In this online interview with Olabisi Deji-Folutile, a United States-based educationist and Proprietor of Crown Heights College, Ibadan, Oyo State, Mr. Gbadebo Adeyeye, says the Nigerian education sector is rapidly losing its power due to lack of coherent policies.
What do you think is responsible for the poor performance of pupils in external examinations?
First of all, let me begin by saying that the cop-out of blaming pupils’ failure on poverty in Nigeria is morally corrupt and intellectually vacuous in a country where the education budget is presently more than the entire budget of Sierra Leone. No state in the entire federation is poorer than it was in the 1960s. For example, when I was growing up in Ise, Ekiti, more than four decades ago, there was far more poverty but far less failure in our schools. The difference was that all schools in Ekitiland simply enforced standards.
Second, before Nigeria strayed from its purpose, especially under the military regime, we must remember that schools were established to deliver good education to students. And many people will agree that the primary goal of a primary school is to teach pupils how to read and write. Unfortunately today, whether by accident or design, public schools in Nigeria have been rendered inoperable because of the heavy burden placed on them. They are no longer academic institutions but also social institutions. They provide sex education, drug education, voter’s registration and are demonstrators of draft registration. All these responsibilities have been added to the public school programme without an administrative or structural change. Whereas, problems usually arise by increasing the layer of responsibilities in an organisation, which also increases the number of areas where vital interest can violate the basic organisational goals.
In other words, a complex institution like the Nigerian education sector becomes more vulnerable to dysfunction merely because there are more places where things can go wrong. And unless there is a total restructuring of the nation’s education system to handle the additional demand of the society, the present and incoming pupils in our public school system will surely continue to fail!
How will you describe government’s policy on education?
In the absence of a strong countervailing opinion, I will simply say that the lack of public confidence in Nigerian public system is real. And just like other failed national institutions such as Nitel the Power Holding Company of Nigeria and the police, the Nigerian education sector is rapidly losing its power due to lack of coherent well-planned policies that can enhance the success of citizens. Once again, unless the bureaucracy is sterilised, when it is blocking meaningful change, it is inevitable that our education sector will continue to fail a larger number of its clients.
There is a recent report that most teachers in some Northern states are unqualified. How will you react to this?
This should not be a surprise to anyone. From the start, nothing is more directly responsible for the decay of our classrooms in Nigeria than the ever destabilising and corrupting quota system of the Federal Government. For example, the worst of university graduates in our society today are largely products of that institutionalised political phenomenon that has been disastrous; especially among the fragile citizens in the north. And if we are serious about sterilising the education sector in Nigeria, the first step is to stop admitting incompetent candidates into our universities and colleges of education. After all, Nigeria’s future belongs to the brave, not the faint-hearted.
Ekiti State is planning to test its teachers to determine their areas of weakness. What is your take on this?
Frankly speaking, failure is a pervasive social disease. When teachers fail, pupils fail as well. And when that failure is repeated, it erodes the confidence of both pupils and their parents. For such a cycle of failure to be broken in our education system, I strongly believe that our society must develop and nurture success, no matter what it takes. We must turn away from treating the education of our children with carelessness. We must realise that there is no substitute for the pleasure of success. Success needs not and should be of the “model” or “demonstration” kind. It ought to be real and substantial. It must surface and be experienced in the classroom by the pupils and the teachers in all our schools, from the south to the desert of northern states!
Do you think teachers are well trained in Nigeria?
For better or for worse, teachers come to the classroom from a host of universities and colleges of education across the country. Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that all bring sufficient understanding of the nature of their assignment, let alone the school curriculum. However, it is the responsibility of education leadership to search out strengths and weaknesses; to nurture strength and spread its power; to define weaknesses and provide a remedy.
Who should be blamed when pupils fail external examinations?
With no prejudice, our political leaders are to be blamed instead of crucifying school teachers. Given that elected public officials will continue to be involved in educational matters in Nigeria, they have a responsibility to be well-informed. Agreed that political leaders who are truly exceptional like Chief Obafemi Awolowo come rarely, our elected officials must be perceived regardless of their political affiliations, as sincerely concerned with quality education and the interest of school children. In the old western region for example, some of the most effective educational policies of Chief Awolowo happened not as a result of political pressure but as a result of dialogue between political leaders and educational leaders. And unlike the present group of arrogant politicians, Awolowo spent his entire political career representing something as important now as it was important during his lifetime – an uncompromising pursuit of educational excellence that shows the entire western region at its best in Nigeria.
What difference is Crown Heights College making in Nigeria’s educational system?
Looking at the state of our public schools a few years ago, I personally made a pledge to play an active role by establishing a private school on the principle of effecting positive changes in the condition of education for Nigerian youth. And to God be the Glory, today, the pledge has been and is being fulfilled with many of Crown Heights College graduates doing excellently well in both Nigeria and abroad.
What are some of the achievements of the school?
Well, private school achievements are measured in different ways, depending on the mission of individual school proprietors. For example, some school owners measure their achievements with the bank statements or student multitudes. However, our primary concern in Crown Heights College has been and will continue to be the undiluted spiritual and academic success of our pupils. Few weeks ago for instance, a parent of one of our old pupils called me in New York to announce that his son was offered admissions to two different medical schools, including Temple University in New Jersey. The same young scholar had already completed his bachelor degree in Biology at the age of 20 years from the State University of New York two years ago. Personally, this is what I consider as an achievement for a private school run with integrity, no matter what others are doing!