Last week, I spoke with a man in his 40s. He spoke about the glorious days of education in this country. His words only can capture it “I had quality education. Public primary school. Public secondary school. Public tertiary education.” He spoke glowingly about the Jakande government in Lagos, Nigeria, of the days of primary schools called “poultry system” because of the way the schools were built. He spoke of accessibility and affordability. He talked about morning, afternoon and evening sessions and how that changed. He talked about days I never knew, days in the distant past, days I may never know.
As a 20 something year old lady, I grew up in a society where the parents were gradually losing trust in the public school model. I attended a private primary school, Iganmode Nursery and Primary School; a public secondary school, Federal Government Secondary School and a public University, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I turned out right, or so I think.
We belonged to the middle class, fast disappearing now. My Mum was looking for quality education at a reasonable cost. Even then, she got it. Now, there are plans to privatise Federal Government Colleges, which I consider the last hope of the middle class to anything near quality secondary education in this country. The university education is as good as privatised. Well, it is! No one seems to fund the public universities again, so they shrink up while more licenses are given to private universities. These varying changes in the education sector bring many thoughts to mind. One of which is, is the cost of education expensive?
My Mum, a teacher in one of the many primary schools in Ogun state, does not have good things to say. She laments the state of the school. Dilapidated classrooms. Bad desks for students. Low pay for teachers. The quality of teachers are also questionable. She talks about the glorious days of Teachers’ Training Colleges, and wonders why the government ever scrapped it. And then, the obvious signs. The WAEC results have dipped for some years, recording the worst failures in time recently. So, the signs are all over, and maybe it is beyond the public school vs. private school battle. Education is crashing, on a slow spiral down.
Away from my own personal story. A Nation that does not invest in its education is up to almost no good. There is almost no future for it. Nigeria has obviously been focused on petroleum, and like agriculture, the education sector is withering. The leaders gather every May 27, to celebrate Children’s Day; they tell them they are the future of tomorrow, yet they do not invest in that future. When the government refused its responsibility, the “hawks” were quick to take over with private schools sprouting in different parts of the country.
Literally, in the late 90s, you would wake up and there’s a new school in your neighbourhood you didn’t notice the previous night. Look around you, how many of Nigerian leaders do not have private schools? Look around. The religious institutions are not left out too. So, you now know one reason why it will take a long while before quality education would be affordable? And another reason why everyone seems to turn the other side? There is a need to regularise this education sector. Methinks these private institutions have a lot of power, and there should be someone regulating something. Either they are not looking or they have just chosen that that sector continues, everyone having a wild day!
Like other sectors of the nation, power for instance, we have taken education as our small little project. Like the cost of diesel every week, it is also eating deep into the pockets of many parents. The sad thing is that we do not see the results. Or whatever results we get desire for such cut-throat fees. Many parents with whom I spoke felt so. Many private primary schools in Lagos for instance cost an arm and a leg. Forget whether they are Montessori or British Education system. Oh yes, your children have to be trained, international standards and what not.
The question is: at what cost? A friend recently told me about the cost of sending her four-year-old son to schools these days. Affordable quality primary school education is about N200,000 a term. I screamed. I did not pay that much throughout my stay in OAU, and that’s with pocket money and provisions. She said, that’s a modest price. Sighs. The heads of these institutions are also quick to say: everything has changed. They have to pay for constant power supply. They need to get quality teachers. They give your children the best, they say.
Well, some may be doing a good job. However, is it really fantastic job for the fantastic fees? The results are all over. Is education too expensive or am I lost in my world? What can we do to demand better education? Why do you think it is so expensive? Is there any hope for this country when it comes to education? Should we start home-schooling?