Worried by deplorable conditions of public primary schools and poor remuneration of primary school teachers across the South-West zone, stakeholders in the education sector have called on the three tiers of government to address it.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Ibadan, Akure, Ado-Ekiti, Osogbo, Abeokuta and Ilorin, they called for urgent measures by the governments to ensure improved performance.
The respondents were of the view that primary school education, which they described as the very foundation across the world, should not be handled with reckless abandonment.
“The facilities are just not there.
When the existing ones become obsolete or dilapidated, they are not replaced; buildings are not maintained,” Onuka said.
He said that the situation in the rural areas was, however, worse.
According to him, some schools have no roofs, some have no walls and in some cases, pupils are learning under the trees.
“Schools in rural areas are hardly adequately staffed.
The amenities are not attractive, so teachers don’t even live there.
“They use their meagre salaries, which are sometimes not regularly paid, to shuttle, for which reason, they don’t go regularly to the rural schools,” he said.
Onuka, however, did not see the private primary schools, especially in the rural areas, as anything better, saying, “There is nothing to write home about them”.
He identified the challenges of educational institutions from primary to the tertiary to include: lack of facilities, understaffing and poor remuneration, both in the public and some private schools.
“The situation in the nation’s education sector needs declaration of a state of emergency, if we are to get things right and shortly.
“May God help us to get our priority right, so that we can give the sector its rightful place and our nation can then move forward,” Onuka said.
Also, a Director in Oyo State Ministry of Education, Mrs Bolaji Adeoti, said the present administration, since its inception over three years ago, had completed many projects in the primary education.
According to Adeoti, the projects, which are majorly infrastructure development, include construction and renovation of several blocks of classroom.
She said the projects had improved the learning atmosphere of thousands of pupils in the public primary schools.
On the remunerations of primary school teachers, the officer said that government was doing all it could to improve welfare of the teachers.
He said that 129 teachers, wrongly dismissed by the immediate past administration, had been reinstated by Gov. Seyi Makinde-led administration.
“This is another way of catering for the welfare of the teachers, as thousands of family dependents, who have been subjected to untold economic hardship, due to layoff of their breadwinners, will now have a new lease of life.
“In addition to this, recently, a total of 9,227 primary school teachers on Grade Level 13 to 15 were presented with letters of promotion.
“This gesture, by the present administration, was to boost the morale of teachers in the public primary schools, whose promotions have been pending for years under the immediate past administration.
“All these and other efforts are being carried out by Makinde’s administration to improve the welfare of primary school teachers.
“It is also to reduce the deplorable condition of public primary school buildings to zero,” he said.
Also, Mr Moses Solanke, the Convener, CVG-AFRICA, a nonprofit organisation with interest in child education development, said: “How much a nation values its children is determined by value of the nation’s primary education.
“You cannot claim to value your children when you keep denying them quality primary education; for this is the bedrock of, not just the child, but also of the nation.
“Standard education is beyond the provision of tables and chairs or of buildings, as government is widely making us to believe.
“All of these are important, but much more is the provision of human resources – the teachers and non-teaching staff, who are, in a sense, all teachers.
“Education should also be considered beyond academics, as scoring high academic grades may not always mean that a child has been educated.
“The child’s extracurricular experience and other soft skills translate to a complete and healthy education that can make the child become relevant anywhere in the world,” he said.
Solanke, however, called for the involvement of individuals, old students, religious organisations and other stakeholders in the development of education, saying that government had shown enough signs of lack of interest.
In Akure, Mr Opeyemi Aje, a parent, said that little could be achieved in the primary school system where teachers were not adequately remunerated and attended to.
“You can hardly expect good things from teachers who are not well compensated; they cannot put in their best as expected.
“I don’t blame them, because they too have their responsibilities,” he said.
Aje explained that though, public primary schools in the state have good building structures, the academic and behavioural teaching being meted out to pupils were not satisfactory.
According to him, pupils in the private primary schools perform better than pupils in the public primary schools in the external examinations.
He, therefore, advised the government to do the necessary things that would motivate teachers for the outstanding performance of the pupils.
“There is no magic anywhere.
Government should do the needful that will ensure that teachers are motivated,” he said.
Aruleba said the immediate past administration in the state came up with transformational policies in the primary school system that made the public primary schools pride of the state.
She added that the current administration was able to spend resources on developing the infrastructure of primary schools, making the primary school system attractive.
According to her, the mode of recruitment of teachers into the system should, however, be on merit and not by influence or any other inclination.
Aruleba urged the state government to invest heavily in proper and constant training of teachers, so as to make them attain international standards.
She also asked the government to pay teachers promptly with lots of incentives, urging the state public primary schools to focus more on the quality of teaching.
Also, Mr Mathias Fafeyiwa, a retired Headmaster at Methodist Primary School, Okitipupa, said that government was no longer according premium to qualitative education in general.
According to Fafeyiwa, the government is not conforming with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) expected budgetary allocation to education, which should be at least between 15 and 20 per cent of the total national budget.
“Yearly allocations to education in the budgets are nothing to write home about; this is why public primary education has been in shambles and deplorable conditions,” he said.
Fafeyiwa said that the government’s negligence of primary school education was rubbing off on primary school teachers.
“The teachers are not getting the best attention as well, which is militating against giving their best in the discharge of their duties,” he said.
Fafeyiwa pointed out that the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) was created by the government to oversee primary education in the country.
“But unfortunately, the board is not doing enough to salvage the situation.
“Primary education is the bedrock of education anywhere in the world, because it forms the basis of education for any child, before furthering at the secondary and tertiary institutions.
“The inability of Nigerian Government to give proper attention to education in the budget have eroded the standard of primary education; this is responsible for the deplorable state of primary schools in the country.
“Recently, the Federal Government signed the establishment of several universities into law without, even minding how to give facelifts to the ones on ground.
To me, this is a case of misplacement of priorities.
“I am surprised by the way some government functionaries handle education in Nigeria.
“Meanwhile, a whole lot of them benefitted from free education immediately after our independence.
“The basics of education remain the primary school and governments need to rise up to their responsibilities by going back to the old ways, where education, especially primary education, was made compulsory for everyone.
“Government must also deal with corruption, which have been a draining pipe for the government functionaries to siphon money meant to develop education.
“Any nation that jokes with education, especially primary education, may not likely survive, because knowledge with information is power and liberation,” Fafeyiwa said.
In Ado-Ekiti, Mr Michael Babajide, called for urgent decisive measures, aimed at returning the lost glory of primary education, through projects that would make the school environment learning-friendly.
He also called for the enhancement of remuneration of teachers.
In his contributions, a retired teacher, Kayode Boluwaji, said it was unfortunate that in spite of years of intervention in schools’ infrastructure development by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in many states, officials do not apply the funds appropriately.
A parent, Mrs Temilola Olugbenga, said that the negative development was gradually making teaching profession unattractive to the young ones across the country.
Mr Bode Afolayan, a serving primary school teacher, said the inadequate welfare and remuneration had led to the Exodus of good hands in the teaching profession to other means of livelihood.
Afolayan said that teachers in the primary segment of the nation’s education sector were worst hit in terms of poor working conditions, delayed promotions, training and retraining.
“Our voices are least heard by those concerned with our welfare and wellbeing.
“Generally, teachers are, of course, amongst the most maltreated workers in the country; the situation is more than worrisome in the primary segment.
“This is the reason most of the best hands in the profession retraced their steps to find greener pastures elsewhere,” he said.
Also, Elder Mathew Abegunde, a retired Principal, said that advent of private Nursery and Primary School system made the public school system a second fiddle, thus suffering from neglect.
“The poor working condition of teachers and the bad state of infrastructure in many public primary schools had made many parents to prefer the private schools and this is dangerous for the sector.
“These parents are of the belief that they will get the desired quality education in addition to better welfare and good environment they want for their children and wards from teachers in the private schools.
“It’s a well-known fact that the poor working conditions in many public schools have created redundancy and poor morale among teachers and pupils.
“Unfortunately, this has continually affected pupils’ performances,” Abegunde said.
Also, Mrs Christy Aduloju, a School Proprietor, described the primary sector of the nation’s education as the bedrock and foundation, which should not be toyed with.
“If we miss it at the primary level, it will be very difficult to get it right at other top levels of education,” Aduloju said.
Expressing disappointment at the deplorable level of public primary schools in the country, she said that stakeholders, especially the National Assembly, should urgently rescue the situation through proper legislation.
In her remarks, the Headmaster-General in Ekiti, Mrs Olawumi Omonijo, said her office was not unaware of the challenges in the primary school, saying efforts had always been to address the noticeable areas.
Omonijo said she had never relented since assuming office in February to ensure that the welfare and wellbeing of teachers were adequately taken care of.
The headmaster-general said that as part of her monitoring and supervision roles, she had been going round schools in the state to have a first hand assessment of the situation on ground.
She said that Gov. Kayode Fayemi-led administration would continue to add value and impact positively on the standard of education, just as it had always done.
However, Alhaji Kabir Adekomi, the Osun Chairman, National Union of Teachers (NUT), said that though, many variables were responsible for the deplorable conditions of public primary schools, government neglect was the major.
Adekomi said it was sad to see that public primary schools, built by the old Western region government, under its educational system, had been neglected by successive governments.
“Primary schools had been in existence before other tiers of education came into being and it is disheartening that most of the classrooms built long ago by past governments are still being used today in their bad conditions.
“Government played lukewarm attitude toward renovating the old classrooms or building new ones; that is why most of the classrooms are not conducive for learning.
“The government act as if the public primary schools are for the commoners, children of the poor and illiterate parents.
“So, over the years, they have refused to upgrade the classrooms to international standards.
“Government has also failed to upgrade the learning processes and equip the schools with modern facilities like computers and e-libraries, especially schools in the rural areas.
“Most of the primary schools in rural areas are seriously neglected and most of their classrooms have become dilapidated, broken down and now being used as hideouts by criminals.
“Primary school teachers are not given adequate training, which is needed for them to upgrade their knowledge and compete favourably with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
“The way to improve on primary education is for government to improve the welfare of teachers and equally monitor activities in the schools.
“Government should not look down on primary school education, because it is the foundation of education in the country,” he said.
However, an Abeokuta-based education Consultant, Mr Peter Akinlabi, noted that primary school teachers were poorly remunerated, pointing out that the situation cut across public and private primary schools.
Akinlabi added that the working environment, as well as the conditions of service for the teachers, were not motivating.
“Many of the classrooms are not conducive for teaching, while many allowances that workers in other professions enjoy are not applicable to them.
“Often times, teachers are not motivated and cannot give their best, because they are not inspired,” he said.
Akinlabi attributed the situation to poor funding of the education system, adding that governments at various levels had continued to pay lip service to education.
Adebiyi said she had to withdraw her daughter, who was in Primary Three from a public school in Ijebu-Igbo, because she was not comfortable with the quality and standard of education at the public school.
She called for recruitment of more teachers, training of the existing ones and provision of adequate infrastructure at the schools in order to reposition them for optimal performance.
“There are still many schools in the state with leaking roofs and in some cases without roofs.
“Some don’t have enough sitting facilities and pupils are made to sit on the floor while learning,” Adebiyi said.
She, however, commended Gov. Dapo Abiodun’s efforts at providing infrastructure in a number of primary schools in the state.
“He has restructured some of the dilapidated schools and provided the needed facilities,” Adebiyi said.
Also, Mr Samson Oyelere, the NUT Secretary in Ogun, said that the education sector, particularly the primary school had continued to improve since the inception of the Abiodun-led administration.
Oyelere explained that with the support of the governor, the state primary school education had been transformed from “analogue to digital”.
He, however, said that there were still more to be done, particularly in the area of recruitment of teachers, adding the ratio of pupils to teachers needed to be improved.
The NUT Secretary appealed to the government to fulfil promises made before its assumption of office and ensure recruitment of more teachers.
According to him, the government has not done badly in the provision of infrastructure at the schools.
He said: “We only appeal that between now and the resumption date, the promises made should be fulfilled and they should look at how they can employ more teachers.
“More efforts should also be geared toward the provision of teaching and learning materials in our schools.
Teaching and learning require adequate teaching aids.
“Teachers’ incentives should be looked into.
Salary deductions should be released on time, promotion should be released on time, leave allowance should be paid to time, while rural allowance should be favourably considered.
Commenting, Mr Azeez Adeyemi, the Special Assistant to the State Governor on Students’ Matters, described primary schools as pivotal to the development of the state.
According to him, it offers basic education in the state, while representing foundational and preparatory education for everyone.
Adeyemi said that the state governor had continued to deliver the dividends of democracy to Ogun people through quality education.
“Out of the numerous interventions by this current administration, the yellow roof innovation, across public primary schools in all local governments, has attracted so much commendations from all and sundry.
“Renovation and complete construction of primary school buildings across the length and breadth of the state has ensured a very serene and comfortable environment, which effectively facilitates teaching and learning for our pupils,” he said.
Adeyemi said the government had scrapped all education levies at all levels of education, adding that it had brought a great succour to parents and guaranteed optimum affordability of primary education.
“The state government conducts a Unified Education Scheme.
This approach has been reported to be the best for effective teaching-learning process.
“The teacher will cover up schemes of work, while the pupils will be at par in terms of competition with pupils from other regions,” he said.
Salman said that no nation or educational system could rise above her teachers’ quality.
She explained that the role of teachers at all levels of education was emphasised in the National Policy on Education.
The educationist underscored the need for teachers’ effectiveness in the teaching and learning process.
“It is the teacher’s competence, ability, resourcefulness and ingenuity, through effective utilisation of appropriate language, methodology and availability instructional materials that could bring out the best from the learners, in terms of academic achievement,” she said.
The don advocated better remuneration for teachers for effective discharge of teaching as well as better infrastructure for schools at all levels.
Citing example of teaching Mathematics, the educationist said that the poor performance of the subject could be traced to the poor foundation at the primary school level.
Salman called for the training and retraining of teachers at all levels.
According to her, there is need to shift from teacher-centred method of teaching to problem-solving instructional strategies, especially in subjects such as Mathematics.
“I have carried out research and have deduced the fact that the mode of instructions, especially at both primary and secondary levels of education, remains overwhelmingly teacher-centred.
“This is with greater emphasis on the use of the lecture mode of instruction and the use of textbooks rather than engaging students in critical thinking, across subject areas and in applying the knowledge acquired to solving real life problems,” she said.
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