Stakeholders in the country’s education sector have over the years been calling for an overhaul of the sector. The call is perhaps as a result of the declined standard with remedies becoming almost impossible. In this report, Kuni Tyessi examines the inability of schools to make under-performing students repeat classes as one of the possible reasons for the decay

The long vacation that stakeholders especially primary and secondary schools students look forward to has come and gone as most schools have resumed for the new academic session.

The new academic session entails that students will change classes because the exams they sat for at the end of the previous term were promotional and this means many things to many people, especially judging from the fact that one is advancing not just in age but also in status, level and career as the case may be.

However, this might not be properly done or achieved as repetition of classes seems to be regarded as old fashion with many excuses which might not necessarily hold water being tied to it.

It is a well-known fact that no two humans are the same, not even the ones that developed at the same time in one womb. This fact further confirms what the holy books have said about the uniqueness in the creation of every individual, and that explains the peculiarity of all mortals and the need to be dealt with in different aspects of life.

Based on these arguments, it will be out of place to expect that all pupils of primary schools and students of secondary schools will understand at once and at the same time all that have been taught them in class and this has to do with teaching techniques and the ability to make the students understand with ease.

While some students are science inclined, others are arts-driven. That is to say that when science-related subjects like integrated science, health science, mathematics, among others are taught, the science-inclined are bound to understand and appreciate the period unlike the arts-driven ones who cannot wait for the period to end so that the teacher can leave.

At the end of the term and session, it is expected that all of them will write the same exams irrespective of what they feel about the subjects and the teachers that have taught them. At the end of the day, papers are marked, scores and grades are given and the performance of all is usually placed on notice boards for all to see.

It is at this juncture that students that are expected to repeat a class are known and measures which are expected to have been in existence are ‘enforced’ as it used to be, but not anymore.
These days, students no longer repeat classes but are promoted on trial with the hope that they will improve if given a chance and this includes the poorly performed ones.

Research has shown that most times, students that were promoted on probation do not improve in the new classes because what was expected to have been understood is still hanging and yet to be grasped, as well as other several factors. It is common to note that with this impediment, the school does not take them back to their old classes with the belief that the syllabus has gone far and ironically, their cases will be different.

Investigations have also revealed that schools that charge exorbitant fees do not allow their students to repeat classes for fear that parents will withdraw their children and take them to ‘rival schools’, thereby
making them lose students who are more/less customers. This also shows how the education sector has been taken for granted with no one at a vintage position to scream wolf.

While it is true that the economy is harsh and biting harder, should that be the reason parents will not allow their children to repeat classes? Is that also good enough for schools to deceive parents with claims that their children are good enough to be promoted to the next class? ‎
Ladi Bulus is a teacher in a private school in Abuja; she does not blame schools for promoting students even when their performance is poor. She blames the parents, describing them as the catalysts to the educational challenges of their children.

“It is not the fault of the school, but that of parents because most often than not, they will always insist that their children should be promoted because they don’t want them to develop inferiority complex which has a way of taking its toll on them at adulthood. They claim that the children will not be able to stand seeing their classmates in senior classes, while they have been made to repeat.

“In the case of female children, the parents will tell the teachers that age matters a lot especially in today’s world where everyone is interested in being on the fast lane. Most of the time, you will see mothers even coming with letters that were addressed to the proprietors of the school from influential people in the society‎ and pleading that the child should be allowed to move to the next class. If parents are blaming the school, don’t they see the report sheets of their children? Don’t they see their performance and should know whether a child has done well or not and deserves to be promoted or not?”

“The teacher has nothing to lose in this even though as a professional he/she will pity the child. Also, the child’s promotion or repetition will not affect the teachers’ remuneration in anyway,” she added.

Another teacher, Mana Jakada, who teaches Further Mathematics and Physics teacher at Grace of God Schools, Mararaba, a neighbouring town to the FCT, opined that repetition of classes is not a crime as the motive behind it is to ensure that the child understands what is expected of him/her at that age and class, and with constant enlightenment, parents will understand and appreciate it at the long run.

“It is true that the economy is harsh but I believe that with constant enlightenment on the part of the teachers and school management to the parents, they will appreciate reasons why their children have to repeat for poor performance. Asking a child to repeat doesn’t mean the child is doomed. It doesn’t mean he/she is not intelligent because that is sadly the thinking of most parents.

“Teachers cannot do everything and so it behoves on the parents to also counsel their children and boost their morale towards accepting their fate when asked to repeat and brace up to understand subjects and topics they didn’t. They should be made to understand that it is for their own good and the good of their future.

“Issues such as refusal to repeat a class can be said to be one reason why students perform poorly in external exams such as WAEC and NECO. Curricular for schools are always established based on the age of the child, the class, level of understanding at that age, as well as psychology. It will be difficult for the child to understand in secondary school what he/she didn’t understand in primary school and that is because the teachers in the secondary schools will base their teachings on the curriculum and will have no time to go back to what was expected to have been learnt in primary school. So while new lessons are on-going, the child will be struggling to grab and understand what should have been understood in the past. So the‎ motive of repeating a class should always be weighed and considered,” he Jakada.

Catherine Anazodo is a parent‎ and she shares a contrary view. She is of the opinion that some children don’t perform well in the beginning of their educational pursuit but come out outstanding in later years and as such, asking such a child to repeat will be unfair.

“No child is born dull and no child is happy when he/she fails. That is to say that there must be a level of understanding from the teachers who must be trained that some children don’t do well in their early years but with encouragement, which can come in the form of promotion to the next class, understanding and patience, such children will come out to shock the world with outstanding performances.

“We all know that exam is not the true test of knowledge because most of the time, children read just to pass exams and not to necessarily understand. There is need for us to copy the west in terms of recognising skills and not certificates. We live in a world that is asking ‘what can you do and what can you give and not what are your qualifications’?”

Another parent, Kabiru Zakari is of the opinion that all private schools are businesses that have been established to primarily make money ‎while dissemination of knowledge is secondary.

“Private schools these days are established primarily for profit. The proprietors only hide behind the quest for sound knowledge to extort parents ‎who want the best for the increase in school fees almost every term not minding the fact that salaries have not been increased. So what do you expect? He who plays the piper must dictate the tune of the music.

“So why should they make the students to repeat classes after collecting exorbitant fees? It simply means that unqualified teachers are the employees who cannot give out what they do not have. Or how do you explain this because no child is born dull. Teaching has now become an occupation in waiting. Graduates indulge in it because there are no jobs and immediately they get better offers, they leave. This also has a way of affecting the students who are already familiar with the methods of teaching of the former teacher and all of a sudden, he/she leaves and a new teacher comes in with an entirely different technique of teaching. So whose fault is it? Why should students be forced to bear the brunt?
The debate is ongoing while the practice continues to thrive with little or no policy to checkmate it.