A group of parents and professionals in education, under the aegis of the Concerned Parents and Educators of Nigeria, has at its maiden meeting tagged ‘The Gathering’, expressed concern over the state of the country’s education system, as well as its willingness to collaborate with the government to transform the system.
The group, which considers teachers as a key element in addressing the issues, said the system may remain in the woods unless adequate and proper attention is paid to teachers and the teaching profession.
Speaking at the event in Lagos recently, the Managing Director, Edumark Consult, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, who identified access to quality education by Nigerian children as a prerequisite to individual and national development, said quality education cannot be attained without good and committed teachers.
According to her, poor teacher training, poor remuneration and general welfare of teachers have not only affected the delivery of quality education, but have made it difficult to attract best brains into the teaching profession. “It is clear that the country’s education needs urgent help and there cannot be development except everyone comes together and makes education accessible to every Nigerian child.
“Today everybody is talking about Finland and its excellent model, but not just anybody can become a teacher in Finland, you must be among the best. But we realise that we have a huge pool of talents in this country. That is why we are here to collaborate; we need to develop the model that is right for Nigeria and that is what we are here to do. We also want to show that things can work in this country.”
While stressing that Nigeria has no reason being where it is today, Ogunde said the country has all it takes in terms of human and material resources to fix and run an excellent education system. She said the event was to herald a new beginning in the sector.
“We have a lot of professionals within the education sector and we are here to share ideas on the way forward. We are going to engage all stakeholders; we are going to engage the government, parents and schools. The ultimate goal is to ensure affordable quality education for all strata of Nigerian society.”
She added: “We have no reason not being able to create policies and structures that will ensure that our children do well. We have no reason to have children who are still cheating in examinations, to produce graduates who cannot compete with their counterparts in other parts of the world.”
Armed with some statistics and an unending list of problems facing the country’s education system, such as a staggering number of out of school children, poor quality of graduates produced at different levels, among others, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo said the country’s education sector has failed Nigerian children. According to her, there seem not to be a serious commitment by teacher training institutions “to train our teachers to be excellent, to be able to teach every child.”
She called on government to support the interaction by providing the teachers with the right training, tools, resources, understanding and the esteem to do what they are supposed to do.
While stressing that the development of teachers into effective instructors can make the education system great again, Adefisayo said no meaningful result can be achieved without teachers being duly motivated. “Teachers nurture a nation’s treasure and Nigerian treasure is not oil, but her children. And if we don’t work on teaching, if we don’t work on the teachers, invest in them, nothing is going to work.”
Speaking on behalf of parents on ‘Sharing our Desires’, Mrs. Helen Essien said Nigerians parents want stable government policies on education, a stable curriculum, affordable education, security for their children, cheaper options for logistics, among others.
“Because we do not have a stable curriculum, you find out that the textbooks keep changing. So we need stable government policies. I remember when we were younger, if you have five children, you could use the same textbooks for the five children.
“We need teachers who do not only teach but inspire students to go out of their way to learn ahead of the topic of the day. We need teachers who teach by example, teachers who won’t teach the children how to cheat in exams; teachers who show honesty as a way of life. We need more schools for mentally and physically challenged, among others.”
Essien, who condemned the excessive commercialisation of education in the country, said it would make education accessible to a few rich people. “We believe there is an extensive commercialisation of education. And we are talking about the trend of exorbitant school fees that do the not match the quality of services that are being rendered.
“Before a child can get into a very good school, you know it does not come cheap. And it is now a social class thing. Parents think the more expensive, the better the education that is being given. But not everybody can afford it. The children of the poor end up not being able to go to certain kind of schools. Education should be affordable to a lot more than a select few.”