Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lagos: Time To Rethink Funding For Primary Education
Nigerian primary school students.
Written by Gbenga Salau
Nigerian Guardian

THE importance and benefit of education to an individual or society cannot be really quantified, especially on the long run. Research has it that, at an individual level, a dollar spent on education yields between ten and fifteen dollars in economic growth over a person’s lifetime.

 This is why education is often given a place of priority in societies that truly appreciate the role it could play in transforming the people.

   Such societies know that it is a crucial element in the overall development of the state and education should not be seen as just the ability to read and write, but the total formation of the individual. This is why such communities expend huge resources on educational projects and infrastructure that will form a total person. They do this because they know that investment in education is investment in the future of the country.

   For instance, in the United States of America at independence in 1776, it was learnt that less than half of the white children and almost no black children went to school. That has drastically changed today, almost every American child finishes primary school.  America did not achieve that by accident, it has increased its investment on an average American child going to primary over the years and today the US invests about $6,800 a year per primary pupil. This is a far cry from what some other countries spend. In Iran, the figure is said to be $156 per student per year, in India $64, in Laos $30, and in Rwanda $19. There is no concrete figure of what is spent on an average primary school pupil in Nigeria by either the federal government or any of the states.

    However, over the years, Lagos State government has been making concerted effort to improve the quality of education. Besides primary commitment through yearly budgetary allocation, it has entered into bilateral engagement to improve the quality of education in the state. Apart from seeking support from private organisations, the state has improved the condition of public secondary schools through an alliance with the World Bank executing its Eko Secondary Schools Project.

    On the World Bank website, it was stated that the objective of the Lagos Eko Secondary Education Project for Nigeria is to improve the quality of public junior and senior secondary education in Lagos State.

    The project has four components, the first being, promoting secondary school effectiveness through school development grants meant to raise education outcomes in junior and senior secondary education this is done by providing public secondary schools in Lagos access to yearly discretionary resources with an explicit focus on improving the quality of education services as priority needs are defined at the school level.

   The second component is meant to enhance quality assurance for junior and senior secondary schools through the establishment of a standardized system for measuring student’s learning achievements in core subject areas and support teachers to develop the skills needed to better teach these areas.

   The third component is meant to provide the necessary resources for effective coordination and monitoring and evaluation, and the implementation of an information and communications strategy.

    The last component is the strengthening of the federal post-basic education strategy, which is aimed at providing capacity building and technical assistance to the federal ministry of education to enhance the development of the national post-basic education strategy and support policy dialogue on the strategy with states.

    The impact is already being felt in the state, as there is an increase in the percentage of public junior secondary students at or above credit for JSCE in English, Mathematics and Integrated science. There is also an increase in percentage of public senior secondary students with pass grade in WASSCE in English, Mathematics and Biology.

    With the successes recorded through the Eko Project, the state might need to also seek one form of collaboration, whether local or international to transform the primary education sector in the state because it appears the state is finding it difficult to provide the needed facilities if the outward appearance and the state of Oyewole Primary School is put on the spotlight.

   The school located in Oriade Local Council Development is in a terribly bad shape. There are three blocks of classrooms housing School 1 and 2 and none of the three structures housing the classrooms is in good shape. In a structure where there are good windows, the door or the roof is most likely to be in bad shape. Right from the outside, the picture of the school is one that needs urgent attention. The roofs are rusty while in some cases a section of the sheet covering the buildings is off.

  Moving into the school to see the classroom shows a replica of the outside. The floor of some of the classrooms is already cracking, while some of the pupils have no seat. While in one class the pupils were sitting on the mat, in another they were sitting on bare floor. In one of the classrooms is a broken sofa chair meant for a sitting room, and it serves no other purposes but a seat to learn in twenty first century Nigeria.

   Though there is a gate in the main entrance into the school, but walking into the school is usually unhindered because the school’s back fence had been pulled down to expand the space for the ongoing Lagos-Badagry Rail and Expressway. It was also gathered that it was not only the fence that was pulled down, but also a block of four-classroom.

    A concerned parent who commented on the issue said the problem might be lack of monitoring on the part of the supervisors. He made reference to a similar case in which after a national newspaper carried a story of students sitting on the floor in classrooms, within two weeks, the school was supplied with furniture. This, to him, means the furniture were kept somewhere, they were not just deployed for use by the students in the schools.

   According to an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Lagos, Okunola Philips Olaide, pupils who learn under un-conducive environment are not likely to internalise what they are being taught by their teachers. This, he said, often leads to mis-education and unexpected negative result.

  “In teaching, there is what we call learning outcomes. But in this case, there will be negative unintended outcomes, which means they will misapply knowledge.”

   For him, some of the school structures are not in good shape because money meant for education are not well utilized due to corruption, which is a big cankerworm that has eaten deep into the social fabrics of the country.

  “It is unfortunate, because even a place like Ghana, the last time I visited there, I was surprised to see that they have better facilities than we have here.  We thank God that in Nigeria, the emergence and proliferation of private schools is making the condition better because the schools which want to really attract pupils must make their environment conducive and create the best attraction for the parents. And there must be result for the money they pay.”

   He said it would be good if the government follows the footsteps and do some of the things being done by private schools to ensure that public schools are well equipped, the laboratories are there and the environment is pleasant and attractive.

   “A lot of work still needs to be done in Nigeria, the environments are not conducive, how do we explain the case of schools without fences, where external aggressors can just come in and mess up the classrooms after school hours.

  “The classrooms are not well ventilated, acoustic sounds filtering into the classrooms, which disturbs and interrupt the learning process. Classrooms not constructed according to specification, in fact, no specification, they just put up structures.”

   He however said that some state governors, especially in the South are making some effort to redeem some of the structures and facilities in these schools through the setting up of modern schools.

   “So if this trend continues for the next five to six years, we would reproduce a better story.”

   He therefore pleaded that money budgeted for education should be spent for education, besides governments at state and federal levels complying with the mandatory 26 percent allocation recommended by the UNESCO.

   “We have not been doing that, the percentage for education in Ghana is even higher than what we have in Nigeria; even many African countries are having higher budgetary allocation for education compared to Nigeria, yet the giant of Africa is not doing that.

   “In a nutshell, it is when the environment is inviting and stimulating, that children can learn best and internalize the teacher’s instructions.”

   According to him, it is important that the school environment is inviting and stimulating as it helps the pupils to be creative, imaginative and do things on their own and not when they are told.

  Attempts to get concrete statement from the Lagos State Ministry of Education were not successful. When the mobile line of the Commissioner for Education was dialed, a lady, who claimed to be her Personal Assistant, picked it. She told the reporter to get in touch with the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry. After several calls were made to the mobile line of the PRO, he called back, but cut the call immediately the reporter narrated the awful state of Oyewole Primary School, Mazamaza to him. The reporter called him again; he did not pick the several calls made to him. He however sent a text about an hour later demanding a text explaining what the reporter wanted, which was done. The PRO thereafter replied the text, promising he would get back after verifying the claims made by the reporter, but did not as at press time.

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