary and Secondary School who engaged in illegal marriages among themselves.
To Gidado, such actions of the pupils could only be attributed to moral decadence in the society. Though a committee comprising all directors in the state’s Ministry of Education, the school authority, teachers as well as the Parents-Teachers Association was set up to investigate the matter and come up with a detailed report, the public have not heard anything about that few months after.
Indecent sexual activities are said to be rampant not only in Sa’adu Zungur but across many public schools in the country. In one instance of the illegal marriage, a groom – one of the schoolboys – paid N500 as bride price to ‘wed’ a female student, while their classmates contributed money for snacks needed at the ceremony.
Already, the Director of information in the Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs Chinenye Ihuoma said investigation has commenced to find out how such books with such contents were recommended.
According to Ihuoma, “There are procedures for approving books for public consumption. Each approved text book should have a certificate from Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council ( NERDC).
Efforts to speak with NERDC on its role in the raging issue however proved abortive as its spokesperson, Tochukwu Ezeh failed to respond.
The mis-education of impressionable children may go beyond “immoral textbooks”; it may be a reflection of a decadent society that young ones have found themselves in, some analysts pointed out.
To fight the insidious menace, they urge the government, the school authorities and parents to embark on a sustained reorientation of moral values and academic excellence.
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