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Arduous task of reforming primary education – Part 2

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[FILES] Pupils in the classroom

Continued from yesterday

Another dimension is the ownership and funding of the primary schools. From all indications, the native authority funding system worked well. It was the same system that was inherited by the local education authorities and the local schools’ board. The later involvement of State and Federal governments’ in funding the primary schools produced ghost schools and teachers for enhanced allocations to states and local councils. Primary schools that existed on papers were never located on land. The Ibrahim Dasuki Report that led to local government reform and edict of 1986 may also have complicated matters for the primary schools. The Edict created uniform local government structures and functions in the circumstance of varying realities. It is time to take stock of the price and gains of direct state and federal government involvement in primary education. This should help decide the need to return to the local authority model. How did native authorities manage to set up and govern primary education so effectively? Where did things go wrong in primary education governance?

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As these were building up, private primary schools multiplied. Monitoring and quality assurance became more complex and ineffective. Incompetence crept in as welcome parties and arrangements of awards to inspectors and education officials became compelling and fashionable at any visits to schools. All the efforts are to close the eyes of inspectors and other officials to the sordid state of the schools and teachers. In this circumstance, teaching and moulding of the character and discipline of children, personal and professional discipline among teachers went with the winds. The teachers and pupils now exhibit all modes of behaviour that contradict the values of education and society. A reform of education must necessarily capture this as the basis for responsible citizenship in behaviour, knowledge and skills.

Teachers Registration Council up scaled Teachers Service Salary Scale and postponed retirement years for teachers will not resolve these issues. Much as the government deserves some kudos for these initiatives, we need to transcend them into the boundaries of previous reforms. If the secondary school is on the concurrent list of federal and state governments, is the primary school on the concurrent list of local, state and federal governments? The boundaries are loose and porous enough to make primary schools a no-man’s-land and therefore vulnerable to abuses. There is the need to look backwards at primary education governance as it were at the closing years of colonialism and early years of independence as not everything colonial was meant to stifle our development as a nation.

The primary schools have been left to degenerate for too long. We cannot go back to 1960 or years before. We can however carry with us bits and pieces of the relics of those years. Therefore we must appreciate what existed to identify what went wrong where and when. Beyond board room discussions the reformers of our educational system must vigorously take stock and interrogate the facts far and above assumed realities of Europe and America from where we normally copy and paste. The reform must not focus just on curriculum. We need to deal with all aspects – curriculum, structure, governance and lines of progression and linkages between the various layers of schools that direct lines of growth and progress of pupils.

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We must review and vigorously bring back the layers we have driven to nonexistence such as the Teachers Training Colleges, Craft Schools and Technical Colleges. We need the Agricultural Assistant Training Centres to absorb some of those who cannot go beyond primary Schools. Don’t be surprised when you later find graduates of such Training Centres in Colleges of Agriculture acquiring one skill or the other. These are needed as the country still requires the sorting out of pupils from primary levels on the bases of tendencies, capacities and interests. Products of Teachers Colleges should be induced to proceed to Colleges of Education and on to degree level to consolidate subject matter and teaching skills. We need to firm up the Craft Schools and Technical Colleges for the growth of a stock of technologists that will propel industrial production and other technical services. Mind you, fine craftsmen and women, as well as technologists, have gone into extinction in this country. As these are pursued, lines of ownership and educational governance must be streamlined for effective supervision, inspection, monitoring and evaluation. There is the need to look back at provisions that made the Inspectorate so effective in the early years of independence.

Like I indicated earlier, the task of reforming the education sector is enormous. The issues around our education are hydra-headed and in multiples. It is difficult to identify where to start. To start, it is pertinent to understand the education system must be naturally self-filtering to allow all pupils to successfully navigate to areas of interest and capacities for personal growth and development. Whatever the case, I can clearly say that we need a whole scale review of our school system starting with the primary school, restructuring the school years and reorientation of all stakeholders. All these must take cognisance of colonial relics as not all that is colonial is evil or evil intended. After all, the entire school system is colonial. The devil at the doorstep to successful reform is corruption, not colonialism. Watch out!
Concluded.

Yunusa is executive director, Socioeconomic and Environment Advocacy Centre, Zaria, Nigeria.

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