Considering the increasing number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, which has been identified as the greatest threat to national security, the Executive Director of Greensprings School, Lagos, Mrs. Lai Koiki has recommended population control and a policy that will make it a crime for parents not to send their children to school. She also proffered solutions to other issues affecting the country’s education sector. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports
The problem of out-of-school children is said to be endemic in Nigeria, with about 13.2 million school age children that are currently not in school. Apart from poverty, cultural practises and ignorance, the recent cases of insurgence and violence which displaced many children from their homes contributed to the menace.
To curb this problem and prevent future crisis, the Executive Director of Greensprings School, Lagos, Mrs. Lai Koiki has called for population control in the country to enable the government cater its citizens effectively. She suggested a maximum of two or three children for each family.
“The citizens need to be educated on population control, when we were younger, we had all these family planning organisations and centres advocating and teaching people the need to space children and have few children because if you have many children, you cannot look after them very well; you will not progress and the children will not progress. It is a global phenomenon, however some countries have done well like China.”
Koiki, in a chat with journalists in Lagos, also stated that the country needs to get to a point where it is an offence not to send a child to school. “If we don’t, we can say it is ‘their children’, but they are the ones that will come to haunt all of us going forward.”
She expressed concern that successive governments and even those vying for political offices are not paying adequate attention to education, saying that without a broad-based education, the country will not make a head way.
“When they talk about education, they are probably talking about building schools, we don’t even need to build schools, what we need is to ensure that we have enough teachers on ground and policies that will ensure that all the children are in school and learning. Not just putting them in school, ensure that they are learning and the only way to ensure that they are learning is to ensure that those teachers have been trained and ready to take on the challenge.”
Koiki also stressed the importance of funding education, saying that funding means that teachers are going to be trained. “Training the teachers is key; if we don’t have buildings it doesn’t matter, they can learn under the trees as long as they are learning.
According to her, the government can start with members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which is an army of university graduates that can be trained for about six weeks to go into schools in the first instance so that there are already made teachers, while the government is pulling out its teachers for further training.
Reacting to the suggestions that since government alone cannot fund education, it should adequately fund primary and secondary schools and allow tertiary institutions to start charging tuition fees, the executive director said: “I don’t agree with that, but then universities too have to be a bit more creative to generate funds. Even abroad, universities at times run on foreign students. And so we need to get our universities to that point where we are attracting foreign students so that they will pay more while our children will pay home fees.
“But beyond that, we also need to get to a point where the students can get loans and things like that to see them through school, there are some that can’t even afford it as meagre as that university fees may seem, they can’t afford it and so if they are able to get a loan, they money doesn’t need to be paid to them, it can be paid to the university and when they graduate, they can start paying back.”
Asked how to ensure that students don’t only read to pass examination, but read to learn, she said when her school discovered that students only read to pass examination, it adopted the British curriculum, which ensures that students apply what they have learnt. If you crammed it, you cannot apply it; if you have learnt it. In the examination, there is a practical application of what you have learnt.
“Nigerian education has to change, students can’t keep learning only theories, now the content is rightly available; what you used to go to the library to do, you don’t need to go to the library anymore, it is on your phone. That is not education; that has to change that is one of the things keeping the continent back because even those that are in schools are not learning, they are not thinking, they are not applying because there are some questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer, you just defend your position logically and get your marks.”
On the plans of Greensprings School for 2019, Koiki said the students are evolving and that is her goal, she said the school is expecting many more awards from the students in both national and international competitions.
“That is what education is all about and so our children are being prepared for life through developing all the skills that they have, thinking skills especially; our children are privileged children and so it is important that we stretch them so that they know that life is not a bed of roses.”
Also, she said the school is expecting a lot of innovations like integrating robotics into mainstream learning as a subject for all students because with the way the world is developing, it is important to further prepare the students for whatever they will come across in future.
Also speaking, the new Deputy Director of Education, Dr. Barney Wilson, said he will bring in over 20 years of academic excellence and experience, and years of knowledge and expertise into Greensprings School.
He said the school is grooming students to think strategically, and to think about thinking. “So we are graduating thinkers; the world needs thinkers; people who have expertise in thinking, solving problems and looking for solutions that are different.
“We want to go beyond rote learning, where students are just learning definitions, but to apply what they are learning. We want to go deeper into application; we want to go deeper into practise.”
On his advice to education managers in the country, he said: “We focus on theory and practise; also we want students to have confidence and competence, we want students to know that they know what they know and know that they know it. It doesn’t matter the kind of test you give them, if you know how to apply it, then you know that you know what you know. So it is important to build students’ confidence and competence and make sure they know what they are learning.”
He observed that the Nigerian education system is so concerned with test, saying, “so when students sit for those tests, they memorise the exact order of words or definitions that is not what learning is about. It is not important that I give you exactly what you said the way you said it, what is important is do I understand the concept and can I apply it to life, can I apply it to solve problems.
“So my advice will be step away from the test, reconstruct education and focus on competence and the ability to apply. Nigerian students know a lot of definitions, my challenge is can they apply them to practical problems that we face every day?”