Education: Then And Now Isaac Asabor



There is no denying the fact that two schools of thought now exist in support and in disagreement with the argument that education has lost its glory in our today’s Nigeria.

However, the show of shame which an SSS3 student of a secondary school in Oyo State recently exhibited before members of the state House of Assembly obviously lay credence to the fact that education has truly lost its glory in Nigeria. Worse still, it has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Nigerians who are intellectually inclined.

According to news reports, the student responded to questions from the House of Assembly in pidgin English when he was summoned before the legislators to defend his insubordination to his teacher. He fluently spoke in pidgin English before the members of the house when he apparently realized he could not do that in formal English.

To understand why the standard of education is fast falling, it would be expedient for us to have a retrospective review of the state of our education. It is no more an exaggeration to say that education has lost its glory in today’s Nigeria as a result of the interplay of many factors such as teacher’s strikes, student’s involvement in clandestine activities and their seeming lack of reading culture coupled with their collective docile disposition towards education in all its ramifications. Also, our country has surprisingly become a certificate-loving nation. A friend of mine simply calls it a certificated nation. Employers now prefer employing those who have certificates instead of those that have knowledge. With this, many a student now, in a “do or die” attitude, aim to obtain certificates instead of knowledge.

Besides, the indifference which some of our leaders often display whenever any issue that borders on education is thrown open for debate or dialogue, has often left a sour taste in the mouths of many education watchers.

At the secondary school level, any expelled student hardly gets re-admitted into other schools within the educational jurisdiction of the state that was responsible for the administrative and physical existence of the school from which he was expelled. In those days, any student that failed woefully in promotional examination was either advised to repeat, demoted to lower class or expelled from the school. Then, what master Allison Chukwuebuka, the SS3 student mentioned earlier on, did would have incurred him the wrath of the school principal by expelling him from the school without being made to appear before members of the Oyo State House of Assembly.

In fact, principals then had almost absolute authority over their students and parents. Parents Teachers Association (PTA) was then the instrument of social interaction between parents and teachers. Thus, students’ behaviour and academic performances were mutually monitored by parents and teachers and corrections were immediately administered when necessary.

To say that students at that time never socialised cannot be true. They did! But not without reading their books and being serious with other academic activities. Then, it was “all work no play makes Jack a dull boy” but it was never “all play no work makes Jack a dullard.” To say that teachers then were very dedicated to their jobs is a statement devoid of any iota of exaggeration. They did not tolerate the speaking of vernacular among their students. In the same nexus, students were properly drilled in both written and spoken English. Students who constituted themselves into noise-makers or who resorted to speaking vernacular or pidgin English were made to pay a token amount of money as fine for violating the rules. The money realized was used in buying plastic pots, cups, hand towels, talcum powder for the class use. Also, brooms, local sponges, bamboos and baskets were what students submitted to teachers for handwork assignments. They were never asked to contribute “raw cash” in the place of these items as it is now done in most schools.

Then, schools were never disrupted for any reason; either by the government, students or teachers. Any custom officer’s son at that time who absented himself from the school and a bricklayer’s son who played truancy were mercilessly beaten with cane amidst other corporeal punishments like “frog-jumping”, “pick-pin”, “watch-the-sun” among other physical drills that were common then. Who was that father that would come to school to fight for his son? No preferential treatment was given to any student by virtue of his father’s enviable social status.

At the university level, what the undergraduates enjoyed may now pass for a fantasy to present day undergraduates. Food was subsidized, academic activities were relatively not disrupted while lecturers could then afford, at least, Volkswagen beetle car, which was apparently the cheapest car in the 70s.

Students were then employed while still in the university. Scholarship Offers were then commonplace for intelligent youths of poor parental background. Scholarship was not exclusively awarded to that brilliant chap from the Niger Delta area with arrant disregard to other Nigerian brilliant child.

Also, what is now known as secret cult was then openly used by students for recreational and current affairs purposes but not for terrorism. But alas! The present state of our educational system is diametrically opposed to what this writer has been driving home in this piece. The period of strike in our institutions of learning has been overwhelmed by the period of learning. Students at all levels of education now prefer to watch seductive movies, and listen to vulgar music. They hardly read educative books, or watch enlightening documentary films or listen to soul inspiring and positive mind-building music.

Not many of our non-reading youths would believe the thought of Paxton Hood who said “Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep, for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.”

Now, the majority of our school certificate holders and university graduates are undoubtedly half-baked. Paradoxically, Alpha and Credit passes are commonly seen in many GCE statement of result and Certificates while second class (upper division), first class and upper credit are now more conspicuous on degrees and diploma certificates which many job applicants often flaunt at any employer who may be magnanimous enough to sympathise with their plight and hire them.

What is necessary to be done now is that those in authority should overhaul the education system to what it was then. Simply put, meritocracy should be given a chance in our education system.

•Isaac Asabor

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