Improve teachersâ€™ welfare for the sake of our children says Chief Mrs. Ayodele Oyeleke Proprietress Oyeleke Memorial College, Offa, Kwara State.
Oyeleke Memorial College Offa held its 3rd Inter_house sports competition on Saturday. After the event the proprietress, in an interview with our correspondent, made a case for the improvement of the welfare of teachers.
According to her when we toy with the welfare of teachers then we are not helping our children. Therefore, she called on government to help the children by ensuring that teachers are well paid.
From what I can see here, you have made adequate preparation for this event. Why did you put in so much human and material resources towards the success of this sports day? The college as you can see is purpose built.
It is in a serene environment covering almost five hectares. We have a standard football pitch. We have volley ball pitch, basketball, lawn tennis court and so on. So from the beginning the school has given a prominent place to sports and other extra curricular activities. We believe that sports give the children opportunity for physical and mental development.
It is also the view of the management that learning must affect all the domains, attentive, cognitive and psychomotor.
This is why each time we organize an inter_house sport competition we see it as a very serious business.
What you have seen is the correct way a sports day should be organized with all the officials properly dressed, have invested so much human and material resources because of the importance the college attaches to sports.
In your speech you called on parents to encourage the children to take part in sports. Why do you have to make this call? And what has been the relationship between the parents and the college?
Let me answer the first question. We have noticed that some parents do not see the importance of sports. All they want is for their child(ren) to excel academically. Some would not come to witness event like this because they think that all that matters is for the children to succeed in public examination and gain admission into tertiary institutions. But we have been educating them.
We have been telling them, that sports give us another chance to teach children the importance of discipline and endurance. Many of the parents have accepted our explanation. That is why we have many of the parents here with us to grace this occasion. And talking generally about the relationship between parents and the college, it is very cordial. Anytime we call for Parents, Teachers Association meeting we always have a large attendance by the parents.
They always give us useful suggestions. In fact many of the parents have been promoting the school by recommending us to their friends and relations.
What is your advice for the government on ways and means of improving teachers performance on duty?
The first thing to do is to improve the welfare package. Pay good salaries promptly. Get the teachers properly trained. Give them regular in-service training and ensure that you provide modern facilities teaching aids and a conducive learning environment. In this college we ensure our teachers are well paid.
Our facilities are the best. We are in a serene environment. This is why we had 100% success in WASSCE, NECO and other local and foreign public examinations. Government really needs to improve the welfare of teachers for the sake of our children. The future lies in quality education. No nation can compete effectively in this age of information communication technology without a sound educational system.
What difficulties have you experienced when you try to maintain discipline in the school?
Generally we have had no difficulties at all in maintaining discipline. Parents have cooperated with us. And we have been lucky to have qualified professional teachers who take their jobs seriously. We also take pro_active measures by speaking regularly to the students.
Parents also have a role to play. They must monitor their wards especially during the holidays when the school, the parents, teachers government and the churches and mosques are all involved in the business of promoting discipline among the children then there will be no problem. All these social vices will be drastically reduced.
From what you have said, what do you think can be done to eradicate cultism?
Everything depends on the type of society and the leadership. If we continue to set bad examples and encourage disrespect for values and traditions of our institutions, if we encourage breakdown of law and order or we disregard our own laws or we keep under funding our educational system then we will continue to have these problems.
Cultism can be eradicated if we address those issues I have raised. Do not forget that we were not having this problem of cultism before. So if all of us work together, set good examples, take good care of our children and education is well funded, cultism will be eradicated.
Earlier on, you touched on the issue of funding our educational system, how can we improve funding of our educational system?
Government has a duty to fund education. Government has been advised to follow the recommendation by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which had suggested that 26% of national budget should be spent on education. We can also consider a system where the upper segment of the society contribute more to education funding. The education trust fund is also a good initiative.
We should also address the issue of corruption which is making it difficult for us to get funds for development. Parents should also be prepared to pay for the education of their children. However, we should always assist the less privileged in the society.
Do you have such a system that makes it possible for the children of the poor to attend this college?
Oyedele Memorial College is not for the children of the rich alone. Although for us to offer this kind of high quality education we need adequate funds.
However, we have scholarship for indigent but brilliant students. Some of those who have benefited from our scholarship scheme are now at the University of Ibadan. We will appreciate the support of well to do members of the society to sustain this scholarship scheme.
How many cases of examination malpractice do you have to deal with each year?
None at all. In this college we have never had a single case. Our class size is very small. Teachers do their job very well because they are well paid. Only brilliant students are admitted. Examination malpractice is alien to our system here.
But your will agree with me that examination malpractice is rampant in the society. So what can be done to eradicate it?
As I said earlier we nee good examples by our leaders. Parents should set good examples they should take good care of their children. Teachers should do their job properly. Only professionally qualified teachers should be appointed. Education must be well funded. Class size in public schools is too large. In some states of the federation we have up to hundred students in a class.
How can the teacher teach effectively? The same teacher that is expected to handle the large class is often poorly paid. So you have a situation where teachers are unhappy and helpless. The students are consequently not properly taught so they report to crude means of trying to succeed. Until we do something about the welfare of our teachers, until we reduce the class size in public schools, until all necessary infrastructure and facilities are in place we may not get out of all these vices. As I have said several times, it is a societal thing.
The society needs to restore respect for high moral values, we should also not rely on paper qualifications alone to select people for employment. We should also test practical capabilities.
It is very sad to find out that the credibility of our certificates have been reduced by the rampant examination malpractice.
Nowadays children of the rich graduate from all the elitist colleges and go abroad for university education. These children cannot love the country because they end up preferring to stay abroad and work there. Is this trend good for our country?
We cannot stop people from going abroad if that is the place they can get the kind of quality education they want. The problem in Nigeria is poor funding of education leading to incessant strikes by lecturers. Even at secondary school level, I mean public secondary school, the teachers often go on strike. Right now not all the states have implemented the recent increase in teachersâ€™ salary. So we have a situation where there is always uncertainty as to the duration of a course of study.
A programme that is supposed to run for three of four years may take seven or eight years because of this problem of incessant strike. As a result of this situation some parents prefer to send their wards abroad so that the children can complete their course at the normal time.
There is also the issue of facilities in some of our public universities the facilities are becoming obsolete. If nothing is done to improve the facilities you cannot blame people for going abroad. The issue of whether they will come back home to work is the individual decision of the students. You see if things are okay in our country nobody will like to stay outside.
Also do not forget that the world is converging. More and more people are living and working in places outside their original place of birth. So we should not over_emphasize these things. At Sunny Day Academy another school which belongs to us, we help people get admission into Canadian Universities, parents want the best for their wards they do not care where they can get it.
Our government has a duty to create conducive environment for people to come and study and work in our country.
Some people have said that even if children will go abroad to study, they should at least do the first degree here before going for masterâ€™s degree overseas. Do you agree?
No, I do not agree. We cannot tell people how to run their personal affairs. I know you are trying to refer to the young age at which these children go abroad. You will agree with me that a child that has completed secondary education should be old enough to know what is good and what is bad. So if a child goes abroad as a teenager he should be able to cope and behave well if he has imbibed the philosophy of a good home and a good school.
Infact you just talked cultism, examination malpractice and so on. All these things are happening here so children who study here can also be involved in all these vices. Therefore, what is important is what each child has learnt. The type of home they come from and the type of person each child has become are all important factors.
How do you promote patriotism in your college?
I know why you are asking this question. We always teach the children to love the country. They are taught to love one another. I think that as I said earlier the fact that a child has gone abroad to study does not mean he cannot love the country.
What has been the achievement of the school between last year when I was here and now?
We have recorded tremendous progress between the last year and now. More parents are bringing their children and the enrolment has increased. We expect a large turn out during the entrance examination in May and July. We scored 100% in WASSCE in the previous year. All our students who passed out last year are in various tertiary institutions at home and abroad.
All aspects of our operations are fully computerized. We have further improved our facilities and excelled in various competitions like Cowbell Mathematics competition, Jets Literary and debating competition.
What is your advice for parents who want the best for their wards?
Let them pay attention to all the aspects of the childâ€™s life on a daily basis. Let them support the children with prayers. They should show good examples at homework given to the children. The school and the home are partners in progress some parents do leave teachers to give home lesson to the children.
This is not a bad idea especially for mathematics and English and science subjects. I would say that parents should teach the children to love reading. It is important that the children have reading habit. Let them just love reading whether they have examination or not.
Now that you mention reading habit, I want to know your assessment of reading culture in this country. What do you think we can do to promote it?
When we talk about reading culture in Nigeria today you will agree with me that it is poor. There are many factors militating against reading culture especially among the children. There is too much attachment to home videos and television.
There are too many pornographic publications around. Many of the public schools do not have library. In the past we used to have public libraries in some of our local government areas. And generally the cost of textbooks and even newspapers were not as high as they are now.
We also have the problem of poor infrastructural facilities especially poor electricity supply. So you can see that there are many negative factors affecting reading culture especially the collapse of the value system. When teachers, doctors and civil servants are not well paid, children tend to think that it is not good to be like those people. In fact in some states of the federation, all the children want to become businessmen and women.
That is why most of them are going into trading. The danger in this is that not every child should aim at â€œnon_academicâ€ professions. We need scientists, researchers, for us to develop. If we do not do something very fast, poor reading culture is a clear threat to our development efforts. In fact when we look at the high level of illiteracy we can see why poverty is high, we can also understand why election rigging is rampant. Illiteracy and poverty go together.
And poor illiterate people are very easy to manipulate. So you can see that the way forward for our nation is to promote reading culture, eradicate illiteracy and promote science and technology. All of us have a role to play in this regard.
What are your future plans for the college?
We hope to bring our old students together to form an association so that they can help one another. We have a website which can be accessed and to know more about the college and we will welcome suggestions through our e_mail address. Because of time constraint I cannot fully outline all our plans now, kindly accept my thanks for visiting our college and for witnessing this event.